Category: Arctic


Here’s a de Havilland DHC-3 Otter (which you have seen before), operated by mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, Alaska, flying over a snow-covered mountain range. While Dogwaffle began as a 2D, raster-based paint program, Howler can model landscapes with multiple ray tracing utilities. This image, of stunning, almost photo-realistic quality, was rendered up in the 3D Designer utility. 3D Designer also has the ability to insert localized cloud formations of several types into your image. In this example you can see the leading edge of an approaching snowstorm just beyond the mountains.

outrunning an approaching blizzard

Running Ahead Of The Storm

Dogwaffle has an amazing array features – 2D, 3D, particles. There is also a large and growing number of video tutorials to help you figure out how to use them. Look here for more examples in the future including landscapes rendered with the Puppy Ray ray tracing utility.

Here is the squadron insignia of the 1st Polar Airlift Squadron, known as “Santa’s Own,” to which are assigned Santa’s eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. The Latin motto, “UNA NOCTA TOTIUS MUNDI,” translates as “The entire world in one night.”

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And this is the night operations, arctic/polar blue, subdued camouflage version:

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The First Polar Airlift Squadron (1st PAS) has a long and storied history. Based at the North Pole the 1st PAS is best known for providing airlift for Santa Claus during his annual, global, nocturnal delivery using venerable, reliable air-mobile RT-1 Reindeer (aka Caribou – Rangifer tarandus) generally deployed in teams of eight. For operations during inclement weather the squadron maintains one Reindeer equipped with a “RUDOLPH” enhanced red navigation lighting system.

For heavylift missions at other times of the year the 1st PAS also maintains a fleet of air-mobile A-1 Moose (Alces alces), one of which was featured earlier on this blog.

There are some who think I make these things up. The squadron did ask me to design the patch, so, in a sense, I did make it up. However the idea that the 1st PAS does not exist is just not true. Here’s a photo of Santa Claus on a training flight over Greenland , in the training sleigh “ICEBAT -1,” which was forwarded to me by the squadron public information officer. It is even signed by the jolly, old elf himself. What better proof could there be that the 1st PAS exists? The subdued version of the squadron patch can be seen on the left side of the sleigh.

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The insignia is easier to see in this enlargement:

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Not only can the unit insignia be seen, but, as Santa takes flight safety very seriously, you can see that both he and the elf in the back seat are wearing flight helmets. You might also note that Santa is not wearing the traditional red suit. Instead he is wearing caribou fur the reindeer need not be made aware of that) as it is much warmer than the red getup and does not require multiple layers of thermal underwear.

The unit insignia are available on many items at one of my Zazzle stores. Ten percent of all proceeds from these items will be donated to charity. Search for “airlift.”

There are some people in Alaska who would like for the state to become an independent nation. And there are a few who seem to think Alaska is already independent. So, I have another entry in the series of postage stamps for an independent Alaska. This time a 10-Nugget featuring a bull Caribou superimposed on a Caribou pelt.

10-nugget alaska caribou postage stamp

10-Nuggest Alaska Postage Stamp

While Caribou (Rangifer tarandus), known as the reindeer outside of North America, are widespread and numerous, some subspecies are rare and one has gone extinct. The Inuit word tuktu means – deer that never stops moving. Caribou are always on the move, going north to calve, heading for the winter grounds, and south in the summer. Caribou considerably in colour and size. Uniquely among deer, both genders grow antlers, though these are larger in the males and there are a few populations where females lack them completely.

Caribou hunting and herding of semi-domesticated reindeer (for meat, hides, antlers, milk and transportation) are important to several Arctic and Subarctic peoples. Even far outside its range, the caribou/reindeer is well known due to the myth, probably originating in early 19th century America, in which Santa Claus’s sleigh is pulled by flying reindeer. In Lapland (aka Samiland) reindeer pull a pulks, a type of sled or sleigh.

Caribou are present in both tundra and taiga (boreal forest) areas. It was originally was found in Scandinavia, eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, and northern China north of the 50th latitude. In North America, it was found in Canada, Alaska, and the northern conterminous USA from Washington to Maine. In the 19th century, it was apparently still present in southern Idaho. It also occurred naturally on Sakhalin, Greenland, and probably even in historical times in Ireland.

