Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A man who lived on the western coast of Greenland around 4,000 years ago...

An international team led by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark has successfully decoded the genome of a man who lived on the western coast of Greenland around 4,000 years ago. Published in the journal Nature, the study's findings are part of the ECOGENE ('Unlocking the European Union convergence region potential in genetics') project, funded with EUR 1.09 million under the Regional programme of the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).

Danish evolutionary biologist Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics, Natural History Museum of Denmark and the Department of Biology, University of Copenhagen, along with PhD student Morten Rasmussen, led the team of 52 scientists that concluded a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) analysis of ancient human hair found preserved in Greenland's permafrost.

At first glance, the researchers believed the tuft of hair used for analysis belonged to a bear because it was so thick. Instead, they discovered that it belonged to a Palaeo-Eskimo whom they named 'Inuk', which means 'human' or 'man' in Greenlandic.

Inuk hailed from the Saqqaq culture which was found in west and southeast Greenland from around 2,500 BC to 800 BC and was the first culture to settle in the New World Arctic. The detailed reconstruction of this ancient human genome joins the list of eight whole genomes of living people that have been decoded to date.

So what did Inuk look like? The researchers point out that he likely had brown eyes, thick dark hair (although he was unfortunately prone to baldness) and type A positive blood. Inuk was dark-skinned and ate seal meat that he chewed with square, 'shovel-shaped' front teeth. Inuk was also genetically adapted to cold temperatures.

The researchers say that although he lived in Greenland, Inuk is in fact more closely related to tribes in modern-day Siberia than to the Inuit (i.e. 'The People') that currently make their home in Greenland.

The findings also help unlock the mystery of how Inuk's ancestors, known as the Chukchi people, migrated more than 2,000 kilometres from north-eastern Siberia to Greenland some 5,400 years ago. This migration wave, say the researchers, was independent of those of the ancestors of the Native Americans and Inuit.

Professor Willerslev and his team made headlines in 2009 when they reconstructed the complete mitochondrial genomes of a woolly mammoth and an ancient human. The Danish scientist happened upon the hair tuft after a number of failed attempts to find early human remains in Greenland.

'I was speaking with the Director of the Natural History Museum in Denmark, Dr Morten Meldgaard, when we started discussing the early peopling of the Arctic,' Professor Willerslev explains. '[Dr] Meldgaard, who had participated in several excavations in Greenland, told me about a large tuft of hair which was found during an excavation in north-western Greenland in the 1980s and now stored at the National Museum in Denmark.'

Once Professor Willerslev got the green light from the Greenland National Museum and Archives, he and his colleagues launched an analysis of the hair for DNA. After using a number of techniques, the team discovered that what they had in their hands was indeed human male hair.

'For several months, we were uncertain as to whether our efforts would be fruitful,' he goes on to say. 'However, through the hard work of a large international team, we finally managed to sequence the first complete genome of an extinct human.

'Our findings can be of significant help to archaeologists and others as they seek to determine what happened to people from extinct cultures.'

Researchers from Australia, China, Denmark, Estonia, France, Greenland, Latvia, Russia, the UK and the US contributed to this groundbreaking study.
For more information, please visit:


University of Copenhagen:


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Greenland is Melting

Glaciologist Jason Box has been testing a Moulin, a shaft that allows water to travel from the glacier's surface to its bottom, in a glacier on the Greenland ice cap to find out how fast it is melting.

According to Dr Box, “The Moulin is the epicentre of our concern because all the water is channeling down at this one point.

Watch how the team balanced on the edge of an ice sheet and used a flow meter to measure the water speed.

Jason Box says: “We’re in the midst of a climate catastrophe and glaciers are the epicentre of that problem. Glaciers are decanting into the oceans at shocking rates and I want to stop that.”

