Polar Bear Tracks

Yesterday was another very interesting day of testing on the ice.  We testing on ‘multiyear’ ice which means it has been partially melted and then refrozen, and the area has not been completed thawed in the past few years at least.  This generally means that the salty brine has drained away leaving nearly pure water ice.  The ice was much more resistive (doesn’t conduct electricity) than the first year sea ice we were previously measuring, often so resistive that it was beyond the range of our meter (effectively an ‘open circuit’ or a great insulator).  This was really interesting to see the different kinds of ice.

This multi-year ice was only a short distance (less than a mile) from our original site, but it was very different in appearance.  There were several small ridges of ice, from the freeze-thaw and pressure cycles, and with the snow on top of them, it was kind of like a frozen fairy land.

Ice ridges are eerily beautiful

Our original test site seemed nearly devoid of animals.  But just a short distance away at this site, we saw several animals.  First, there were several large flocks of King Eiders (like 200-300 birds) .  They flew overhead with a great whirring sound.  We also saw one that was dead in the snow, a brightly colored bird the size of a typical duck.  We also saw some snow buntings, and we heard tundra swans but couldn’t see them in the deep fog.

David saw something moving in the snow, and we think it was an arctic fox.

Coming back, Glen Roy noticed polar bear tracks.  He had been watching out for them all day.  Because of the fog, he had to watch more closely, since he wouldn’t be able to see them at a great distance.  The tracks were from the day before, and we hadn’t noticed them on the way in.  He thinks they were from a young female, since the front tracks were noticeably smaller than the back tracks.  These tracks were not very far from where we had been measuring the day before, but would have been out of sight.  We saw tracks our first day here too, and we saw bears in the far distance also.

Polar Bear tracks

Polar Bear tracks heading off in the distance.

Meet Glen Roy, our bear guard.  I think he has one of the coolest, most unusual jobs I’ve ever heard of!  He is officially certified as a mammal hazer — polar bears.

Glenn Roy Nashaknik, Bear Guard

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