During the late Pleistocene era, reindeer were found as far south as Nevada and Tennessee in North America and Spain in Europe. Domesticated reindeer are mostly found in northern Fennoscandia and Russia, with a herd of approximately 150-170 reindeer living around the Cairngorms region in Scotland. The last remaining wild tundra reindeer in Europe are found in portions of southern Norway. A few reindeer from Norway were introduced to the South Atlantic island of South Georgia in the beginning of the 20th century. Today, there are two distinct herds still thriving there, permanently separated by glaciers. Their total numbers are no more than a few thousand. The flag and the coat of arms of the territory contain an image of a reindeer. Around 4000 reindeer have been introduced into the French sub-Antarctic archipelago of Kerguelen Islands. East Iceland has a small herd of about 2500–3000 animals.

Caribou and reindeer numbers have fluctuated historically, but many herds are in decline across their range. This global decline is linked to climate change for northern, migratory caribou and reindeer herds and industrial disturbance of caribou habitat for sedentary, non-migratory herds.

Fur Fur color varies considerably, both individually, and depending on season and subspecies. Northern populations, which usually are relatively small, are whiter, while southern populations, which typically are relatively large, are darker. This can be seen well in North America, where the northermost subspecies, the Peary Caribou, is the whitest and smallest subspecies of the continent, while the southermost subspecies, the Woodland Caribou, is the darkest and largest.

The coat has two layers of fur, a dense woolly undercoat and longer-haired overcoat consisting of hollow, air-filled hairs.

In most populations both sexes grow antlers, which (in the Scandinavian variety) for old males fall off in December, for young males in the early spring, and for females in the summer. The antlers typically have two separate groups of points, a lower and upper.

Caribou have the largest antlers relative to body size among deer, but the antlers of the domesticated reindeer antlers tend to be rather small and spindly.

Caribou are primarily dependent on lichens for food during the winter, especially reindeer moss. They also consume the leaves of willows and birches, as well as sedges and grasses. There is some evidence to suggest that on occasion, they will also feed on lemmings, arctic char, and bird eggs. Reindeer herded by the Chukchis have been known to eat mushrooms.

Some populations of North American caribou the longest migration route of any terrestrial mammal, traveling up to 3,100 mi (5,000 km) a year, and covering 390,000 sq mi 1,000,000 km2 (1,000,000 km2).

There are a variety of predators that prey heavily on reindeer. Golden Eagles prey on calves and are the most prolific hunter on calving grounds. Wolverine will take newborn calves or birthing cows, as well as (less commonly) infirm adults. Brown Bear and, occasionally, Polar Bear prey on reindeer of all ages but (as with the wolverine) are most likely to attack weaker animals such as calves and sick deer. The Gray Wolf is the most effective natural predator of adult reindeer, especially during the winter.

Blood-sucking insects, such as black flies and mosquitoes, are a plague to reindeer during the summer and can cause enough stress to inhibit feeding and calving behaviors.

Caribou and Reindeer have long been hunted by humans since the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, and are today the main predator in many areas. Norway and Greenland have unbroken traditions of hunting wild reindeer from the ice age until the present day. In the non-forested mountains of central Norway it is still possible to find remains of stone-built trapping pits, guiding fences, and bow rests, built especially for hunting reindeer.

Caribou are still hunted in North America and Greenland. In the traditional lifestyle of the Inuit people, Northern First Nations people, Alaska Natives, and the Kalaallit of Greenland, the caribou is an important source of food, clothing, shelter, and tools. Many Gwichʼin people, who depend on the Porcupine caribou, still follow traditional caribou management practices that include a prohibition against selling caribou meat and limits on the number of caribou to be taken per hunting trip.

An out-of-the-ordinary, simple, blue and white fractal suggesting a melt water lake and a river, or stream, in a valley between glacier-covered mountains. This image is rather odd looking, but strangely appealing, a fortuitous randomly-generated fractal. I doctored it a bit to enhance the appearance of ice and snow.

You can find this image on many items at one of my Zazzle stores. Search for “glacial lake.”

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White on white. A new 10-Nugget postage stamp, featuring an Arctic Fox, a digital painting of an Arctic Fox, Vulpes lagopus, on the polar ice, has just been issued by the Alaska Postal Authority. The sun hangs low in the bright blue arctic sky. Do not stare at the sun as it can harm your eyes.

Click on image for full-size view.