Join Dr. Box, an expert on climate change and Greenland—called “Ground Zero for global warming” by National Geographic—and the crew of the MS Fram as they retrace the legendary routes first plied by Erik the Red and Leif Eriksson more than a millennium ago. In between port calls at the vibrant, cosmopolitan city scenes of Reykjavik and Halifax, be enlightened by Box’s lectures and discussions while reveling in the legion natural and historical wonders that dot the shores of Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia. Set a course for education, entertainment, and enthralling experiences. This Sept. 26th, Hurtigruten steps back in time and looks into the future while cruising to some of the world’s most spectacular shores!

14-day In the Wake of the Vikings

The Northern Lights Spectacular National Geographic Video (Polar Lights / Aurora Borealis)

The Northern Lights (also called Polar Lights or Aurora Borealis) are one of nature's most spectacular visual phenomena, and in this time lapse video by National Geographic they provide a breathtaking display of light, shape, and color over the course of a single night in Norway.

Isabelline Penguins

About one in 50,000 penguins (of most species) are born with brown rather than black plumage. These are called isabelline penguins, possibly in reference to the legend that the archduchess Isabella of Austria vowed not to change her undergarments (!) until her husband united the northern and southern Low Countries by taking the city of Ostend — which took three years to accomplish. Isabellinism is different from albinism.

Isabelline penguins tend to live shorter lives than normal penguins, as they are not well-camouflaged against the deep, and are often passed over as mates.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fur Seals Attacking King Penguins

Spectacular but rather disturbing BBC video of fur seals chasing and killing king penguins. Between South Africa and the South Pole on Marion Island, returning king penguins bring food for their young. However, in order to reach them, they must brave repeated attacks from angry fur seals. In an ongoing battle of face-offs both the seals and the penguins know the dangers of the fight...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bergen from the top of the Mount Floyen


One of the best views over the city of Bergen from the top of the Mount Floyen. Departing from Bergen’s city center, the funicular takes you to the mountain top, 1050 ft above sea level for magnificent views, an exquisite restaurant and a souvenir shop.

Photo: Jennifer Rosen

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Antarctica 2011-2012

penguins antarctica
Antarctica -- one of the most popular of Hurtigruten's destinations, there are few Hurtigruten guests who are not immediately taken in by the tuxedo suited greeters (penguins), always out and ready to welcome new friends to their year-round home.  And the penguins are just a small part of the experience as Antarctica offers dramatic scenery, countless species of bird and marine life, and haunting landscapes.

Six itineraries of 12 to 20 days run from November through February.  All of the itineraries begin and end in Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital and the land of the tango.  Early-booking savings, good through March 31, 2011, means fares range from $5,858 to $13,684 per person, double and include roundtrip air between Buenos Aires and the boarding port in Ushuaia.

Highlights common to all sailings include a variety of landings on the White Continent - "Half Moon Island" with its large colony of chinstrap penguins and seals; Port Lockroy, once home to a British base and now a museum; and Neko Harbor, one of only a few stops allowed on the actual Antarctica mainland versus the Peninsula, are just some of the examples.

The longer sailings add time in the seldom visited Tierra del Fuego region including Diego Ramirez, Cape Horn, Puerto Williams and Magdalena Island; the Falkland Islands; South Georgia; and South Orkney Islands.  The 15-day "Polar Circle Quest" takes the guests across the 66º33' latitude - where the air is crisp and they are able to take in rarely seen landscapes. Optional voyage extensions are offered to Machu Picchu and Iguazu Falls.

Antarctica 2011-2012

Shackleton's Antarctica
Chilean Fjords - Antarctica
Shackleton's Christmas Adventure
Antarctic Discovery
Weddell Sea Adventure
Polar Circle Quest

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 Nights Free When You Pay for 6 Nights!

Discover the Classic 12-day Roundtrip Norwegian Coastal Voyage for the price of a one way!

Read more about this unprecedented offer on and review applicable sail dates

More videos here

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The spectacular Hardangerfjord

Discover the spectacular Hardangerfjord via train, motorcoach and boat.

