Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Arctic Ambassador Kathryn's Day #2 Tundra Blog Entry!


It was the thought of seeing my first polar bear that gave me the motivation to get up at 4:30 this morning. That and the fact that I had to catch a flight to Churchill! We all met in the lobby and went across the street to our small, awaiting plane which seated our camp only. On the flight, i got to see one of the most beautiful things you could see in Churchill; the sunrise. As you can see in the picture, it was one of the most spectacular views I've ever been lucky enough to witness. It gave me a whole new appreciation for where I was and how beautiful the arctic really is. As we ducked beneath the clouds, I got a better glimpse at the landscape. The land here doesn't have snow yet and is very flat, but full of nature. Plenty of large rocks, small trees, and dips in the land(which are actually caused by the land expanding after it has been compressed by glaciers in the winter). The airport was just a small building, no security lines or baggage claims, much to everyone's surprise. But after learning that Churchill only has about 800 or so residents, it made more sense. but we hardly had time to look around before we left to go on the Tundra Buggies! As you can see in the pictures, they are very large and VERY bouncy. The terrain takes forever to go across in a tundra buggies but polar bears have adapted feet and muscles to move across the terrain very easily. On the buggie we saw plenty of birds, pretty landscape, and our first polar bear!!! Although it was at a distance, it was so exciting to a wild polar bear for the first time! Our group was lucky enough to see four polar bears today! They were very calm and used to the buggies, and lifted their heads occasionally to look at us or smell of lunch. It was so cool!

Interesting facts of the day:

A lot of the trees in the arctic only have branches on one side, because the other have(that was not protected by the trunk of the tree) has been blasted off by the high winds they get in Churchill.

Polar Bears have a "Jacobson Organ," which is an organ that allows them to taste or smell the air with their tongue, which is the same things that snakes do!

Because polar bears are so good at distributing their weight on their 4 big legs and wide paws,they can walk on ice as thin as 1 inch!
Polar bears are so adapted to the cold, that if they get to warm or to stressed and their body temperature rises, over heating becomes a real danger to the polar bears.
To get a better grip on the ice, polar bears have little "suction cups" on their paws that are so tiny, it is very hard to see.

As you can see I have already learned a lot on this trip. The people have all been wonderful and I love experiencing this with all of them. It just so happens that today was the Canadian thanksgiving! So we all shared our excitement of the day with each other over a delicious dinner of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pie! Yum!
After dinner, we enjoyed a wonderful presentation about polar bears and the threats they are facing. it made me realize that many people don't realize that polar bears actually live on the ice, and due to the increasing carbon levels we are putting into the atmosphere, the ice melts faster, putting the bears on land earlier, thus reducing the amount of time they get to hunt seals (their main source of food). But it is also not just the polar bears we should be focusing on. Although they are furry and cute, they are just one animal in a circle of other mammals that are being affected by us. The bears are just the tip of the iceberg for everything that is happening to our changing climate. But this should only heighten our motivation to become more "green." EVERY little thing we do affects our environment, and we can all play our part in making a smaller carbon footprint. WE talked about several new inventions that are really helping our environment, and were only just starting. Things are changing at a very fast rate. Both good and bad. So it is up to ALL of us, to make sure the change we make, is for the better.

-Kathryn Ravey

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