Monday, September 8, 2008

#16 Polar Bear II

Bear Number Two, photos by Adriane Colburn

September 2, 2008

Number of Polar Bears seen on the Healy cruise in August 2007 = 21
Number of Polar Bears seen on the Healy cruise in August 2008 = 4

This comparison is nothing more than an anecdote, an observation, but still sits somewhat uncomfortably. [If you’d like more on polar bears, please see my earlier entry # 8 on the topic.] We also saw very few seals this year. Think food chain: where there are seals -- and ice -- there are bears. Fewer seals, fewer bears.

Three of the bears spotted this cruise were seen in the wee hours, one of those for only a fleeting moment; the fourth, spotted on September 2, was seen at a time when most of the crew was awake. The bear also remained in sight for quite a while.

It was fascinating to watch the bear sniffing for prey, poking its nose into the water, testing different routes between the ice islands and open water it encountered. I’ll be bringing back a short film of the bear produced by the NOAA videographer traveling with us, David Sillicorn. For now, here are two still shots of this gorgeous animal. The picture in my mind's eye is all of us standing on the bow in collective awe, really, watching the bear wend its way across the ice scape.

Icebreaking into the Arctic

The USCGC HEALY embarked Barrow, Alaska, in August 2008 to map the US extended continental shelf, or ECS, in the Arctic Ocean (HLY 0805). Healy sailed again from 7 August to 16 September, 2009 (HLY 0905) to continue ECS mapping, joining with the Canadian icebreaker, the Louis S. St.-Laurent. The two vessels mapped together again in 2010 (see HLY1002) and 2011 (HLY1102).

As the only law professor on the science crew, I was along on HLY 0805 and 0905 to better understand
the science behind the legal process that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea establishes for states making ECS submissions. As to why the US is mapping now, even though it has not yet acceded to the Convention, read on both here, and in the Law of the Sea notes below.

Thanks to
Vermont Law School and especially to Larry Mayer, Director of the University of New Hampshire's Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, for making my part in the trip possible.
Thanks, as well, to Adriane Colburn, for opening new windows on and for the deep.