Crossing the Arctic Circle

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With 9000 feet of water below us, in the middle of the Davis Strait that separates Baffin Island from Greenland, we watch our Suunto Ambit computers tick down towards the point that marks the crossing of the Arctic Circle. We are determined to swim across this arbitrary point that looms so significantly in our minds.

In early 2000, I crossed the Antarctic Circle en route to making my first documentary film “Ice Island.” We were chasing the largest iceberg in recorded history – a piece of ice the size of Jamaica. It was the first time I had heard scientists speaking gravely about global climate change.

Now, just fourteen years later I lunge into the Arctic Ocean with my nine women colleagues and snorkel across a spot that was bound by sea ice when I visited Antarctica.

We cannot ignore that ocean change and earth change is hurtling towards us like a freight train with no brakes. Though we may feel powerless to halt its advance, we can all make small changes in our lives that help. Talking about it is just the start.

Read the right sidebar on this page for a few ideas.

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Midnight Glacier

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Sea ice is declining in the Arctic, but that loss is not directly responsible for rising sea level. Think about a cold drink filled with ice cubes. When the cubes melt, the glass will not overflow. When a glacier or ice sheet on land melts, it directly contributes to more water in the ocean and rising sea level. These photos depict part of the Greenland Ice Sheet where it meets the sea and calves into the ocean. As solid as it looks, it is moving like a river and breaking off into the sea creating icebergs we have seen on our entire journey. I sat on a hilltop in Ilulissat listening to the sound of global climate change… distant cracks and thunderous roars of ice breaking into the sea. It was midnight under a glorious canopy of orange clouds. No photos will ever totally capture this place.

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Departure Day

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Happy Canada Day

It seems only fitting to head to my ancestral home on Canada. By midnight I’ll be arriving in St. John’s, Newfoundland and will be picked up by my dear friend Rick Stanley from Ocean Quest Adventures. I’ll have a few days to get wet and enjoy the icebergs and whales in Newfoundland before heading north with the women of Team Sedna. They’ll be arriving over the next week with their piles of equipment and big smiles. I’m hoping for a fireworks show from the plane as I fly from Toronto to Newfoundland tonight.

I’ll be keeping a blog up to date here as we travel but expect some outages when we travel beyond the reach of the internet. I have some posts scheduled to launch while I am in the far north and will catch up as connections permit. Adventures ahead!

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Shrinking Sea Ice

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The Arctic is warming very fast and as a result the sea ice minimums are shrinking each year. Watch this video to see a time-lapse of the changes that have occurred sine 1979.

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Canada’s Arctic Warming Fast

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FEB16#4National Action Plan is Needed

As I packed my bags to depart for Canada’s North, I was confronted with the front page of Huffington Post. A full screen banner read “Canada is Melting.” In his article, Michael Bolen, reviews a 259 page report form the federal government that describes how Canada is  warming at roughly the global average over the last half century. With no national plan for addressing climate change, he wonders how long we can keep our heads in the sand.

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said recently: “No matter what they say, no country is going to take actions that are going to deliberately destroy jobs and growth in their country. We are just a little more frank about that.”

The Natural Resources Canada report states that Canada warmed by an average of 1.5°C between 1950 and 2010 and that the trend will continue. It also states that some changes represent challenges and others are opportunities. Encouraging the government to take a forward-thinking rather than react stance, the paper is not all doom and gloom. The study expresses optimism that extreme weather in the future will lead to more “adaptation” on the part of government, industry and the public.

Read more in Bolen’s article here.


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Polar Bears Need Sea Ice

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Some people wonder why it matters when the climate changes and sea ice melts. Travel with this family of polar bears as they search for sea ice that is central to their efforts to find food.

This beautiful short from Arctic Bear Productions on the GoPro YouTube channel depicts a family of polar bears on their quest to find a place to rest: sea ice.

While this footage is stunning, its message is quite somber. Eventually, the bears reach land, but do not find ice. There’s a reason for this. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt seals — but, because of climate change, this ice is melting.

This may have drastic consequences for the future of the species, who are currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

“Due to their long generation time and the current greater speed of global warming, it seems unlikely that polar bear will be able to adapt to the current warming trend in the Arctic,” the IUCN explains.

