Double tap to boop the snoot. Meet Brage. He is a HUGE grey wolf and the alpha male of his pack of 5 wolves at a national wildlife education center in Norway. His pack is acclimated to interacting with humans and they serve as ambassadors in a country that is desperately in need of a change-of-heart when it comes to how they deal with predators. All over the world wolves are vilified and misunderstood, persecuted and exterminated, and pushed to the point of local extinction. The role they play in the ecosystem cannot be understated and is only rivaled by their beauty and power. I can safely say that I am changed after spending time giving wolf massages and watching their every move. In a country where wolves are often shot on sight, I am totally fine with this captive program that introduces people to an animal which needs our help to reestablish themselves in the wild. Captive wildlife is a complicated subject, so take it easy in the comment section and rest easy knowing Brage and his pack have an awesome home.
Sea ice and the furthest north I've ever been. Further north than anyone onboard has every been. Further north than the ship itself has ever been. At the moment I took this photo, there were literally only a handful of humans to the north of us. The only land further north is a sliver of Ellesmere Island and the northern tip of Greenland far to our west. This is the closest I've ever been to the North Pole and I suspect, for many of us in the expedition world, that distance will steadily shrink as the years and ice go by the wayside.
All aboard the cuddle train. We found this big momma polar bear and her two very fat cubs on our last day in Svalbard. Although the ice is fully gone from the archipelago at this time of year, she has managed to keep her cubs healthy and position themselves in an area where historically sea ice will form first, thus giving them a head start on seal hunting season. This section of coast was full of polar bears eating grasses and sorrels (we counted 10 in a few hours) so clearly this is a known spot for bears waiting out the long summer, but these healthy cubs were certainly the highlight of our trip and left us with a little bit of hope for the region.
Why are these Antarctic killer whales brown? These unique types of killer whales spend so much time in nutrient-rich polar waters that algae begin to grow on their skin, turning them an odd bronze color. To counter this potentially harmful growth, these animals will make maintenance migrations up to warmer waters, killing the algae and cleaning their skin. As far as we know, Antarctic killer whales are the only mammals to make a migration not associated with breeding or feeding.
If you ever wondered how horned puffins got their name, just zoom in on this beautiful bird's awesome face and have a gander at its fleshy 'horns'. We recently spent several days exploring the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness and it was an amazing experience. The title is far too long for a place that elicits so many "wow"s. All you really need to know that this broad swath of coastline and numerous islands are home to about 75% of Alaska marine birds, which is about 20 million sea birds and at this time of the year they're all busily tending to nests, eggs, and new chicks. I'm not lucky enough to capture a shot like this on the first attempt and it could only be achieved in a place with thousands of puffins coming and going on their daily routine.
This is a confusing image. It's also a complicated behavior that still isn't totally understood. There are a LOT of body parts from a lot of different whales. It's hard to make sense of the image but all you need to know is that humpback whales are capable of using tools, building long term alliances with non-family members, and they're really damn cool. Cooperative bubble net foraging is still one of the most fascinating animal behaviors I've ever seen and the fact that it's still holds many unanswered questions makes it even more intriguing.
Can you imagine the force it takes to break a giant iceberg into pieces? It's easy, just subject it to the constant onslaught and never ending pressure from the sea. It's a little like being interrogated by your family about why you don't have kids yet.
One of the great joys in my life is watching full-grown men giggle with joy as they smash through sea ice in a world-class super yacht. We spend a lot of time ice cruising in Antarctica and I can't wait to go back to the deep south later this year with @eyos-expeditions.#antarctica#ice#drone
As soon as the eagle stepped off the cliff the colony of black-legged kittywakes exploded with calls and every bird took to the wing. Some of the pesky little gulls even dive bombed the eagle as they chased it away from the colony. With so many eyes keeping eye out for danger, the kittywakes make for a noisy and formidable safe for this eagle to crack. Searching for unattended chicks among the rock ledges, the eagle will likely return several times throughout the season in the hopes of securing an easy meal.
Unbeknownst to us, this family of brown bears had been taking a nap in the thick brush very close to us. We were chatting away when suddenly the brush started to rustle and I got a glimpse of fur. We quickly hushed and directed our attention to the bear as she slowly walked up the hillside. A smaller bush moved off to the side. And then another. Two cubs must also be nearby, but the brush was too thick to actually see them. We watched as the group reached a small learning and slowly made their way over the rise and out of sight. What an incredible, mellow encounter. We didn’t even know the bears were there, but we were making enough noise to alert them to our presence and everyone went their separate ways in peace.
As the bears slipped from sight and we were just about to leave the cove, the bushes on the hillside suddenly began to rustle in the spot where the female had been laying down. A small brown head popped up from the green leaves. A third, unknown cub looked around with huge eyes and began to scream in panic and desperation. It almost sounded like it was calling out “MOM!”. My heart raced. I now understand that the sound of a panicked cub is the scariest sound on Earth. Where there is a scared cub it means only one thing. Just as soon as the cub made its second scream the brush began to crash and dance as She raced back towards her frightened offspring. She stood up, towering over the scene and her gaze was direct and purposeful. She immediately locked her eyes onto us and the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. Her neck was wide and her brow focused all of her motherly instincts towards us. Through us. She was the epitome of dedication. Of power. And at that moment, of danger.
I’ve never been happier to be in a Zodiac, floating safely in the middle of that small cove. I don’t know if she would have neutralized us if we would have been on shore. My gut tells me we were close enough to the unknown cub to be considered a threat. I shudder to think about what that means. I learned a valuable lesson that day: some cubs sleep deeper than others.
Here's what it looked like after the reunion.
It was such a pleasure to return to Alaska with @eyosexpeditions. I started my expedition career here and I had no idea how much I had missed those massive mountains and wild waters. Having stepped away for a few years I was blown away by how much Southeast Alaska has changed. It's actually scary. Despite the challenges of seeing a place you love facing uncertain times, going further afield I into the far Western reaches of Alaska has only added fuel to this fiery relationship. It was also refreshing to meet up with old friends who are committed to sharing and protecting this unique place. I want nothing more than to return as soon as possible for dedicated observation and documentation of this frontier land. Who wants to join me? Enjoy these unedited iPhone vids. Next stop: Norway