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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Weekly Post, ARCTIC: At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change
by Robert Glenn Ketchum



In 1993, I began traveling to the Arctic. I have been across The Northwest Passage by yacht; to the North Pole twice; to little-visited Russian islands; and aboard research vessels in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Baffin Island, taking the opportunity to visit Iqualuit, the capital of Nunavut, the recently created Inuit nation and territories.





Wednesday, July 18, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #101:
ARCTIC, #101:  Our day of play on the huge ice floes around “Itasca” is pretty funny, what with people being towed around on snowboards, and our female cabin attendants sporting bikinis. Unfortunately, the revelry is short-lived. We all eventually do get cold (well, except for John Bockstoce whose is warmed by his rum), so one-by-one, we all return to the warm interior salon. Even John eventually shows up, as the polar bears apparently did not get him,..this time! In the course of the day, there has been little “Itasca” has been able to do with her position, and Captain Jouning does not want to bash her into heavy ice if it won’t get us anywhere. By late afternoon it also appears the weather is turning again, so Bill suggests that before it does, the copter should go for a scout to see if there is any change in the density of the floes. As I have gone up with the copter on every day it has flown, I have to say, this is the most intimidating perspective yet. We are surrounded by huge ice islands. There is also a rising wind, and as large as they are, you can see their movement. This is exactly what is pushing “Itasca” around.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, July 11, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #100:
ARCTIC, #100:  Sitting in one place for several days because “Itasca” is ice-bound makes everyone (especially Bill Simon) a little stir-crazy. With the long daylight hours making time seem to go by even more slowly, there is a lot of napping and taking saunas among the guests. There is also a fair amount of alcohol consumption. John Bockstoce is SO particular about his beverage of choice, he had several cases shipped aboard, not leaving it to Bill to supply him. Now, in our lethargy of ice, he is consuming his precious rum in the morning coffee. Then, about midday, wearing only Bermuda shorts and a bathrobe, he grabs a long metal deck pole, announces he is going for a walk, steps over the lowest deck rail onto the ice, and he is off. That, in turn, sets off a frenzy. I follow him onto the ice to take pictures. Then the female staff appears in bikinis, and two of the men have a snowboard and a long rope. We are on a HUGE flow, so the guys take turns pulling each other on the snowboard, so they can say they rode at the top of the world (almost). John is wandering. I am looking for polar bears!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, July 4, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #99:
ARCTIC, #99:  If you look carefully you can see Bill Simon on the bridge deck, just below the “Itasca” moniker. He is getting antsy that we are ice-bound. He was definitely NOT excited to hear our flight report, and so now he is pondering our choices. In the meantime, as we wait for a change of weather that might help us, I have two incidents worth recounting. The first finds me on the lowest deck, gazing out across the floes, when the chef comes out with garbage scraps and dumps them in the water. Amazingly, although we have not seen any animals or birds in days, within minutes, we have a seal and numerous gulls, all attracted to the remains. While he and I stand there watching the feeding frenzy, it suddenly occurs to me that you can just step over the rail and climb down onto the ice, or vice-versa. Therefore, if tossed garbage brings birds and a seal, when will the polar bear arrive? Probably better to rethink this tossing-the-garbage-out idea, at least until we are moving. Having a bear get aboard would not be a good thing. The second incident involves going for a walk,..on the floes!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, June 27, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #98:
ARCTIC, #98:  In the helicopter, and out and about on a scout, the world from this POV looks troubling. “Itasca” is ice-bound, there are bergs floating nearby that are the size of several football fields, and as we fly further out, we find this. This is not a good thing to find. Post #84 shows an ice-ridge we passed days ago and that was intimidating enough, but this is a mountain range, and it runs unbroken for miles. It is just a huge, curvaceous iceberg with an awesome ridge running right down the middle of it. The good news, if there is any, is that in the present weather conditions, this is moving away from us. The questions remains, however, what might be coming at us. None of this looks good for our progress.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #97:
ARCTIC, #97:  Once airborne again, the view does not get any friendlier. This does not even look like the ocean I saw on my flight the day before. Everything has changed! There is much more old ice, and look at the size of these consolidated floes. OMG! This one is several football fields! There are still small leeds here and there, but none of them go far or appear to offer us a way forward. On this flight we will circle out to the right several miles, and then we will cross the view in this image, paralleling the horizon. If you look carefully, you will see a thin, dark line in the upper left of this picture, that is also parallel to the horizon. That line out there may not appear to be much, but next post we will be directly above it. It is NOT a leed, as you will see - this is a PROBLEM - and not the only one we have!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, June 13, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #96:
ARCTIC, #96:  Although the sky remains ominous, the weather has actually calmed down, and for the moment we are not being pushed around by the pack ice. Because we have been blown south by the storm, we have lost ground gained in previous days, and Bill Simon grows ever more eager to get through this maze and get on with the trip. Since it is not windy at the moment and visibility is good, Bill wants the copter to go up and scout for any changes that might have occurred during the night of which we might take advantage. I am good to go as well, so we are off! Flying away from “Itasca,” I have my first view of what is our entrapped state. It is startling enough that I have the copter set down on a floe so I can make this image. It does appear that we are COMPLETELY ice-bound, although that is fortunately not the case. Nonetheless we are in a “predicament."

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, June 6, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #95:
ARCTIC, #95:  A storm besets us during the night, and although the rain and wind have stopped by dawn, the “damage” is done. “Itasca” has been pushed by the wind-driven ice pack many miles south, thus negating any advances we have made in the past few days. What is worse, is that the ice that has arrived with the storm, and which is now closing in around us on all sides, is REALLY OLD, multi-year ice that extends quite deeply beneath the surface. It is beautiful to look at, but a great threat to our progress as there is no way to push this around. Captain Jouning is quite concerned about all our situation, but Bill Simon insists we try to hold ground, and hope for an opening, rather than go back to Gjoa Haven, the closest village.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #94:
ARCTIC, #94:  After 45-minutes of searching for open leads with no productive results, the helicopter pilot turns back toward Itasca’s” position to head home, and as the copter gains a bit of altitude in our swing, we rise into a layer of cloud vapor. This is a very strange world to which we have come. We have had several days now where the weather has worked against us, blowing Arctic multi-year pack ice and icebergs directly into our path. As a result, our large, expensive vessel filled with distinguished guests is literally trapped in a continuous struggle to not be crushed or trapped by the ice, nor to be pushed aground by the continuously advancing pack. With the above view lingering in my mind while heading home, I am pretty sure things are going to get worse before they get better, assuming they ever do. That does not appear to be anytime soon either, because after I am back aboard, I learn another storm is expected in the night.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #93:
ARCTIC, #93:  As if the vast scope of the ice-covered ocean is not enough, from this aerial perspective I can now begin to see the VERY different ice that has been blown into us by the prevailing winds. These are huge, multi-year icebergs that in many cases are MUCH larger than “Itasca.” We could never “break” through one, and we are too small to push them around. As we drift away from our boat, my helicopter pilot stays down low over the water, maintaining as much visibility as possible, because clouds are streaming through just above us. Our mission on this flight is to scout any hopeful leads towards which “Itasca” might navigate, but all that we find are huge ice islands, with very little open water around them. Flying further toward the James Ross Strait, a crux point of our journey forward, the islands and floes only get bigger and the conditions grow ever less inviting.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, May 16, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #92:
ARCTIC, #92:  “Itasca” is now trapped in the flow of pack ice being driven at us by the weather. In the beginning, bergs were small enough to push around and there were sufficient open leads to keep moving forward. Now, it is the pack that is pushing us around, and unfortunately, pushing us toward shallower water where we might become grounded. To prevent that from happening, Captain Jouning has been motoring away from shore when given any chance, and now that the winds have died, the helicopter with me aboard, is going for a scouting expedition to see if there is a direction we could travel that might offer us some more open water and hope. My first view of the boat is sobering as I more fully realize our predicament (last post). As we move farther away from “Itasca,” I begin to realize what has happened to us in the larger context of Larsen Sound.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #91:
ARCTIC, #91:  I think everyone is a little rattled by our present predicament, and the thought of flying in this bad weather does not seem appealing to anyone else,..except me, and I am good to go, so we are off. It does not seem dangerous to me, as there is little wind and visibility is very decent. What is revealed, however, that is more intimidating than the weather, is the position of the ship. “Itasca” is surrounded by the pack. Open water of any scale is a scarcity. We seem safely away from the shoreline for the time being, but we really have no path forward unless the winds and weather shift everything once again. Next week’s post will reveal how vast the scale of our obstacles are, as the helicopter ventures further from our boat.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, May 2, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #90:
ARCTIC, #90:  Another problem with the increasing presence of multi-year ice surrounding “Itasca,” is that the ice is not only thicker than what we have seen, extending well down into the water beneath the bergs, but there are BIG plates of it everywhere,..whole islands of ice many times larger than “Itasca.” They are amazing to observe because their expansive surfaces are intricate mazes of ice ridges and blue pools, but in reality, they are a nightmare of navigation, and represent a real threat to us and our hopeful passage through the John Ross Strait. The rest of the day remains overcast and very windy, so the helicopter does not go up, and we all just kill time, waiting to see what is going to happen. Although the sky remains sullen and grey, about 3p.m. the wind dies down, and Bill Simon, who has grown antsy to keep moving forward, wants the copter to go up and scout, hoping it can find an open lead.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, April 25, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #89:
ARCTIC, #89:  John Bockstoce correctly assessed the results of the weather approaching us late last evening, and during the night the wind grew in strength, pushing the pack ice into us, and pushing us, shoreward, into ever-shallower water. Several times Captain Jouning starts up the engines and motors INTO the pack away from the shore to assure we do not drift aground. In the morning, there is fleeting sunlight filtered through a strange haze created by the blowing ice crystals, so I go back to the same position on deck where I took my last picture the night before (last post), to view what is now a very different looking ocean. There is little open water left that is visible, and the majority of the ice-cover is becoming multi-year ice being blown from the north. Multi-year places us at greater risk because it is denser and extends more deeply beneath the surface. These larger icebergs have great weight and are much more difficult for “Itasca” to push around. In fact, they are pushing us around!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #88:
ARCTIC, #88:  When John and I spot the approaching boat with the 4 armed, men dressed in fur parkas, we move off the bridge to the side deck to observe them more closely. Bill Simon goes on the intercom to tell staff, and then joins us. The boat is much closer now, and running parallel to us. There are a number of dead seals hanging off the stern, bleeding out into the water. It is a Native hunting party. They are looking at us with as much curiosity as we are looking at them. John and I wave. They wave back. Then one yells, “Who are you, and where are you going?” We explain we are a research vessel from the US, and we are trying to be the first private vessel to cross through the Northwest Passage in a single season. There is a brief silence, and then the question comes back, “Why?” Perfect! Why, indeed! Especially on such a good day for a hunt. I do notice that while the conversation is being exchanged, two staff members, now also fully armed, have positioned themselves just out-of-sight, on either side of Bill Simon. Once everyone grows comfortable, however, Bill sends them away, and invites the Natives aboard. “Itasca” and all of its opulence and technology amazes them. They especially like the “little” helicopter. We have excessive stores of food on board, so when they depart, Bill offers them some frozen meats, and a huge rasher of bacon. A good day for a hunt, indeed! Before they leave, they tell us that the pack ahead is very bad and storms are coming, so perhaps we should return to Gjoa Haven to wait out the weather. They motor off, and we motor on. Bill is not going back! Near-shore we make decent headway, but when we anchor for the night, the northwest wind resumes, pushing ice into Larsen Sound and bringing predicted serious weather with it.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #87:
