Search Results for Tag: polar bears
The “bear” facts – on Longyearbjen
I left Ny Alesund having seen most of the mesocosms deployed and everything running well.
The local Arctic fox – who apparently lives under the 1912 houses which have become the Dutch Arctic station – appeared to see me off.
I found Longyearbjen in a state of great excitement because a polar bear had drifted in on the sea ice a few days ago. I was hoping he’d come back, but so far he hasn’t. It was a big attraction, because although they are said to be all around, understandably they don’t come into town that often. The authorities were happy as long as he snoozed on his iceberg, but when he started to move around, they zapped him with a tranquillizer dart and moved him off to a “safer” location.That left the ice floes clear for the Eiders.
Longyearbjen is called after American John M. Longyear, who established the first mine here in 1906. The mining history of the settlement is in evidence everywhere, old coal shafts and the pylons which carried the rope line used to transport the coal to the port.
Coal is still mined here today. It’s controversial, Greenpeace staged a protest here last year, which has made them quite unpopular with the locals, worried about their jobs. That’s presumably one reason why up in Ny Alesund, somebody threw a seal’s head onto the deck of the Esperanza. The local newsletter ‘icepeople’, self-styled as “the world’s northernmost alternative newspaper” reported on the return of the environmentalists saying “This time Greenpeace is promising – it seems – to be good”, i.e. because they are supporting scientific research rather than protesting. The newsletter people are clearly still wary, though.
There is a test project running here for carbon capture and storage. I went to the site of the borehole with the director, Gunnar Sand.
They are testing whether the underground storage site would be safe to store 90% of emissions from the local coal-fired power plant. He says they could be up and running by 2015. But he also stresses the need for much more intensive testing, as safety is paramount. He says Longyearbjen is ideal for a pilot plant, as they have a small community with a closed system. He thinks the world will be dependent on coal for the next fifty years at least, given especially the developments in China. More later on DW radio and the website.
There’s supposed to be a population of 2000 here. I don’t know where they all are, it makes a rather empty impression most of the time. Most people I’ve met have been incomers, who tend to come for a short time, fall in love with it and stay as long as they can. Margrete Nilsdater Skaktavl Keyser is one.
Margrete came here for a short course and went on to do a full degree here. The student residences at the far end of the town show the two main attractions that seem to bring students to the uni here : snow mobiles in winter and nature all around, all year round, with plenty of potential for field work on all aspects of Arctic sciences:
Margrete came here as a student for a short course and stayed on for a longer degree, writing on polar bears. You need a job to stay here, so she takes whatever she finds and goes home to the Norwegian mainland in between.In the season, she guides people on snowmobile trips. At the moment she’s working with the Svalbard authorities compiling a data base on encounters between humans and polar bears, trying to work out guidelines for avoiding “incidents”. I’ve been keeping that in mind walking around here. You can’t leave the town area safely without a rifle, flares etc. People have been killed around here, although it’s a good few years ago.
Glaciology Professor Doug Benn, a fellow Scot who taught in my old university St. Andrews, invited me to join him and two junior colleagues for a look at the local glaciers yesterday. He’s also an active researcher into a glacial area of the Himalayas. More on that next time.
As you can see, no hikes outside town without the rifle. Doug is the one in charge of the party’s safety here:
DateJune 3, 2010 | 8:56 am
Polar Bear at Zackenberg
I got a mail today from Lars Holst Hansen, deputy station chief during the summer season at Zackenberg Ecological Research Station, the one I visited in July, and a biologist with NERI, the National Environment Research Institute.
It seems there have been several polar bear visits to the station, right up on to the beach. Lars, many thanks for your short report. Here is one of Lars’ pictures.
PHOTO BY LARS HOLST HANSEN
You may well ask what a polar bear is doing on land like this at this time of the year, no ice in sight anywhere. Presumably he is hungry. It seems he also went close to some Zackenberg kayakers. I’m hoping Lars will send me the scientist’s view of the visit.
Thanks again Lars, and look forward to hearing more from you.
DateSeptember 10, 2009 | 4:01 pm
“Bearly” 100 days in office…
It doesn’t often happen that I hear something on the news that makes me shout “hooray” as I’m driving along in the car. I did that yesterday when I heard the Obama administration has revoked a rule passed by their predecessors excusing oil and gas companies in polar bear habitat from special reviews to make sure their work doesn’t harm the animals.
(One of those great pics for WWF by Erik Malm)
It was a scandalous decision, taken as one of President Bush’s last official acts, which illustrates his low respect for nature conservation and backward policies on fossil fuels and climate change.
US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said science had to serve as the foundation for government decisions and federal agencies would have to consult with biologists before taking any action that might affect threatened or endangered species. Good on you Mr Salazar, and more power to you and your team. As President Obama marks his first 100 days in office, there are plenty of positive signs for the environment and climate policy. Nature conservation, renewable energies for energy security and job creation – let’s take that as an upbeat ending to today’s blog post. Good news for the bears for a change. We’ll catch up with the penguins’ problems later…
DateApril 30, 2009 | 10:15 am
PS – "Yes, they can"…
WWF has just announced the meeting has actually come up with a resolution linking the future of the species to urgent global action on climate change. You might think that’s stating the obvious -but’s its actually an important step forward in building up pressure for climate action.
DateMarch 19, 2009 | 12:01 pm
Who cares about ice bears?
(Erik Malm Photography, Courtesy of WWF)
Well, the parties to the polar bear conservation treaty have been talking for a couple of days now. It seems to me the main thing that will come out of a conference like this is publicity for the plight of the bears and the desperate need to take action on climate change, rather than any concrete measures.Climate change is the real issue here, and the polar bears have become one of the main symbols of the negative effects. The parties need to come out with a strong message to the Copenhagen climate meeting in December.
WWF were understandably upset, to put it mildly, when the five Arctic states participating decided at the start to exclude ngos, an Indigenous organization and other observers from the key sections of the meeting relating to climate change and an action plan.
“We do not know what these countries have to say about protecting polar bears that cannot be shared with the world”, were the words of Geoff York, polar bear coordinator for WWF,interviewed earlier for the ice blog.
(You might also like to hear this report on Living Planet, including Geoff York and scientists working on sea ice development in the Arctic)
WWF and other parties had actually been invited officially to the meeting and given observer status. The Norwegian government wanted them there, but evidently some other countries have their own agenda and were not so happy to have the conservationists on board.
Polar bears depend on the sea ice to hunt their prey (seals in particular).
Their situation is already getting so bad that some of the experts have observed increasing cannibalistic tendencies amongst smaller, less robust bears.
Andrew Derocher, chair of the Polar Bear Specialist Group, an international network of researchers, is quoted as saying "we don't have hard evidence about climate change, but we have evidence about the numerous symptoms of climate change on polar bears."
With the ice season considerably shorter than it was even just 30 years ago, the bears have problems if they can’t hunt seals, their primary source of food and an essential source of fat to last them through the summer.R esearchers in Alaska have reported several incidents of bears killing and eating other polar bears.N ews agencies are quoting Steven Amstrup, a research wildlife biologist with the US Geological Surcey. He says some bears have been attacking female bears in their denning area. There’s also an increasing trend for polar bears in northern Alaska, to build their den on land.
Geoff York told me in the interview there was no chance of polar bears, who are specialized to the Arctic eco-system with its sea-ice, adapting completely to life on land, because climate change is moving too fast to allow natural adaptation, and because there’s too much competition there. So combatting climate change is the only way to save our white Arctic symbol
(All these great pics from Erik Malm Photography, Courtesy of WWF)
DateMarch 19, 2009 | 10:15 am