Overview

The land of the midnight sun has enchanted humankind for centuries. Rarely does a visitor to this unique and storied region leave without impressions that last a lifetime. Whether it is images of immense glaciers, the shifting pack ice under steel grey skies, or bountiful wildlife grazing treeless, windswept tundra, the Arctic, even today, evokes images of a largely wild and untamed place. For many, the Arctic is as much a feeling as it is a region. Those with even a passing knowledge of the Arctic are familiar with the spirit of adventure - humans against nature - that drove some of the early exploration of the region. But the history of Arctic exploration and discovery is much more than Peary's glorified, albeit doubtful conquest of the pole. The expeditions of Bering, Franklin, Frobisher, Hudson, Nansen, Nares, Sverdrup, Wegener and others variously reflected nationalism, the shifting economic significance of the region, and scientific inquiry. Many of the geographic place names in the Arctic honor these explorers (Figure 1.1). To appreciate our present understanding of the Arctic, we need to step back and review some of this rich history over the past four or five centuries, recognizing, of course, that there have been indigenous populations in the Arctic for many thousands of years.

Arctic Ocean Climate

Figure 1.1 Geographic place names of the Arctic with special reference to early exploration of the region. 1. Bering Strait, 2. Great Bear Lake, 3. Great Slave Lake, 4. Amundsen Gulf, 5. Coronation Gulf, 6. Prince of Wales Strait, 7. M'Clure Strait, 8. Prince Patrick Island, 9. Melville Island, 10. Melville Sound, 11. Bathurst Island, 12. Ellef and Amund Ringnes Islands 13. Axel Heiburg Island, 14. Eureka Sound, 15. Greeley Fiord, 16. Lady Franklin

Figure 1.1 Geographic place names of the Arctic with special reference to early exploration of the region. 1. Bering Strait, 2. Great Bear Lake, 3. Great Slave Lake, 4. Amundsen Gulf, 5. Coronation Gulf, 6. Prince of Wales Strait, 7. M'Clure Strait, 8. Prince Patrick Island, 9. Melville Island, 10. Melville Sound, 11. Bathurst Island, 12. Ellef and Amund Ringnes Islands 13. Axel Heiburg Island, 14. Eureka Sound, 15. Greeley Fiord, 16. Lady Franklin

Bay, 17. Smith Sound, 18. Jones Sound, 19. Devon Island, 20. Lancaster Sound, 21. Prince Regent's Inlet, 22. Somerset Island, 23. Prince of Wales Island, 24. Bellot Strait, 25. M'Clintock Channel, 26. Queen Maud Gulf, 27. King William Island, 28. Boothia Peninsula, 29. Gulf of Boothia, 30. Melville Peninsula, 31. Prince Charles Island, 32. Southampton Island, 33. Independence Fiord, 34. Scoresby Sound (courtesy of M. Lavrakas, NSIDC, Boulder, CO).

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