This article discusses the steadily expanding U.S. research effort in the Arctic during the past decade.
Frost mounds of the frost blister type form every winter at the site of a group of cold mineralized springs on the east side of Bear Rock near Fort Norman, Northwest Territories, Canada. During each of four years of observation (1975-1978) three to five frost blisters formed, with measured heights ranging from 1.4 to 4.9 m, and with horizontal dimensions between 20 and 65 m. Locations of the blisters varied somewhat, presumably in response to differences in temperature regime and snow cover. Mature frost blisters consisted of a layer of frozen ground ... and a layer of ice ... covering a cavity which in some cases was over 4.0 m high. The cavities contained water during formation of the frost blisters; they were empty by spring. Time-lapse photography revealed that frost blisters can grow as fast as 0.55 m/d, and that some of them fracture, drain and partially subside one or more times before reaching their full height. During the summer, degradation occurs as a result of thawing and slumping of the soil cover and by melting and collapse of the ice layer; portions of the ice layer, or an uncollapsed section of a frost blister, can survive until the second summer after their formation. Water chemistry and isotope studies revealed that the frost blisters are formed by pressure build-up in subsurface water below seasonal frost and that the ice layers accumulate by gradual downward freezing in a closed (or intermittently opened) system filled with water derived from the Bear Rock spring system. Similar frost blisters are found in other areas of groundwater discharge in a variety of locations.
More than 125 carcasses and skeletal remains of wild bison, moose, and whitetail deer were examined in the field. Most were from closely documented episodes of predation, mass drownings, or other natural causes of death. Predictable and unusual kinds of bone and carcass utilization by timber wolves and bears are described. The variables emphasized include sectioning of carcasses by feeding predators, distribution and dispersal of bones at kill sites, gnaw damage to bones in homesites, kill sites and scavenge sites, potential or observed survival of bones at sites of prey carcasses, and the patterns of scatter or accumulation of skeletal remains in moose and bison ranges due to predation or other natural causes of death. Variations in gnaw damage to bones and utilization of carcasses by carnivores reflect significant aspects of predator-prey interactions, and can be deciphered by ecologists interpreting either fossil or modern assemblages of bones.
Food habits, habitat selection, and hunting behavior of snowy owls (Nyctea scandiaca) wintering near Calgary, Alberta were investigated during the winters of 1976-77 and 1977-78. The owls preyed extensively upon rodents. Gray partridge (Perdix perdix) were an important prey only in one winter. Dietary differences between years seem to be related to differences in weather. Male snowy owls preyed almost exclusively upon mice, whereas females utilized a wider range of prey, including much larger species. The owls appeared to respond to variation in habitat quality by selecting those habitats with the highest availability of prey. Snowy owls were successful in 43% of 51 attempts to capture prey. The success rate of attempts to capture birds was lower than for small mammals. Juvenile females had lower success rates and longer prey-handling times than did adult females.
Waterbird migration near the Yukon and Alaskan coast of the Beaufort Sea : II. Moult migration of seaducks in summer
Arctic, v. 35, no. 2, June 1982, p. 291-301, ill.
ASTIS record 10493
Westward moult migrations of seaducks were studied in the summers of 1972 and 1975 (northern Yukon) and 1977-78 (west of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska). Methods used were visual observations from the coast, aerial surveys, and (in 1975) DEW radar. Many male Oldsquaws (Clangula hyemalis) fly west near the north coast of Alaska in early July. Most seem to travel only a short distance; tens of thousands subsequently moult in various lagoons along northern Alaska. Few of the male eiders (Somateria spp.) that leave the Beaufort Sea in summer travel west along the coast past the two study areas. Instead, the main route may be seaward of the barrier islands until the eiders approach Point Barrow. In late June and July, several thousand male Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) fly west near the Yukon and Alaskan coast to moulting areas in lagoons. This flight, unlike moult migrations of most scoters, is not directed toward the wintering areas.
Antifreeze proteins in the arctic shorthorn sculpin (Myoxocephalus scorpius)
Arctic, v. 35, no. 2, June 1982, p. 302-306, figure, table
ASTIS record 10494
The plasma of shorthorn sculpin caught at Grise Fiord (Southern Ellesmere Island, arctic Canada) during late August contained antifreeze proteins which were essentially identical, with respect to molecular weight, number of components and amino acid composition, to the antifreeze proteins found in Newfoundland populations of shorthorn sculpin. The concentration of antifreeze protein in the plasma of the arctic sculpins during the summer was similar to that observed in the plasma of Newfoundland sculpin during the winter. The results suggest that unlike their Newfoundland counterparts, the plasma of sculpin residing in the High Arctic contains high concentrations of antifreeze protein all year round.
Six growth measurements of wild rice (Zizania aquatica L.) were made in 17 stands near La Ronge, northern Saskatchewan. Sediment depth, water depth, and 19 substrate chemical factors were measured. Panicle development was primarily related to available P, pH, and concentrations of Na, Ca, Zn, soluble K, Cu, Mn, SO4, Cl, and Fe in the sediment. It was also related to water and substrate depths. Shoot length was related to water and mud depths. Shoot weight was related to substrate mud depth, and to the concentration of soil Ca and Mn. Changes in the chemical composition of sediment may have been the cause for decreased production of wild rice. Substrate properties may be useful for identifying potential seeding sites for wild rice.
A steep-faced boulder ridge up to 4 m high by 300 m long was encountered along the arctic coast east of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in the summer of 1979. Marine occurrences of similar ridges are rare. Since ice-push sorts cobble- and boulder-sized material in the construction of a ridge, recent onshore excursions of ice due to wind stress on the fast ice are believed to be responsible for building the boulder ridge. Ice push is a mechanism that preferentially sorts cobble- and boulder-sized material from 1-2 water depths and that forms boulder ridges in areas of high boulder concentrations.
