The Floe Edge

floeedge_Sm.jpgIf you’re looking for wildlife around Baffin Island, the ice floe edge is the place to go. The floe edge is the place where the fast ice, the ice that is attached to the coast, ends and the open water or moving ice begins.

The ice gives walruses a resting platform next to the open water. From the ice, walruses dive down to the bottom to feed on clams and other shellfish. For a walrus, the best feeding areas are ice platforms that are near the coasts over the continental shelves where the water is shallow. Walruses also catch rides on floating ice, which allows them to travel great distances and feed over a large area.

If you’re looking for wildlife around Baffin Island, the ice floe edge is the place to go. The floe edge is the place where the fast ice, the ice that is attached to the coast, ends and the open water or moving ice begins.

The ice gives walruses a resting platform next to the open water. From the ice, walruses dive down to the bottom to feed on clams and other shellfish. For a walrus, the best feeding areas are ice platforms that are near the coasts over the continental shelves where the water is shallow. Walruses also catch rides on floating ice, which allows them to travel great distances and feed over a large area.

Like walruses, seals also feed near the ice edge and under the ice. In addition ringed seals, bearded seals and ribbon seals build lairs in the snow on top of the ice. In these lairs the mother seals give birth, nurse, and raise their pups.

Seabirds like the ivory gull nest in rocky sea cliffs. They then fly to the nearby sea ice to fish and scavenge.

floe_edge_2_Sm.jpg Of course, polar bears also roam near the floe edge. Bears hunt seals by sneaking up on the seal’s lair and crashing through the roof to grab the unsuspecting seal. Bears also wait on the ice near seal breathing holes. Seals keep these holes open so they can come up for air through the ice. When the seals come up for air, the bears can grab them.

The other predators on the floe edge are people. Inuit hunt for subsistence. Inuit hunters travel to the floe edge to hunt for seals. They eat seal, feed it to their dogs and use the skins for winter clothing.

Inuksuit High School in Qikiqtarjuaq invited the Global Warming 101 expedition team to accompany the students on a hunting trip to the floe edge. The trip was part of the school’s back to the land month. During this month elders share their knowledge with the younger generation.

After traveling overland where wildlife was much less noticeable, the floe edge was a lively and welcomed contrast. We wonder what a warmer future will hold for the animals and people who rely on the ice.

Elizabeth

(source: ACIA, 2004)

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