Virtual tour of the Arctic Tent
WWF Nytorv Arctic Photo Exhibition
Nowhere on Earth are the effects of global warming more apparent and alarming than in our polar regions. Thinning and retreat of the arctic sea ice and the thawing of frozen ground are on track to unleash a torrent of climate change feedbacks that will wash away ecosystems that have evolved over thousands of years. These same climate feedbacks will also amplify global warming to levels dangerous to life in many parts of the world far removed from the Arctic.
As the ice recedes, more accessible arctic lands and waters will increase worldwide competition for resources that are becoming scarcer in the south, leading to more commercial and military activity that could further threaten an already fragile ecosystem. We need to take action now to protect the Arctic – and the livelihoods of the people who live there. Firstly, we must slow the impacts of climate change, and secondly, we must try to find ways to buffer the impacts of climate change. Only by doing both will we give natural systems in the Arctic a chance to survive.
This exhibition reminds us of the values that stand to be lost in the Arctic, and shows us some of the emerging threats.
Disappearing sea ice
One day in mid winter, the early sunset made the ice filled waters in front of a huge glacier look like a warm golden inferno. But the blue colour of the small icebergs reveals how cold it really was, -40°C.
The Arctic symbol of climate change
A large polar bear boar standing high atop an iceberg floating in the Beaufort sea, looking for his favourite prey – the ringed seal, offshore from the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska. Photographing in the Arctic is often filled with long periods of waiting - waiting for weather, waiting for animals, waiting for the right light - but these are always followed by times of excitement and wonder.
Protecting polar bears
This one year old polar bear cub was playing with her sibling out on the pack ice. Suddenly she caught my scent in the air and started walking towards my hide. Normally a true arctic predator will try to get a bite when possible, but this time she changed her mind when the hide revealed a smelly nature photographer.
Surviving in the extreme
Traditional narwhal hunting like this has been done for thousands of years and never used to threaten the narwhal as a species. Inuit use all of the narwhal, but the skin is most praised, and the ivory tusk very valuable. There are concerns that some non-kayak based hunting methods today may take more narwhals than is sustainable.
The plight of the walrus
Walruses crowd on an ice floe to rest in between diving down to feed on clams, mussels and other benthic organisms on the floor of the Continental Shelf, at the confluence of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. I flew in a 206 single engine plane with the door off, 20 miles off shore from the Inupiaq village of Wainwright, AK, to capture this image.
Bird breeding down
This image of a Black Guillemot is taken at the moment it decided we were getting too close! When photographing birds, you want to get as near as possible, which can be difficult. This area is paradise for a photographer, but it is threatened due to climate change. It would be a shame if generations to come are unable to experience the same amazing landscape.
This is what happens when you throw a mug of boiling water into the air at -51°C. It explodes into a cloud of vapour and ice. I took this photo to demonstrate the severe cold of a Northern Siberian winter. Many people have told me that they can see a face in the vapour cloud, can you?
Scraping to live
This image of reindeer being moved by Khanty and Nenets herders was taken on an epic trek. 1000 reindeer were driven from the Yamal Peninsula to Khanty-Mansiysk, a journey of over 1000 miles which took 6 months and involved crossing 10 major rivers. It was part of a project to re-establish reindeer herding after it had been decimated by the oil and gas industry - this presents the greatest threat to the herding cultures of western Siberia.
Culture and the caribou
I think that one of the key differences between polar explorers and native people of the Arctic is that while most explorers view the Arctic as a hostile environment that they need to fight and conquer, native people live in harmony with it. To me this portrait I took of Innokentiy Zharkov, a Dolgan reindeer herder on Siberia’s Taymyr Peninsula epitomises a man at one with his surroundings.
The last fisheries
I was on Unalaska Island in the Aleutians, working on assignment for WWF in the Bering sea ecoregion. I spent several days around the busy fishing port of Dutch Harbour, photographing fish factories and ships unloading their catch. This shot was taken as a boat headed out of the harbour late in the evening - with gentle colours bathing this remote island landscape.
Wolves are Europe's most controversial and most often talked about animals. Many love them, some hate them, few know anything at all about them, but everyone has an opinion. Wolves are a part of our cultural history and our natural heritage since millennia back. Wintertime, man used to follow in the tracks of the wolves, to scavenge from their kills. Wolves were then always the better hunters. They may be one of the winners from climate change.
Upsetting the equilibrium
Hundreds of whales were stranded on this island, leaving a scary sight. The whales have been coming to the same place year after year, but what will happen to the whales if the water becomes warmer every year?