ARCTIC, #87:  The northwest wind blows all night long, and eventually it pushes ice against the hull, so subtle bonking begins in the early morning hours. By the time we awake for breakfast, and assemble, our POV is VERY different from the night before. As we expected, the pack has been pushed towards us and we are now surrounded. If there are open leads out there, no one can see them from this angle. Thankfully, the wind has ceased, and in fact, reversed a bit, so by the time breakfast is over, Captain Jouning has taken a scouting helicopter flight, and he believes that because “Itasca” has a relatively shallow draft, we will be able to move forward, close to the eastern shoreline, as the shift in the breeze is pushing the ice offshore. Progress is slow because we do not want to run aground in shallow water, but there seems to be little danger as we all sit on the bridge and watch the depth gauge radar. Then something curious happens. John Bockstoce and I notice that there is a small boat approaching us, traveling in the same open lead of water. It is a VERY small boat, and there are 4 men wearing fur parkas and armed with rifles, standing in up in it, staring towards us.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, April 4, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #86:
ARCTIC, #86:  Most of this day is spent hiding from the icy wind, and looking for open leads. As dense as we have seen the ice in places, we also encounter, large areas of open water, but as we travel north and the day wears on, those are fewer and farther between. When we finally drop anchor for the night, there is an ominous shift in the wind. It begins to blow directly from the northwest, exactly the conditions that will push dense, multi-year ice from the polar pack, right down the M’Clintock Channel, choking the passage of Larsen Sound and the James Ross Strait. As threatening as that is (and we all know it), the incoming weather is strangely beautiful, so I decide to ponder the future of our trip by donning all my warm clothes, and going outside to sit on the lower deck to watch the extended twilight.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #85:
ARCTIC, #85:  Bonking and grinding, “Itasca" creeps along. The going is slow, but at least we are going. The weather has not turned on us (yet), and there are definitely patches in the ice pack that are more open than elsewhere, so we try to stay in them as much as we can and maintain our direction. Eventually a brutal, cold wind begins to pick up, and before I duck inside for warmth, down on the lowest deck, shooting through the railing, I realize that there is “brash” floating in the green-water pond on this iceberg, and it is being congealed into the berg as the surface water is refreezing. I suppose that is to be expected, as we are headed north pretty late in the season, and for sure we knew it would be cold with winter coming, but along with all the other ice “presence,” the turn in the freezing breeze, and the increasing surface of endless white are intimidating.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 21, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #84:
ARCTIC, #84:  The farther north we progress, the worse things seem to get. Raging, windy weather has keep the helicopter grounded, hence we have not been able to scout for leads, and we are just using radar to navigate. The going is slow and getting slower, because the wind is causing the pack to crush together. As striking as this image is, this is NOT a good thing to see in the way of your voyage. This is an ice ridge, created by plates of ice slamming into each other and then being crushed into a mini-mountain range. Such a ridge could run a few hundred feet, or, as we will see when we travel further north, such a ridge could run for miles, a serious obstacle to get past. This one is relatively small and does not impede us, but it does suggest that after the “shelter” afforded by the capes, we are now going to be exposed to some VERY DENSE ICE cover, and for the first time the guests discuss the reality of getting trapped.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #83:
ARCTIC, #83:  As the last of the rebound islands disappears behind us, both the weather and the pack ice close in on “Itasca.” The wind blows hard and cold, so there is no flying, but were are moving so slowly as we navigate a course, I can shoot, handheld, through the rails of the lower deck, and I have almost the perspective of standing on the ice. At the time of this image, weather has been streaming over us relentlessly, driving the pack ice together. I note some VERY LARGE bergs are starting to show up - check the pyramid-shaped one on the horizon - likely larger than our boat! It is also an amazing lightshow. Overhead skies are reflected in pools of colored water. Huge chunks of ice are so transparent they glow. Mirages fade in and out, and the endless bonking of the boat hull when it bumps ice, becomes a kind of strange rhythm, that is the soundtrack of the day.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #82:
ARCTIC, #82:  Large, dense clusters of ice, greatly slow “Itasca’s” progress north toward Larsen Sound, and the crux point of our journey, the James Ross Strait. Guests aboard are mostly bored, so many exercise, sleep, or both. I fly every chance the weather allows. As we near Cape Francis, my day in the air proves to be the last time the landscape beneath me will look quite like this. The mainland peninsula and surrounding rebound islands are about to give way to a new environment for those of us on this journey. The open, blue water and distant horizon will also vanish, along with the clear weather. John Bockstoce has always been worried that directional weather will push the pack ice into us and block our route, and that now seems like an increasing possibility.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #81:
ARCTIC, #81:  Back aboard, “Itasca,” the hours pass, and the bored become inventive. After a “festive” lunch of some hours, Bill Simon (left) and my good friend, George Gowen, take themselves outside to “freshen up” in the bracing air. Aways needing something to do, rather than stand around, Bill decides to go fishing. When I ask, “for what ?”, his response is “Arctic char, I guess.” He does snag a couple of icebergs, but no char are to be had. Nonetheless, fun IS being had by all, and I am getting unique access to the Arctic on a daily basis. What could be better? Remember, this is pre-digital, so I have NO IDEA yet what this film looks like. I just know being here is an amazing opportunity. Then, of course, there IS a large sauna aboard that is fired most hours of the day, and as I am clearly putting on weight with lots of good food and limited strenuous exercise, I sauna often in belief I am melting the calories away - LOL!

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, February 21, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #80:
ARCTIC, #80:  Space station calling NASA, we are coming up on Jamaica! It is a very clear day with only a few clouds in the sky. You should see this view! In our real world, one thing John Bockstoce and I note, is the darkening color of the ocean. It may also seem that because these images do not show much ice, that perhaps we will not have any encounters at Cape Victoria, or thereafter, but that is an illusion. We are flying near shore at the moment, and further out we can clearly see the menace of an increasing pack ice presence, so “Itasca” is definitely going to have that encounter. At the moment, however, we are just “flying with our mouths open” as we traverse this most unusual Arctic landscape.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #79:
ARCTIC, #79:  Surrounded by shallow water, rebound islands, and various encounters with larger, more dense patches of ice, our navigation north is slow. With not much else to do, John Bockstoce and I, go flying. I suggest to Bill that having me, plenty of fuel, and a helicopter aboard, would be wasted if I did NOT take advantage of it, to which he generously agrees. The pilot and I now “get” each other as well, so it is fun to work with him because he understands what I am shooting, and navigates to help me. One especially clear and windy day, we are getting close to Cape Victoria, so John and I fly to see what “lies beyond.” We cut across the tip of the cape to save some flight time, and as we emerge on the far shore, we once again encounter a terrain of rebound islands, shallows, and deeper, darker blue waters as we progress north. In earlier posts #66-#70, I mused about perceiving the ice as clouds and the islands like the Caribbean. On this day, I feel I have a view of the world from the space station. Below me are countries and bodies of vast water. My mind spins, and my shutter clicks away.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
____________________________________________________

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #78:
ARCTIC, #78:  Hour by hour, day after day, we get closer to rounding Cape Victoria where we will face directly into the advancing pack ice. As it is, the angle of the Boothia Peninsula still protects us slightly, but with the passing of time, it is clear to everyone that we are going to encounter some “serious” ice in the days ahead. We have weather rolling through all of the time, but curiously it has only brought ice-cold wind. It has not rained or snowed upon us in more than a week, and generally it has been surprisingly sunny. John Bockstoce notes that will apparently end when we round Cape Victoria. Then we turn more north, and face directly into Larsen Sound. Notably on the map, Larsen Sound is a huge expanse or Arctic Ocean that, as you follow it north, branches like a “Y” around the southern tip of Prince of Wales Island. We are hoping to hug the eastern shore of the Boothia and follow Franklin Strait, to the right. Unfortunately, the other arm that extends in a westerly direction, the M’Clintock Channel, is a freeway for dense pack ice that is carried down it from the north when the wind blows west to east, which it does often. That ice mass comes through the channel, spreading into Larsen Sound, and jamming up against the shoreline of the peninsula. To continue our journey we must get through this “crux” point where ALL previous attempts to cross the Northwest Passage in the past have met with multi-seasonal delays as they were trapped or blocked by ice build up.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Wednesday, January 31, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #77:
ARCTIC, #77:  William Simon is a man of great personal discipline, and he is not only the owner of this amazing vessel, he prides himself on his mental and physical fitness for his age. It is not by mistake that the water-level, enclosed, rear-deck solarium, is actually a VERY well-outfitted gym, and although we all use and appreciate it, Bill is the only one that goes in there EVERY day and works out. It is not often one gets to photograph a former Secretary of the Treasury and candidate for President of the US at such a personal and casual moment, but as far as Bill is concerned, those days are behind him, he has embarked on his new life, and he DOES NOT CARE any longer about how he is viewed, because he has left one world and is now adventuring in another. As a casual note, look just outside the windows at all of the blue canisters - those are fuel drums for all of the support boats and the helicopter. It takes A LOT of work to craft a journey like this, and although with have three months of food in the refrigerator, we have to resupply fuel at every major port stop.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 24, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #76:
ARCTIC, #76:  Back down at water level, the open lead you could see in the last post has quite a different look to it. You can begin to sense what the aerial advantage of the helicopter offers, as our course of navigation through the maze towards which we are slowly motoring becomes evermore complicated. We are still surrounded by rebound islands, and the ice we encounter is intermittent, but with each cluster, we can see the pack growing larger and more dense. At full speed “Itasca” can only travel 50-60 miles-a-day, and with the ice constantly around us now, we move much more slowly than that. The hours turn into days as we cruise slowly north, parallel to the shore of the Boothia Peninsula. Weather streams through dynamically, literally changing every minute - windy, sunny, dark and foreboding, blue and radiant. The skyshow just keeps rolling, which is good because there is not much else to do at the moment. As the photographer, I am the most entertained, the rest of my colleagues are either working-out, reading, asleep, or drinking - LOL!

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #75:
ARCTIC, #75:  As our helicopter scouting party circles back to “Itasca,” the ice diminishes and the landscape of rebound islands reappears. At one point we pass across this open straight, and John tells the pilot that in the next few days we will navigate this very opening, pushing as far north as we can. Then, when we hit the denser pack, we will scout again, and “if" the weather turns, he hopes we will find some leads opening,..to which the pilot replies, “Really? Good luck with that!” Stay tuned next week for this same view from the deck of “Itasca.” It is a sobering view of the approaching ice from near sea level, but it also makes clear how impaired navigation can be if you cannot achieve a more aerial perspective of which direction to turn towards. Photo-drones must be an astounding asset to people plying Arctic waters today.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 10, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #74:
ARCTIC, #74:  We continue flying “out” for another 15-minutes, and there is NO relief in site, and worse, no evidence of any open leads. In fact, pack density just seems to become more congested, and intact sheets floating in the pack, get bigger and bigger. At the point that we begin to circle back, we encountered this particular jewel, so I ask our pilot to give me closer look. Dropping a bit lower, he circles this, a solid, very large sheet, supporting a number of lakes, and what most interestingly, appears to be a small mountain range. John informs me that this piece hosts the convoluted terrain because it was originally created in previous winters when two large chunks of pack ice collided and were pressured together, folding the crumpled ice edges into what is termed a "pressure ridge." He also notes that pressure ridges make overland travel across the frozen pack, extremely difficult.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 3, 2018


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #73:
ARCTIC, #73:  Slowly but surely the landscape beneath our helicopter bubble slips away to the horizon. We are now out over “open” water covered by relatively dense pack ice. The weather grows gloomier, and this vast expanse of nothing-but-ice before us is intimidating. John Bockstoce and the pilot are having a conversation about what we will have to do to navigate through this, and the pilot thinks it is “a funny idea.” As you have no sense of scale in this image, I can tell you if “Itasca” were down there, she would be hard to see. The pale blue water in the foreground, are pools of now-freshwater, because the salt in them has filtered through the ice and back into the ocean. These are small lakes on the surface of intact ice sheets the size of entire city blocks.

photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2018, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, December 27, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #72:
ARCTIC, #72:  In a matter of a few more minutes our helicopter flight traverses the last expanse of blue and open water, and crosses over a broad rebound island - the last of them in the direction of our flight. We are at the southern edge of the Arctic pack ice, and there is A LOT of it. The weather is turning for the worse as well, the skies are getting dark, and considering I was just having dreams of the tropical Pacific, those have certainly dissipated. This looks chilling, and chilly. Our pilot states, “This looks interesting!” John assures him that is why he is aboard, and that he should assume Bill Simon and Captain Jouning are going to want to fly and see this ASAP. Finding this edge is not our only mission, however. John wants to know what the ice density is like, and if there are sections that offer significant leads. He asks our pilot to continue our line of flight for awhile more so that we can get above the pack and observe it more closely. For me this addition to our scouting journey proves eye-opening, and gives me cause to consider that the adventure I am on is about to get a whole lot more “interesting."

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #71:
ARCTIC, #71:  As the copter adjusts its direction slightly, my POV shifts from the shallow, bluer, open water that has been to the west, to what is now in front of us. There is still an expanse of rebound islands, but the surrounding water has grown deeper and darker. Weather now encroaches on the clear, and if you look carefully, just at the horizon there appears to be a stripe of white - across the ENTIRE horizon! Up ahead somewhere we will find the James Ross Strait, a juncture point at which the weather drives down the pack ice from the north, choking off two channels of passage, and stacking up upon itself where it collides with islands. That thin white stripe that I am pointing out IS that pack, and it is VERY clear that we are NOT going around it, so let's hope William Simon’s gamble to bring aboard a copter to scout leads, pays off, and we can pick our way through the obstacle course.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #70:
ARCTIC, #70:  A curious thing is happening as our flight progresses. Beneath me, a landscape unlike any other I have ever photographed is unfurling across hundreds of strange, spare islands. They are surrounded by an ocean that is shaded in blues that make the water look like the tropical Pacific. I am completely absorbed, BUT while I am having cosmic visions looking to the west, where the sky is clear and the water is open, directly in front of us, to the north, quite a different world is appearing on the horizon. John and our pilot are having a discussion about it, and intend to fly toward it, so John explains to me that “Itasca” will move north paralleling these islands we have been flying above, using the open water that we can see. Nonetheless, we will ultimately reach a point, where pack ice from the north is being channeled straight at us by the weather, and when wind drives the ice against the island shorelines, bergs stack up on top of each other and are molded together by pressure, making passage through them very difficult, if not impossible. So far this summer, much of the weather has been in our favor, so John is hoping to see that the ice has not been too compressed, and we will be able to navigate a course, using the helicopter to spot leads.
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Wednesday, December 6, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #69:
ARCTIC, #69:  Stars, galaxies, clouds, supernovas - I am floating through the universe. I have been in helicopters elsewhere, but none as small as this, and with such a large field of view. Low and slow across this maze of rebound islands and increasing ice, the colors, patterns, and shapes before and below us are like nothing I have ever seen before, and certainly NOT what I thought the Arctic was supposed to look like. John is also VERY excited and enjoying this perspective because, as you will soon see, in a boat, at water level - the way he has spent most of his visits here - this looks very different and a good deal more intimidating. Right now it is just cosmic, and dazzling!
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Wednesday, November 29, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #68:
ARCTIC, #68:  As my surreal dream evolves and my shutter continues to click away, our helicopter clears the end of one rebound island, and launches out over an expansive straight of open water. The images in my lens cease to be soil, ice, and water, and begin morphing into something more celestial. The shades of blue become sky, and the ice seems like layers of clouds. I am muttering to myself, but loudly enough that John can hear me, so he points out to me, that as many times as he has traveled in the Arctic, it is seldom been at this elevation, with such an expansive and SPECTACULAR view. He is REALLY excited about it, and thinks it is great I am making pictures. I, too, am grateful to be here and making pictures, I am just not sure John and I are seeing the subject in the same way, until he says, “It is almost like stars or galaxies, or something, don’t you think?” This “star, galaxy" thing is apparently pursuing me throughout my life - LOL
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Wednesday, November 22, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #67:
ARCTIC, #67: John Bockstoce is scouting with powerful binoculars, and I am looking through a small telephoto lens, so he can more clearly see things I cannot, and he fears the faint hint of white just below the horizon to the right in this image, is the edge of Arctic pack ice we will eventually confront in “Itasca.” I am not so sure, but I am also distracted by the strange, and sparely beautiful landscape beneath us, and there is still quite an expanse of open water, and further rebound islands before we arrive at the point John is observing. Ignoring the fact I am wearing many layers topped off by a 1-piece, zippered survival suit, I slip back into my “tropical” dream, and stare down at the small lakes, shorelines, and ice debris. It seems surreal to be here. I feel like I am dreaming, floating,..and within the dream, the ice and islands make an amazing transformation.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, November 15, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #66:
ARCTIC, #66: To this point, it is clear the Canadian mainland is to our east, and offshore land is just a puzzle of unconnected rebound islands beneath us. Then, it seems, the mainland stops and we launch out over a vast expanse of rebound islands, some of them quite large in size. Because there existence is so random, they form many narrow channels and irregularly shaped bays that trap ice blown in by the wind. Notably, we ARE beginning to see more ice, and larger pieces as well. Even with the ice present, I cannot help but feel I am over some Caribbean islands because the sea is such a spectacle of blue colors, and without the boulders, the islands could be beaches. There is a reason you do NOT see anyone swimming here, however. Unfortunately, just as I am getting into my ‘tropical” mood, I hear John muttering something about, “That doesn’t look good!"
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Wednesday, November 8, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #65:
ARCTIC, #65: As we fly further north, the islands grow even more spare, often being nothing more than a rubble pile above water. I also begin to see LARGE pieces of floating ice, grounded in various places, having been pushed on to the shallows by wind. John is using his binoculars to scout our horizon, but there is nothing to see at the moment and he seems surprised. John has made this passage before with his sailboat, but he has never gone through in a single season, instead, leaving his boat in a village to return the next summer and move forward. He knows how much Bill Simon wants to complete the Northwest Passage in a single season, and so the fact we still do not see dense pack ice has him momentarily hopeful.
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Wednesday, November 01, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #64:
ARCTIC, #64: Our helicopter is relatively “low and slow” as we cruise above the mainland shore, and the myriad rebound islands that seem to be everywhere. Most of these islands are new and relatively flat, nonetheless, many of them are quite expansive. What little water has accumulated on their surface exists in pools of different colors, affected by algal growth. Immediately around the pools thrive lichens and other Arctic plants, but beyond those edges, the terrain is barren, a rubble of rock and sand. As I would learn when doing further research, the Arctic hosts the greatest diversity and population of lichens on the planet. In so doing, and because lichen absorbs sulfur in the atmosphere, the Arctic is a “sulphur sink,” drawing sulphur out of the air and infusing it back into the earth. (ALL the industrialized nations of the world can thank the Arctic for this!) Lichen is also the principle food of caribou, herds of which migrate throughout northern Canada. This spectacle beneath our little floating plexi-bubble is just NOT AT ALL what I envisioned the Arctic to be.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #62:
ARCTIC, #63: “Itasca” is running north, paralleling the shoreline of the HUGE Boothia Peninsula, a massive finger of land that extends towards the Pole, and whose tip is the northernmost point of the mainland of Canada. We are leaving the “shelter” of large islands that have shielded us from dense pack ice for most of our trip to this point, and ahead of us lies M’Clintock Channel, a vast body of water that opens directly to the north and west, allowing the gyre of weather to push the pack directly towards us, possibly blocking our further progress north, and potentially ending the trip. We know this is coming, and can see it on radar, but as yet we cannot “actually” see either the dense ice or the sound, because we are just in the shadow of Cape Victoria. It is agreed by all, however, that this is a good time to put the helicopter in the air to scout the conditions we will face, so John Bockstoce and I, suit up in layers, then I bedeck myself with cameras and lenses. Along with our pilot, the three of us squeeze into the Arctic Cat - (imagine a plexi bubble w/chairs, that has a propeller on top, and water-floats on the bottom) - and we are off. The first part of our flight path takes us over the jutting peninsula, before we get to water, and there I see the reality of the Arctic landscape. Most of us think of the North Pole and the Arctic as a huge cap of ice at the top of the world. Everything is white. It is cold and snows all the time, and most of it is frozen-over ocean. In actuality, the Arctic is a stunning display of desert islands, surrounded by atmospheric influences from numerous seas, and several oceans. That is right,..desert islands! The Arctic receives LESS than 6” of precipitation in any given year. That is drier than the Mojave! Yet, the Arctic is COVERED with living, plant-like organisms, and thriving with a great variety of NATIVE animals, such as Muskox and Polar bear. If you think this looks strange, stay with this blog for the following sequence of posts,..the Arctic is one of the most unusual and surprising places I have ever visited.
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Wednesday, October 18, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #62:
ARCTIC, #62: With Matty Island just slightly behind us to the west, we are still modestly sheltered by Cape Victoria, but bergs are beginning to appear all around us in the water. They are not densely packed yet, but we know that it is only a matter of time before that changes. Ice conditions will grow considerably worse as we get closer to the James Ross straight, a likely crux point in this journey that we are unsure is open enough for us to pass through. Besides the now-unrelenting cool breeze, there is no green ice/green water to be seen anywhere, anymore. We have entered a new domain of older, harder, denser ice, and it is going to start coming in both larger volume, AND larger size of bergs. With this amount of hard ice around us, “Itasca” is forced to cruise at cautious speeds, and frequently has audible, physical contact with sizable pieces. We will make the most efficient use of navigation time, if we know where the open water lies, so things start getting warmed up on the helicopter flight deck, because we are going up to have a look around. Join John Bockstoce and I, next week. Do you think all of the Arctic looks like this ? think again!
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Wednesday, October 11, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #61:
ARCTIC, #61: Our venture into the village of Gjoa Haven finally draws to a close, and we all return to “Itasca” to continue our journey. From here, our route parallels the eastern shore of the Canadian mainland, as it turns north, past the port and town of Taloyoak. After Cape Cambridge, we enter a straight between the mainland and Matty Island, and soon thereafter, leave the “shelter” the islands have been providing us from the dense pack ice. Right away, all of us notice, it is much colder on-deck, and the waters we now ply, just do not look the same. I will clearly see this difference later, when I process my film, but at the time, when I question John Bockstoce about it, he points out that most of our ice encounters to this point have been with relatively “new” ice, created in recent winters. As pack ice IS frozen saltwater, the salinity colors pooling water a startling emerald green (above). As time passes, rain and successive summer melting, flushes the salt from the ice, and the green coloration is replaced by a brilliant icy-blue. Winter is Coming! In fact, it is coming right at us, somewhere beyond the mouth of this straight. With that thought in mind, and the ice pack not yet visible, Bill Simon thinks it is time for John Bockstoce and I to go flying, in order to see if the helicopter is “safe” (post #53), and if it is, we will be lucky enough to return and be the first to report on the conditions ahead.
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #60:
ARCTIC, #60: I am standing in an important community place where a lot of villagers come to get work done. Changing my direction and view, here is another part of that lot. A shipping crate has become a work table, and currently sports a the skull remains of a musk ox. The skin lies in the foreground. I ask if doing this game cleaning and skinning work so close to the homes brings in polar bears, and my guide responds that the dogs keep them away, but if they came, they would just be shot. I suppose they would end up on this table as well. What is clear to me is that very little is wasted in this extreme setting. Even things WE might throw away, become useful in this environment. I am also struck by how these children accept everything around them, and see these yards as natural to their environment. I cannot imagine the squealing that would be heard if I had a similar community lot near my house in Los Angeles - LOL!
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Wednesday, September 27, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #59:
ARCTIC, #59: Beyond the outer edge of the unfenced family “yard” that belongs to the household of the young girl that is guiding me around, the barren ground spreads a good distance before reaching a street. That area is littered with tables, crates, animal remains, and discarded materials, but it is not a trash heap. It is a “common” area adjacent my guide’s family home. The several tables are used to clean and skin animals. No one ever throws away a good crate, and much of the discarded material might be picked up and used by others in the community. There is even an abandoned snow machine, if someone wants to take it and fix it. This particular table supports a compilation of drying skins, which I am happy to say, are more dry than fresh. As you might imagine, between the dogs at the beach, the fish drying everywhere, and now these tables covered with skins, the village has quite an aroma, but I am the only one that I notices because I do not live here. Very likely, these skins will become winter clothes.
