Exposed CoffinPosted on Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 at 8:34 am | See all Seascape Entries.
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Exposed Coffin, Oil and The Caribou series, 2006 by Subhankar Banerjee. Photograph. Artist featured in Polar Attractions.
“Robert Thompson, my Inupiat friend from Kaktovik stated that the permafrost (permanently frozen ground) around the coffin melted away (a climate change phenomenon), thereby exposing the coffin. He speculated that perhaps a grizzly bear broke it open scattering the bones, and perhaps the coffin is nearly one hundred and fifty years old and not of an Inupiat but possibly of a commercial whaler. Climate change increases thawing of permafrost, which releases methane (twenty three times as potent at trapping heat as carbon dioxide) and carbon dioxide, creating an amplifying feedback loop whereby more warming causes additional releases, which would cause more warming, and so on. Additionally vast amounts of methane, in a solid icy form called methane hydrates or clathrates, are trapped in permafrost and at shallow depths in cold ocean sediments. Scientists predict that if the temperature of the permafrost or the seabed rises a few degrees, it could initiate decomposition of these hydrates, releasing methane in the atmosphere. If such releases did occur, scientists worry the climate impacts could be very large. As permafrost thaws, ponds connect with the groundwater system, which could lead to drying of steams, lakes and wetlands that have significant impact both on ecology and native cultures. Permafrost thawing also accelerates rates of contaminant transfer. This will increase episodes of high contaminant levels in rivers and lakes that may have toxic effects on aquatic plants and animals and also increase transfer of pollutants to marine areas. Increasing contaminant levels in Arctic lakes will accumulate in fish and other animals, becoming magnified as they are transferred up the food chain.” -Subhankar Banerjee