Arctic Wiki

Contents

Arctic Animals

Of all the animal species in the Arctic - ranging in size and characteristics - there are a few that stand out from the rest and are more widely known than the others, and for good reasons too. These Arctic animals live, hunt, breed and survive in one of the most arid and uninhabitable places on Earth. 

Arctic Fox – The Arctic fox lives further north than any other breed of fox. It is normally white in winter and turns to a brownish-grey in summer. They mainly live in the northern reaches of Alaska and Canada with some territories near Russia and Greenland. They feed primarily on small mammals. Mating season for the Arctic fox is in March or early April. Gestation lasts just 52 days and litters average seven pups with as many as 15 being held as the maximum reported.

Caribou – The caribou is a member of the deer family which looks like a large mule deer or small elk; it has long legs, large hooves and large antlers that both male and female caribou seem to have, though there are some females that do not. These creatures are always on the move as their preferred food, called lichen, takes years to grow back once eaten. One interesting fact about caribou is that they are capable of sleeping in water. 

Collared Lemming – This little creature is so tiny, at just over four inches in length, it’s remarkable how it has managed to survive the cold Arctic climate. It does this by burrowing into the ground snow making runways and tunnels that stretch far and also keep their underground nesting areas safe from hunters. 

Narwhal – Narwhals usually stick together in pods of about 10 up to 100 and they swim solely in the Arctic waters. Like whales and dolphins, narwhals communicate by means of a great variety of clicks, squeals, whistles and trills. These normally relaxed Arctic animals can be defined by their long ivory tusk protruding from a tooth socket. This tusk is in fact a tooth that has grown out and can reach up to nine feet long.

Polar Bear – Polar bears spend most of their time on ice floes in the northern Arctic. They are the largest land meat-eater in the world and also the largest of the bear family. The adult female stands at two meters tall with the male standing at 2.6 meters. Their fur is off-white with black eyes, noses and mouths. Defining characteristics are their impeccable swimming abilities, with records of polar bears swimming some 50 miles from any land or floe.

Arctic Animals: Polar bears

The Arctic Climate and its Changes

As it stands, the Arctic is especially vulnerable to the effects of global warming, as has become apparent in the melting sea ice over recent years. Much international attention has been focused on the region due to a greater warming in the Arctic compared to the global average. If predictions in which the IPCC report Nr.4 is based are to be believed, we could see a near-complete to complete loss of Arctic sea ice anywhere from 2040 to sometime well beyond 2100 – an extremely daunting thought.

It is possible that this is the first time in the Earth's history that both poles have been simultaneously ice-bound. This unusual climate was created in the Azolla event when fresh surface water in the Arctic Ocean caused a long-term abundance of Azolla, a type of aquatic fern. Huge quantities of dead Azolla built up and formed sedimentary rock, much of which contains fossil fuels as a result of the carbon contained in the Azolla. This process caused global cooling as a result of a reduction in the greenhouse effect. Release of stored carbon into the atmosphere as a result of current fossil fuel use is thought by most of the climate scientists to be causing global warming, which threatens to destroy the climatic conditions necessary for the current Arctic climate. It should be noted, however, that the earth is a dynamic system, wherein global warming and cooling occurs periodically based on multiple interacting stimuli.

Currently, there is a large amount of variability in the Arctic climate, but all regions experience extremes of solar radiation in both summer and winter. Some parts of the continent are covered by ice all year-round and nearly all parts experience long periods with some form of ice on the surface. In winter, temperatures can drop to a low of -50 degrees Celsius over large parts of the Arctic. In summer, some land areas exceed 30 degrees! Anyone for a swim?

Arctic Cruises on Offer

Starting your journey in any one of the eight subarctic countries, comprising of; Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Finland or Sweden, where the weather can be typically cold in winter, holidaymakers should prepare for bad weather. In summer, however, you're just as likely to need sunglasses with the fairer months held to be quite beautiful. 

While the Arctic remains covered in ice pack for most of the year, it is during the short summer months that we are offered the chance to witness the diverse scenery, unusual wildlife, and interesting peoples the Arctic has to offer. Embarking on Arctic cruises is considered a once in a lifetime journey. The High Arctic is best explored in July to September, as the pack ice recedes and a view of the wildlife can be seen on the ices edge. From huge ice breakers and cruise ships, to research vessels and smaller 50-passenger expedition ships, there’s an ideal mode of transport for everyone, whether they are after the grand cruise experience, or the adventurous and personal experience that comes with a smaller ship.


