Ice Bears Trip: Day 7

Friday 6/27

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This morning began with a chat about the ship’s bell with Piers.  It can be used for communication in case the electronics onboard fail.  And its gorgeous blue-green patina shows that it’s made of copper; this made me think about doing a photographic element scavenger hunt with my chemistry students.

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We hopped off the ship at Seelisberg on Freemansundet in Barentsoya, and this time I chose to do a slower-paced hike with my naturalist mentor, Sue Perin.  Sue helped me to take some temperature measurements of air/soil/plants/water at different points on the hike.  She also knew all about the tiny plants that populate Svalbard, and I was able to capture some macro shots of their gorgeous flowers. In this shot, I also managed to catch a pollinator: tiny flies are among the very few insects in Svalbard.

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We discovered some recent polar bear tracks in the mud, alongside tracks of geese and reindeer.  Lots of bones, too: reindeer, bird, and even a polar bear skull.

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After lunch and a bit of travel, we came across another polar bear onshore, far from the ideal ice bear environment that we were in on Wednesday.  The amazing Explorer staff managed to get all 140+ guests out onto zodiacs in short order and scoot us in a bit closer to land in the shallow bay.  The bear didn’t look very healthy and didn’t stick around long.  We crossed our fingers and hoped that he would find his way back to the ice.

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Today’s talks included Magnus on the history of polar exploration, Kenneth on his year spent as a hunter/trapper on Svalbard, and David on the National Geographic Pristine Seas Project.  It was a treat to hear about such diverse, fascinating topics from this group of experts in their fields.

After yet another divine dinner tonight: WHALES!  The boat was surrounded by a large group of them that included both fin and humpback whales.  They were feeding, and they were everywhere we looked, surrounded by birds hoping to catch an easy meal.  My lone previous whale watching experience involved seeing one gray whale for less than a second, so this sighting was overwhelmingly awesome.

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Friday brainstorming:

  • Whales and migration
  • Polar exploration project (involve mapping and navigation)
  • Environmental temperature data near home: how does it relate to my Arctic data?
  • Chemistry: element scavenger hunt
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