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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy


The Future: Arctic Five-Year Plan

Posted On October 18, 2016 by

We have less than a month to keep the Arctic Ocean safe from offshore drilling.

Right now, President Obama is preparing a new five-year leasing plan, and it could allow risky oil and gas leasing to go forward in the Arctic Ocean. We can’t let that happen.

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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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Exploring Icebergs in Our Nation’s Capital

Posted On August 6, 2016 by

When the heat index is well over 100 degrees, Washington, D.C. locals will do whatever it takes to stay cool. This summer, the National Building Museum is making it easier than ever to escape the heat—by bringing an icy environment straight to our backyard.

Their new exhibit, Icebergs, is a massive installation that allows visitors to immerse themselves in a polar ecosystem. Designed by James Corner Field Operations, the tallest iceberg stretches 56’ high to the third story of the museum and allows panoramic views from high above the “ocean” surface. The entire system is built from re-usable construction materials, such as scaffolding and polycarbonate paneling.

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Poles Apart: The Differences between Antarctica and the Arctic

Posted On June 30, 2016 by

This blog was written by Roger Di Silvestro, a field correspondent for Ocean Conservancy.

Have you ever seen a cartoon or advertisement that showed penguins and polar bears cavorting together in the snow?

On the flip side, have you ever seen a documentary film that showed penguins and polar bears together in the wild? Didn’t think so, since they live poles apart. Nevertheless, not everyone (advertisers included) understands the difference between Antarctica and the Arctic. Here are eight ways to tell them apart.

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10 Things to Know About the Walrus

Posted On May 19, 2016 by

This blog was written by Roger Di Silvestro, a field correspondent for Ocean Conservancy.

When you think of walruses, you may picture their tusks—the huge pinniped’s most familiar characteristic. But there is so much more to these “elephants of the sea”! Here are some less-obvious facts about these ice-dwelling creatures.

1. Biologists classify the walrus as a carnivore, or meat eater, which puts the animal in the same broad category as wolves, foxes and lions.

2. The polar bear, weighing as much as 1,200 pounds, is often touted as North America’s largest terrestrial carnivore. But it’s a mere wisp compared to the ocean-going male walrus, which can tip the scales in excess of 3,700 pounds.

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Icy Waters for Shell

Posted On May 10, 2016 by

Yesterday, Shell gave up almost all of its oil and gas leases in the Chukchi Sea. This marks another nail in the coffin for risky offshore oil drilling in the Arctic.

But Shell still has one lease remaining in the Chukchi Sea, along with leases in the Beaufort Sea off northern Alaska. What’s more, the Obama Administration is still considering whether to allow the sale of more offshore oil leases in Arctic waters.

There is too much at stake to risk additional leasing. Will you join us in protecting our Arctic by taking action today?

Some of the world’s largest seabird populations congregate in the Arctic. Iconic wildlife thrives in this amazing ecosystem, including polar bears, beluga whales and ringed seals.

Please take action by asking the Obama Administration to drop Arctic leasing from the final version of the 2017 to 2022 leasing program.