A beautifully illustrated dictionary of 26 key aspects of life in the Arctic.
World-class photographer and science writer Wayne Lynch takes readers to one of his favorite parts of the world: the Arctic.
Using a plant, an animal or a phenomenon for each letter of the alphabet, Lynch describes the unique ways in which systems for living differ where temperature and light can be amazingly extreme. But Lynch also dispels the myth of the Arctic as a perpetually frozen landscape by introducing us to the birds, mammals, insects and plant life that thrive in the short yet glorious sun-filled days of summer.
Wayne Lynch is the author of award-winning books and television documentaries, a popular guest lecturer and a well-known and widely published professional wildlife photographer. He is also the author of Bear, Bears, Bears, Penguins!, A is for Arctic and Penguins of the World.
Every year, I travel to the Arctic for a month or more to hike on the tundra and to observe and photograph the animals and birds that live there. People are surprised when I choose to visit a place where the weather can be so cold that even in the summer, it can snow on any day. There are very few hotels and restaurants in the Arctic, and I usually have only the wind and the wildlife to keep me company. Even so, my reason for returning year after year is simple: I have traveled to every continent on Earth, and the wildlife of the Arctic excites me more than any other. In the Arctic, the sky seems to stretch forever, the cool air is delicious to breathe, and the freedom of the wild animals is fascinating to watch. For me, coming back to the Arctic is like coming back to the home of an old friend.
Before we set out on our journey north, let me begin by explaining the three different ways people describe the Arctic. You may have already read about the Arctic Circle -- an invisible line that circles the Earth's northern pole at latitude 66 degrees 32 minutes. This line marks the Arctic's southern boundary. Everything north of the Arctic Circle is part of the Arctic. In the summer in this part of the world, the sun may not set for many days in a row, which is why people sometimes call the Arctic the Land of the Midnight Sun. In the small village of Grise Fiord in northern Canada, for instance, the summertime sun does not set for 77 days in a row.
Television weather people use another way to describe the Arctic. On a map, they mark all the places where the average July temperature is just 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). They join these places together with a line and call everywhere north of this temperature line the Arctic. In North America, the line starts in northern Alaska, dips south around Hudson Bay, then curves up again to the northern tip of Labrador.
The third and most common way to describe the Arctic is with the tree line. The tree line marks the border between the northern forests and the treeless tundra. In this definition, the Arctic simply includes all the lands north of the trees. Like the 50-degree-Fahrenheit (10 degree Celsius) temperature line, the tree line starts in northern Alaska, dips south of Hudson Bay, then swings north to northern Labrador again.
Within the Arctic, there are thousands of plants, hundreds of birds and dozens of mammals which I could write about, but that would take a book much longer than this one. Instead, I'm going to tell you about the amazing animals and plants and other phenomena that exist in the wild spaces of the North.
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