As you read this, think about the climate you’re leaving for your children and subsequent generations. Give them a chance to live full, quality lives. And by the way, extend your own.
Apparently the Praying Mantis thinks so. Or maybe it’s poised to grab an insect (or Humming Bird). Whatever the reason we found one near my sister’s family home in Connecticut. The various Mantis’ are humanity’s friends since
they eat many of those insects that eat our crops. Load your garden up with them. They are members of the cricket/grasshopper family. You can read more about our Mantis friends at It’s Nature.
According to National Geographic, the annual rate of sea level rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years. This is due to human activity that results in the thermal expansion of sea water, the melting of glaciers and polar icecaps, and the melting of the Greenland ice sheet.
The result is the flooding of wetlands, contamination of aquifers and agricultural soils, and lost of habitat for fish, birds, and plants. Higher sea level, combined with more intense storms (e.g., super storm Sandy) create much greater storm surges.
The result will be far more than property losses. As more of the coast is gradually lost to the sea, there will be a great migration inland, putting evermore demands on limited resources.
How bad could it be? A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. Should a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet occur, sea level could rise to 23 feet, submerging London.
Friends joined me this past Sunday to celebrate the release of a photo book started by Susan and me several years ago. Although the book is a remembrance, it also documents the declining populations of several bird species, something likely due to the lightning growth of our human, industrialized population. The highlights of the day can be found at: Shrinking Birds
You can preview the book at my bookstore.
On Saturday August 8th Tundra Tom (along with Girly, our mascot of a Siberian Husky mix, her primary job was to alert us
to bears) picked us up at 2:45 PM to take us to the float plane dock a few miles away (click on photos to display on full screen).
Six of us were going with about a thousand pounds of equipment (Rich and I had 150 pounds between us). We were joined by Adam and Bob from Halifax, Nova Scotia, who are wildlife documentary photographers coming to get footage for their production company. Also with us, Lloyd, a retired engineer from Wisconsin. Our plane was a 1957 de Havilland single-engine (1,000 hp turbine) Otter. Once loaded and seated, we taxied out, turned upwind, and departed. Though I’m an experienced pilot, this was my first trip on floats! We climbed and flew the trip at 1500 feet mean
sea level (about 1200 above ground). I took several shots out the window of the rugged landscape. Though turbines use less fuel
at high altitudes, this short, fifty mile hop would burn less fuel at low altitude. Visibility was unlimited with only light turbulence, due to ground warming by the afternoon sun.
The cabin was cramped, but I managed a shot of Adam and Tom, behind me.
After landing we taxied to the shore. Two of us held the plane while the rest formed a human chain to unload. We had to unload a couple of hundred yards away from our campsite further down the beach, due to offshore rocks at the campsite. Yosef and Shelby, our guides, were there to meet us; they arrived on an earlier flight. Yosef ‘s experience includes hiking the canyons and desserts of the Middle-east, he organized a seven day trek through the Himalayas, and worked in the jungles of South America to help save Macaws. He has also traveled across Canada with tent and fishing rod. Shelby graduated from Bishop’s University, studying conservation and zoology as part of her Biology major. Both have Wilderness Advanced First Aid certificates.
The mosquitoes also were there to meet us, and they annoyed us whenever the temperature was above about 35°F. These guys are not like their temperate counterparts. They’re larger, darker, and more aggressive. You will see them in some of the musk-ox photos. Consequently, I spent most of the time wearing a hat, head net or bug jacket, and photo gloves.
Nunavik Tundra is owned by the Inuit; we were there with their permission—thank you. Although I’ve backpacked in the White Mountains and the Adirondacks, this experience was far different. It was more transformative. Looking over this vast expanse of pristine environment I saw myself as one small part of the biosphere. There we were with no one else around, except for those on other tours 30 or 40 miles away. We stood alone with nature, with only our group on which to depend. There was absolutely no human-made, ambient night light.
We spent the rest of the afternoon setting up camp, getting settled, and eating dinner. After dinner we set up tripods and cameras to photograph what we hoped would be a good Aurora show. Though they don’t peak until September and October, we weren’t disappointed. They weren’t limited to the northern sky either, they streaked across—some down toward the southern horizon.
The next morning Rich returned to our tent saying there were musk-ox grazing across the lake. Soon, all the camp was out with cameras and tripods photographing. Unfortunately, even with long telephotos, the musk-ox were too far away to provide very good shots. We saw that they were moving in a constant direction. Given that they would have to follow the shoreline, our guides suggested a way to intercept them. Remaining downwind, we were able to set up near another lake about 1½ hours later and waited for them to approach. And approach they did. We started shooting and when they were about 50 yards away they heard our shutters and stared our way. Since we were standing between them and water, our guide, Yosef, motioned for us to pull back expeditiously.
Although Tundra is mostly flat, it takes a lot of energy to walk over it. It’s very uneven, so
foot placement is critical. It’s also soft. Many areas have low, heavy bush that creates resistance while hiking. As a result of having to lift our legs against this resistance and careful attention to foot placement, our demand for water and calories went up. Adding 15 pounds to our packs, and hiking two to three miles a day all wears on aging bodies (this didn’t seem to be true for our 20 something guides).
The next morning Yosef and Shelby led us toward the river flowing
from Lake Diana, then northeast. About an hour later Yosef spotted a musk-ox about a mile or so away. We stalked it by taking an indirect route so we could close in, hidden along a high rock ledge downwind. Yosef climbed the ledge and later caught up with us, reporting that there were two musk-ox.
Nearing the musk-ox, Rich and I crawled on all fours to take up positions behind some boulders where we started shooting handheld from about 60 yards. The sound of our shutters alerted the musk-ox to our presence. Aside from staring at us, they pretty much stayed near their luncheon location. After shooting a long series of shots we retreated behind the ledge where we lunched. Another good day was had!
That night the weather turned, with dropping temperatures. Rain and wind began around 8:00 PM and continued on and off
until around 3:00 AM. There was a heavy fog that morning, but it was mostly sunny by 10:00 AM. After breakfast we all went to photograph a dismembered musk-ox skeleton, spotted the day before. Thereafter, our group split, the documentary photographers going
with Yosef to photograph the musk-ox, and Rich, Lloyd and I with Shelby to photograph an Inuit tent ring. Tom told us some of the artifacts from this and other sites had been carbon dated to 2800 years ago. After returning for lunch we did some packing and rested. Our return flight was planned to arrive at 9:30 AM the next morning.
On our last day in camp I arose at 6:30 AM. Last night the temperature went down to about 20°F, resulting in a heavy frost. Nippy—but no mosquitoes! While we were waiting for our plane, Adam and Bob, had a high-end drone they used to take a group photo from the air, along with video as the drone ascended—pretty neat. I hope to have the photo and video at a later
date. Shortly after our trip they were off to southern Mexico to photograph wildlife at an underwater reef—good work, if you can get it.
My next task is to process several images for my on-line gallery. I’ll provide the details about this is in my next post. In the meantime if you have traveled anywhere on the Tundra it would be great to receive your account.
As any writer or other artist would say, “It was a labor of love.” I had multiple stories to tell and photographing the wide variety of scenes was just a wonderful life opportunity. You can preview Exploring Maine’s Coast by clicking on its hyperlink. I organized the photos starting at the north end of the Midcoast, then southward. I think you will find this a unique perspective of coastal Maine.
I would be happy to receive comments, criticism, or questions you might have.
Unfortunately, the digital version won’t be available until sometime within the next year.