Adventure Options
(55-115 passenger range)

Kayaking, camping, mountaineering, diving and cross-country skiing are all that await you on board these expedition vessels – designed for travellers who seek a bit more adventure and activity on their northern trip. 

Kayaking in the Arctic

Icebreaker (100 passenger range)

These powerful and state-of-the-art vessels have impressive itineraries and get you to the places that other ships can’t go. With an experienced and knowledgeable crew and expedition staff, you’re bound to get few lessons from one of the naturalists, lecturers, or even the expedition leader. Icebreakers carry an entire fleet of Zodiac landing crafts for shuttling passengers from ship to land while onboard helicopters make flights to the interior possible. 


Luxury Expedition Ships
(100-150 passenger range)

Luxury Class doesn’t have to do with the size of the ship, but rather the class of travel. Carrying you in style and comfort to one of the most remote wilderness destinations in the world, a luxury ship gives you access to five-star amenities such as; TV/VCR, mini-refrigerator, choice of bed type (twin or queen), elevator as well as Butler Service and verandas in select cabins. All of this comfort with the security of ice-strengthened hulls, motion control, expert expedition staff and lecturers and an experienced crew, will give you the benefits of an Arctic cruise like no other.

Arctic Jobs – What Type of Employment is Available?

You might not consider many job opportunities presenting themselves in such a seemingly remote place as the Arctic, but remember that the Arctic is comprised of eight neighbouring countries and has a lot more to offer than just a fishing contract.

In Alaska alone, between adventure camps and remote lodgings to receptionist and risk management positions in the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, you’re bound to find something out of the ordinary. 

The Yukon River Camp, Coldfoot Camp and Deadhorse Camp, situated in the heart of wilderness along a stretch of no less than 500 miles of Arctic Coastal Plains, the Brooks Mountain Range, the Arctic Circle and the Yukon River, are the lodgings for Arctic travellers with a spirit of authentic hospitality. You could be a part of that hospitality; with a paid vacation and the chance to witness and envelope yourself in the Arctic wilderness and the thriving community. 

If you prefer a more adventurous approach to your working day, an Arctic job with Arctic Range Adventures might be a better fit for you. They offer positions for driver guides, ski guides, snowshoeing guides and dog sledding guides. Operating mainly from August to April, they leave you with plenty of time to plan and prepare. 

If it’s the natural world you’re more concerned with, some Arctic jobs consist of global conservation opportunities with demographics projects concerning Alaskan shorebirds. This type of work is not as casual as some positions previously mentioned, but is definitely an important prospect. Concentrating on assessing the breeding population demography of shorebird species, the main duties include conducting nest searches, floating eggs to determine age, monitoring nests for survivorship, trapping birds using bow or mist nets, placing colour-bands and metal bands on the birds, and collecting feather and blood samples from all captured birds for future genetic studies. Not for the faint hearted I’m sure but a worthy cause nonetheless!

With so much to see and do, with a biodiversity in not just the wildlife but also in the people, Arctic jobs could be the change you need to make in your life, if just for a season. Get involved in this beautiful part of the world and help it continue to thrive and be protected by the people who visit, live, and work there while having the time of your life.

Arctic Facts to Keep you in the Know

The Arctic and all you need to know about its land, animals and night skies are found in the information gathered over decades of research and exploration to the ‘desert of the north’. What we’ve learned about the Arctic, is that this region is a magical place filled with dazzling sights and wildlife that has been designed to only survive in this particular part of the world. 

The word ‘Arctic’ comes from the Greek word for bear, arktos, which refers to two celestial bodies visible in the Arctic sky year-round. The constellations in question are Ursa Major meaning ‘Great Bear’ and Ursa Minor, Little Bear, which contains Polaris, the North Star. 

Humans have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years; the current population is roughly 4 million people, which includes more than 30 different indigenous peoples, as well as Caucasians. The region itself covers more than 18 million square miles (30 million square kilometres). This is one-sixth of the planets land mass and naturally, spans 24 time zones.

The wilderness of the Arctic region is substantial and crucial for the migration and breeding of whale and bird populations from around the world. It remains one of the wilderness areas most critical for global diversity.

