It’s the 6th of August and here is another report. The time for our departure is approaching. We’re both doing fine, following our daily routine where we each get to take a long walk every other day. As I mentioned earlier, one of us has to stay and guard the campsite, otherwise the bears would wreak havoc. We’re still finding lots of fascinating things: fossils, petrified wood, antlers from reindeer that are long since gone from Franz Joseph Land.
Today it was my turn to go hiking. Our greatest discovery so far is that Northbrook is actually not an island. It’s two islands, and these are separated by a sound that is up to a kilometre wide, narrowing to a gap of 250 metres. When we arrived here, we could ski across – but now the ice is gone, there’s just open water, and walrus are swimming through that sound. This is a dramatic consequence of global warming. A hundred years ago it was a lot colder than today. The glacier stretched all the way across the sound; for even on the newest modern maps, Northbrook is drawn as a single island. Recently, however, the glacier has retreated enough to unveil the sound.
Well, at least we’re true explorers now.
It’s obvious there is a lot less ice today than in years past. If you read the old expedition logues and accounts of the explorers who came before us, such as Frederick Jackson and Fridtjof Nansen, they make it clear that it was often impossible to reach this area by boat. Now there’s just open sea beyond Cape Flora, a few icebergs, but there are no ice floes to be seen anywhere. The enormous change is due to global warming, and rising temperatures makes themselves felt more up here than other places, even the Antarctic.
This is going to have very significant consequences for animal life in the Arctic. Many animals, not just mammals, are dependent on the drifting ice floes for their food – and when the ice retreats, it has dire consequences for their ability to survive. In the next few decades I suspect we’ll see immense repercussions. After all, a huge portion of the food chains production in these seas occurs under the ice.
Tomorrow we may be paid a new visit by an icebreaker, and Viktor Boyarski will be on board.
This sound separates the two islands of Nortbrook.