Hardangerfjord is an 111-mile-long fjord displaying spellbinding natural landscapes. The tour (Bergen-Voss-Ulvik) starts by train on the Bergen Railway from Bergen to Voss. From Voss, the tour continues by coach through attractive farmland to Ulvik, a delightful village typical of western Norway. In Ulvik, you go by boat across the beautiful Hardangerfjord to Eidfjord.

Pre and post Norway cruise excursions can be added to your Norwegian Coastal Voyage before
or after your trip to enhance your total vacation experience.

Enhance your sense of culture, discovery and adventure by adding our optional pre or post cruise extensions to your Norwegian Coastal Voyage vacation. Options includes day trips in Bergen, Flam, Kirkenes, Oslo, Trondheim, Roros and Voss.

Float in the icy Barents Sea with a special survival suite, or lunch on the Oslofjord in a wooden sail boat. Our optional extensions take your sense of Norway beyond adventure to new heights.

All pre and post Norway cruise excursions

Cruise excursions northbound voyage
Cruise excursions southbound voyage

Brochure Detail Expedition Offerings

Planning ahead was never more rewarding than with Hurtigruten's 2011/2012 schedule of Explorer cruises.  Travelers can save up to 20% on next year's sailings in Greenland, Spitsbergen and Europe by booking before Dec. 31, 1010 and in Antarctica by March 31, 2011.  Guests who have sailed within the last three years are able to combine the savings with the Repeater Discount of 5%. 

A new 78-page full-color Explorer Voyages brochure details Hurtigruten's portfolio of 20 adventure expeditions to both ends of the world.  The 5- to 20-day itineraries offer guests unique opportunities to explore pristine environments, get up close to fascinating wildlife and gain valuable insight from experts in numerous disciplines including geology, marine life, climate, environment, history and culture.

Pearls of the Baltic Sea

PEARLS OF THE BALTIC SEA is available now at early booking prices. The cruise starts and ends in Oslo, the capital of Norway.

Departure: April 25, 2011

This voyage takes you to some of the most captivating destinations in the Baltic, like beautiful Copenhagen, modern Helsinki and the architecturally magnificent setting of St. Petersburg.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Norway: Photo of the Month

Hurtigruten's ships are built for sailing along the Norwegian coast, where the bigger cruise ships can't sail.

Hurtigruten offers the best way to experience Norwegian fjords, the midnight sun and spectacular untouched nature.

With Hurtigruten you can experience this on the cruises along the coast of Norway - all year round.

Have you ever visited Norway? Tell us what you think!

Visit to see some of the things Norway has to offer
Northbound excursions
Southbound excursions

Section of the Jakobshavn Glacier in Greenland broke up on July 6 and 7, 2010

Images courtesy of DigitalGlobe

NASA-funded researchers monitoring Greenland's Jakobshavn glacier report that a 7 square kilometer (2.7 square mile) section of the glacier broke up on July 6 and 7 (see photo). The calving front – where the ice sheet meets the ocean – retreated nearly 1.5 kilometers (a mile) in one day and is now further inland than at any time previously observed. The chunk of lost ice is roughly one-eighth the size of Manhattan Island, New York.

Research teams led by Ian Howat of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University and Paul Morin, director of the Antarctic Geospatial Information Center at the University of Minnesota have been monitoring satellite images for changes in the Greenland ice sheet and its outlet glaciers. While this week's breakup itself is not unusual, Howat noted, detecting it within hours and at such fine detail is a new phenomenon for scientists.

"While there have been ice breakouts of this magnitude from Jakobshavn and other glaciers in the past, this event is unusual because it occurs on the heels of a warm winter that saw no sea ice form in the surrounding bay," said Thomas Wagner, cryospheric program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "While the exact relationship between these events is being determined, it lends credence to the theory that warming of the oceans is responsible for the ice loss observed throughout Greenland and Antarctica."

The researchers relied on imagery from several satellites, including Landsat, Terra, and Aqua, to get a broad view of ice changes at both poles. Then, in the days leading up to the breakup, the team received images from DigitalGlobe's WorldView 2 satellite showing large cracks and crevasses forming.

