On my several trips to Alaska and northern Canada to see birds, I also tried to pay attention to animals and plants. My new mammal list is short: grizzly bear, musk oxen, hare, beluga whale, spotted seal. I didn’t even try to name plants. I saw mature willow trees that were three inches high, temperature and short growing season stunting them. Beautiful flowers, unnamed to me, were so small that I had to use my binoculars as a magnifying device. (Turn the binoculars around and look through the exit lens.)


I would have welcomed the book entitled ‘The Arctic Guide: Wildlife of the Far North” to be published this month by Princeton University Press, author Sharon Chester. About the size and heft of the Sibley bird guide, this book has 540 pages, waterproof cover, with animal and plant art and maps. (For my unidentified willow, seen on St. Lawrence Island, there are four species from which to choose, none growing higher than six inches.)


Covered are mammals, birds, fishes, lizards and frogs, flies, bees, and butterflies, plus flora — more than 800 plants and animals. There is an excellent glossary. There are geographic coordinates for major cities, countries, lakes, bays, rivers — anything that is geographically significant. The author describes the book as intended for travelers to such varied northern locations as Svalbard, the Canadian Arctic islands, Kamchatka, the Aleutian Islands, and Hudson Bay. Those define the approximate compass point boundaries of her work. 


There is text explaining what the Arctic is, its constituent parts — landforms, permafrost, glacial ice, sea ice, permafrost, the Arctic Ocean, its undersea features, and more. If you have questions about the homes for the




various plants and animals contained here, Ms. Chester has the answers, text well illustrated. The geography lessons offered by this book significantly increase its value. The text describing individual plants and animals is generous, moreso than most guide books.


Maps: I particularly like the Arctic map as viewed from directly above the North Pole. The Arctic Circle is shown, and the relationships between all Arctic elements are made clear. I can see the point where I once crossed the Arctic Circle, barely, when a plane taking me to Nome, Alaska, made a route stop in Kotzebee. (I spent our 10-minute stop outside the terminal, hoping to see a bird, any bird, a bird above the Arctic Circle. Didn’t happen.)


An unique feature: names of plants and animals are in the usual English and Latin (scientific names), plus German, French, Norwegian, Russian, Inuit, and Inupiaq languages.


The price is $27.95. Consider it an investment in identification or geography. It would be a unique holiday gift.




Daily measurement of carbon dioxide in atmosphere taken at Mt. Mana Loa, Hawaii:

Nov. 17, 2016 — 404.23 parts per million

Nov. 17, 2015 — 400.26 ppm

Highest-ever daily average -- 409.44  ppm on April 9, 2016

October 2016 — 401.57 ppm

October 2015 — 398.29  ppm

Some areas of the Arctic Ocean saw temperatures reach 15 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the month of October. The pattern has continued into November. In recent days, Arctic temps have deviated from normal by 35 degrees Fahrenheit or more. (Source: NASA)