Saturday, October 9, 2010

As Ice Recedes, Interest Surges in Arctic Adventure Destinations - Nunavut, Greenland and Alaska - Global Warming is real

As Ice Recedes, Interest Surges

Lounging on the sun deck of a cruise ship as it navigates the warm waters of the Caribbean or Mediterranean, perhaps with a cooling cocktail in hand, is how many travelers envision spending a cruise. But others seem increasingly drawn to a vacation where the ice isn’t just in their drinks, but in the very waters that surround them.

Among the fastest growing trends in the cruise industry are itineraries that take passengers to the coldest parts of the world — not just Alaska, of course, which has long been a popular cruise destination, but places like the Baltic Sea, the northern reaches of Canadaand Greenland, and even Antarctica.
Indeed, more than 35,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this spring and summer, compared with just 6,750 during 1992-93, according to the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat.
Among the cruise lines heading to Antarctica with new itineraries are Crystal Cruises (, whose Crystal Symphony will offer a Christmas and New Year’s trip around South America, Cape Horn and Antarctica, including a stop in Puerto Montt, Chile, and a cruise around Elephant Island, Antarctica (rates start at $7,995).
Hurtigruten ( is offering a 17-day round-trip cruise out of Buenos Aires aboard its newest expedition ship, the M.S. Fram. With the help of smaller PolarCirkel boats, the cruise will go farther south on the Antarctic Peninsula — all the way into the rarely visited Marguerite Bay — than it ever has in the past. Departures are next January and February, and rates start at $5,799. (The Fram will also head to Greenland this summer, with eight-day trips that include viewings of Jakobshavn Glacier — “the world’s most active glacier,” according to the company — and walking tours of several Inuit villages and towns.)

Among the other cold-water options:
Cruise North Expeditions (, a company based in Kuujjuaq, in northern Quebec, and owned mostly by Inuits, will sail the Arctic in northern Canada this summer, including a trip stopping at Beechey Island to visit the remains — grave sites and all — of the famously ill-fated Northwest Passage expedition led by Sir John Franklin.
Hapag-Lloyd ( will offer two 14 and 15-day trips to Greenland in July and August aboard its 184-passenger expedition ship, the Hanseatic, above, that include stops at Disko Bay and some Inuit settlements
Princess Cruises ( will have eight ships, more than in any previous year, sailing to Alaska destinations in 2008. With first-time stops in Kodiak, Seward and Valdez, the line will offer 37 new options for shore excursions, including one that will take travelers to the Columbia Glacier in Valdez.
Abercrombie & Kent ( is offering a two-week trip in July aboard its 118-passenger ship Clipper Odyssey that sails round trip out of Nome, Alaska and includes stops in Siberian Russia, including the Chukotka area, which is home to reindeer-herding nomadic tribes, and Kamchatka, a peninsula that has 29 active volcanic craters.

Journeying Through Arctic Lands

Staggering scenery, rich history and abundant wildlife define the Arctic region between western Greenland and eastern Canada. Left, tourists on an eco-adventure with Lindblad Expeditions sail through the Ilulissat Icefjord, the most active glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.

The harbor town of Sisimiut, Greenland, is a good base for hiking, sailing and kayaking. The local tourist office organizes a number of outings.

Fishing boats in Sisimiut, Greenland. The town used to be a major whaling port, but now its economy is centered on shrimping.

Coastal Greenland is lined with massive icebergs and walls of glacial ice.

A bottlenose whale in the Davis Strait, located between western Greenland and Baffin Island, Canada.

A polar bear on the remote rocks of Monumental Island, Canada. The region's polar bear population is at risk because warming temperatures are melting the sea ice they use as hunting platforms.

Lichens, mosses and hardy shrubs make up the plant life in Canada's wild Nunavut territory.

Remains of a Moravian mission in Hebron, established in 1830, off the coastline of Labrador, Canada. The area has been designated a national historic site.

The Church of St. James the Apostle at Battle Harbour National Historic Site off Labrador's south coast. Settled in the 1770s, the community was once the region's main fishing port and is now a living museum.

Visitors can stay overnight in restored buildings at Battle Harbour. The Isaac Smith House, left, has three bedrooms and is lit with oil lamps.

Walruses on Akpatok Island, Canada.

A mushroom peeks out through the boreal forest floor in Cape St. Charles.

A re-enactor at a replica of a Viking village called Norstead in Newfoundland, Canada. It's one mile from the archaeological site L'Anse aux Meadows, a Unesco World Heritage site where archaeologists found Norse artifacts dating back to the 11th century.

A scene from Norstead, which also has a boat-building course, ax-throwing arena and church.

Enduring cold in hopes for a hot dinner.

A fisherman in his glowing shelter preparing a hot dinner.

A BIG THAW The warming of many parts of the Arctic is already reducing the amount of perpetually frozen ground, or permafrost, and that trend will almost certainly continue, creating problems for oil companies, road networks and structures built on a thawing landscape. The frozen season has also been shrinking. The number of days in which oil companies can explore for oil on Alaska's North Slope has been cut in half in 30 years. The ecological impact of the trend is harder to predict. For example, while water may drain from existing tundra lakes through thawed ground, other ponds and lakes may form in thawed spots where the surface sinks, creating more aquatic habitat.

RISING SEAS One of the most important consequences of Arctic warming will be increased flows of meltwater and icebergs from glaciers and ice sheets, and thus an accelerated rise in sea levels. The zone of melting on the flanks of Greenland's two-mile-high ice sheet (at left) has already grown about 16 percent since 1979, with 2002 setting a record.

FOREST VS. TUNDRA In a trend already measured in Arctic portions of Alaska, shrubs and small trees will likely thrive and grow farther north in a warming world, according to the new report. Caught between rising seas on one side and expanding shrub-filled zones to the south, tundra ecosystems around the Arctic (as in eastern Russia, above) will likely shrink to their smallest extent in at least 21,000 years, the scientists concluded. This could reduce breeding areas for many tundra-dwelling bird species and grazing lands for caribou and other mammals.

1 comment:

  1. I'm dreaming of having a great adventure in Alaska.