DigitalGlobe Inc. provides the images as part of a public-private partnership with U.S. scientists. Howat and Morin are receiving near-daily satellite updates from the Jakobshavn, Kangerlugssuaq, and Helheim glaciers (among the islands largest) and weekly updates on smaller outlet glaciers.

Jakobshavn Isbræ (isbræ is Danish for glacier) is located on the west coast of Greenland at latitude 69°N and has been retreated more than 45 kilometers (27 miles) over the past 160 years, 10 kilometers (6 miles) in just the past decade. As the glacier has retreated, it has broken into a northern and southern branch. The breakup this week occurred in the north branch.

Scientists estimate that as much as 10 percent of all ice lost from Greenland is coming through Jakobshavn, which is also believed to be the single largest contributor to sea level rise in the northern hemisphere. Scientists are more concerned about losses from the south branch of the Jakobshavn, as the topography is flatter and lower than in the northern branch.

In addition to the remote sensing work, Howat, Morin, and other researchers have been funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation to plant GPS sensors, cameras, and other scientific equipment on top of the ice sheet to monitor changes and understand the fundamental workings of the ice. NASA also has been conducting twice-yearly airborne campaigns to the Arctic and Antarctic through the IceBridge program and measuring ice loss with the ICESat and GRACE satellites.

For more info on the situation in Greenland, read Jason Box' blog post "Why the situation in Greenland is so serious..."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

why the situation in Greenland is so serious...

While for every Greenlander there are nearly 120,000 other people in the world, what happens along these remote and barely populated shores of the world’s largest island affects people everywhere. The bottom line for the work that I do studying the climate of Greenland is the ice sheet’s contribution to global sea level rise. Scientists like me expect global sea level to be 1-2 m (3.3-6.6 feet) above its year 2000 stage by year 2100. Imagine if you're the mayor of a major coastal city and your nation's top scientists inform you that in the next century, your city better be well on it's way building ramparts against the sea. That's going to be downright costly and not just to managers of coastal infrastructure but to society well inland because of the economic ripple effects of coastal impacts and migration. I'll talk more in detail about this during our upcoming cruise. Suffice it to say for now that Greenland is currently a top source of global sea level rise.

I should not be so astonished that year 2010 so far, according to NASA, is the warmest on record for the globe, but also for Greenland. I'm preparing my 7th annual State of the Climate report already now and I accept the science of climate change. Note that I say accept, not believe. Scientists accept or reject hypotheses. A body of evidence that has withstood a reasonable amount of skeptical inquiry becomes theory. So far in nearly 150 years of now mature science, global warming theory has not been rejected. Anyway, winter 2009/2010 air temperatures, were a whopping 8.8 degrees C (15.8 degrees F) above normal*. Think about that, a 3 month average, setting a new record! If you're a dog sledder living above the mid point of Greenland’s west coast, like my good friend Ole-Jurgen Hammeken, that means NO DOG SLEDDING ALL WINTER. His sled dogs were going crazy chained up all winter. There was NO SEA ICE in his memory. As far as the glaciers are concerned (they are not, existentially-speaking), it's off to the races! Glaciers have reacted to climate warming.

It's not just air temperature. Actually, ocean temperature increases that are most important for glacier stability. Sea surface temperatures around Greenland have increased, on average, in all seasons since reliable satellite observations began in 1982. The DOUBLING IN SPEED OF ESSENTIALLY ALL SOUTHERN GREENLAND GLACIERS during the past decade have been attributed to the incursion of a warm ocean waters**. Water has a much much higher heat capacity than air. Globally, the amount of additional heat the oceans have absorbed, if re-released into the atmosphere would increase by you don't want to know how much, but I will mention this figure during one of my talks on board the Fram on the cruise 26 September - 10 October.