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #58:
ARCTIC, #58: The young Inuit girl I have just met, and two of her friends, lead me on a meandering line between homes and scrubby open spaces to her families “property.” There is an obvious house and yard area, but there is also much more that spreads beyond the immediate domain of their home. A collection of sheds, tables, stored equipment, and building materials spills of across the barren landscape. My host explains that the sheds and closest tables belong to their family, but further out, some of the tables and materials are for “common” use. Her father, she tells me, uses snowmobiles, but does not trust them because they break down, so he relies on his sleds and his dogs for anything that takes him out from the village. The snowmobile is for getting around “in-community.” Here you see her father’s collection of transportation choices: there is a ski-doo, and parts of several others, but it is the sled “stack” that is most impressive. There are shorter sleds for hunting and following trap lines, and there are longer, more massive sleds, to haul cargo loads. If you look carefully at the background of this image, you can also see the small sheds and storage mounds of other yards in the distance.
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Wednesday, September 13, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #57:
ARCTIC, #57: I finally leave the beach at Gjoa Haven and head into the central village. This is “main” street. The terrain of the community is as spare and rugged as the beach. This Arctic environment offers little vegetation, or good soil in which to grow anything. Gjoa Haven is relatively orderly and well run, so it is much tidier than other villages I have visited, but living here is VERY demanding and the evidence of what it takes is in the side-yards between these homes. That is where families clean game and store equipment. As I walk down the street, I see these various “working” areas, but they are in such close proximity to homes, I feel uncomfortable about wandering into them and taking pictures. At one point, however, some young girls approach me and ask if I am here with “uncle John,” so I respond that I am, and I ask if they could help me get some pictures in the side-yards without offending anyone. To that , the oldest says “sure,” and proceeds to take me to her house.
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Wednesday, September 6, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #56:
ARCTIC, #56: The beach is an amalgamation of sand, gravel, rock, a myriad of sea shells, trenches full of debris, and discarded net. There is an occasional patch of now-dead grass and lots of rotting seaweed clumps. There is also a stunning display of various working nets, drying, and LOTS of fish being dried as well. Fish are a large part of the village diet and they are also used to feed the dogs, so there are a lot of fish everywhere in various stages of preparation. This is Arctic char being dried “Inuit-style.” These fish will be part of the village cache for the winter. The fish is split its full body length and gutted, but the tail is NOT cut off. Then, as you see, the relatively whole fish is hung across a high board (out of the reach of small animals), with the bodies turned inside-out part of the time, and then reversed. The end result can be canned with spices, or left to harden like jerky. What my image only hints at, however, is the fantastic color of the red meat and the luminous bodies under the glowering grey sky. Every drying rack I encounter seems radiant, alive with color, and literally giving life to this stark environment and those that choose to live here.
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Wednesday, August 30, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #55:
ARCTIC, #55: After our conversation with the Canadian mountie at the shoreline, Bill, John Bockstoce and the other guests head toward the central village to try and find John’s “relatives.” I am now free to work for awhile, so I begin by taking a stroll further along the shore. The village is truly “arctic” and we are well north of a treeline and any trees. Gjoa Haven is located on a large bay and houses stretch out from the town center and wrap themselves entirely around the shore of the bay. This is also a very different beach from the one we experienced several nights previously in Kugluktuk (post #45). The golden light and warming rays of the sun that evening, have now given way to a cold, blustery day with occasional rain, and the lovely swimming beach with a lifeguard station has, quite literally, gone to the dogs. Most villages have a very limited cash economy and things like snowmobiles and the gas it takes to run them are, not only hard to get, but cost a lot of money. Thus, villagers lead a more traditional life, and to hunt and travel in the winter, they often use sleds and dogs. Gjoa Haven is a big village. Most residents use a sled. There hundreds of dogs AND they are staked out on long chains along the shoreline. They get fed and cared for by villagers on ATV’s, and they serve as excellent guard, all of them howling in weird discordant harmony when something unexpected, like a polar bear, arrives. Or, in this case, me. Awhoo! Awhoo! Have YOU ever had hundreds of dogs howling at you? Like Odysseus and the Sirens, the sound will make you crazy, and it certainly did me, so I retreated a bit up the beach to quiet them down.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #54:
ARCTIC, #54: Because John Bockstoce has “relatives” in Gjoa Haven, we are going to be ashore for several hours, and I am really excited because it will give me time to study the village a bit, rather than just running quickly around taking whatever pictures I can, which is what I have had to do on shorter visits elsewhere. There is a light rain falling on and off, and there is a cold, slight breeze. Curiously, as soon as our Zodiac hits the beach, we are confronted by a VERY large, armed Canadian (non-native) mountie on a 4-wheeler. He wants to know who we are and why we are here. When John identifies himself, it seems to console his suspicions, but he still informs us of the “rules’ of our behavior while in the village: If we have any alcohol on us, it goes back to “Itasca” immediately; if we have weapons, they must leave as well; if we brought things to “trade,” forget it - the villagers are no longer allowing amazing carvings and personal craft to be “traded” for booze or “trinkets.” Then he turns to me and wants to know the purpose of my pictures. I explain I have done much work in villages in Alaska and have published that material, but I have never been in an Arctic village, which I am sure is quite different, and I would simply like to make images that are good documents. I have no intent to make anybody look impoverished, starving, drunk, or otherwise. I just want to create pictures of what the village looks like to those that see it everyday. He comments that there is not much to see, but as long as I don’t have “some agenda,” I am free to go where I want and take pictures of whatever I choose. SO, we are off ! Aloha, Gjoa Haven !
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, August 16, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #53:
ARCTIC, #53: As the pilot is dining with staff in the galley, after the incredible sky-show-sunset, I wander down to have a beer with all of them and ask about the interesting repair on the bubble of his helicopter that seems to be making Bill Simon a bit nervous. The pilot tells me that the damage was done by someone who was careless with a fork-loader, and ran into his parked chopper, putting a big crack in the bubble near the bottom, left-side. This pilot makes most of his money flying assay samples from a mine in Yellowknife, so he does not have the income to casually replace the bubble, but he felt certain he had repaired it using “Iniut skills.” Working with some Native friends, he acquired reindeer sinew - the fiber in muscle meat that Natives use to build sleds and other things - and using a drill to make small holes, created a “sewn” system of lashes and stitches to bind the crack in the bubble closed. It sounded interesting to me, and when I repeat what I have learned to John Bockstoce, he comments that the sinew is stronger than any glue could ever be, and he has no apprehensions about the repair. Bill, however, is still pretty skeptical, so he suggests that since John and I are fine with it, we should be the first to go flying. John and I are good with that, but first Gjoa Haven. The sunset of the night before predicted weather was headed our way, and the color of the morning sky makes it clear that weather has arrived. It looks like our visit to the village is going to be a wet one.
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Wednesday, August 9, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #52:
ARCTIC, #52:  With introductions to staff and guests complete, our recently arrived helicopter pilot retreats to the galley for some food, and later a nap, as he has had a long flight to reach us. “Itasca” has now navigated past the “gap” between Victoria Island and King William, so the polar ice pack we could see is gone, and the waters around us are once again ice-free because we are protected by a landmass to our north. The windy turbulence of the morning has died down as well, but it is clear that weather is coming in. The pilot is “adjusting" and there is no need to fly today, but most of us expect to go flying, so one by one, we wander up to the flight deck to check out this very small helicopter. It will seat 3 people reasonably comfortably, and in shotgun, I will have a small window I can open from which to shoot, but in reality, the cockpit is a plexiglass bubble and you can see well in every direction. It is this bubble, however, that catches everyone’s interest. The front of the bubble, down near the runners beneath the copter, has clearly suffered enough damage to put a large crack in the plexiglass, and it appears that the crack has been “stitched-up” much like a patient in the hospital. This makes Bill Simon, in particular, very nervous about flying in something that “could fall apart.” His concerns arise again during our dinner conversations, so I take it upon myself to ask the pilot about this. In the meantime, cocktail glasses in hand, we all wander out onto the fantail deck to watch the evening “show.”
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Wednesday, August 2, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #51:
ARCTIC, #51:  The morning dawns relatively clear in Cambridge Bay, but there seems to be a cold wind building. As we pull anchor and head toward Gjoa Haven, the wind picks up, but except for some minor chop, the wave action does not. This is the reason. The wind is coming from the north and it is pushing the polar pack ice toward us. There are no waves because the ice suppresses wave action, but it also makes the breeze stunningly cold. I think our “cruise” is about to end if this is what it looks like where we are going. Before noon, the radio cracks on with communication from the copter that it will arrive shortly. The wind is blowing, and it is hard to hold “Itasca” truly steady, but this is an experienced Arctic pilot and he lands on the tiny pad without much effort. It is a REALLY SMALL helicopter, and when the pilot emerges, he is classic - unshaven, a little grimy and tired from his LONG flight, wearing at least 6 layers of clothing, and clearly a little stunned at the elegance of “Itasca,” and the fact that he is introducing himself to some guy that ran for President of the United States. Fitting his role perfectly, his amazement/amusement only lasts so long, and when introductions to all of us are done, he asks, “Hey, can I get some food and a beer?"
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Wednesday, July 26, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #50:
ARCTIC, #50:  Things are about to change, so viewing a map is once again useful. We have traveled to Cambridge Bay through the waterway that leads off the map to the left. Cambridge Bay is part of gigantic Victoria Island. For some time now our navigation has been relatively ice-free because we have been “protected” from the polar ice pack by the presence of that island to our north. As you can see here, when we leave Cambridge Bay, we are eventually exposed to waters that open to the north, and directly into the polar ice. It will be our first look at where we hope to find a route of passage. We will then continue east, slipping behind King William Island for a bit more protection. There is a two-fold purpose in this: one is that we hope to find more open water along the shoreline of the peninsula you see here that hosts the village of Taloyoak; the other is that John Bockstoce has “family” in Gjoa Haven, and we will stop there for an extended visit (several hours). In crossing from Cambridge Bay to Gjoa Haven, we will also bring on a helicopter and pilot that have flown out of Yellowknife to meet us. Things are about to get A LOT more interesting.
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Wednesday, July 19, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #49:
ARCTIC, #49:  We reach Cambridge Bay a little after midnight and the sun has just set. Staff goes ashore to perform various tasks, but John Bockstoce considers it a necessary pilgrimage to visit the remains of Roald Amundsen’s exploratory boat, “Maud,” so he, Bill Simon, and most of the other guests gear up for a late night Zodiac ride across Cambridge Bay to the inlet where the ruins lie half-sunken, but well preserved in the cold, Arctic water. Considering the hour, we are all in quite a good mood because we have been dining and drinking all night waiting to do this (kids who may be reading this should not consider this appropriate behavior to then go for a midnight ride in a Zodiac), thus, concerned about someone falling in, staff insists we all wear thermal suits - the night is cold and the water even colder. It is also very beautiful. Here Dr. Robert Leach and my cabin-mate and good friend, George Gowan, are having entirely too much fun. “Maud” is a weathered shipwreck, aground in shallow water at the end of an inlet. She is approachable, and also quite beautiful in the glow of the twilight. We try to take pictures of her, and each other standing on her, but most of the cheapy camera flashes do not carry far into the dark, so you really can not see the greater wreck. I have no flash either, other than one similar to theirs, so we do not get our “selfies” on “Maud,” but we do wake up some Inuit who do not like to sleep in the village during the summer months, so they camp out here. They are pretty sure we are just those crazy rich guys that showed up in the big boat lit like a Christmas tree, now anchored in the harbor.