If climatic trends continue, polar bears face a significant population decline this century.

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Arctic Bound

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Antarcticaiijill Getting Packed for the Sedna EPIC Expedition In just over a week I’ll be leaving for my Arctic Odyssey with the other women from the Sedna Expedition. I’ve been digging out all my cold weather gear and discovering some gems that have been long sitting in cases. Snow anchors and ice axes from ice training trips to the Rockies. Crampons and boots used in Antarctica. My trusted Canada Goose parka. They are all saturated with memories from amazing life experiences and learning opportunities. The anticipation of a trip is as great as the experience itself. Packing, testing and developing new gear are all part of the fun and excitement of the journey. This is the lightest I have ever packed for an expedition and the gear pile came to 270 pounds! We’re only allowed 40 pounds on the small Cessna aircraft that will get us to Nain, Ladrador, so much will travel as excess baggage that will be weighed and charged by the pound. It is no wonder that a head of cabbage in Nain costs close to $20! With the need to bring diving equipment, cold weather gear and camera equipment, there seems little left to do but pay the bill! Hopefully nothing will get stranded in St. John’s, Newfoundland!

Join me as I blog about how to stay warm in the water, how to safely encounter whales, sharks and polar bears and how to make the most of a once in a lifetime expedition. I’ll be blogging daily and posting as my internet connection are available.

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Sedna Expedition Preparing to Launch

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Swimming the Northwest Passage 

In July 2016, a team of ten passionate women will embark upon an epic three-month journey, snorkeling through frigid Arctic seas from Pond Inlet, Nunavut, to Inuvik, Northwest Territories. Supported by a mother ship equipped with two rigid hull boats, the snorkelers will scout, document and record the impacts of global warming on this fragile arctic ecosystem and on the aboriginal peoples’ traditional ways of life.

Tried, tested and blue 

But before tackling the 100-day Northwest Passage Snorkel Relay in 2016, the Team will mount a 15-day, action-packed proof-of-concept expedition in July 2014. Traveling aboard the MV Cape Race, along the Labrador coast to Baffin Island and, across the Davis Strait, to Western Greenland, the sea women will conduct team-building exercises, perform oceanographic studies, deliver educational outreach in Inuit communities and broadcast their findings to the world. Further, they’ll demonstrate that snorkelers—using diver propulsion vehicles—can successfully navigate ice-infested arctic waters.

Flying Snorkelers 

Using high-tech diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs) the snorkelers will cover great distances in frigid waters, traveling at speeds of up to five kilometers per hour. Divided into two five-woman teams, Team Narwhal and Team Beluga, the snorkelers will swim in back-to-back relays. Using one DPV per snorkeler, the women will swim in a rotation, immersed in the water for approximately one hour at a time and up to 24 hours a day.

Voices of the Arctic 

Team Sedna’s mission is to study the impacts of disappearing sea ice in the Arctic, and to educate and engage the public about the wonders of the Arctic and its importance to our global climate. Through cross-cultural dialogue and educational outreach, the expedition aims to exchange knowledge with Inuit groups and Elders about their home and the animals that live there. These first-hand accounts, broadcast through Sedna’s global social network and media channels, aim to inform and inspire conservation for the diverse marine life of the Arctic.


Conquering the Northwest Passage

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Recent Exploration of the Northwest Passage

The extent of Arctic sea ice has declined by 50 percent since the late 1970s, hitting a record low, in September 2012, of 3.41 million square kilometres. Disappearing sea ice has spawned a new breed of modern-day Arctic explorers. During the past decade, several sailboats have traversed the Northwest Passage. In the summer of 2013, the Mainstream Last First Expedition attempted to row the Northwest Passage. The four-man rowing team, comprised of two Canadians and two Irishmen, traveled 1,500 kilometres in 60 days— eastwards from Inuvik to Cambridge Bay—before aborting its crossing due to severe ice conditions. In 2011, Canadians Eric and Sarah McNair-Landry, a brother-sister National Geographic Young Explorers’ team, successfully kite skied across the frozen Northwest Passage, dodging polar bears en route.