There's a lot more in store for us in the record setting warm year of 2010. Myself, my students, and colleagues are scrutinizing daily updates to satellite images. We're already finding this year retreats to new minima for the modern age for Greenland glaciers.

On our cruise, we're re-tracing the migration of the Norse. When south Greenland was settled MORE THAN 1000 YEARS AGO, temperatures were warm like today. The primary cause of the warming then was due to earth’s orbit. Unfortunately for the human guilt factor, the situation is very different today, the heat content of the climate system has increased while orbital changes and solar output has decreased. Humans have become, by far, the most important climate forcing agent these days, unlike in the time of the Norse. So, while it will be interesting to consider the similarities with Greenlanders 1000 years ago and now growing bumper crops of potatoes, broccoli, the situation today is so very different.

* The World Meteorological Organization defines a "climate normal" as the most recent 30-year period beginning at the first year of the most recent complete decade, that is, 1971-2000.

** Holland, D.M., R.H. Thomas, B. de Young, M.H. Ribergaard and B. Lyberth. 2008. Acceleration of Jakobshavn Isbræ triggered by warm subsurface ocean waters, Nature Geoscience, 1, 659–664, (10.1038/ngeo316.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Did you know...

Did you know that residents of Oslo and Akershus travel on holiday more often than the rest of the country? 34 per cent of people aged between 16 and 79 years in Oslo and Akershus made three or more holiday trips in 2006.

Sonja Henie

Sonja Henie is one of the many Norwegians who came to America and made a great career there. Henie became a big star in in film and show business. Here is a clip from 1945 showing some of her outstanding technique and showwomanship.

At the height of Sonja Henie's fame, her shows and touring activities brought her as much as $2 million per year. She also had numerous lucrative endorsement contracts, and deals to market skates, clothing, jewelry, dolls, and other merchandise branded with her name. These activities made her one of the wealthiest women in the world in her time.

Sonja Henie's Films

In 1961 Sonja Henie and her husband Niels Onstad donated their art collection to a Public Trust, which bears their names. In 1968 The Henie Onstad Art Centre at Høvikodden near Oslo was opened to the public.

Other famous Norwegians who became big stars in America include Kirsten Flagstad and Stein Eriksen. Read more about them and other Norwegians on

Who would you say are the most famous Norwegians?

More videos of Sonja Henie on YouTube

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Did you know that Hurtigruten also visits selected destinations in Europe, like Copenhagen?

Copenhagen started as an obscure fishing village. Today it is the thriving modern capital of Denmark. Filled with historic sites and museums, vibrant cafes and excellent shopping, it is a city perfectly in tune with its past and its present.

Guests can choose from an array of countries and experiences as the MS Fram travels along the coast of Europe during its Spring and Fall repositioning sailings.  The Spring schedule offers a trio of sailings: from Lisbon, Portugal to the UK port of Dover, visiting Spain and France on the way; or an exploration of Norway's west coast and many of its most stunning fjords, ending in Oslo; or an exploration of the "Pearls of the Baltic" -- Copenhagen, Helsinki, St. Petersburg, Estonia and Bornholm.  Early-booking rates range from $1,021 to $5,047 if booked by December 31.

This is also Norway

Photos of low mountain nature north of Lillehammer, host of the 1994 Winter Olympics, just below or above the tree line (850-1100). Especially beautiful in this barren landscape are the infinite variations of the color green in the vegetation and the different gray and blue colors seen in the distant mountains.

All photos: Per-Erik Skramstad

Regular steam ship service

When the Norwegian sea captain Richard With proposed a regular steam ship service to link northern and southern Norway many saw it as unrealistic folly.

Originally intended as a weekly daylight service from Trondheim to Hammerfest, delivering mail, cargo and passengers, this audacious mariner then proposed to extend the service to travel both day and night, winter and summer. Richard With's intention was to sail through waters that at this juncture had still not been mapped, through a landscape that for centuries had only been accessible from the sea.

MS Richard With
Hurtigruten's history
About Richard With on Wikipedia