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Arctic Ice: The Other Recession

Florian Schulz photographs the wildlife at the top of the world

Photography by Florian Schulz, from To the Arctic | Text by M.P. Klier

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Mother polar bear and two cubs
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While oil executives and shipping magnates were in their toasty-warm offices calculating how an ice-free Arctic will benefit their bottom line, photographer Florian Schulz was hunkered down on that ice, watching polar bears napping in the midnight sun, being roused from slumber in his riverside tent by the whoosh of hundreds of caribou hooves, lying on his stomach for hours in a traditional Inuit suit while inching ever closer to seal pups, and spending days in a blind to photograph snowy owls. His book To the Arctic (Braided River, 2012) documents the 18 months he spent at the top of the globe over the course of six years, often accompanying filmmakers from the Imax film of the same name.

The Arctic tends to get typecast as a great white nothingness thousands of miles north. But what happens in the Arctic doesn't necessarily stay in the Arctic—as we may all too soon find out: The loss of sea ice could have chaotic repercussions on global ocean currents, temperatures, sea levels, and food webs. During this precarious time when "perennial sea ice" and "permafrost" are becoming misnomers, polar bears are already struggling. This surprisingly curious and trusting mother polar bear allowed Schulz and the filmmakers to follow her and her two young cubs for five days—perhaps thinking they would be a buffer against hungry male bears.


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