What happens during the long, dark periods of the Arctic winter months? A lot more than we thought.
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Sierra Club

Professor Jørgen Berge always thought animals, like people, preferred to spend their winters dormant.

Berge is a marine biologist and zoologist at the Arctic University of Norway and the University Centre in Svalbard, which means he's used to those long, dark winters where the sun literally does not rise for anywhere from 23 to 176 days.

This phenomenon is known as a " polar night," which means that no part of the sun's disc is visible on the horizon, and it occurs everywhere above the 67° latitude line, including parts of Alaska, the Yukon, the Denmark Strait, and parts of Greenland and Russia.


That might be a good environment for a nasty coven of evil vampires to feast on Arctic townsfolk, but it's probably less good for non-undead organisms that thrive on sunlight and warmth.

...right?

And I thought my winter ennui was bad. GIF from "Winnie the Pooh."

As it turns out, those cold polar nights are a hotbed of activity — particularly in the Arctic Ocean.

"We have basically assumed that when it is dark, there is no primary production and there is no activity. The system is just waiting for the light to return," Berge said in a recently published article in the Journal of Cellular Biology.

But he and his fellow researchers were inspired to take a second look after a chance encounter in a Svalbard fjord in the winter of 2013.

"Above us was a starry, winter night and below us were countless blue-green 'stars' in the deep produced by bioluminescent organisms. The beauty of it was stunning, and the fact that so many organisms were producing light was a strong indication that the system was not in a resting mode," he explained.

The scenic underwater Arctic. Photo by Elisabeth Calvert/ NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration.

A team of nearly 100 scientists from seven different nations cataloged the lives of some surprisingly active Arctic animals.

Over three winters, the team led by Professor Berge embarked on underwater filming, biodiversity counts, and analyses of the stomach contents of seabirds and fish.

"Instead of an ecosystem that has entered a resting state, we document a system with high activity levels and biological interactions across most trophic levels," he said.

This activity included:

  • scallops and shellfish feeding on the floor;
  • krill and zooplankton and other tiny critters all spawning like rabbits in the springtime;
  • and auks and guillemots who resisted the urge to head south for the winter and somehow managed to stalk their deep-sea prey in absolute darkness.

A seabird diving underwater for prey. Footage by Robert Staven/NTNU via BBC.

"They are not individuals that are left behind and about to die," Berge told the BBC. "They are doing well, they find their food in the dark. Many of them had very full stomachs."

Pretty amazing, right? And all they had to do was look in the one place that no one thought to look before!


And in defense of every other scientist ever, I completely understand not wanting to leave your bed in the middle of a pitch-black Arctic winter to dive through the ice on the off chance that you might find some surprising aquatic activity. GIF from "Doctor Who."

Unless ... maybe this overactive polar night is actually something new?

For better or for worse, Berge and his team would not have been able to conduct their research if it hadn't been for the rapidly rising global temperatures.

"If you go back 10 years, the fjords would freeze up at that time of year, and this wouldn't have been possible at all," Berge said. "At the same time, there has been warming. We have less sea ice, we have more influence of warmer Atlantic water masses — and that will also have influenced the system."

Could it be that this influx of activity is actually the result of climate change and the melting polar ice caps?

Well ... maybe.

We can't actually know for sure because there's simply not enough research yet to prove the theory. As far as Berge's team members are concerned, it really could go either way.

"It's surprising to see that the rates are so high — that the level of activity is comparable to what's there in the summer. That is impressive," said Dr. Donatella Zona, an Arctic ecologist at the University of Sheffield. "But it's not very surprising that there is activity during the cold period. The main problem is that there are so few data. It's very hard to quantify, because we are relying on so few measurements."

Granted, correlation is not causation. But climate change is still a serious concern, and it would stand to reason that it might have something to do with this newly discovered aquatic Arctic dance party.


One thing is certain: Climate change is affecting everything from animals to humans to the earth itself.

Regardless of whether climate change has a direct impact (yet) on animal activity in the Arctic Ocean, I think we can all agree that the Arctic environment is a unique and wonderful place full of mystery and life that should be explored.

But things like Arctic drilling are chipping away at that ecosystem at increasingly alarming rates.

Pretty much our relationship with the planet right now. GIF via Jordi Tosas.

Let's put a stop to the arrogant actions that threaten to destroy our planet so that we might live to discover more of the wonders our world holds.

There have been many iconic dance routines throughout film history, but how many have the honor being called "the greatest" by Fred Astaire himself?

Fayard and Harold Nicholas, known collectively as the Nicholas Brothers, were arguably the best at what they did during their heyday. Their coordinated tap routines are legendary, not only because they were great dancers, but because of their incredible ability to jump into the air and land in the splits. Repeatedly. From impressive heights.

Their most famous routine comes from the movie "Stormy Weather." As Cab Calloway sings "Jumpin' Jive," the Nicholas Brothers make the entire set their dance floor, hopping and tapping from podium to podium amongst the musicians, dancing up and down stairs and across the top of a piano.

But what makes this scene extra impressive is that they performed it without rehearsing it first and it was filmed in one take—no fancy editing room tricks to bring it all together. This fact was confirmed in a conversation with the brothers in a Chicago Tribune article in 1997, when they were both in their 70s:

"Would you believe that was one of the easiest things we ever did?" Harold told the paper.

"Did you know that we never even rehearsed that number?" added Fayard.

"When it came time to do that part, (choreographer) Nick Castle said: 'Just do it. Don`t rehearse it, just do it.' And so we did it—in one little take. And then he said: 'That's it—we can't do it any better than that.'"

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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You know that feeling you get when you walk into a classroom and see someone else's stuff on your desk?

OK, sure, there are no assigned seats, but you've been sitting at the same desk since the first day and everyone knows it.

So why does the guy who sits next to you put his phone, his book, his charger, his lunch, and his laptop in the space that's rightfully yours? It's annoying!

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via Seresto

A disturbing joint report by USA Today and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting found that tens of thousands of pets have been harmed by Seresto flea and tick collars. Seresto was developed by Bayer and is now sold by Elanco.

Since Seresto flea collars were introduced in 2012, the EPA has received incident reports of at least 1,698 pet deaths linked to the product. Through June 2020, the EPA has received over 75,000 incident reports relating to the collars with over 1,000 involving human harm.

The EPA has known the collars are harming humans and their pets but failed to tell the public about the dangers.

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