Arctic Expedition to Spotlight Warming Impact on Inuit Groups

February 23, 2007

It isn't just the polar bears that are having the ice pulled out from under their feet.

Arctic melting due to global warming is also undermining the human way of life in the far north, says a team about to embark on a 1,200-mile (1,930-kilometer) dogsled expedition.

The Global Warming 101 project, led by U.S. polar explorer Will Steger, aims to highlight how the traditional world of native Inuit communities is quite literally breaking apart.

The four-month expedition is due to set off tomorrow across Baffin Island in the Canadian province of Nunavut.

Among Steger's team will be U.K. business tycoon Sir Richard Branson and three Inuit hunters, who will guide the sleds.

Team members will post video, photos, sounds, and field notes every day to the project's Web site. The National Geographic Society's Expeditions Council is partially funding the project (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society).

"Baffin Island would be the ground zero of global warming in the Arctic," said Steger, speaking to National Geographic News yesterday from the team's base camp at Iqaluit (see a Nunavut map).

The Arctic island, the fifth largest island in the world, has an extremely rich culture, the explorer said.

"And like the walrus and the polar bear, this culture depends on the ice."

(Related news: "Polar Bears Suffering as Arctic Summers Come Earlier, Study Finds" [September 21, 2006].)

Arctic's "Crazy" Weather

Over recent decades temperatures in the Arctic have risen at nearly twice the rate as in the rest of the world, scientists say.

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