I was minding my own business, shopping for boat parts online when out of the corner of my eye I happened to glance at Twitter, and there was a Muskox. OK, this might be more important than impellers for water pumps. What’s this? They are freezing? Now I’m distracted. More than distracted, I was blown away by this article on the NatGeo site. (Ah, the evils of social media…) Seriously though, if a headline says climate change is causing Muskox to be “entombed in ice” then what does that mean for us?
Visions of Savai frozen forever as she hangs upside down from the dodger flashed before my eyes…but wait, this forecast from NOAA says the Arctic, and specifically the northern Alaskan coastline is warm, warmer than usual for the next three months. That’s what all the brown means. So that to me at least means…less ice. What gives?
Well, it turns out that the Arctic is a fragile place, but the weather is not so fragile. It can be wicked. And because the land is flat, the sea has serious power during these long dark winters when it is not capped in ice. I quote NatGeo, for those of you who don’t click on links…
“in a type of freak weather event likely to become more common, more than 50 muskoxen died swamped in ice, as gusts of howling winds drove ice and freezing waters from a tidal surge so far inland that fish were found a half-mile from shore. Rising seas are making such surges bigger and more common.”
Yikes and double Yikes!
Muskoxen are one of the creatures I really look forward to seeing. They are cool, shaggy, and seemingly unconcerned with just about everything. They have that musk-thing going too, at least the males do during rutting season. And apparently, sailors have been seeing them regularly. Or at least they used to. But they are one of the many mammals that are deeply affected by climate change. Is that a trace of worry I see now underneath all that hair?
This trip for us is a learning experience, and a chance to shed some light on a remote corner of the planet that may be a bit of a bellwether for the rest of the world. Climate change is crazy–the map says Seattle, even SE Alaska are predicted to be COLDER this year–thank you La Nina! But up north, where the ice is forming that we will be dodging next August, things aren’t quite right. This is what we are heading north to learn about.
I hope that my Twitter feeds and our socially conscious crew can both continue to learn and to share. We are at the beginning of our journey, but already there are storm clouds on the horizon regardless of how thick our insulation is. If the muskoxen are freezing in spite of the warming that NOAA is forecasting, well, then maybe we ought to be worried…