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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


The Science of Protecting the Arctic

Posted On September 28, 2016 by


A year ago, President Obama became the first sitting US President to visit the Arctic.

He stood on the banks of Bristol Bay with a freshly caught salmon in hand, joined schoolchildren in a traditional Yup’ik dance, and stood at the toe of the rapidly shrinking Exit Glacier. He experienced awe-inspiring Alaska with its rich cultures and traditions that depend on a healthy, thriving environment. He also saw the effects of climate change firsthand from the ecological impacts of a receding glacier to a village forced to relocate because of severe coastal erosion.

After that trip President Obama said, “What’s happening in Alaska is happening to us…it’s our wakeup call.”

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Local Concerns of Opening the Arctic and the Crystal Serenity

Posted On September 8, 2016 by

Guest blog by: Austin Ahmasuk

Last month the Crystal Serenity set sail from the Alaskan port of Seward on a voyage through the Northwest Passage to New York City, making it the first cruise ship of its size to attempt this journey. The luxury liner stopped at ports of call along the Alaskan coast, including the town of Nome (population 3,850). Thanks to Nome resident Austin Ahmasuk for sharing his perspective with us.

Peering seaward south of River Street at 7:57 am, I saw the ship climb over the horizon as it materialized out of the fog. The P/V Crystal Serenity, with 1,700 passengers and crew aboard, arrived on time as predicted and slowly made its way shoreward. My eyes were glued to its deliberate movements. I knew it was big and, as the largest cruise ship to visit Nome got closer, its size towered in contrast to Nome’s normally modest waterfront.

I scanned for signs of its escort vessel, the RRS Ernest Shackleton. It surely must be near to provide assistance in case something went wrong. But the Ernest Shackleton was nowhere to be seen. The website showed that it was in Baffin Bay, Canada several thousand miles distant!

If something were to go wrong—an oil spill or shipwreck—our small town’s local volunteers and handful of response vessels would be the ones expected to answer the call.

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Cruising the Northwest Passage: A Symbol of a Rapidly Changing Arctic

Posted On August 17, 2016 by

Photo: Ocean Conservancy / Sarah Bobbe

SEWARD, ALASKA – Small only in comparison to the rocky peaks surrounding the city, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity easily dwarfed every other structure in Seward, Alaska. On August 16, she slipped her moorings and started a month-long voyage through the Northwest Passage with over 1,700 passengers and crew onboard. 

This is an important milestone to us. The impact of climate change has now ushered in an era where a luxury cruise ship is able to sail from the North Pacific to the Atlantic via the fabled Northwest Passage—a route that once defeated even the most intrepid explorers. While other vessels have made the transit, this is the first time a tour ship of this size—almost the length of three football fields—has attempted the passage. Crystal Serenity’s journey is yet another symbol of a rapidly changing Arctic.

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6 Surprising Facts about Wild Salmon

Posted On August 10, 2016 by

Today is Alaska’s first Wild Salmon Day! Join us as we celebrate this iconic species with some unusual facts about salmon.

1. There are five species of wild salmon found in Alaska, King (Chinook) salmon, Red (sockeye) salmon, Silver (coho) salmon, chum (keta) salmon and pink salmon.

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Five Reasons to Love the Arctic Tern

Posted On June 8, 2016 by

Call up the Guinness Book of World Records! In the news this morning, we learned that a tiny bird from the Farne Islands, in England, has logged the longest migration ever recorded. The Arctic tern’s journey to Antarctica and back was recorded as a total of 59,650 miles—that’s more than twice the circumference of the planet. Astounding!

Here are five reasons that I love the Arctic Tern (and I hope you will, too)!

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Photos: Life in the Arctic

Posted On April 27, 2016 by

My name is Sarah Bobbe and I am Ocean Conservancy’s Arctic Program Specialist based in Anchorage, Alaska. TIn case you missed it, this week I took over the Ocean Conservancy Instagram account, and wanted to post the images here! I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to share my passion for the Arctic and the conservation of this region with you all.

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Arctic Wildlife: Get to Know Brittle Stars

Posted On March 30, 2016 by

Our blog series on the lesser known (but just as cool) species of the Arctic continues with brittle stars. Read our other blogs from the series: polar cod and Arctic copepods.

Brittle stars are seafloor dwelling organisms that appear to be a quirkier, more slender version of a starfish. Although they are closely related to starfish—brittle stars differ in many ways.

Brittle stars have a distinct central disc and (usually) five skinny, flexible arms. The central disk (approximately 2.5 cm in diameter in the species Ophiura sarsii) consists of a skeleton of calcium carbonate and contains all the brittle stars’ internal organs. The disk’s appending five arms (circa 9 cm long in Ophiura sarsii) twist and coil to enable movement across the seafloor. Not only do their arms enable locomotion: brittle stars can purposely release on or move arms to evade a predator! As long as its central disk remains, the brittle star will continue to function, and its limbs will regenerate.

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