Changing Planet

Last Ice Area Expedition Launches

(Photo by Scott Ressler)

Climate projections forecast the total disappearance of summer sea ice in the Arctic by 2040, with the exception of one place: the “last ice area,” north of Greenland and Ellesmere Island in Nunavut. This area will likely harbor the largest concentration of Arctic wildlife that depends on the sea ice edge for survival, including bowhead whales, seals, narwhals, and polar bears. Less sea ice also means the northward expansion of fishing, shipping, mining, and drilling. These emerging threats will affect not only the wildlife but also the Inuit communities that have traditionally relied on these animals for food, dress, shelter, and energy.

To raise awareness about these dramatic changes in the high Arctic, Pristine Seas will partner with the World Wildlife Fund and work closely with Inuit communities to document their stories and traditions. The team will analyze the ways in which Inuit culture is connected to the extraordinary local wildlife—and how the disappearing ice will impact these populations and their relationships with one another. Historic data and imagery found in the archives of National Geographic and others will be used to compare past conditions with current findings.

Pristine Seas will conduct two primary expeditions to the region in 2015, filming Arctic wildlife and the traditional way of life of the Inuit and recording local stories and views on the ongoing environmental changes. The first of these expeditions will focus on Qaanaaq, one of the most traditional Inuit villages in Greenland. The location of the project’s second expedition will be announced in June.

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Marine ecologist Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who combines science, exploration and media to help restore marine life. Sala’s scientific publications are used for conservation efforts such as the creation of marine protected areas. 2005 Aldo Leopold Leadership Fellow, 2006 Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation, 2008 Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum.

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