Polar bears and icy greens in OCEANS DEEPLY

February 8, 2018

Two studies published in the last two weeks highlight how important sea ice is to polar bears– not just so they can hunt, but so they can eat their greens, too! My article today in OCEANS DEEPLY looks at a new world record for photosynthesis in the dark (ice algae blooming in near total darkness beneath six feet of snow and ice) and some stunning detective work using a chemical marker to show that polar bears are almost wholly dependent on that same algae. Polar bear moms don’t have to tell their cubs to eat their greens– it’s just naturally part of their diet in the seals they eat!


Polar bear cubs play in icy swimming hole at 82° north. © Randall Hyman

Oil in paradise essay in OCEANS DEEPLY

August 9, 2017

After Norwegian national elections next month, plans to drill for oil in waters along the country’s rugged northwest islands will likely resurface. In light of demonstrations in the Lofoten Islands last weekend, here’s a piece published today in OCEANS DEEPLY recalling a few magazine assignments I covered over the years as the region developed into a prime tourist destination.


A herring boat follows the channel from a harbor at Svolvaer, part of Norway’s Lofoten Islands, to the open Norwegian Sea. © Randall Hyman


Svalbard Russian tourism interview in ARCTIC DEEPLY

June 13, 2017

With the recent crash of coal prices, Norway has suspended most of its mining in the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and turned instead to tourism and scientific research in the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen. Russia has not followed suit in Barentsburg, the only other town on Spitsbergen Island. There, Moscow continues to subsidize coal mining for strategic geopolitical reasons while fostering a fledgling tourism company, Arctic Travel Company Grumant, which depends heavily on the annual peak of tourists in March and April. My interview with Barentsburg’s tourism manager, Sergey Shirokiy, takes a look at the town’s tourism prospects and coal dependency.


Snowmobile tourists leave Russian coal mining town of Barentsburg amid snow and ice of April; Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman

Methane and climate change article in SCIENCE

May 8, 2017

When it comes to climate change, good news is rare in the Arctic, where temperatures are rising faster than anywhere else on the globe. Enter methane gas, some 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. Is it possible that where methane bubbles to the surface from seafloor seeps, carbon dioxide is actually sucked up? New research off the coast of Svalbard says it’s true. Read about it in this article I published today in Science.


Scientists working on the research ship Helmer Hanssen found that Arctic seeps of methane may be lessening the climate impact of carbon dioxide. © Randall Hyman

Norwegian Embassy interview in ARCTIC DEEPLY

April 4, 2017

For centuries, with the dramatic exceptions of World War II and the Cold War, Norway and Russia have enjoyed open and friendly land and maritime borders, but in the past two years relations have grown suddenly icy. Increased Russian military actions in the Arctic and recent U.S. moves regarding NATO and the Paris Agreement may have caught Norway out in the cold. Read what a diplomat and a military attache at the Royal Norwegian Embassy have to say about the region’s geopolitical climate change in this interview I published in Arctic Deeply.


Curving northeastward over Sweden and Finland, Norway shares a 196-kilometer (122-mile) Arctic land border with Russia as well as the world’s only Arctic maritime border, besides America’s; Kirkenes, Norway. © Randall Hyman

VIDEO: Arctic snowmobile trek

February 1, 2017

Long, cold winter got you down? Cheer up, things could be worse– like about minus-twenty-windchill worse in a polar-night blizzard halfway between two remote Arctic settlements. Last year at this time, I journeyed between Svalbard’s only two towns, Longyearbyen and Barentsburg, to write about Russian-Norwegian relations for Foreign Affairs magazine. No official guide services were available in January, so I hired a snowmobile and two hearty Ukrainians to travel to Barentsburg. Here is a short clip of what we encountered.


