Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic August 14, 2012 - 9:55 am

WWF voyagers will tour Arctic’s last best ice

“This area is will be critical for an entire ice-dependent ecosystem”

SAMANTHA DAWSON
The crew of the Last Ice Area voyage encounters rare sunny weather in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (FILE PHOTO)
The crew of the Last Ice Area voyage encounters rare sunny weather in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (FILE PHOTO)

For the past three and a half weeks, World Wildlife Fund staff, researchers, journalists, and a crew from the Al Jazeera television network have been sailing as far north as they can, chasing receding ice and meeting community members along the way.

The voyage will take the team through the waters between Greenland and Canada’s High Arctic.

That’s the “last ice area,” where summer sea ice is projected to persist the longest. 

And its future is the chief concern of a new WWF project designed to figure out future management options for that area. 

“This area is will be critical for an entire ice-dependent ecosystem within a generation,” said Clive Tesar, Last Ice Area lead for WWF’s Global Arctic Programme, in a recent news release.

The Arctic Tern I plans to visit communities along its journey to consult on the region’s future.

The first leg took the crew from Upernavik to Qaanaq in Greenland. The second leg, Aug. 8 to 18, will see the boat continuing on to Grise Fiord.

From there, the Arctic Tern I, a 50-foot steel-hulled expedition sailboat with retractable keel, will head for Pond Inlet, where it’s scheduled to arrive Sept. 1.

Vicki Sahanatien, a former Parks Canada manager who recently started work with WWF’s new Iqaluit office, will travel on the last leg of the voyage.

Sahanatien, WWF’s liaison with the Government of Nunavut and Inuit organizations, is studying polar bear movements, sea ice habitat and climate change.

But her main role on the Arctic Tern I will be to introduce herself and the Last Ice Area project to people in Grise Fiord, Resolute Bay, Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet.

Sahanatien and other members of the team plan to collect general observations as they go along, including different species of whales that they may see, and the number and sex of polar bears, as well as weather and ice condition data.

Sahanatien also wants to talk about narwhal tusk tagging in Pond Inlet, and how to better collaborate with this community.

But until her departure, Sahanatien said she’s enjoying her return to Iqaluit, where she’s been setting up WWF’s office at the Nunavut Research Institute in Iqaluit.

Voyage updates can be followed at the WWF blog.

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