Arctic Wildlife


Quick Facts

  • 80% is how much of the Arctic land that is governed by the Russian Federation and Canada.
  • From 2003-2006, 160 billion tons of ice was shed from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Over the past decade, discharge from icebergs has risen by 30%.
  • The average area per decade by which the Arctic sea has shrunk during late summer from 1979 is 10%. Many scientists believe now that the Arctic Ocean could be seasonally ice-free within a few decades more.
  • If all the ice in the Arctic melted, the global sea level would rise about 24 feet.

The Arctic economy has focused largely on the extraction of petroleum and mineral resources, and one tenth of the world’s oil and a quarter of its natural gas now comes from the region. Commercial fishing, as well as traditional methods of hunting, fishing, and reindeer herding, are other important economic activities.

Arctic Tourism – What you Need to Know

With many people taking the opportunity to visit and experience the Arctic continent, and numbers increasing over the past 15 years, it does help to consider the environmental factors and encourage sustainable Arctic tourism. There are a number of tourism advocates whose primary concern is ensuring that, with the increasing number of visitors each year, the Arctic remains a veritable ecosystem for many more years to come.

Here are some ways that you can take responsibility while enjoying your trip in the Arctic and surrounding regions:

Keep an open mind – Learn about the culture, peoples and wildlife of the area and you’ll find a greater understanding of this wonderful place. Attention from outsiders is still relatively new to the indigenous people of the Arctic, but they are ready to welcome all who accept and respect their ways.

Respect the area – Leave no trace of yourself in the open lands that you have visited. Do not disturb the wildlife or destroy the natural habitat of the animals that live there.

For more information on how you can support and protect the Arctic tourism environment, you can find information from these sources:

  • Swedish Ecotourism Association
  • Alaska Wilderness Recreation & Tourism Association
  • Westfjords Development Agency
  • Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon

There is not a generally accepted definition of ecotourism but it is understood that Arctic tourism should be based on the premise that it is nature-based, small scale with smaller groups actively contributing to nature conservation, and that the Arctic tourism actively involves and benefits the local community. 

When visiting the Arctic regions, it should go without saying that a major draw factor is the Aurora Borealis, also more commonly known as the Northern Lights. This display of natural wonder is viewed just above the horizon in an array of brilliant colours: green, yellow, red, and violet. This spectacle can be viewed from autumn through to spring. In summer, another phenomenon can be witnessed – The Midnight Sun. Occurring during the time of the summer solstice, Finland is mostly subjected to this wonder, and in the northernmost region, the sun does not set for the full 60 days of summer! The opposite phenomenon, Polar Night, occurs during winter solstice and the sun stays below the horizon throughout the day. 

The Arctic Tundra

The term tundra comes through Russian and the Kildin Sami word for ‘uplands’ or ‘treeless mountain tract’. In physical geography, tundra is a biome where tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons. The ecological boundary region, also known as the ecotone, between the tundra and the forest is known as the tree line or timberline and is composed of dwarf shrubs, sedges, grasses, mosses and lichens. Scattered trees grow in some tundras.

The Arctic tundra occurs in the far Northern Hemisphere, north of the taiga belt. The polar tundra is home to several peoples who are mostly nomadic reindeer herders, such as the Nganasan and Nenets in the permafrost area. Permafrost tundra includes vast areas of northern Russia and Canada. 

The soil in the Arctic tundra is frozen from 10 to 35 inches down, so it is impossible for trees to grow there. Low growing plants such as moss, heath and lichen seem to be all that the bare and rocky land can support. However, in the summer months when the temperature rises, the top layer of permafrost melts leaving the landscape very soggy. This is due to the fact that while rainfall is low (6-10 inches per year), the ground below is frozen and so the water cannot sink any lower. The tundra becomes covered in marshes, lakes, bogs and streams with daytime temperatures sitting at around 12 C. The tundra is a very windy place and in terms of precipitation, it is desert-like. This leads to a natural pattern of accumulation of fuel and wildfire, varying with the terrain and nature of the vegetation. In Alaska, research has shown fire-event intervals that typically vary from 150-200 years with the drier lowland areas burning more frequently than wetter highland areas. 

