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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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, 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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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 Kaleidescopeand 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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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 saloon 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 the weather. Like a giant rolling pin, this cloud came from behind us, overtaking us explosively, and then it just continued to tumble off across the vast expanse of the Beaufort Sea. It left “Itasca's” deck covered with hail, and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. The suddenly frigid temperature made it pretty clear that 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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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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 within 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 three 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 pony-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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