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Sea unicorn goes north as Arctic warms

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 August 2015

Record sighting of Narwhal at 88 degrees north by Russian scientific expedition.

Unexpected for the scientists was the discovery of the Narwhal - which has been called the Unicorn of the Sea - in such northerly waters. Picture: Murman TV Channel

The sighting was made by the four-month North Pole-2015 expedition on a drifting ice floe which began one degree from the pole. The 17 scientists and two dogs drifted 700 kilometres through Arctic waters. 

Unexpected for the scientists was the discovery of the Narwhal - which has been called the Unicorn of the Sea - in such northerly waters. Zoologist Vladimir Tushkevitch said it was a 'real scientific discovery' because until now such whales do not generally appear above the 82 degrees of latitude. 

Several sources said the most northernmost sightings until now have been north of Franz Joseph Land, at about 85 degrees. But Tushkevitch's sighting was much further north. 

'I stood on the observation tower with a camera and then appeared the whales - male and female,' he said after the expedition arrived back at the Russian arctic port of Murmansk on board  icebreaker Captain Dranitsin.

The images have not been released as yet. 

The scientists were met by Russian Natural Resources Minister Sergei Donskoi and the chairman of the Russian Association of Polar Explorers Arthur Chilingarov, and received a commitment that such missions will continue to be held at least until 2019.

North Pole-2015


North Pole-2015


North Pole-2015

'We are in the Arctic for a long time, forever! And in order to be here forever, we need to work hard.' Pictures:  oborona.gov.ru, Artyom Geodakyan/TASS

During this year's expedition the floe area decreased by 16 times but there was no emergency evacuation as occurred last year. The participants 'constantly fell into thawed holes', and cracks appeared user the scientific station and camp set up on the ice, requiring it to be moved to a safer location. 

Director of the State Oceanographic Institute Yuri Sychev said the expedition confirmed assumptions of scientists about rapid warming in polar regions. 'The Arctic is warming and changing rapidly,' he said. 'This relates to the quality and chemical composition of the ice and the composition of species in the biota under the ice. These findings are extremely important for the economy, so that it can prepare for the changes.'

Donskoy praised the mission for its 'really valuable' data gathering relating to biodiversity and climate change. 

Scientist Kirill Filchuk said: 'Predictions that the warming is coming, the ice disappears in the Arctic, where do they come from? This is the result of mathematical models. The only way [to confirm it]  is to come here and measure and get this data.'

Explorer Chilingrov said: 'I believe that we need to continue this work, need to seek funds. We realise that it is very important for Russia, especially today, when the government has filed an application for the enlargement of its continental shelf boundaries.

'We are in the Arctic for a long time, forever! And in order to be here forever, we need to work hard.'

Comments (2)

I have to admire these scientists for their bravery. Arctic storms are quite capable of turning an ice floe into ice cubes within a day or so. I exaggerate, of course, but even a 10km multi-year ice floe is a fragile place to fall asleep on.
John from London, London
24/07/2016 02:38
0
0
No one nos what is out there
todd, Austrailia
18/08/2015 02:55
1
1
1

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