In 1933 the newly-formed Glavsevmorput' (Chief Administration of the Northern Sea Route) dispatched the first convoy of freighters via the Northern Sea Route to the mouth of the Lena to deliver cargoes bound for the Yakut ASSR. It consisted of three freighters and was escorted by the icebreaker Krasin. Despite heavy ice conditions in the Kara Sea two of the ships reached Tiksi, their destination, and unloaded their cargoes. The third ship, bound for Bukhta Nordvik with an oil exploration expedition, ran aground near its destination and turned back. Severe ice conditions in Proliv Vil'kitskogo forced all three ships to winter at the Ostrova Samuila. A shore station was built and a full scientific programme maintained all winter. Urvantsev, the chief scientist, took the opportunity to make a winter reconnaissance survey of the northern portion of Poluostrov Taymyr using half-tracks. The convoy was freed from the ice by the icebreaker Fedor Litke in the summer of 1934 and having completed their tasks all three ships ultimately returned safely to Arkhangel'sk.
... The following biographical sketches of men who have shaped our understanding of northern Canada are the first in a series that will run through the next dozen or more issues. ... These profiles make no attempt to be exhaustive, nor are they encyclopedic in their approach to biography. ... The pieces have been written by authors who have a sound familiarity with their biographical subjects; more important, I have searched for contributors who can make significant insights into the personalities of their subjects, and are able to do more than list biographical data that could be found elsewhere. ...
... James emerged from the shadows for only one brief period. In 1631, he was selected by some Bristol merchants to see if there was a passage leading from Hudson's newly discovered bay into the fabled Pacific. After an unsuccessful search (for there was no passage), James wintered near the northeast corner of Charlton Island, and returned to Bristol the following summer. In 1633, James published an account of his expedition: The Strange and Dangerous Voyage of Captain Thomas James. ... Thomas James was the fourth explorer to winter in that vast, inland sea; he was preceded by Henry Hudson (1610-11), Thomas Button (1612-13), and Jens Munk (1619-20). If we compare James with his predecessors, he stands up very well. He explored more miles of coastline than any of the others. And being a thoughtful and experienced leader of men, he did not suffer the dissension that wracked Hudson's crew. Nor did he suffer the frightful mortality that almost wiped out the Button and Munk expeditions. Munk lost 61 of the total complement of 64 men who sailed with him. James, in contrast, lost only six out of a crew of 22 men - two to accident, and four to scurvy.
Sir George Simpson, overseas Governor-in-Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company, is remembered chiefly for his success in integrating the field operations of the rival Hudson's Bay and North West Companies after their union in 1821. No explorer himself, he assisted, albeit reluctantly, John Franklin's first sortie into the Arctic and, more willingly, subsequent Admiralty expeditions. He was also responsible for organizing Company-mounted exploration and searches in the North. ... In 1844, Simpson chose a Company clerk, Dr. John Rae, to head another sortie to the Frozen Ocean. In 1846 Rae led a small party to brilliant exploring success in the northeast corner of the continent. In an 1854 Company-organized foray, Rae discovered the first relics of the lost Franklin expedition. Throughout the long search for Franklin, the Company - under Simpson's direction - assisted such Admiralty expeditions as Dr. John Richardson's with material and personnel, and mounted its own searches, such as James Anderson's 1855 journey. ...
Beechey first went to sea at the age of ten. He began his career as an arctic geographer and voyager in 1818 in the Trent, under the command of John Franklin who was accompanying H.M.S. Dorothea as it attempted to voyage across the Polar Sea. The next year, having joined William Edward Parry, he made the voyage to "Parry's West". Aboard the ship Blossom, Beechey next set out with the intention of meeting Franklin's second overland expedition, arriving five days late for his intended rendezvous with Franklin.
Miertsching learned the Eskimo language while serving at a Moravian mission at the Labrador station of Ogkak. He was directed by his order to serve as interpreter for the British Admiralty on an Arctic discovery ship searching for the Sir John Franklin expedition. Miertsching remained with Captain McClure for five years, in spite of having been assigned to the ship of Captain Collinson. Collinson, who went to Victoria Island, could probably have discovered Franklin's fate had he had an interpreter capable of questioning the natives of the Island. Such was not to be the case, however. Miertsching's portrayal of the dangers and suffering inflicted on the crew during this five year epic are dramatic and unrestrained. They are corroborated by the surgeon Armstrong who also served on this ship.
One of the last great arctic explorers of the era of boats, dogs, and sledges, Vilhjalmur Stefansson was also a highly articulate and innovative spokesman for the North. He is best known for his field work in anthropology and for his outspoken defence of the North as a rich and habitable land. ... He ... spent eighteen months with the Eskimos of the Mackenzie River delta, learning their language and folkways. From 1908 to 1912, under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History and the Canadian Government, he explored the area from the Colville River in Alaska to Cape Parry, Coronation Gulf, and Victoria Island in Canada's western Arctic, where he observed "blond" types among the Copper Eskimos. His finale as an active arctic explorer was leadership of the Canadian Government expedition of 1913-18 to the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic. It was marred by eleven fatalities when ice crushed its base ship, Karluk. Stefansson and others, who had gone ashore to hunt, were unable to help the twenty-five people left on board. ... Having completed his last arctic journey at age 39, Stefansson entered the second half of his life, that of a researcher and writer, preaching the gospel of the North - its livability and potentialities. ...