The adventure started with a phone call last week from the World Wildife Fund – “Scott, can you be on Kodiak Island tonight for a flight to the Chukchi Sea?” Before I could think answered “Sure, what time?”
Slowly I learned the details of the assignment as I packed my bags. Nine polar bears had been sighted swimming in the Chukchi Sea many miles off Alaska’s Arctic coast. Now there was a rare opportunity to fly with the Coast Guard and polar bear biologists on a survey to see firsthand the polar bears plight as the sea ice they depend on melts away beneath them. This was an impressive example of agency cooperation amongst the US Coast Guard, University of Alaska, US geological survey and the World Wildlife Fund. Steve Rychetnik, videographer with Sprocketheads, and myself were brought along to document the effort.
Our team met in Kodiak, home of the Alaska Coast Guard Air Station. Next morning we were at the base meeting the flight crew and discussing the plan as we boarded a monstrous 4 engine C-130 rescue airplane that would take us over 1,000 miles North, stopping in Fairbanks for fuel, then onward to Barrow to pickup additional Coast Guard personnel. We left Barrow and flew out over the Chukchi Sea and spent five and half hours looking amongst ice floes for the signs of life. We would fly for 12 hours total before landing in Fairbanks later the same evening.
Finding a white bear amongst an ocean of white ice floes while flying at 200mph turned out to be a challenge. Thankfully the flight crew let Steve and I shoot out an open side door in the back of the plane. Unfortunately, […]