The biodiversity in the Arctic tundra is low, with only 1,700 species of vascular plants and only 48 land mammals found, although millions of birds migrate there each year for the summer marshes. Arctic tundras are sometimes the subject of habitat conservation programs. In Canada and Russia, many of these areas are protected through a national Biodiversity Action Plan. 

Travel to the Arctic

When travelling to the Arctic, you really are spoiled for choice. With so many natural wonders and famously breath-taking views of the wilderness, you are sure to be astounded on a daily basis.

Walrus in the Arctic

Many people have taken the time to experience Arctic travel in all its glory, with an estimated 1 million visitors in 2012. Having become an interest to both adventurers and naturalists alike, Arctic tours and cruises are readily available to those who wish to join them. Different ports from the furthest reaches of the Arctic continent are ready to give you an experience not to be forgotten. 


Greenland Cruises –
Though remote and sparsely populated today, many of the places explored from here have been inhabited in the last 5000 years. Thousands of unique historic and prehistoric sites are the evidence for the thriving cultures of the past. This expedition will take you and give you the freedom to explore the abundance of wildlife in the region.

Canadian Cruises – Visitors to this region will encounter the spectacle of enormous colonies of sea birds thronging the cliffs and shshoores, and enjoy the playful and thrilling antics of whales and dolphins at sea. If you’re very lucky indeed, you might even catch a glimpse of that which is the very symbol of the Arctic – the polar bear. 

Russian Cruises – The Russian islands and coastlines offer some of the finest scenery and wildlife experiences in the world. Visiting Franz Josef Land and getting the chance to witness one of the world’s last true wildernesses, all while ploughing along on an ice-strengthened former polar research ship. 

Alternatively, you could get on board the cargo/passenger steamer, the Hurtigruten, which sails from Bergen, up the Norwegian coast, round North Cape to Kirkenes on the Russian border, calling at 34 ports along the way. That’s bound to give you some sightseeing pleasure in case the wilderness is all a bit too remote for you.

Finally, if all you really want to do is see the Northern Lights, above all else, the best place to do so is the Northern Studies Centre near Churchill on Hudson Bay.

The Arctic - Cold Hard Truths

The desert of the north; as it has been dubbed for its dry, long stretches of land and seemingly endless landscape, is what we know today as the Arctic. However, sand and heat are not the rulers of this continent. What you’re more likely to find is an abundance of ice, snow and very little vegetation. These factors are what make the Arctic land extremely uninhabitable to humans, and is the reason there are little more than 5,000 people in the entire area at any given time. These people are not all dwellers though; apart from the low -numbered indigenous people, the inhabitants consist mainly of scientists, researchers and tourists, thus making the wilderness there left untouched and remaining one of the last intact ecosystems on the planet.

The strategies and evolutionary leaps that life on this continent has had to develop in order to survive are truly amazing. In pure Darwinian style, it remains that the strongest and most adaptable will survive. From the vegetation that has compressed growing seasons, sprouting and flourishing in the few months of spring - where in the rest of the world, taking many more months - to the caterpillar that can live through fourteen summers before finally transforming in to a beautiful butterfly. 

To many, the Arctic is seen to be nothing more than an enormous white blob on a map or globe. Contrary to popular belief, the Arctic is not just a floating mass of ice. It consists, indeed, of the Arctic Ocean, but also parts of Canada, Russia, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Alaska (USA), Sweden, Finland and Iceland. Socially and politically, the arctic region includes the northern territories of the eight Arctic states, although by natural science definitions much of this territory is considered 'subarctic' (the region immediately south of the true Arctic).

With a land mass of 14 million square kilometres, it's not hard to imagine that the Arctic includes many sizable natural resources, such as oil, gas, minerals, fresh water, fish, and if the subarctic is included, forest. 

Due to territorial claims by the eight subarctic countries, claiming that certain Arctic sectors should belong to their territories, it has been brought forth by numerous foreign ministers at the Arctic Ocean Conference, that a declaration be made blocking any 'new comprehensive international legal regime to govern the Arctic Ocean'. This is so named, the Ilulissat Declaration.

The most recent proposal to preserve the Arctic came in 2012 with a group of stars at the Rio Earth Summit. The initial focus of the campaign will be a UN resolution creating a global sanctuary around the pole and a ban on drilling and unsustainable fishing in the Arctic.