Sun Dogs!

4/13/2012 1:15:27 AM

Sun Dogs!


The sun is glistening over the white, snow-packed landscape. Tiny crystals of snow—called diamond dust—are glittering in the Arctic sky. It's a sunny, beautiful Arctic day with a light wind.

It's time to locate a denned grizzly bear with the two Karelian Bear Dogs, Grace and Kavik. We're driving 10 miles out onto the frozen, wind-slabbed, Arctic tundra on snow machines. It's by no means a smooth ride: the winds sculpt the snow into hard sastrugi, which are ripples on the snow surface. These create hard-snow wind slabs that make the snow machine bounce along.

 April bundled up

Along our route, sun dogs, which are bright spots or halos around the sun, appear in the sky overhead. The sun dogs and halos form around the sun due to the reflection and refraction of the sunlight through the tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere, and are most commonly found in the Arctic and the Antarctic. They are quite spectacular to see; another cold weather phenomenon!

 Sun dogs

We have arrived, and Grace is the first one to see if she can detect the denned grizzly bear. This grizzly is a collared bear, so we already know the location from GPS coordinates.

Finding a den

Grace takes off, and within five minutes, she turns abruptly, 90 degrees, almost flipping completely around and giving the signal that she has caught the bear scent! She starts digging in the snow, giving her positive bear den signal. Kavik follows next, and he too starts digging at the snow and giving the positive sign that a bear is nearby! It's amazing to think of how well the dogs are able to detect the bear scent given that the grizzly bear can be under three meters of snow and one meter of earthen den!

Air temperature 5 F
Wind speed 13 mph
Air temperature with wind chill -15 F

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