On 10th October 2019, Christine Murdie gave us a fascinating, illustrated story of her journey to the arctic to carry out a survey. Christine is a qualified conservationist who works for the marine charity Orca, which is committed to studying and protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises.
Christine described a cruise to the Barents Sea via Norway, where she was tasked with counting and photographing wildlife (especially cetaceans). She showed us the images taken en-route: some of the wildlife she was surveying and some of the spectacular scenery which distracted her from the wildlife. On the way she visited Stravanger, Lysefjord, Bergen, Andalsnes, Alesund, Rorvik (where she spotted a lion’s mane jellyfish), Torghaten (with views of the seven sisters mountain range), the Lofoten Islands, Trollfjord (place of trolls), Tromsø, Honningsvåg, and then arrived at the northern cape of Norway. After that, the ship travelled on to Bear Island and Svalbard. Amongst shots of the breathtaking scenery, Christine showed us some rarely-seen images of whales with babies and blue whales breaching.
The story, though spectacular, was tinged with some sadness. There was far less snow up above the arctic circle than there used to be just a few decades ago, and she has watched the glaciers are retreating over the years. The idyllic Norwegian fishing towns contrasted strongly with the ugly and polluting Russian mining operations in the Barents Sea. The wildlife count was smaller than it used to be, and some species (including the polar bear featured in the title of the talk) were not seen at all during the most recent trip. All in all, a fascinating talk with a conservation message for us all to take away.