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Wednesday, July 12, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #48:
ARCTIC, #48:  And what a sky it is !!! For some days now we have been navigating through expansive sounds and straits that have had no ice, so most of what I have seen on this voyage is the exchange of vapors between the sky above and the water beneath. Mirages, strange fogs, stunning weather displays, AND GREAT SKIES, tonight being another of them. Way back there, beneath the “god rays” is the mainland of Canada. WAY off to the right is the village of Kugluktuk where we went strolling on the village beach (post #45) just a few hours ago. Now, night and this weather are following us to Cambridge Bay. Staff expects to take on supplies and mail when we anchor, but John Bockstoce has convinced Bill Simon that we guests should all pay our respects to the ruins of Roald Admundsen’s boat, the “Maud” which is sunk in shallow water in one of the bay’s inlets. Thus, as we motor on, there is a good bit of activity as we prepare to go Zodiac exploring in the Arctic sometime after midnight with weather coming in. Whose idea is this?
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Wednesday, July 5, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #47:
ARCTIC, #47:  The light in the previous post was too good to resist, but you had to look closely to distinguish the tidal “bathtub” rings caused by isostatic rebound, I tried to point out. Here is a better look at that phenomenon. The Arctic has very little tidal action, so small waves and wind deposit material on the shore of the rising seabed/rebound island, and those deposits remain relatively undisturbed. With the ice weight now lifted off, these islands rise a few millimeters EVERY year. This rebound is ongoing all over the arctic and is spectacular when seen from the air which will happen for me for the first time, a few days from now. For the moment, however, we are heading to Cambridge Bay under a weather-rich sky. We pass numerous rebound islands, including this VERY large one (that thing has been “rising” for some time-that is a tall, STEEP beach!), but we see virtually no ice because we are “protected” from exposure to the polar pack by the presence to our north of huge Victoria Island. Cambridge Bay is on Victoria Island and we will take on fuel and other supplies there, but the guests will not go ashore, as Bill Simon and John Bockstoce are planning something else. Navigating forward, the night stays bright quite late and we will arrive and anchor around midnight. I choose to sit on deck and watch the evening sky swim by.
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Wednesday, June 28, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #46:
ARCTIC, #46:  The curfew siren calling the children of Kuglugtuk home for the evening was also our notice to return to “Itasca.” Bill Simon has learned from fishermen and hunters in the village that there is virtually NO ice between us and Cambridge Bay, so he is eager to keep moving in these open waters to make up time, and upon arriving back aboard we are told we should anchor in Cambridge Bay around midnight. The weather has been clear, but clouds are now beginning to occlude the sky, allowing an occasional “spotlight" to shine through on whatever is out there. Simon’s eagerness to press forward “at full speed” is tempered, however, by the advice of our ice pilot, who warns that we must still be vigilant although ice is no longer the danger. Since the polar cap began to retreat during climate change, massive amounts of ice weight have been lifted off the land. In some places, a phenomenon called isostatic rebound has begun to occur. The suppressed land actually begins to rise up. In many cases across the Arctic, new islands are forming. Some are quite small and flat as they have just begun, but others are more developed and have taken on both greater size and height. What I find especially interesting about them, are the striations along the shore that make them appear as if they have been drawn in topographical relief. These are “rings” around the shore of the island, created by tide deposit which is then lifted a small bit over the course of every year, allowing the water’s edge to begin forming a new line. This island, illuminated, clearly shows off those tidal ring lines. Other, NEWER islands, might not be so visible as they may still be slightly underwater, NOR will they be on ANY current maps, so although we have picked up the pace a bit, our captains are still as vigilant as ever.
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Wednesday, June 21, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #45:
ARCTIC, #45:  We navigate another hour in the cold, now crystal-clear air, and at about 7pm we come abreast of the village of Kugluktuk where there seems to be a great deal of activity, so Bill Simon decides we should take the time to visit, stretch our legs, and find out what is going on, and we go ashore. There are numerous boats in the water fishing just off a very nice sandy beach, and astoundingly, although the air is cold and the water nearly freezing, their are dozens of children swimming on that beach which also sports a lifeguard station. WHAT! Of course, we draw attention with our arrival. Pretty much everyone that is not fishing comes to check us out. Turns out, there is a run of Arctic char, hence all the boats out, and everyone else is watching, swimming, or just enjoying the “nice" evening. I know Bill will not spend much time here, but the light is so amazing, I just start running from place-to-place, trying to get a sense of what I might photograph. This effort, however, becomes a game as I am pursued by this crew. It becomes their entire purpose in life to appear in every picture I attempt. After awhile, I realize they are the picture. Quite a group. Interesting to see them immediately dash home when a curfew siren goes off, reminding them they have school the next day. That is also our signal to reboard “Itasca” and continue our journey to Cambridge Bay. The night is still young and the sky is clear (for the moment).
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Wednesday, June 14, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #44:
ARCTIC, #44:  Rather suddenly, the fog and mists that have surrounded us most of the day lift, as though we have passed from under a dark veil. As “Itasca” progresses, every few feet forward changes the light, changes the clarity,..changes EVERYTHING. Slowly our POV clears to the horizons and we can see the mainland of Canada distinctly. The sky is mottled with dense clouds high above us, and ahead of the boat we can see sunlight through a hole that appears to be opening in the clouds. We are moving toward that opening, AND it is also moving towards us, rather rapidly. As we come upon the edge of it, it becomes quite dramatic. We are passing through the actual wall of a cold front without storm turbulence (see the opposite of this, posts #17-27), and in the high altitude clouds, you can see the “wall” effect, where the moist air terminates and the cold, clear air begins. Almost immediately the temperature on deck drops 20 degrees.
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #43:
ARCTIC, #43:  The day wears on and as we pass mid-afternoon, the grey gets a lot grey-er. We are a long way from sunset but we seem to have passed into a particularly dark and dense section of fog. Strangely, it is also thin enough directly above us that we can see the sun. It is as though I am looking through a pair of very dark glasses, but I am not wearing any. It is also very humid and drippy. Condensation forms on everything, chairs, deck rails, my lenses, my clothes - BUT, it continues to be eerily beautiful so I remain out in it, watching these strange surreal objects and lighting events swim by. Gabriel Garcia Marquez would have loved these moments. Dreary, dark or not, “Itasca” continues to carefully ply the waters through sounds and straits as Bill Simon hopes we can continue apace and quickly cover many miles that are relatively ice-free. Then, something happens. I am sure we have all heard the old saying that "it is darkest, just before the dawn." Well, check out next week...
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Wednesday, May 31, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #42:
ARCTIC, #42:  Late in the day, the luminous glowing fog (last post) dissipates, and is slowly replaced by a greying sky. Now the sky/water show begins anew. Instead of bergs looking like clouds, with nebulous colors and shapes, they suddenly became white, and clearly etched against the darker sky. Because fog still obscures the horizon line, the ice seems to be sculpture, floating in a suspended space. Bob Leach tells me he thinks it is “really weird, and I am sure glad I am not driving.” My sentiments exactly. I am sure out there somewhere is the end of the earth and we are going to sail off it. This incestuous little group of friends really needs further outside contact with the world. We are getting nuttier as the trip wears on.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #41:
ARCTIC, #41:  We hit a very bright point of the day, and although the fog did not burn off, it became blindingly radiant and seemed to glow. Of all that we had passed in the last few hours, this was finally strange and obvious enough to draw guests out onto the deck. Bill Simon, Bob Leach, and I walked to the bow to peer down at the ice, and the world surrounding us was luminous, like some kind of hi-key dreamscape. The three of us just stood and stared in silence for quite awhile, and then Bill turned to me and said, “We voted on whether you had gone off the edge or not and were just taking the same picture over and over, but now that I am out here, it is pretty amazing. I am glad I brought you along and that someone among us is actually paying attention."
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Wednesday, May 17, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #40:
ARCTIC, #40:  We can see the large icebergs on radar, but lesser ones do not register, so much of our navigating is slow and by sight. Some hours roll by and I am just lying on an outside deck in a bundle of fleece and wind-proofing, working myself into a shooting coma. About every 20mins, I take yet-another picture of water and sky. Simon and his guests occasionally come to the salon window to determine if I am unconscious, or have simply lost my mind. I have NOT lost my mind, but I have entered another world. Quiet, serene, the only sound is of the water as it slips by the hull. I consider how surreal and beautiful I find it, and then realize the two captains see it in a very different way. What I think is ethereal, they think is a danger to the boat. I am suddenly very glad to have the luxury of being a guest, so that I can just be a voyeur to the passage, and not the one responsible. I hope it stays that way.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #39:
ARCTIC, #39:  As the hours pass, the show around us continually changes with the fog thickening and thinning, and bergs of various sizes appearing cloud-like, indistinguishable from those in the sky and surrounding reflections. It is dreamlike. Natives in many cultures have words for “dreamtime.” This IS dreamtime. THIS is Arctic dreamtime! Bill Simon is probably working somewhere inside, and the other guests are either asleep, working out, or drinking. Bockstoce wanders out every once in awhile to “catch some air," but for the most part, it is cold and damp, so I am alone, and this passage becomes a slow and VERY surreal movie. I am sorry if this blog now drifts a bit into SKYSHOW, but when I am finished, you will have enjoyed the journey, so stay tuned, we will not be making Cambridge Bay as quickly as we hoped.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #38:
ARCTIC, #38:  Bill Simon planned this trip across the Northwest Passage to start LATE in the summer, on the cusp of fall, because research indicated that would be the point of greatest melt and likely to have the least amount of obstructive ice. However, beginning the voyage that late in the season also risks encountering the weather and ice of an early winter. Now that we were leaving Tuktoyaktuk and headed for Cambridge Bay, we hope to have protection from Arctic pack ice because we will be in the “shadow” of a HUGE Canadian island, Victoria. Simon thought we might “make good time” passing through as series of connected straits, but the problem is, these waters are not entirely ice-free, so without GREAT visibility, Capt. Jouning, now joined by ice pilot, Bruce Brophy, has no intention of doing any “full speed ahead” until we can SEE ahead. The flip side of having less ice is that we have warmer water, and the interaction of that warmer water with the increasingly colder fall air creates a low fog that is DENSE in front of us, but interestingly quite thin above us. While not great for navigating, I find myself bundled on the outdoor deck watching an ethereal world float by.
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Wednesday, April 26, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #37:
ARCTIC, #37:  With customs inspections behind us, and a day of meeting people and seeing places nearing an end, talk at the dinner table turns to what we are planning for the following day. We anticipate having a relatively ice-free run for awhile because we will be protected from polar floes by Victoria Island, which you can see occupies most of the upper-right in this map and is one of the largest islands in the world. Far to the left on the map, you can see the meanders of the Mackenzie River system, and at the mouth of the bay where the river enters the sea, is Tuktoyaktuk, our current position. We will leave here in the morning, heading east (to the right), around the peninsula of land, and hugging the lower coastline, we will travel through the channel below Victoria Island, heading for the village of Cambridge Bay, the last village designated to the far left on this map. This is a considerable distance and the run will take several days, so for the moment, Bruce Brophy, the ice pilot we have brought aboard, can have a short “vacation” before he has to go to work. AFTER Cambridge Bay, we expect conditions to become far more difficult and he will have a chance to us his skills. However, Bill Simon also has one more trick up his sleeve to help this journey, and we will make that connection after Cambridge Bay.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #36:
ARCTIC, #36:  Bill’s guests have many questions: How long has her family been here? What goes on in daily village life? What happens in the winter? Does she live “subsistence”? Because where she lives is SO foreign to our group, everyone is fascinated to hear her speak about what she views as “normal” existence. Although I am listening to this, I leave the questioning to the other guests, and I circle the group taking pictures. As I come to the chair behind her where she has placed her parka, I finally look closely at it, and I am transfixed. As an adventurer, I am VERY particularly about my gear and clothing, and I recognize something that suggests both style and function (hence I have often mentioned my use of Patagonia gear), so as I studied this parka I began to realize the design subtleties of seam placement and choice of furs. I take several pictures of the parka with flash, which suddenly makes me more apparent in the room, and she turns to me to ask if I have any questions. “I know you made this,” I said glancing at the parka, “So please tell me about all of the details that go into it.” Her response is a thesis, the long and short of which is that there is NOTHING about this that has not been sorely design tested, and EVERYTHING chosen in the construction is VERY specific. There are cloth layers, layers of lining, careful attention to seams that might leak cold, AND three different animal skins to complete protection around the openings. I am particularly interested that the especially long hairs of certain martin pelts are used to surround the face, because the long hairs keep her face from getting vapor frosted. Really! Perfect! She also notes that this is her light, more fashionable parka, and that she has a very different one for winter life. Now you know why Patagonia catalogs have all of those technical explanations about their product function, it is part of the history of GREAT clothing makers.
