Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Arctic Sea Ice: Careful What You Wish For

Over the course of the 2020 - 2021 ice season, despite the waste of perfectly good frigid air when the circumpolar vortex broke down allowing the cold to descend first on Europe, then on North America down to the Mexican border, then back to Europe for a chilly Spring, through it all I was cheerleading the fact that one of the two 'plugs' to the Arctic basin, the Bering Sea, Bering Strait, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea area (top center in this view) had iced up better than it had in years:


Especially note the greens into yellows along the Russian coast. That is eight to ten foot-thick ice.

And that's the problem. As you go around that headland, Cape Dezhnev, the easternmost point of the contiguous Eurasian landmass, the geography has a bunch of fjords.

From the Russian Geographical Society, April 25: 

Is It Necessary to Save Beluga Whales Captured by Ice in Penkigngei Bay In Chukotka


A small pod of beluga whales was captured by ice in Chukchi Penkigngei Bay. They cannot return to the ocean and are forced to stay near several areas of free water 40 km from the open sea. The dramatic situation sparked controversy. Both the possible help to the animals and the position of non-interference in the affairs of nature are discussed. Specially for the rgo.ru, the situation was assessed by the executive secretary of the Russian Geographical Society in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Candidate of Biological Sciences Denis Litovka.

According to the scientist, who has been studying marine mammals all his life, humans have several options. It is possible to start active rescue of the animals, but it is not guaranteed that the beluga whales will appreciate these attempts properly. Another way is to place their fate in the hands of the local population, which has the legal right to hunt sea animals in the area. There are grounds for this – the corresponding quota has been allocated by the Federal Agency for Fisheries. True, the aborigines, following the code of honor, can choose not to hunt in such a situation. The Chukotka government believes that everything possible should be done to prevent the situation from getting worse. Spring may come to the aid of the belugas, which has already begun in the Arctic.

"People always have several options. The first is the position of any naturalist: observe and do nothing. It coincides with the ‘laissez-faire’, established in national parks and reserves. It does not apply to our case, since the pod is in Penkigngei Bay which is a recreational and economic zone. Sea hunters can work  here and indigenous people, hunt. The second option is active rescue. Now the public believes that if 10-20 belugas die, it will be a disaster for all of humanity”, mentioned Litovka.

According to him, the captives of the bay most likely belong to the Canadian pod of belugas – one of the largest in the world. Its number reaches 40 thousand specimens.

“These 10–20 belugas will not be included in the arithmetic or statistical error. This pod is in excellent condition. On average, 166 belugas are harvested from it every year. Sometimes more, sometimes less. What are 10–20 belugas? If there were more, but how do we calculate now? " said the scientist....


And three weeks later the whales are still stuck.

Previously on the Beluga beat:

May 2019

Of all the stories that came out after the fishermen saw the whale-wearing-a-harness  and realized it seemed pretty at-ease around people was this from one of the whale watchers who went out to look at the Beluga. First the background from the above mentioned May Barents Observer story:

....The beluga whale wearing a harness with mounts for a GoPro camera that first was spotted by local fishermen on Norway’s Barents Sea coast in late April is still swimming around in the harbor of Hammerfest.

Making big headlines in Norway and around the globe, the locals name him ‘Whaledimir’ (Hvaldimir in Norwegian) after national broadcaster NRK made a poll asking their audience to name the animal. Today the beluga is stripped free from the harness, but is refusing to leave his new life of freedom in Norway. Experts say the whale will likely not survive without being fed by humans....
To which we added:

Hvaldimir? What kind of name is Hvaldimir?
Whaley McWhaleface should have been a lock.

There is some question whether this Beluga returning a woman's dropped phone is Hvaldimar or just some rando phone retrieving cetacean:


Here's the story and video of the retrieval.
Incredible Footage Shows Whale Retrieve Phone Woman Dropped In The Ocean