Technology from Everglade swamps may help hunters adapt to climate change

Technology from Everglade swamps may help hunters adapt to climate change

Technology from Everglade swamps may help hunters adapt to climate change

As climate change thins sea ice around the Arctic, making travel by snowmobile during the spring precarious even for practiced hunters, one solution may be to borrow technology from the swampy Everglades of Florida.

Arctic Kingdom Marine Expeditions is reporting success in using airboats to guide tours to the floe edge outside Pond Inlet this summer.

Airboats, also known as “fan boats,” are flat bottomed craft propelled by an aircraft propeller, rather than an outboard motor. They designed to travel through swamps, but Graham Dickson with Arctic Kingdom says the boats work equally well when used to cross sea ice.

During the tours they drove the boats about 180 km over snow from Pond Inlet to the floe edge, and rode largely cheap jerseys over water when they returned.

The boats thumped over snow hummocks about half the speed of a snowmobile, Dickson estimates.

Perhaps in a warmer future, Inuit will travel to the floe edge to hunt beluga, narwhal and seal using such vehicles, rather than snowmobiles.

Such boats aren cheap Dickson says prices range from $75,000 to $150,000, depending on the size of the boat. But a typical aluminum hulled boat with two outboard engines may also cost $100,000, he says.

Dickson says the boats also have potential uses for Arctic search and rescue crews.

The vehicles are more noisy than conventional boats, but make less noise than usual beneath the water. And this helps when you an outfitter who is being paid to bring customers close to whales.

This past summer, Dickson says it wasn uncommon for them to see more than 200 beluga and narwhal in a day.

Once they found whales, Dickson group would swim with them, using special scuba diving equipment, called rebreathers, used by expert divers and the military.

The gadgets offer several benefits. They “scrub” the air being breathed for re use, which means the tanks are far lighter, and give off no oxygen bubbles. That helps divers get closer to whales.

“You considered more a fish than a person,” Dickson said. “Once you not giving off bubbles, you more accepted.”

It also means the diver loses less heat, which is a blessing in such cold waters. “It generally 2 C,” Dickson said.

And the absence of air bubbles also means it quieter for divers who want to film whales without the burbling of bubbles caught in the recording.

Rebreathing units are also far less heavy than traditional scuba gear, but like the airboats, they are expensive.

Not everything used on Arctic Kingdom tours is hi tech. Dickson has learned from the Inuit guides he hires the best way to lure whales. It involves slapping a piece of plywood with a few holes drilled in it against the water.

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