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Mystery Explored: SubZero: The Fate of the Polar Bear
Expedition Dates: April 4 – 14 & May 11 – 20, 2007

Summary:

The polar bear depends on summer ice in the arctic in order to live, yet summer ice is shrinking. Why is it melting, how quickly will it disappear, and what can scientists learn about the fate of the polar bear? To find out, I traveled to an invitation-only ice camp 200 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska where I lived on the ice with scientists from around the world. We studied the ice using helicopters to fly above it, scientists to walk over it, and even a nuclear submarine and divers to travel under it. The data were gathered and coordinated by a team of experts from a variety of professions, universities, and government agencies. For weeks, we studied pressure ridges, leads, and ice keels, taking core samples and depth measurements to determine what exactly was happening to the ice. I then traveled to Shishmaref, Alaska, a small town of Inupiat Eskimos that is quickly losing its land due to climate change. I spoke with the mayor and met several village elders who told me about the changes they’re seeing in the landscape and in the wildlife. The final verdict: summer arctic ice is melting far quicker than anyone had thought, and the outlook for those in the arctic is not optimistic, especially for the polar bear.


Sponsoring Institution: Discovery Channel

Experts involved:
Dr. Peter Wadhams
Dr. Jennifer Hutchings
Dr. Janet Warburton
Dr. Cathleen Geiger
Dr. Katie Breen
Mr. Kevin Parkhurst
Mr. Fred Karig
Mr. Davis Sokpuk
Mr. Jeff Nayokpuk

Locations Visited:
Prudhoe Bay, Alaska
Icecamp, Beaufort Sea
Nome, Alaska
Shishmaref, Alaska


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