This image was taken in Gjoa Haven on April 1st 2004, on Hamlet Day. The little girl in the photo was taking part in a treasure hunt as part of the Hamlet day celebrations; the treasure was in the form of Canadian dollars buried in the snow....nobody found any of it.
Perils on the ice
Crossing leads that open up in the sea ice during the late spring and early summer can be difficult and dangerous at times. I took this photo while returning from a fishing trip with Jakob Petersen near Qeqertat in North Greenland. He and I both made the jump but several of his huskies ended up in the water and we had to drag them out.
The Inupiat of northern Alaska have shared the polar bears’ environment for thousands of years. Today they are players in a world economy. Technologies have changed, but the survival of arctic communities is still tied to the environment. With global warming come worries about the future of subsistence food sources, traditional knowledge, and the life of the community itself.
The Arctic mirror
I took this photo on October 8, 2008. Soon after dawn this amazing cloud formation developed. It looked apocalyptic. After about 45 minutes the sky turned from battleship grey to pink, and it became just another stormy autumn day. None of the local Inuit that I spoke to had seen a cloud formation like that before. Was this a sign of climate change or just a rare moment in nature?
Anyone who has travelled the Arctic the last 20 years can see the dramatic changes in the climate. When I was crossing the ocean between Greenland and Svalbard in the summer of 2002, suddenly, for the first time ever in recorded history, there was no ice at all in the East Greenland current. Since then, that has happened again during another 4 summers.
Proving the problem
Sea ice breaks up to expose areas of open water called ‘leads’ and refreezes into flat areas of frozen water called ‘pans’. When two pans are pushed together by wind or currents they break up into gigantic walls of ice, called ‘pressure ridges’. These are hazards which make data collection dangerous and time consuming. This photograph was taken 568 miles from the North Geographic Pole in temperatures of -34°C.
An opening Arctic
The Arctic environment is clearly changing. Spring comes earlier, summer lasts longer, and an ice-free passage has opened up through the Arctic Ocean for the first time. The web of life is severely stressed. I offer these images as witness to an ecosystem that could be lost if present generations do not act.
The cost of oil
The Arctic is the least polluted and most wild area in the northern hemisphere. But where the few people live, many times it looks like a garbage dump. Oil drums like these are used for all kinds of fuels, but are rarely brought back south to where they came from. And a lot of pollutants from the south follow air streams up north and fall down over the Arctic, causing dangerously high levels of industrial toxins in seals, fish, polar bears - and man!
A new sea
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment
“Shipping activities pose greater risk for accidents in the Arctic than further south, because of the extreme conditions with ice, darkness and fog. The same climatic conditions also complicate the rescue and clean-up work and thus increase risks of environmental impacts as a consequence of shipping accidents.”
Arctic Shipping Activities Into The Next Decade - Norwegian Maritime Directorate
A container cargo ship being unloaded at Dudinka, the largest port in Siberia and the only one that operates year round. The port services the industrial arctic city of Norilsk where intensive mining takes place. Most of Norilsk’s enriched nickel and copper is exported from here by ship. Increased shipping in the Arctic, particularly by ice breakers during the winter months, can cause problems for native people who use the frozen sea as a highway to their hunting grounds and to visit other communities.
Sharing the top of the world
Resolute Bay, March 16th 2002, Nunavut. Pen Hadow was preparing for his record breaking North Pole solo expedition. I borrowed a 16mm semi fish eye lens for my Mamiya 645 camera, a set of step ladders and a skidoo. I found a perfect patch of sea, climbed to the very top of the step ladders and photographed Pen walking towards me. As I tipped the camera down, the horizon curved into a beautiful arc putting Pen on top of the world.
Our ambassadors of the future
This image shows the group on an excursion around the floating ice in the Arctic. The students were amazed by this breathtaking scenery, scouting for Arctic birds, seals and polar bears. They returned inspired to try to maintain this awe-inspiring place.
2 degrees = 2 much!
Melting ice floes, Qaanaaq, NW Greenland. Life changes completely in the Arctic when the summer ice no longer can be trusted or used. Polar bears have difficulty in hunting their prey - and so have the Inuit and the Chukchi. The sea ice has also always been these people's transport highways. Now it is unreliable. However, the most important lesson from the Arctic today is not "poor polar bear" and "poor Inuit". It is an early warning to all the rest of us too. Poor all of us, if we don’t get the deal sealed in Copenhagen and some real measures taken. Climate change will then affect billions of people, forcing hundreds of millions to move away from their ancestral lands. Where do you think they will want to go?