Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The northernmost trees, and the Nganasan people

The tree-line is the edge of the habitat at which trees can grow. Beyond the tree-line, they are unable to grow as conditions are too bad (wind, cold and /or not enough soil deepness). As for arctic conditions, that happens in low altitude at about 60 to 70 º N latitudes.

For exemple, in Greenland, experimental tree planting in the absence of native trees due to isolation from natural seed sources resulted in few trees surviving; they grow slowly, at Søndre Strømfjord, 67°N. There is even a small forest, Rosevinges forest , near Narsarsuaq:

In 2005, the first timber cut in Greenland was possible! But to the north, only tundra vegetation , at most some brushwoods of mountain birch. So timber remains more precious than gold..

More about Trees in Greenland here.

But where are the most northern trees in the world ? Well, the answer is Siberia . At the Central Siberian Plateau , extreme continental climate means the summer is warm enough to allow tree growth at higher latitudes, extending to 72°30' N in the Khatanga River valley.

Larch growing close to the Arctic tree-line in the Arctic northeast Siberia.

Tree in a skirt

This happens because of the winter weather. When it snows, the bottom of the tree is covered up. This blanket of snow is actually very protective, keeping the lower branches safe. The part of the tree that sticks out of the snow is unprotected, so it is buffeted by the winds.

Khatanga River frozen in winter


The Khatanga River Valley is situated in the Taymyr peninsula, an arctic region where Nganasans are one of the native peoples. They have been nomadic hunters, fishers, and herders of reindee. They are the northernmost people of the former Soviet Union.

Nganasan people are not related to inuits in ethnic terms, but they have similar lifestyles, clothing, mythologies...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Svalbard archipelago

The Svalbard archipelago, under Norwegian rule, is another inhabitated arctic region that deserves to be better known. It has been chosen for the Global Seed Vault site. Soon I will post about it.

Here you have a link for a local webcam:

Sunday, 26 April 2009

The best photo Blog ever


ADAGIO by an argentinian lawyer:

Scoresbysund fjord, West Greenland

Scoresbysund fjord (Kangertittivaq in inuit), the longest in the world, stretches for 350 km, and is also one of the deepest (over 1500 m); it is located in eastern Greenland at 70.447972 N, 21.789562 W. Huge glaciers flow from the Greenland Icecap into Scoresbysund Fjord :

Because of sea ice, Greenland’s east coast is inaccessible by sea most of the year. The ice barrier stretches along the east coast except for 2-3 months in late summer and autumn.

The region is known for its wildlife. The settlers prospered on the good hunting conditions of the area, which was rich in seals, walruses, narwhals, polar bears, musk oxen and arctic foxes.

Ittoqqortoormiit is the largest town in the area, near the mouth of the fjord. Founded in 1822, it’s the most isolated community in Greenland.

Supplies are vital to the inhabitants; the arrival of the first cargo ship in June has been waited for long.

Sunset in the Sund.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The farthest North


The island of Oodaag or Oodaaq is presently the most northernly island on Earth. In fact it’s a quite small islet of gravel in Northern Greenland (8m x 15m) discovered in 1978 and submersed by sea or ice most of the time.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Spring in the Arctic

Usually spring comes later in Nothern latitudes, but climate changes are bringing earlier spring; both fauna and flora start sooner their spring life cycle.

Candidates for Ultima Thule

Since Pytheas, the sailor from ancient Greece, travelled by sea and land from Marseille to the North of the British Isles, the myth of finding the Thule he described, a northern land with sunny nights surrounded by solid iced sea where people lived in peace and happiness, has remained through centuries one of a kind, like the Graal or Atlantis.

Candidates for Thule surged and were discarded by some one after the other:

The Hebrides
The Shetland Islands
The Faröe Islands
The coast of Norway, from Trondheim up to the Lofoten isles
The Svalbard Islands
The Island of Saaremaa, Estonia

These are my lands of dream. These are my destinations. I hear their call.

Thule means nothing nowadays. An US air base in Greenland, the name of pre-inuit artic people, some poetic quotations. For me, it names all the territories I feel I belong to, where I wish I could live, all the legends and mythologies I love, all the towns and villages I long to visit, all the landscape of ice caps, glaciers, mountains, fishing harbours, dog sledges, white rabbits and deep blessed loneliness I want around me.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009


From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything...

William Shakespeare, sonnet 98

Sunday, 19 April 2009

day zero - BIG BANG !

To create is better than to be happy

(Fernando Pessoa)