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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #35:
ARCTIC, #35:  It is impossible to be traveling with a former US presidential candidate and Secretary of the Treasury (William Simon), and a well known Arctic author of many books (John Bockstoce) and not have everyone know we are out here and headed their way, ESPECIALLY remote Native villages you might mistakenly assume have little news. Our arrival in Tuktoyaktuk not only brings out the Canadian Coast Guard and border police, but people from the village come out as families in their boats to circle and study “Itasca,” and wave to us. The public radio station in the village also wants to do an interview that will be broadcast throughout Canada and the new Inuit nation, so Bill obliges. The interviewer comes aboard the next morning during a rainy, cold, blustery squall, and before our eyes, reduces her size by 1/2 by taking off her huge parka and several other layers. I have now been working in Alaska long enough to appreciate a good conversation with a Native, and to have some understanding that they approach the world from a VERY different perspective than we do, so I was eager to here where this interview might go - two VERY DIFFERENT worlds are meeting here. The interviewer has many thoughtful questions I can tell that Bill is enjoying, and most pertain to the purpose of the expedition and why he chose to go at this time. When Bill acknowledges he has been studying ice charts for 5-years and sees that CLIMATE CHANGE is causing less ice to block the Northwest Passage, so now might be the first chance for a private yacht to cross in a single season (without getting “frozen over” to the next year), she laughs and comes back that she is surprised to here such a “famous” Republican admit belief in global warming. WE ALL think that is pretty funny. She is very engaging. They also speak of future development in the Arctic. When she closes, she will join us on our day of site visits but she wants to tell us that “friends” have told her we will face some difficult broken ice in the James Ross Strait a few days from now unless the weather changes. She also wants to know if any of us have questions of her, and of course, we all do.
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #34:
ARCTIC, #34:  It seems to take forever to be equipment checked by the Canadian border patrol, and some of it is quite serious for the captain and staff, but for all of us in the upstairs salon, it is a comedy. We are all way overheated and awkwardly stuffed into survival suits so we look like the poached lobsters that we are. Dr. Rita Mathews gets down on the floor to put her suit on, and then cannot get up. Bockstoce has begun a rambling banter with the officers about choosing to die by alcohol, rather than floating in Arctic waters dressed so ridiculously. Then finally, we pass inspection and are “free to go.” Having been aboard for about 10-days now, we are all eager to get our feet on land, visit Tuktoyaktuk, and explore the archeological sites. Interestingly, once we do land with the zodiac and step ashore, most of us stumble and walk clumsily, and one person even feels “seasick.” We are so accustomed to walking with the motion of the ship, solid ground nows seems a little disorienting. It is a “nice” day with minimal rain, so the stroll about the village is enjoyable and it feels good to get some land-based exercise.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, March 29, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #33:
ARCTIC, #33:  The coldwater float suits are thick, thermal neoprene, with a single-seam zipper that goes from the crotch up the front to your cheeks. The suit has “closed” arms with gloves, a very tight hood with a 70% facemask, and the legs have booties. Once in the suit and properly zipped-up, only your eyes show. The trick is GETTING IN the suit! As the gods would have it, it was also a very warm day to make this process all the more uncomfortable. There is NO DOUBT you are much warmer in the suit, which is intended to keep you floating and alive in frigid waters until you can be rescued. EVERYONE struggled and sweated to get in their “lobster costume.” John being a big guy, and probably a little inebriated, was leaning on the bar trying to get his feet situated and the suit fully pulled up when, from under a sweaty brow, he could not resist asking our presiding immigration officer, “If Itasca is sinking, and I succeed in getting this f*#%ing suit on and jumping in the water, how long will it keep me alive?” To which the constable replied, “Probably about 30 minutes or so.” To which John responded, “If it is all the same to you, I would rather not bother with the suit. I will just sit here and consume the rest of my rum before Itasca goes down. Once in the water, I will probably survive as long as anyone else because of all the alcohol in my blood, and I will be A LOT happier!” I’m with John! The mountie was not amused.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, March 22, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #32:
ARCTIC, #32:  I am sorry the type is so small, but this map describes a large expanse of ocean and coast. We are traveling east, from left-to-right. We left the North Slope of Alaska and crossed the border into Canada where you see the green section indicating Ivvavik National Park. As we continued past the park, we turned northeast, and navigated around the large delta of the Mackenzie River, past Kendall Island Bird Sanctuary and into the large bay in the eastern delta that hosts the Native village of Tuktoyaktuk, and National Historic Site, Kittigazuit. We drop anchor offshore of “Tuk” and are boarded by Canadian Coast Guard to be “processed.” When they have finished, we will have a visitor, a friend of John’s who is going to do an interview with Bill Simon about our trip, AND she will join us afterward in a tour of some historical archeological sites. However, before any of that takes place, we must prove to the “mounties” that we know how to don our coldwater float suits and make them function. Everybody assemble in the upstairs salon! This is going to be a very funny cocktail hour!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #31:
ARCTIC, #31:  Unlike the collective portrait of the last post, this is what the fantail deck looks like on most sunny days. In the lower left, John Bockstoce is keeping an eye out for “the Mounties” because he knows Canadian Coast Guard will board us sometime soon to check our papers, our planned route, and our safety gear. Just above John, you can see that I am really working hard. “Barb” and I are just enjoying the warm, clear morning. Bill Simon is as well, but he IS Bill Simon because he works all of the time, so even while busily “arctic tanning,” he is pouring over balance sheets of some company he is thinking about buying. We will soon stop at the small Native village of Tuktoyaktuk where we will complete our passage through Canadian customs and meet some of the residents of the village, whom John knows from prior visits.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, March 8, 2017
ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #30:
ARCTIC, #30:  With our sunny break, it gives me an opportunity to introduce nearly all of the guests with whom I am traveling, so bear with me because it is a VERY interesting group. Starting from left to right, (and sporting a ponytail because I have inspired him) is doctor Robert Leach, an orthopedic surgeon and chief doctor of the US Olympic Committee, which Bill Simon (not in picture) is part of as well. Next to Robert is my good friend, and bunkmate for this voyage, George Gowan. George is a distinguished New York attorney I met when I was working on my Hudson River commission, and he and his wife, Marcia, have been good friends every since. It was George that first suggested to Bill Simon that I should be the photographer to this expedition. (TY, George!) Doctor Rita Mathews sits at the center of this image and is a prominent marine biologist, currently serving as vice-president of The Explorers Club of New York, of which many of us are also members. Not in the picture is doctor John Loret, also a marine biologist and presently serving as President of the Explorers Club. The two of them are doing food-chain, and Pacific-Atlantic migration research using an underwater ROV (remote operating device). John Bockstoce, who has his back to us, is a distinguished arctic traveler, writer, historian, and archaeologist. He is also VERY FUNNY! There is a rumor he has a mixology degree as well. Next to John is Bill Langan, an internationally known boat designer and sailor, who helped Bill create “Itasca,” and who also won the Fastnet Race in 1993. Lastly, to the far right (no pun intended) is one of Bill Simon’s best friends and investment partners, Ettore Barbatelli. Bill and I are the missing components of this ensemble.
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017
ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #29:
ARCTIC, #29:  For the moment, however, we ARE ice-free, and with every passing minute it grows warmer AND more glassy. The surface of the ocean is a stunning abstract display of sky and cloud reflections shimmering and changing with every ripple and roll. We have all come out on to the fantail to enjoy the sun, and there are some that have even seen the lovely day as a reason to have an early morning toast - and I don’t mean from a toaster - although, later they would be toasted. (sorry about that, it was to good to miss, AND it is true). As I sat there watching it all pass by, I had started the morning with a 2-panel panoramic image, so I guess I was in a “multiples mode,” and I suddenly realized I was about to fall into another “black hole for film.” The amazing glassy water could not be described in any single picture, it would be served by numerous ones displayed together. How many pictures that would take was yet-to-be-determined, but once the shutter clicked, it was about 1/2 before I regained consciousness. Apparently I took quite a few, and this is what I chose to work with because of how they seemed to “fit/flow” together - WHO KNOWS! Now, many years later, I see other pleasing combinations as well, BUT for all the “artistic” concerns I might have had then, or now, the most important fact, whether I took pictures or not, is that I was standing on that deck, and this was happening to me in REAL TIME!!!
