Sunday, October 07, 2007

Leap of Faith!

July 8, 2007

A young polar bear comes to the edge of an ice floe and stops to ponder whether or not to attempt the jump across open water to the next floe.

Is the distance too far? Can I make it? Will the ice hold me? You can see the concentration on her face as she ponders the jump...

Everything looks good and the young bear decides to GO FOR IT!

OH NO! The ice floe she was pushing off from has broken off before the bear can leave it. Her back legs are sinking into the chilly water before the leap is complete! She is FALLING...

UMPFHHHH! I can almost hear her exhale as she hits hard on the far floe, not the clean landing I am sure she intended!

AAAARRRRGGGG! She has to pull herself up out of the water and onto the floe!

TAA-DAA! Hey, look how cool I am! I MEANT to do that all along!
While it is fun to be anthropomorphic in this little episode in the life of a polar bear, it does get me thinking about the fate of these magnificent animals. Will ice floes continue to get smaller, weaker, and further apart? Will our little bear grow up with plenty of ice floes to allow her to continue to hunt for seals? Today (October 7th, 2007) USA TODAY reports that walrus in Alaska are beaching themselves as the lowest summer ice cap on record put sea ice far north of the outer continental shelf. Perhaps the fabled northwest passage will be ice-free by the year 2030. What will become of our little ice bear without ice to rest, hunt, and live on? As the polar ice caps shrink, the habitat for both bears and walrus will diminish. A world without either is a very sobering thought, especially at 12:24 AM in the middle of the Sonoran desert (where I am writing this post from.) It seems that the future may become unbearable...
Comments? Concerns? I would love to hear your thoughts. E-mail me at

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Land of the midnight sun

July, 2007

Here in Svalbard I am truly in the land of the midnight sun. From my arrival in early July, until my departure in late July, the sun literally NEVER set! At about 600 nm from the north pole this is about as far north as you can get in relatively ice-free conditions. Give thanks to that fact to the remnants of the Gulf Stream helping to keep the ice at bay.

Of course Svalbard is also a land covered in glaciers as here where the late evening light illuminates the Negrebreen Glacier melting in the sunlight on Spitsbergen Island.

Open leads surrounded by multi-year ice floes in the Barents Sea between Edgeøya (Edge Island) and Kong Karls Land. This is where the ice-strengthened hull of the National Geographic Endeavour really pays off!
Adult black-legged kittiwakes take flight during a calving event near a glacier.

Adult black-legged kittiwakes taking flight from an iceberg.

A view of Storpollen Glacier, on the southwestern side of Spitsbergen Island.

Hikers walking over open tundra beneath ice covered hills surrounding the Rosenberg Valley on Edgeøya Island.

A very interesting cloud formation changing shape rapidly over Diskobukta on the western side of Edgeøya.

A polar bear warning sign just outside the town of Longyearbyen on the west side of Spitsbergen Island reminds visitors and residents alike about the reality of living near polar bears.

A view of the town of Longyearbyen on the west side of Spitsbergen Island.

A tidewater glacier in Isbukta (Ice Bay) on the western side of Spitsbergen Island. This glacier is receding, probably due to global warming.

A view of hikers in front of the towering cliff and glacier in Hornsund (Horn Sound) on the southwestern side of Spitsbergen Island in the Svalbard Archipelago, Barents Sea, Norway.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Photo Expeditions into 2008!

October 5, 2007

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle will raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.

When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons to choose from.

Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. And last he must implement the journey. How to go, what to take, how long to stay. This part of the process is invariable and immortal. I set it down only so that newcomers to bumdom, like teen-agers in new-hatched sin, will not think they invented it.

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, as exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip.

Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand it.

It has been almost 50 years now since John Steinbeck wrote these words in his last novel Travels with Charley (In search of America). After almost 30 years as a practical bum myself I find my built-in reason is quite simple; to capture that millisecond when it all comes together perfectly. It is not the image itself, but rather the quest for the perfect image that brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. If these words resonate with you as well, perhaps you will join me in a photographic expedition and we can share in our mutual fever. I look forward to it!

Antarctica: The white continent - November 7, 18, 29, 2007
Baja: Among the great whales - January 26, February 2, 9, 16, and 23, 2008
Baja: A remarkable journey - March 29, 2008
Alaska, British Columbia, and the San Juan Islands - April 29, 2008
Galapagos aboard the National Geographic Polaris - May 16 and 23, 2008
Land of the Ice Bears in Svalbard - July 2, 2008
Beyond the North Cape, Norway - July 16, 2008
Atlantic Odyssey, Portugal to Brazil - September 21, 2008
For more information on any of the above trips please see or call 1-800-EXPEDITIONS

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bear Island (Bjørnøya)

July, 2007
North! We have left the rugged shoreline of Norway and are sailing north to Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in Barent's Sea, part of the Svalbard Archipeligo
The Fuglefjellet cliffs (411m) on Bear Island (Bjørnøya) in the Svalbard Archipeligo form the highest seabird cliffs in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Juvenile puffin on flat calm waters.

Northern fulmars on the wing in the Barent's Sea on the way to Bear Island.

Northern fulmar reflected in calm waters.

Parent and chick black-legged kittiwake on a nest on a cliff edge on Bear Island.

Common guillemot taking flight near the Fuglefjellet cliffs on Bear Island (Bjørnøya.)

Got one! A common guillemot suddenly has an uninvited dinner guest!

Brünnich’s guillemot nesting near the Fuglefjellet cliffs on Bear Island (Bjørnøya.) In North America this bird species is known as the thick-billed murre

Norway, the North Cape

June, 2007

Norway! A new country for me, and the gateway to the high arctic Svalbard archipeligo aboard the National Geographic Endeavour. Departing from Bergen, we make our way north along this beautiful coastline. I hope you enjoy the images from this area, here the small fishing town of Lovund in northern Norway.
Stetind rises 1391 meters from sea level and was voted to be Norway's most beautiful mountain in 2005. It is deep within Tysfjorden

Flat-glass waters everywhere within deep fjords make for fantastic reflected images!

Late evening reflected light on the picturesque Norwegian fishing town of Reine in the Lofoton Island Group.

Cod fish cleaned and drying out in the small fishing town of Å in the Lofoton Island Group, Norway. This town has the shortest name of any town in the world!

Mountain stream cutting through the tundra just north of Tromso, Norway

Monday, October 01, 2007

Seals on ice

June, 2007

If I haven't convinced you that the "early" season (late spring, actually) is one of the best times to be here in Southeast Alaska, then just consider this; May and June are the time of year when harbor seal mothers give birth to their pups on icebergs calved from glaciers. These moms and pups are in front of the LeConte Glacier, just outside of Petersburg, Alaska.

Eagle on ice

June, 2007

Adult bald eagles are always so regal and picturesque, but I particularly like to photograph them when they are perched atop an iceberg. Here near the LeConte Glacier this adult is keeping a watchful eye from the highest point around!

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