In 1614, Dutch whalers established the camp, later village, Smeerenburg on Arctic Amsterdam island close to bigger Spitsbergen island. They especially aimed at killing slow-swimming bowhead whales.
From Groningen University in the Netherlands:
PhD defence Sandra Comis
Excavated Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century whalers’ clothing from Spitsbergen
15 November 2017
A series of archaeological excavations carried out by the Ar[c]tic Centre of the University of Groningen between 1979-1981 uncovered the remains of a Dutch whaling station on Spitsbergen. Hundreds of textile fragments were found in and around the houses and the blubber furnaces, that were exploited from 1614 to around 1600 [sic; 1660]. Amongst the finds were fragments of felt hats, jackets, breeches, stockings and mittens. The men evidently wore their normal winter clothing at work. The remains of textiles were also found in the graves of seven whalers who died during the overwintering attempt of 1634-1635.
In 1980, excavations were also conducted on the island Zeeuwse Uitkijk [now: Ytre Norskøya]. Here the graves of 50 whalers were investigated. The graves contained a total of 33 knitted caps, one fur-brimmed leather cap, eight jackets and four pairs of breeches, either complete or in fragments, as well as several stockings. On the basis of the clothing styles some of the graves can be dated to the period between 1650 to around 1750. This forms the largest collection of workmen’s clothing from this period in Europe.
In an interview with Dutch daily De Volkskrant of 22 November 2017, Ms Comis said these clothes, made for winter in the temperate Netherlands, were wholly inadequate for Arctic Svalbard.
Climate foiled Europeans’ early exploration of North America. ‘A Cold Welcome’ examines how the Little Ice Age and other factors shaped colonial history: here.
This video is about great skuas.
I saw these birds, eg, off Spitsbergen.
This video is about the red phalarope, Phalaropus fulicarius.
I saw these beautiful birds in Spitsbergen.
This is a black guillemot video.
I have been privileged to see these beautiful birds; both in summer plumage in Svalbard and in winter plumage off the North Sea coast.
This 2015 video about Polar bears in Alaska is called Bears of the Last Frontier.
From Polar Bears International:
A Challenging Ice Year in Svalbard?
Monday, February 22, 2016 – 11:29
Contributor: Andrew Derocher
The winter of 2015/16 has been a wild one for the Arctic. January was warm beyond belief across the Arctic, with sea ice tracking at record low levels. Svalbard’s polar bears, in particular, were challenged by the virtual absence of sea ice anywhere near the cluster of islands until late December.
When I worked in Svalbard with the Barents Sea Population, we were based on Hopen Island in the southeast corner of the archipelago. At times, up to 40 female polar bears denned there, but it was clear that they were sensitive to sea ice conditions. If the ice didn’t arrive at the island by the first week of December, females couldn’t reach the area in time to den and had to go elsewhere.
While Hopen Island lies at the southern range of the denning habitat in Svalbard, 2015 presented new challenges to bears throughout the Barents Sea population. Sea ice was very late arriving at Kong Karls Land, which is a major and critically important denning area for the population. Kong Karls Land is what I consider one of the three jewels of polar bear denning. Along with the Churchill denning area in Canada and Wrangel Island in Russia, these three areas have unusually high densities of denning females.
Kong Karls Land can have 80 dens a year in a rather small area. Bogen Valley on Kongsøya (Kings Island) used to be like a polar bear condominium complex: Females often denned a minute’s walk from their neighbor. Some females, probably a bit bored after months in a den, would move their cubs to other dens if the former resident had already taken her cubs out to the ice.
What happened to denning in 2015/16 in Svalbard won’t be known until the Norwegian field crew reports back. It’s a worrisome time. Sea ice didn’t arrive until December in much of the archipelago. The changes in Svalbard have come much faster than expected.
Many of the areas where I studied bears from 1996-2002 are no longer polar bear habitat: They don’t have any sea ice now. While the recent COP21 agreement in Paris is a positive step forward, the challenges for polar bears remain as they were. We all have a role to play and the Paris Agreement is a promising start, but we need additional leadership and a fast transition to a low-carbon future to address the challenges ahead.