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Alaska Arctic Fox Postage

As usual this image is available on an ever increasing number of items at one of my Zazzle. stores. Search for “arctic fox.”

The Arctic Fox is comfortable in deep cold; it does not begin to shiver until temperatures drop to about −70 °C (−94 °F) due to its dense, multi-layered fur. Other adaptations to a frigid climate include fur on the soles of its feet, short ears, and a short muzzle. Arctic foxes live in burrows, in a blizzard they may tunnel into the snow to create shelter.

The coat of the Arctic fox, sometimes blue-gray, is very effective winter camouflage. The natural hues allow the animal to blend into the environment. During the short warm season its coat changes to brown or gray, again acting as camouflage in tundra rocks and plants.

During the winter, when prey is scarce, the foxes follow hunting Polar Bears on the ice pack feeding on scraps. During the summer the eat rodents, birds, eggs, and even fish. They will also feed on berries and seaweed.
Arctic Foxes have extremely keen hearing, aided by their wide, front-facing ears, which allow them to locate the precise position of their prey beneath the snow. If it hears something moving under the snow it leaps into the air and pounces, punching through the snow to catch its prey.

The range of the Arctic Foxes is circumpolar; they can be found throughout the far north. The only land mammal native to Iceland, it arrived by walking oversea ice at the end of the last ice age. The species is in generally good shape except for the population on the Scandinavian mainland. However it is losing out to the larger Red Fox where their ranges overlap.

De Havilland Otter

A de De havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, sporting the logo of mythical Flying Moose Aviation of Talkeetna, flies somewhere over Alaska.

Click on image for full-size view.

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de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter

The Otter, originally intended to be known as the King Beaver, was conceived as a larger, more capable follow on to highly successful Beaver. The Beaver referred to by de Havilland as a “half-ton truck;” the Otter would be the “one-ton truck.”

The Otter was used by the militaries of many countries and is also popular in  with skydivers; it can be found in many drop zones throughout the world.

Reindeer (Caribou), Rangifer tarandus, may suffice for once-yearly, late-December deliveries, but when you need a heavy lift capability nothing beats the Flying Moose, Alces volanti.  Not only is the Flying Moose able to lift a much heavier payload than is the Reindeer, but its wings allow for greater precision when landing as well as hovering capability.  A wild Flying Moose, sighted somewhere over British Columbia, is pictured below.

Click on image for full-size view.

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Alces volanti – the Flying Moose

The Flying Moose has been adopted by at least one mythical, all-purpose flying service in Talkeetna Alaska – Flying Moose Aviation (FMA). FMA’s motto is “Flightseeing, glacier landings, cargo, hunting and fishing charters.  We fly; tell us where you want to go.”  A leather patch, as worn by FMA bush pilots on their jackets, is below.

Click on image for full-size view.

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Flying Moose Aviation Jacket Patch

Busy with another project I almost let a month go by without posting something.

Here is a simple image I made a few years ago; two bull caribou strive for dominance, with the sun setting in the background. More of a study than a finished piece, though it does appear on a few items at my Zaazzle store. I like the colors and one of these day I will make a more polished version.

Click on the image for a full-size view.

two bull caribou strive for dominance

Caribou Duel

Whales With Spears

A traditional travel poster-style image of two male narwhal “tusking,” crossing their tusks, with sea ice and the mainland of Greenland in the background.

Click on image for full-Size view.

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Narwhal Off The Coast Of Greenland

“Kalaallit Nunaat” is what Greenlanders call their island The purpose of tusking, a common activity during warmer parts of the year, is unknown. It may be a friendly greeting or a way to remove lice that typically infest the base of the tusk. Even the ultimate purpose of the spiraled tusk is not known for sure. It may serve the same purpose as deer and moose antlers, the peacock’s tail feathers, or a lion’s mane – to attract a mate. Some researchers believe it may serve as a sensory organ. Perhaps it serves more than one purpose.

As usual, this image is available at my Zazzle store.

Qaanaaq

A fractal depiction of the Northern Lights reflected off the surface of the Arctic Ocean.

Click on image for full-size view.

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The Northern Lights

I entitled this Qaanaaq after a settlement in northern Greenland; one of the northernmost inhabited spots on the planet. I like the sound of the word and it seemed appropriate for the image.

This image is available on numerous items through Zazzle.com; not at my wildlife store, but at Fractal Fire, where I post my fractal art.