A Flip-Flop on Spitsbergen
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Abraham Storck, Dutch Whalers near Spitsbergen, 1690, Zuiderzee Museum
Nature, World + People

A Flip-Flop on Spitsbergen

The Future of the Barents Sea
Mikołaj Golachowski
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time 5 minutes

The Barents Sea is my route to work. I sail through it on a ship filled with tourists when, as a guide, I travel north to show people the wild beauty of Spitsbergen, Franz Josef Land, and the North Pole itself.

Although it’s now merely a shadow of its former glory, the Barents Sea is still full of life. A few years back, I saw my first blue whale here. What a sight it was! Whenever a blow (absurdly called ‘a fountain’ in Polish) is spotted, passengers get excited, especially if it is a few metres high. Whales blow air forcefully, as if they are sneezing. Their breath contains compressed air, some steam, a bit of water from the blowhole, and a lot of snot.

Everyone hopes for the blue whale, but its slightly smaller cousin the fin whale is much more likely. Only when we come closer and see the grey, spotted back with a grotesquely tiny triangular dorsal fin, rolling

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On Thin Ice
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Photo by Nikołaj Kozakow
Nature, World + People

On Thin Ice

The Changing Climate in Yakutia
Michał Książek

“Very warm, only minus five degrees. No snowfall,” writes my friend from Yakutsk, the capital of Yakutia, complaining about the lack of winter. I ask other Yakut friends whether anyone remembers late October being so warm. Suoch, they answer unanimously, with the Yakut word for ‘no’. This time last year, it was -20°C. Everywhere is getting warmer, even Yakutsk; far into the mainland, covered in permafrost.

It was business as usual at first. In September, the frost set in. But then at the beginning of October, temperatures went up. There were puddles everywhere and the snow almost totally disappeared. A thaw set in, as never seen before in Yakutia. And then frost again, followed by more warming up. It used to be that once winter came, it was here to stay and you would expect the first thaw only in March. In any case, the Yakut language does not have any words for ‘thaw’; nor do the languages of the neighbouring Even, Evenki and Yukagir people. In some districts (called uluses) of Yakutia (which is 10 times larger than Poland) daily temperatures in late October have reached 3°C.

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