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #28:
ARCTIC, #28:  Awakening from dreams of sky and clouds, I grab some coffee and head onto the now VERY sunny fantail deck to be greeted by this! SKYSHOW for breakfast! The wild weather of the previous evening has given way to a relatively warm, “clear” morning with a stunning display of clouds, AND (as importantly) crystal clear views to the horizon that show little or no ice. We have already passed into “Canadian” waters, and the storm occurred as we navigated past Ivvavik National Park on our approach to the massive delta of the Mackenzie River. The Mackenzie is the largest and longest river system in Canada, and is only exceeded by the Mississippi in all of North America. Our open, ice-free water is due to the tremendous outflow of the river that is warmer than the ocean and holds the encroaching ice at bay. We will swing to the east as we navigate around the delta, heading for the village of Tuktoyaktuk where we will pass through Canadian customs, visit nearby, historically important, Herschel Island, and bring aboard a registered ice-pilot that will advise Captain Jouning as we go forward. Apparently this “ice-free” condition is not going to last very long.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #27:
ARCTIC, #27:  Even though it is approaching fall season and the days are growing shorter, there is still a considerable “lingering” twilight in that zone between long Arctic summer days, and long Arctic winter nights. Our arcos roll cloud-glacial mirage-Renaissance sunset evening spanned a good bit of time as it unfolded, but the show was not quite over. In one spectacular, final burst, the slowly clearing weather opened another of those holes in the cloud cover that allowed the sun to shine directly down on the surface of the water creating a true “golden spot.” If the one I posted in #23 was more difficult to see, this is pretty hard to miss! Although I continued to stay on deck for awhile, and I took a few more pictures, THIS was closure to the evening, and when I lay in my bed drifting into sleep, I could see vignettes of sky and clouds that immersed us, flashing across my subconscious mind, and I wondered what the next day might bring.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #26:
ARCTIC, #26:  We have entered the “theater” of the Arctic, and now the show is going on all around us. The previous post was from the stern of the boat, this is looking in front of us, off of the bow. At this moment I can pretty much point my camera in ANY direction and there is something going on - Renaissance skies, mirages, passing rain curtains, god-rays coming out of the clouds and and sweeping the sea like a searchlight - we all just walk about the decks in the frigid air with our mouths open. We are now headed into Canada, and perhaps we have already crossed the invisible border, but no matter, although we do not know it yet, tonight we slipped further into the extraordinary realm of the Arctic, and things are only going to be more strange-beautfiul from here on out.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #25:
ARCTIC, #25:  Standing on the fantail of “Itasca” and watching our wake ripple off through the calm waters, we have turned more to the north and the mainland of Alaska is retreating from view to merge with the evening sky. The last few hours have been as good a light show as I have ever seen (and Kaleidescope and The Fillmore used to put on some great ones), and the sky has transitioned from one thing to another so frequently I had no idea so much had happened until I reviewed my film. None of us could be sure how long this trip would take, so I brought a lot of film but I still had to “ration” using it because there was no knowing what we might encounter. We were not even one week out and I must have dozens of ice-fog and sky-weather shots. Tonight was a “black hole” for my film stash. Just to keep it going, the Renaissance painters suddenly show up and decorate the sky anew. Actually, if they could have seen THIS sky, more of them would have turned to sculpture, LOL!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #24:
ARCTIC, #24:  As the rain squalls passed and the sky opened up to the glow of the setting sun, the cold front brought incredibly clear air with it. You could quite literally see to the edge of the earth, which is the very straight dark line in this picture just below the dramatic “bank of clouds." Well, those are NOT REALLY CLOUDS. There ARE hazy, wispier clouds at higher elevation, but that “bank” of them lit by the late Arctic light IS A MIRAGE. There is NOTHING there. If we turned our boat to approach this, at some point it would simply vaporize in front of us. Early Arctic explorers sometimes thought these mirages were cliffs of glacial ice coming off of uncharted landforms, which they would sail toward, only to have it vanish as they approached. If I remember correctly, John invented some kind of rum drink this evening to commemorate this mirage and the passing of the arcus cloud. Don’t go away, however, the night is still young and the sky has come out to play.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #23:
ARCTIC, #23:  Looking behind our boat in the direction of the continental shoreline, there was still little visibility because even though the arcus cloud had rolled past us, the weather above it was ongoing. The sky was slowly opening but squalls continued to blow by. As the storm progressed, it began to clear and some very confusing light displays occurred. At the horizon in this image, it may appear that there is a black line mirage, but the “black line” separation is being caused by a glow of reflection coming off the ocean surface, directly beneath an opening in the clouds that is letting sunlight through. These “golden spots” would open and close around us for many minutes as the storm continued to pass and lift off, and I DO mean lift off! As the last of these rain curtains passed, much like in a theater, the “curtain” went up. Behind it was a stunning reveal.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #22:
ARCTIC, #22:  The amazing arcus cloud swept over us just as my colleague, John Bockstoce, and I got through the salon door and off the outside deck. Hail pounded down, and the windows rattled from the high wind gusts. For a few moments it got VERY dark, and the clatter of rain and hail was deafening. Then, complete silence. The downpour and the weather turbulence ceased abruptly, and it began to brighten. We all went back out on deck to watch this. Like a giant rolling pin, this cloud had come from behind us, overtaking us explosively, and now it is just continuing to tumble off across the vast expanse of the Beaufort Sea. It has left “Itasca” with a deck covered by hail, and the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees. The frigid temperature in which we are now standing makes it pretty clear the roll cloud marked the leading edge of a cold front. We had begun this trip in August, relatively late in the Arctic season, and very likely this storm signaled the arrival of more winter-like weather.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, January 4, 2017

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #21:
ARCTIC, #21:  Within minutes the roll cloud was upon us. Now nearly overhead, the most visible part of the cloud is the feathery underbelly I mentioned in the last post. I am not sure exactly why this happened, but as the cloud passed over the sea ice, the ice “lit-up” in a vibrant neon blue color, returning to white after the cloud passed. Perhaps it was light waves of color from the cloudshadow that caused the brief glowing color change, but the evening has been SO WEIRD so far, who can really be sure of anything, or why any of this stuff is happening. Mirages, roll clouds? Amazingly, the night is young and there is a good deal more that is going to happen. At the moment, however - in fact, within seconds of taking this shot - John and I beat a brief, hasty retreat inside as the hail promised by Captain Jouning did appear and began pelting us. Besides, now OUR drinks needed refreshing!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #20:
ARCTIC, #20:  With each cloud merger the roll cloud broadened across the horizon AND seemed to sink closer to it. It was now directly behind ”Itasca” and clearly moving much faster than we were as it “tumbled” across the surface of the Beaufort Sea. As it approached, you could feel the temperature dropping and the wind picking up, gusting around us and buffeting us from constantly changing directions. To me it felt like we were in some sort of vortex of complete weather chaos. John and I were in full gear, so we held our ground on the outside deck and indulged ourselves in the amazing light show. The roll cloud had strange morphing of its texture as it spun - the upper half of the cloud was a configuration of clearly defined shapes moving around as they circulated in the spinning motion. Underneath the cloud was entirely different, gauzy, diaphanous, and at times appearing “feather-like” as you will see.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #19:
ARCTIC, #19:  The strange clouds spinning like horizontal tornadoes above us began to join one another, building in volume and seeming to lower closer to the horizon. The weather above and behind them was still spots of sunlight appearing between cold, howling squalls of rain, but THIS cloud was something very different. As these mergers occurred, the rolling, tumbling cloud grew to span the entire horizon. As we all stood there gawking, the captain of “Itasca,” Alan Jouning joined us on the deck to have a look. He said we were watching an Arcus roll cloud forming as a “wave” in advance of a cold front that was coming directly at us. Bill Simon immediately wanted to know what that meant, and Alan suggested that when the cloud passed we might want to go inside because he thought the front was SO cold it might hail, but he assured Bill it would be a brief burst of weather and it represented no danger to our voyage. At that point Bill announced this news worthy of “refreshing” his drink, and he and most of the others retired inside once again. The arctic author, John Bockstoce, and I remained, staring in awe as this creature continued to grow and get darker, and yes, Alan was right - it was coming directly at us.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #18:
ARCTIC, #18:  Dark storm clouds, weird funnel clouds, lightening over the Brooks Range, short, fierce rain squalls, and VERY cold blasts of high wind - NOW things are about to get truly strange. If you look carefully at the horizon, you will see multiple layers: in the shadowy distance, some foothills appear from the haze of weather, BUT THEY APPEAR TO BE RESTING on what is, in fact, a very intense “black line” mirage. If you view this in a large enough version, you will also see a very fine line BELOW the black line mirage. That “line” is actually a long strip of exposed land forming a flat skinny island. Amazing as it is, however, the mirage is a distraction because the real excitement is overhead and just about to “go off.” Note the cloud extending from the upper right. It is another of those similar to the last post that seems to be forming BENEATH the layer of rainy weather. Think of it as being a horizontal tornado. As we watched it and several of the others, they seemed to be rolling, spinning, and as they did so, they began to grow in both volume and length.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #17:
ARCTIC, #17:  I do have one more mirage for you, but getting to it is its own unique journey. It began after a rainy day cruising off of the North Slope, headed toward the border with Canada. As dusk approached, the weather began to clear, and thinking there might be a sunset, we all poured cocktails and went out onto the fantail deck. The sky began to open above the Brooks Range but remnants of the weather remained above us, and as we stood there gazing about, I noticed these strange, horizontal dark clouds forming beneath the clouds overhead. Brief intense bursts of cold wind seemed to pick-up, and all of us could sense something was happening, but no one was sure what that was. Occasionally a squall would drive us back inside, but it was clear “a movie” was unfolding, and none of us wanted to miss it, so we would just refill our cocktails glasses and return when the rain stopped. Besides the liquor, we were also adding layers to our clothing as the temp was definitely going down.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #16:
ARCTIC, #16:  “And now for something completely different!” Many, many miles and hours ago, we passed the last of the Prudhoe Bay facilities as we moved east toward the Canadian border. The days have been relatively clear which has generated several different kinds of mirages shown you in previous posts. If you read what I write, you might well have found the Golden Gate Bridge story from the last post just a little too much, however, and be inclined to ask, “where is the picture?” Fact is, the “bridge” mirage happened so quickly and passed, I did not get a picture. Today is another story. This is a Fata Morgana. This also lasted for hours. This shot is with my longest lens, but in the high-powered binoculars you could see great detail. What you could see are people moving around, and trucks and cars driving through the road complex of Prudhoe Bay which is now actually over the curve of the horizon - in the opposite direction!!!!!! After a considerable amount of time studying, staring, and cawing about this, it was agreed by all that liquor should be served and consumed at lunch.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #15:
ARCTIC, #15:  As you have seen, the black line mirage has a distinct, defined shape, and then there is a variation that looks more cloud-like. Now, Itasca is navigating just offshore of the North Slope, nearing the border with Canada, and if you examine the distant shore you will see that it is either steep cliffs or walls of glacial ice. The glacial ice seems most likely because the sun is glistening off of it in the same way it is glistening off of the water. Unlike other mirages that, until now, have been more fleeting, we have been motoring parallel to this “shoreline” for several hours. Most of that time it has appeared as a dark landform, but now in the setting sun, parts of it are shimmering where the light is reflecting off of the “ice.” REALITY CHECK! The shoreline we are running parallel to is on the other side of the boat. This POV is directly out into the vastness of the ice-covered Arctic Ocean - there is no shoreline out there, there are no glaciers, there are no clouds - there ARE just a lot of light rays bouncing around in some VERY WEIRD ways.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #14:
ARCTIC, #14:  Now things are getting a bit more complex. It is a bright, clear day. A “black line” mirage has formed ABOVE the surface of the ocean. It is less clearly defined than the previous two I have shown you (posts #12 & #13), and appears more cloud-like. In the middle of this image, a similarly cloud-like mirage has overlain the black line and appears to have extended itself to the surface of the ocean, making this a compound mirage as two different ones are happening at the same time. Mirages such as this second “layer” often took on the shape of the cloud after an atomic test, so we referred to these as “mushroom cloud” mirages. Again, I restate - in actuality there is NOTHING out there on the horizon. How a mirage occurs is quite interesting because the viewer must arrive at the “lens point” to see the mirage. Sometimes we would be sitting on the upper outside deck watching the Arctic pass by, and there would be a shimmer in the air at the horizon. As the boat moved, the image might get clearer, or it might go away depending on our relationship to the lens point. One day, well past Prudhoe Bay, navigating along the shoreline of the North Slope, we were all taking in the view when a mirage began. It seemed to be some bright orange piece of architecture - a part of a building, or maybe a wall. It flickered in and out, never truly revealing itself, and all of us were busy speculating as to what we were seeing. Then, for a few very fleeting moments, it became clear that we were looking at one of the steel towers that support the Golden Gate Bridge, only this one was rising from the waters of the Beaufort Sea. And, then it was gone! There was a lot of braying aboard after that.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #13:
