A quick browse of the internet brings plenty of information about the king of the Arctic region – Ursus maritimus – commonly known as the polar bear or ice bear. But what are the thoughts and anecdotes of someone who’s worked in polar bear territory for more than a decade? What can she tell us that you won’t find in Wikipedia?
Meet Anja Erdmann, one of Poseidon’s expedition leaders who can tell us plenty of stories about polar bear encounters. Growing up in Werder/Havel, in the eastern zone of Germany near Berlin prior to the fall of the Iron Curtain, she adopted the Arctic as her second home as a young adult, one she would quickly grow to love. We had a chance to catch up with her shortly before she was heading to Antarctica, to finish the current season as expedition leader of the 114-passenger Sea Spirit before the ship makes its way north to begin the 2018 Arctic season in late May.
So, you think far-flung Greenland is just a travel dream? Think again. This Arctic country and largest island in the worldis undeniably huge, but a trip focused on western Greenland offers a breathtaking range of sights, from Disko Bay’s iceberg-studded waters to valleys so immense you’ll feel like the last hiker on Earth. Consider just some of the following experiences, and before you know it you’ll be blinking in wonder under the midnight sun.
Photograph the white penguin and the champagne will be on us!
After reports surfaced from Antarctica a few years ago when an expedition ship passenger photographed a chinstrap penguin with a rare genetic abnormality – isabellinism – our Sea Spirit expedition team has kept their collective eyes peeled for such a unique specimen. Sometimes confused with albinism, which is an animal’s inability to produce melanin, isabellinism happens when normally black, grey or dark brown feathers appear greyish-yellow or pale brown. This condition isn’t restricted to a particular breed of bird; it has been noted in 12 of the 17 species of penguin, including the Adélie, gentoo and chinstrap in the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.
“The stark polar lands grip the hearts of men who have lived on them in a manner hardly understood by people who’ve never got beyond the pale of civilization.”
—Explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton
After two days at sea from Puerto Madryn, Argentina, we make a morning landing to observe birds near a small settlement on Carcass Island in the Falklands. The number of species in the Falklands (over 200) is impressive. These islands, we’re told, have more striated caracaras, slender-beaked prions and pale-mantled sooty albatrosses than anywhere else in the world.
Part Two – Observing the Atmosphere and Melt Ponds in the High LatitudesGuest blog post by Poseidon expedition team members Lauren Farmer and Alex Cowen. (Note: in our last blog post, we covered how we enlist the assistance of our passengers to help measure and observe sea ice and meteorology during our voyages to the North Pole.)
Guest blog post by Poseidon expedition team members Lauren Farmer and Alex Cowen.
Part One – Measuring and Observing Sea Ice in the High LatitudesThis past July, Poseidon’s North Pole expedition team once again carried out an ambitious citizen science program with our guests aboard the nuclear-powered icebreaker, 50 let Pobedy (50 Years of Victory). Since 2015, the two of us, along with marine biologist Annette Bombosch, have been working with the International Arctic Research Center and the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth to collect valuable sea ice data, which is readily available to the research community through a program called Ice Watch.
Tourism to the seventh continent has expanded in popularity over the years, but the perception that there is little regulation of the industry has persisted. When larger cruise ships started to arrive and, specifically, after the sinking of the GAP Explorer in November 2007 (thankfully, everyone was safely evacuated) some commentators feared catastrophic accidents and the potential for environmental damage.
Antarctica is governed by an international treaty that came into force in 1961 and which is now signed by more than 50 nations. While the treaty is very good at ensuring the continent is maintained as a natural reserve, and has the intention of preserving the last unspoiled continent in the world, the treaty system works on a consensus basis. Decision making can be an arduous process.
Imagine using dozens of time-lapse cameras placed in 16 glacial locations around the world, such as in Alaska, Greenland and the Antarctic. All to see if the landscape was changing and if climate change was living up to its reputation as the cause of this.
You never know what’s going to happen on a polar expedition cruise. Things can change-day by-day due to weather, sea ice, or other unexpected challenges. However, if you have a good expedition team and staff, you’ll rarely be disappointed.