Arctic Wildlife Above and Below the Beaufort Sea

We completed science operations on September 12 after conducting a successful ROV dive and collecting several more gravity cores in the Western Mackenzie Trough and Yukon Shelf. Although this is a geosciences expedition, we have made several observations of marine life as well. Topside, we have seen numerous species of birds, including snow geese, ringed seals, and, excitingly, we had an opportunity to observe a polar bear on drifting Arctic sea ice.

Photo 1

Photo 1: A polar bear on drifting Arctic sea ice.

It was amazing to see first-hand the harsh environment in which this bear thrives and a testament to the fact that animals can evolve to fill remarkable ecological niches. Underwater, during our remotely operated vehicle (ROV dives), we observed dense populations of species of soft coral and many basket stars, crinoids, anemones, carnivorous sponges, skates and other fish.

Photo 2

Photo 2: A soft coral and basket star. Water depth is 147 m.

Photo 3

Photo 3: One of many species of anemones, about the size of a lemon. Water depth is 1,035 m.

Photo 4

Photo 4: A deep-sea skate. Water depth is 1,008 m.

On September 15, we passed by the rocky Diomede Islands in the Bering Strait. These two islands — one belonging to Russia and the other to the United States — are separated by only three kilometres of water. The Diomede Islands had to have drawn the attention of early humans as they entered North America across the Bering land bridge from Eurasia during prehistoric times when the sea level was much lower. It’s interesting to ponder early human explorations as we complete ours.

Photo 5

Photo 5: Group photo of science team and Araon crew near Diomede Islands.

We disembark in Nome, Alaska, on September 16, and then the science teams will return to their respective home institutes and begin the work of processing the incredible volume of data that has been collected. We have had a wonderful journey and greatly appreciate the hospitality of the Korea Polar Research Institute and the crew of the RV Araon.

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