Melting Ice in the Arctic is Actually a Nightmare for Archaeologists

Archaeologists who work in the Arctic are typically spoiled with pristinely preserved artifacts, but recently the blessing of ice has become a curse: the researchers are struggling to save the wealth of delicate material that is emerging from melting permafrost and eroding coastlines because of climate change. In northern Alaska there is only one full-time archaeologist: Anne Jensen, a senior scientist at Ukpeavik Iñupiat Corporation, one of the largest companies owned by Alaskan natives. 

Every summer Jensen excavates hard-to-access sites where Inuit people lived and hunted hundreds—even thousands—of years ago. This past summer Jensen and her colleagues returned to Walakpa, once the site of a coastal village that continues to reveal surprises because of erosion. They hope to save thousands of years’ worth of cultural and environmental data from falling into the sea. Read more.

No safe haven for polar bears in warming Arctic

Not a single polar-bear haven in the rapidly warming Arctic is safe from the effects of climate change, researchers have found.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) rely on sea ice for roaming, breeding, and as a platform from which to hunt seals. When the ice melts in the summer, the bears spend several months on land, largely fasting, until the freeze-up allows them to resume hunting. So if they are to survive, they need pockets of ice to persist almost year-round.

Some climate models suggest that most of the Arctic may be ice-free in summer by mid-century[1]. But icy refuges near the North Pole currently support 19 populations of polar bears, totalling some 25,000 individuals.  Scientists weren’t sure about the exact rate of ice retreat in these habitats, or whether some refuges might not yet be dwindling.

All of the Arctic refuges are in fact on the decline, a detailed examination of satellite data now suggests. Mathematician Harry Stern and biologist Kristin Laidre at the University of Washington in Seattle used a 35-year satellite record to examine each of the 19 population areas, which range from 53,000 to 281,000 square kilometres in size. For each, they calculated the dates on which sea ice retreated in the Arctic spring and advanced in the autumn, as well as the average summer sea-ice concentration and number of ice-covered days.

Polar bears’ sea-ice habitat is dwindling as the Arctic warms. Theo Allofs/Minden Pictures/FLPA
Ship found in Arctic 168 years after doomed Northwest Passage attempt
Exclusive: Perfectly preserved HMS Terror vessel sank during disastrous expedition led by British explorer Sir John Franklin

The wreck is in such good condition that glass panes are still in three of four tall windows in the stern cabin where the ship’s commander, Captain Francis Crozier, slept and worked, Schimnowski added.

“This vessel looks like it was buttoned down tight for winter and it sank,” he said. “Everything was shut. Even the windows are still intact. If you could lift this boat out of the water, and pump the water out, it would probably float.”

“This discovery changes history,” he told the Guardian. “Given the location of the find [in Terror Bay] and the state of the wreck, it’s almost certain that HMS Terror was operationally closed down by the remaining crew who then re-boarded HMS Erebus and sailed south where they met their ultimate tragic fate.”

Louise Boyd (1887-1972) was an American explorer of Greenland and the Arctic, who in 1955 became the first woman to fly over the North Pole. She became famous for her polar adventures, with newspapers worldwide giving her nicknames such as “The Girl Who Tamed the Arctic”.

In 1928 she organised a dangerous and lengthy expedition to find the disappeared Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen. Although the search was fruitless, she was given the Chevalier Cross of the Order of Saint Olav by the government of Norway, the first woman to be honoured thus. Her expeditions to Greenland carried great scientific value, as she surveyed and collected hundreds of botanical specimens. During World War II she worked as a United States spy.
HMS Terror, second ship on the Franklin Expedition, found in Arctic waters
The searchers say the hull is sitting upright in some 24 metres of water.

Arctic searchers have found the well-preserved hull of HMS Terror, the second ship of Sir John Franklin’s ill-fated expedition to find the Northwest Passage in the 1840s.

Terror is in relatively shallow water off King William Island.

The announcement came from the Arctic Research Foundation, a charity funded by BlackBerry executive Jim Balsillie that went to the Arctic last month to continue the search for the missing ship. The sister ship Erebus was found in September, 2014.

Adrian Schimnowski, the spokesman for the Arctic Research Foundation, is on board one of the vessels in the search and relayed the news to his wife, Oksana, a former staffer with the foundation who now works with Polar Knowledge Canada.

The submerged wreck was found on Sept. 3, she said, but the group had to make sure it had the right wreck.

Continue Reading.


Set in the frozen wilderness at the top of the world, Wonders of the Arctic tells the story of survival in one of the most unforgiving environments on Earth, dominated by a single element: ice. Majestic yet dangerous, life-giving yet treacherous, ice affects the fortunes of every living creature in this frosted frontier. In this glittering world of ice and snow, polar bears tussle, huskies howl, and narwhals dive within the turquoise waters. For thousands of years, the Inuit and their predecessors have adapted and thrived in the beautiful yet harsh environment highlighted in Wonders of the Arctic. Today, their survival has inspired scientists to conduct intense research and answer troubling questions about life in this fragile and largely uninhabited landscape. Through compelling stories told by scientists and Inuit leaders, award-winning filmmaker David Lickley takes audiences on a journey across one of the most beautiful and frigid places on earth, exploring how humans and animals have adapted and thrived for thousands of years in the vast ice wilderness of the Arctic. See the film at the Museum this weekend! 


One of those where it’s hard for me to beat the quality of the original caption at expressing their feelings over their video:

This time-lapse was shot above the Arctic Circle in North Norway this summer. I cycled for two months and two thousand kilometers with the bike you see at the end credits. My route went across rugged Finnmark all the way to the amazing Lofoten Islands.
The first weeks of the journey in June were cold and cloudy, and temperatures above 10C (50F) were rare. In July it got warmer and the sun started to appear more. So the sequence in the video fairly accurately describes the actual experience and order of events.
During this tour I really fell in love with Norway’s gorgeous landscapes. My work doesn’t really do justice to how beautiful the country actually is, you have to see it in person. The vast majority of the trip happened during the midnight sun period. The sun never set below the horizon until the very last few days.
For this project I shot 15000 photos, of which about 3600 are in the end result.