ARCTIC, #13:  In the last post I pointed out that early Arctic explorers would see these mirages and think they were land forms or glaciers (pictures of those will follow), but that last shot of a black line mirage was SO distinct, it just did not look real - I repeat, I did NOT do that with Photoshop. However, things change very quickly in the Arctic and several minutes after making that image, the diurnal fog above the ocean surface began to obscure parts of that perfect black line. NOW you can see why explorers were easily confused. This very clearly looks like a peninsula of land that comes into the frame from the right and terminates before reaching the left side of the picture. "Since this is NOT on any chart, let’s sail over there and investigate this" - ONLY THERE IS NOTHING THERE, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING - just more of the Beaufort Sea. Because all of us witnessed numerous events like this, you can imagine that we are pretty happy that we have sophisticated navigational radar!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #12:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #12:  THIS is a "black line” mirage! I am not making this stuff up, AND I have NOT altered this photograph. As our vessel, Itasca, navigates through the shallow waters off the North Slope in our attempt to traverse the Northwest Passage, the cold nights and clear days we have begun to experience generate water-level morning and evening fogs. Those conditions are also perfect for spawning mirages. A mirage is created by light waves bouncing between the atmosphere and the reflective surface of the ice. Remarkably, those light waves may come from VERY far away as you will see, but for the moment, we have a more "common" mirage, which is to say this type happened often, and on many different days. This particular one, however, was outstanding, one of the darkest and most pronounced of all the ones I photographed. Some appear more nebulous, cloud-like, but this appears as a solid black stripe. Even with today's technical and scientific ability to know what this is, it is odd, but because we have navigation instruments, we KNOW there is nothing there. When the Arctic was first being explored, sailors would see this, and thinking it an uncharted landmass, sail towards it, only to have it vaporize.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #11:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #11:  By the time we reach Barrow the ice is around us all of the time and getting more dense. Weather is clear and windless except for the diurnal morning fogs, and so the surface of the sea is like glass. As the sun rises and the fog slowly burns off, the brilliance of light is blinding and makes for some very strange exposures. After passing Barrow, the encroaching pack ice forces Itasca to navigate closer to shore as our boat has a relatively shallow draft and can ply shallow waters safely. Big bergs ground themselves further out, allowing us passage between them and the shoreline. During this traverse along the coast of the North Slope some VERY UNUSUAL things begin to occur. By midday the morning fog burns off, and the skies are crystal clear like no other place on the planet because of the lack of air pollution. These conditions above an ice-covered see, allow light waves to reflect off of the frozen ocean surface, bounce back into the atmosphere where they reflect back to earth once again, and so on. These bouncing light waves can come from anywhere and be of anything - these are mirages. I am not talking about the one where you are driving in the desert and the pavement looks wet but it is not. THESE mirages are truly hard to believe and come in numerous forms, so keep reading, you will see next week.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, October 19, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #10:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #10:  When we rounded Cape Lisburne, the water grew darker and evermore glassy, the calm also allowing the fog to continue surrounding us. Some hours into our run toward the nebulous horizon, the ripple-less surface broke from something other than our wake - something out in the fog. As we drew closer, two massive walrus heads came into view, as they stared at us, just as curious as we were about them. Then, in the distant haze you could hear other garbled grunts and sounds. Passing by the two now well behind us, we could suddenly SMELL where the sounds were coming from, and then the fog lifted briefly to reveal a huge group of walrus, hauled out on a coastline beach. It seemed the farther north we traveled, the CLEARER and calmer the water got, AND THEN in these dark clear waters, we all had an amazing experience. We entered a VAST bloom of pale, white jellyfish. Not just thousands of them, but millions-upon-millions. We navigated through them for hours, and as I sat on the deck staring down into the water, I had to marvel at how much they seemed like strange stars in a night sky. Awaking the next morning, the "night sky" of the previous evening had turned to this. Something new was now floating past us - ICE!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, October 12, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #9:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #9:  Shortly after leaving Port Clarence, and with the world still shrouded from view in the veil of fog, we navigate around the tip of the Seward Peninsula which hosts the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and represents our closest coast to the Siberian mainland and Russia. Somewhere just to the west of us we pass the Diomede Islands marking our transition from the Bering Sea to the Chukchi Sea, and then we enter Kotzebue Sound. Along the Alaskan shore are numerous Native villages, one of note, Shishmaref has since become a poster-child for climate change since much of the village has been eroded into the sea over the last 25yrs. Farther north, the sizable village of Kotzebue sits near the mouth of the Noatak River part of which is within the Noatak National Preserve. I floated a portion of the Noatak and will create a blog about that journey in the future, but for the moment, Itasca is still headed north, passing the vast shoreline of Cape Krusenstern National Monument. We will eventually round Point Hope and Cape Lisburne to begin a long run towards Barrow, the largest city on the North Slope AND IT IS ABOVE THE ARCTIC CIRCLE.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, October 5, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #8:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #8:  The bay in which we are anchored is called Port Clarence, and it is quite shallow so it is not affected by the swell and the storm. We take a lot of rain and wind, but we are not being flung wildly around. The crew begins repair work immediately and shortly thereafter, the convoy of trucks bearing Bill Simon, more guests, and a good deal of our three months worth of food arrives at nearby Teller. The afternoon is spent in zodiacs, ferrying people and goods out to Itasca. The weather is subsiding as the hours go by and we ALL sleep more soundly. The next day is given to repairs as well, and near the end of the day the weather breaks, so we expect to depart in the morning. The temperature dropped during the night when the skies cleared, and we awoke to some very interesting lighting and visual conditions in the morning. The water was relatively calm and glassy. The fog above was was just thin enough to occasionally see the sky, but in front of us it was so dense as to obscure the horizon, merging ocean and the sky. It had little impact on our navigation, and it would occur more frequently as our journey continued, but it was always strange to sit aboard and watch. It caused me to consider the fear of early sailing explorers that were told the world was flat and that at some point they would sail off the edge. Were we there?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #7:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #7:  When Bill Simon decided to create "Itasca," he purchased a super-tanker tug and remodeled it. He was attracted to the durable construction and motor power, but because he was going to take this boat to both the Arctic and the Antarctic, what he liked most about it was that it had TWO systems for everything. If something broke down, they could remain operational. Further, in planning this attempt to cross through the Northwest Passage, he invited his architect for the boat to come on the trip, AND he also hired two of the craftsman that built it as part of his crew. He could have hardly known how quickly his decision to do so would prove a wise choice. In the quieter waters of the bay around Teller, and with the storm backing off a bit, we assessed our damage while waiting for Bill, his other guests, our supplies, and the attendant truck convoy to arrive. Two big windows had been damaged, several doors were torn off hinges, and a number of wooden cabinets had been smashed or ripped off walls. Everything was superficial AND BEST OF ALL, OUR STAFF WOULD REPAIR EVERYTHING waiting for Bill come, and the weather to clear.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, September 21, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #6:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #6:  By the time we collected my gear and got it to the zodiac in the harbor, the swell outside the breakwater had grown to about ten feet and occasional sets would "close-out" the boat channel. We had to time the zodiac passage in between wave sets, and even so we got a little air going over an incoming wave as we jetted out. Back at Itasca, we had another problem - the swell was causing Itasca to roll SO much that you had to time your jump to the boarding ladder. After several attempts, my gear and I were transferred, and as I was the 1st guest to arrive, I met the crew and settled in. We were being assaulted by the swell AND IT WAS GETTING BIGGER. One more guest arrived about an hour later, they barely could get him onboard, and he was IMMEDIATELY seasick. We were told Simon, the other guests, and a large number of supplies would arrive in the morning. The swell pushed 20-25ft as night drew down. Eating dinner was tricky. Sleeping was a joke as I was often thrown from my bed. Finally, I went to the sitting area on the upper deck to lie on a couch that did not pitch me as much. Dozing off, there was suddenly a tremendous crash. The glass windows across the room shattered, water came through and furniture and a big TV were hurled around. We just got slammed by a huge wave, we have considerable damage, and we are now pulling anchor to motor farther out for the rest of the night. At dawn the weather is still raging, BUT Simon's plane arrives. There is NO getting out to Itasca, so it is decided that we will head north to a protected shallow bay and the tiny town of Teller (about 230 people). To move his guests and the supplies, Simon makes deals with Nome locals who have trucks, to drive his entourage the 90-miles or so of rugged road to Teller, where calmer waters will allow them to board. This is Teller from our anchorage later that day, AND, THIS IS JUST THE 1st DAY OF THE TRIP.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #5:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #5:  When the rolling tundra reaches the coast it just plunges off to the shoreline. The city of Nome is a VERY tiny community surrounded by this, but it does have a pier, and an inlet protected by a breakwater that offers a small boat harbor. I flew in during the early morning through some really bad weather that actually threatened to cancel the flight. On the ground I was to report to the harbormaster who would connect me with "Itasca." From his office window I could see a big cruise ship anchored at the pier. Offshore there was also another large boat anchored in deep water. That was Itasca. There was no room for her to dock at the pier, and she was too big to bring into the harbor, so she had been positioned well outside of the considerable swell that was slamming into the harbor breakwall. The harbormaster told me he would radio the boat, they would launch a zodiac to come and get me, AND I should "go get a drink" as he felt I would need it for the ride back out. Doing as I was told, I headed for one of the MANY bars along main street. I also had the good sense to apply "the patch" for seasickness so it would be in effect when needed (and it would be needed.) About an hour later I was joined at the bar by four men in matching gear and they were ALL wearing Mustang boots. I knew my hosts had arrived. Now for a short boat ride!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016


ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #4:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #4:  After my lunch with Bill Simon and Secretary George Schultz, I was left with simple instructions: come COMPLETELY prepared; bring cameras, including motion as well as still; the trip might be long so bring lots of film; get Mustang knee-high rain boots with WHITE soles (to protect the boat deck); and, show up in Nome, Alaska, at a particular date and time where I would meet and board, "Itasca," the boat that Bill had custom built for this adventure. I had no trouble collecting appropriate gear as I had been spending a good deal of time in Alaska, but still I was a bit intimidated because I had never gone THIS FAR north, and I was unsure that we would even succeed in crossing the Northwest Passage in a single season as no private boat yet had. Nome iwithin 150 miles of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by tundra and rolling hills facing DIRECTLY into the Bering Sea. If you have never seen the vast sprawl of the Arctic landscape in Alaska, it can be quite intimidating. It is spare of vegetation, and distances are quite deceiving and hard to grasp, partially because of the clear air. In this image you actually see the rolling curves of the earth, and in the top left, the small, light ribbon of pale color is the VERY LARGE Noatak river, almost invisible from this perspective.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, August 31, 2016
ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #3:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #3:   Allow me to introduce Our Fearless Leader - former Secretary of the Treasury under 3 different presidents, William E. Simon. He is NOT as "crazy" as this picture makes him appear, but he does wear very thick glasses and when you are talking to him and looking straight at him, it magnifies his eyes AND it always made me feel he was studying a person "under-the-microscope." That was especially true of our first meeting. Bill did invite me aboard his Arctic expedition, but with a caveat. As we had not met and the boat trip might take several months, he wanted to meet me in person over a meal to see if I would "fit-in" with he and his other guests. He said he was flying to San Francisco for the annual party of the Bohemian Club at the Bohemian Grove and he would fly me up from LA prior to that event so we could have lunch. I was given an address on the Stanford Campus and when I pulled up at the building, I realized it was the Hoover Institute. Considered a conservative policy think tank, I knew my poney-tail and mustache would be noted, and no sooner had I stepped through the doors than the receptionist looked up and said, "Oh, you must be Mr. Ketchum." I was directed to an office upstairs and when I arrived at that door, there was yet another amusing thing to note - it was the office of George Shultz, former Secretary of Labor, then Treasury, and finally US Secretary of State. Inside Bill and George were waiting for me, most gracious and engaging. Sack lunch sandwiches were served. We talked, and after about 45-minutes, Bill and George indicated they needed to be on their way, and I should stay and finish my meal. Oh yes, I was indeed invited aboard! And so, WE are off to the Arctic! Will you join me?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #2:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #2:   The unusual telephone call came out of the blue, and after stating his name the caller launched into this tale of his intentions to cross the Northwest Passage on a luxury research vessel that he had specifically designed for the adventure. I was unsure why I was being called but thought he was proposing a "cost-sharing" expedition he wanted me to join, or perhaps teach a workshop onboard. When I queried what he wanted from me, he responded, "Oh, I am sorry! I realize my call is unexpected. Your name was given me by a mutual friend and I am William Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury. I have built this boat for this expedition and I am inviting some friends and scientists. It was suggested we should have a filmmaker or photographer as well, and 3 of my guests knew of your work. If you are interested in being photographer to this expedition, you would be my guest. There are no expenses for you. I will cover everything. " WHAT!!!! I did say YES, and there is more to that story in future posts, but for the moment allow me to introduce the 2nd author to enrich my encounters with the Arctic, John Bockstoce. John was one of Bill Simon's guests. At the moment of this picture, we have been stuck in ice for a few days and have gotten stir-crazy, consequently after lunch libations, John has led us on a "hike" across the ice. Several boat staff members also rode a snowboard while holding on to a rope that another ran ahead pulling. Note the mud of John's knees - he has been groveling (how do you get muddy on an ice-flow?) I think you can conjecture where this group is going with John leading the way. I hope you will join me on this VERY AMUSING journey.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

ARCTIC:  At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #1:
ARCTIC:   At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #1:   I hope you will find this new blog as surprising as I found the Arctic to be. In looking back, I realize I knew nothing about the Arctic and presumed, incorrectly, that it was similar to the Antarctic, I mean they were both frozen poles, right? I could not have been more wrong! I did have an interest in the Arctic because I believed in the possibility of climate change, and I knew the Arctic influenced the weather of the Northern Hemisphere, so I wondered what effects might be felt at the pole, but what truly turned my attention to the "great white north" was an award-winning book, by my colleague, Barry Lopez. His 1986 book, "Arctic Dreams," came to my attention in the early 90's, and I was literally blown away after reading it. So much so, in fact, I contacted Barry to see if he could get me an invitation to one of the few research/housing compounds that would give me some access and from where I could begin to make pictures. He was willing to help but before his contacts responded, I received a most unusual phone call, one that would eventually give me a stunning base from which to view the vastness of THE ARCTIC.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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