Arctic

Yukon River

With its source in British Columbia, Canada, the Yukon River is a mighty river that flows through Yukon Territory, cuts horizontally through Alaska, and then discharges into the Bering Sea. Its total length spans some 3,700 km. Right at half -length of the Alaskan part, mountains of a modest height close in on the river beds, with the river at some parts measuring a mere 200 meter in width. Locals call this part Rapid Canyon. Every year June to August this becomes a perfect spot for the king salmon and chum salmon, that come all the way up from Bering Sea. During the short summer season, fishing camps are set up at various places along the Yukon River, and along this Rapid Canyon in particular. The fishing camps are places where Athabaskan Indians and others who rely on salmon for their food in winter, come after leaving their villages, set up camps on the river beds, and sustain their lives by catching salmon. They set up camp each with their family, and live together with their family on the river bed. Quite a few of these kind of camps are scattered along the Yukon. Each camp holds a number of facilities, for example a simple hut, which becomes the center of life, a place that serves as sort of a drying rack for drying the gutted salmon and a shack where the salmon is smoked. The hut that becomes the living quarters of course is the place to hide from rain, but also doubles as the bedroom, kitchen and dining room.

Avoiding foot wounds

The soles of the feet of sled dogs are robust and snow doesn’t stick to them. The soles of their feet might seem trivial, however this is the part of their feet that constantly comes in contact with the snow. When temperatures are below -30C, ice crystals become like shattered glass, and dogs can get wounded on their feet. It’s at such moments that there are differences in the degree dogs get wounded on their feet, depending on whether they have strong or weak foot soles. Furthermore, dogs sweat at the soles of their feet, and depending on the quality of the fur on their feet, snow sticks to the fur and forms large snow balls, and that can become ice balls. Such ice balls cause injuries to the dogs’ feet. If wounded at the sole of their feet, it can form pus, or otherwise the pain can make their appetite go away, making it necessary to retire them in the midst of the race. To avoid such a scenario, dogs with weak foot soles need to always wear a kind of socks -called booties. As it is a lot of work for the musher to make them wear these booties, the best is to use dogs with strong foot soles as sled dogs, thus avoiding all of this trouble. To breed excellent dogs suitable for racing, one has to think of all these details.

Leader Dogs

Only a few dogs can run in front as leader. For dogs running in front of the others is quite stressful. Therefore running in front is not for all. For that reason, it is best to take as many leaders as there are, and have them take turns running in front position, so to reduce their mental burden. It is the same with baseball, the team that can put up the largest number of skilled pitchers, is best suited to win. The other dogs just have to follow the dog ahead of them, so they endure much less mental stress. So in order to get as many puppies with leader blood, the leader dogs are bred with other leaders. They have both an extraordinary desire to run.

Fast food and fast dogs

During the harsh conditions of a race, the amount of energy that long distance dogs use up, is 10,000 calories per day. When you recalculate that to people, it would be comparable to 60 BigMacs of McDonalds per day for one adult. Keeping in mind that sled dog are doing that for 10 days in a row, one has to admire sled dogs for the ability to consume so much.

Polar night

What is a polar night?

It is the exact opposite phenomenon of a polar day, namely a polar night is the phenomenon that the sun does not come up for a whole day. For example in mid-October the sun sets on the western horizon, and then the next dawn does not come until mid-February. This means therefore, that the sun is not visible for 4 months in a row.

The winter solstice around December 20th is when it is darkest. This day around noon, the Southern sky will become a little colored in dark orange, and a short while later the sky is covered in absolute darkness.

Temperature

Temperature below -40 degree

Outside temperature of -40 degree do not feel cold, but rather they make your skin feel painful.
When breathing through your nose,it makes your nostrils, nose hair, freeze.
When going outside, people take a thermos with them for hot drinks like cofee and tea.
Old-fashoined thermos-bins have glass inside which becomes brittle when frozen, so only stainless models are used.
Boiling water put into a thermos, keeps warm for 7 to 8 hours, even in the arctic weather, but when time passes, it gets colder and colder.

Seals

Seals, sea lions or walruses, which can be found in the Arctic?

At the North Pole we find seals and walruses, whereas in Antarctica we find seals and so-called fur seals that belong to the family of sea lions.

Seals are unable to stand on their front legs, when on shore, they have to move by crawling on their belly. They have only two openings for ears, so their ears are not visible from outside. Seals can be found both in the Arctic and in Antarctica, but those have a completely different behavior. The seals living in the North Pole area, when they come along human, will flee away and hide in a hole in the ice, even when the the distance is still 100 m. They do so because they know that humans eat seals and are their natural enemy just as the polar bear.

Harp seals have a grey fur with a pattern of black stripes. Their menu is made up of all kinds of fish, shrimps, and crabs. They become 1.5 to 2 m in length.

Ringed seals have a grey fur with a pattern of rings in different shades of black all over their body. Their menu includes varieties of small fish and large plankton. They become 1 to 1.5 in length.

Apart from these two species, in the Arctic, one can also spot the largest seal of all, the bearded seal which becomes 2 to 3 m in length. For people living in the Arctic, this is a very welcome source of food. The meat that the Inuit eat the most throughout the year, is seal meat.

Polar bear

The arctic hare and polar bear

In the North Pole area, there can be found wild hares. The hares living in the Arctic are more than 50 cm large. Not only hares, but for animals of the same kind one can say in general, that the colder the place they inhabit, the larger they get. This is because large size is advantageous to keep the right body temperature. In summer, the arctic hare feeds itself with grasses and flowers, but in winter it digs in the snow to eat moss and trees. The hare is an important source of food for man, and it tastes like chicken.

Male polar bears can become as large as 800 kg, and they are the largest carnivores on earth. They live from eating seals and fish.

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