National Geographic : 1965 Nov
"How come?" I asked. "Polar bear," was the prompt reply. Just a few weeks earlier, Navy oceanographers Lindsey Redin and Dick Ketchum were asleep in these quarters when the shattering of a window and a blast of frigid air awakened them. Redin stopped the hole with clothing. Something yanked it out again. Another icy blast. Redin reached through to retrieve the stuffing-and nearly grabbed a polar bear by the snout! Ketchum seized a magnum pistol and ran out to warn the others. On the way he met the marauding bear, fired, and wounded it. The beast reared, then turned and fled. Armed with a rifle, Ketchum and a staff man went searching for the bear. They spotted an Arctic fox-often a scavenger on polar bear kills-and followed it to the wounded animal. Fleeing at first, the bear at last wheeled to charge, making one final lunge even after being shot between the eyes. An autopsy explained its aggressive ness: It was a two-year-old female, just learning to hunt, and lean from undernourishment. Mountains Rise From Floor of the Ocean In May of 1963 Max Brewer invited me north again, this time on a supply flight to T-3 (Fletcher's Ice Island). Much larger than Arlis, this giant ice chunk measures 6 miles long and 3 miles wide. T-3 was manned intermit tently from March, 1952, to February, 1962, and has been continuously occupied since then. On T-3 I found five busy investigators, backed up by four staff men from the Arctic Research Laboratory. One of these was an Eskimo, Percy Nusunginya. In the fall he would return to the University of Alaska. He wanted to study Oriental languages, because, as he put it, Chinese are the world's most numerous people. "We need people who can speak the language," he said, "especially people like us Eskimos with an Oriental background." The scientific leader on T-3 was Dr. Kenneth Hunkins, a researcher with Lamont Geological Observatory of Columbia University. While drifting in 1957 on a floe station, he had located Fletchers Ridge (Alpha Rise), a range of sunken mountains rising more than 6,000 feet from the Arctic Ocean floor. This chain roughly parallels the even higher Lomonosov Ridge, discovered by Rus sian scientists almost a decade earlier. Lowering a pressure-proof camera on a cable a mile and a half down, Dr. Hunkins had taken the first photo graphs of the Arctic Ocean floor (page 678). They showed the bottom littered with rocks. How did they get there? The answer seems to be that over the centuries ice islands like Arlis II rafted boulders and rubble out from land and, melting and fracturing, dumped them into the sea. One morning I walked with Ken Hunkins to his labo ratory hut at the edge of the island. On an instrument panel, a stylus marked a revolving drum with readings from a sensitive fathometer, which recorded the ocean depth to an accuracy of one meter. "You might call it reading the grain of the land," said Ken. We were floating over one of our planet's most level surfaces, he explained, an abyssal plain as flat as a billiard 682 table, characteristic of ocean floors. Flaming springtime sun, riding low on the horizon, lights the Distant Ear ly Warning (DEW) Line station near Barrow, Alaska, a sentinel keeping round-the-clock electronic vigil.