Ukrainian guide shovels pathway down vertical snowdrift covering frozen waterfall halfway between Longyearbyen and Barentsburg in January; Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman


Deep Sea Rising article in SCIENCE

November 4, 2016

Bioluminescence is as mysterious as the deep ocean realm where animals’ own light becomes stronger than daylight as surface light fades into darkness 200 to 1000 meters (600-3000 feet) under the sea. Some call it the “twilight zone,” and it can be spooky indeed, with angler fish that lure prey by dangling glowing bait over their heads and prey that hide behind masks of bioluminescence. New research by a team of scientists during Norway’s polar night in the Svalbard archipelago has revealed that in winter this twilight zone occurs in Arctic waters ten times shallower than normal. In a sense, the deep sea comes to the surface. Read my article on this research in SCIENCE by clicking on the photo below.



Scientists scuba dive from a small boat along the Svalbard coast in the cold darkness of January to photograph species of the polar night, many of which are bioluminescent.
© Randall Hyman

VIDEO: Shattered Arctic lecture show

September 21, 2016

For those who have attended my Shattered Arctic lecture in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Boston, New York and Norway, here is the keystone video you viewed and may want to revisit, as posted on Vimeo.


Scientists bursts through icy hole pumping fists in Arctic Ocean 500 miles from the North Pole after finally discovering spring plankton for sampling. © Randall Hyman

Svalbard Treaty article in APF REPORTER

July 5, 2016

As Russia becomes more assertive in pursuing strategic interests in the western Arctic Ocean, its excuse for maintaining a foothold in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago has crumbled along with global coal prices. Coal mining, Russia’s sole justification for maintaining a settlement on Norwegian soil under the terms of the Svalbard Treaty of 1920, is no longer viable. Norway’s only Svalbard town, Longyearbyen, has turned from coal mining to tourism and scientific research for survival. Russia’s only town, Barentsburg, is clinging to the same strategy with limited success. Meanwhile, Oslo has accused Moscow of violating the non-military terms of the Svalbard Treaty at least once in the past year. With feathers ruffled on both sides, will the Treaty attain the century mark unscathed?


Miner enters information on control chalkboard near mine shaft entrance deep below Arktikugol offices; Barentsburg, Svalbard, Norway. © Randall Hyman

Waning sea ice article in ARCTIC DEEPLY

May 18, 2016

This article, published today in ARCTIC DEEPLY, looks at recent record lows of Arctic sea ice coverage through my travels with scientists aboard a research ship, icebreaker and on land and ice observing polar bears and seabirds. As sea ice coverage grows dramatically thinner and smaller, Arctic species are feeling the heat.



Diving under the ice at 82° North
© Randall Hyman

Svalbard Russia-Norway article in FOREIGN AFFAIRS

April 27, 2016

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.. or so this tale of the last two towns in Svalbard might start. My latest article, published today in FOREIGN AFFAIRS magazine, deals with the geopolitics and economics of maintaining a foothold in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, located at a critical crossroads between Russia and the West. In the wake of climate change, sea ice has retreated and Arctic Ocean resources have become increasingly accessible. Meanwhile coal, once the lifeblood of all settlements in Svalbard, has become too expensive to mine.


Mine 7, Longyearbyen
© Randall Hyman

For almost a century, the Svalbard Treaty of 1920– which designated Svalbard a non-militarized Norwegian territory and granted all signatories commercial access to its natural resources– has kept the peace between Russian and Norwegian villages there. With coal in decline and seas opening up, ensuring a foothold in the archipelago has become more economically challenging but ever more vital to both Russia and Norway.



Lenin statue, Barentsburg
© Randall Hyman

Boston-New York lecture tour

April 17, 2016

Museum of Science in Boston


Randall Hyman at the Museum of Science in Boston

I was on the road this past week underwritten by the Norwegian Consulate of New York with my multimedia lecture on the impact of climate change in the Arctic, presenting shows at Boston’s Museum of Science, New England Aquarium and Boston College. I also presented an abbreviated version of my show to a small gathering at the Norwegian Consul General’s residence in New York.


Randall Hyman delivers lecture at Boston College

World’s northernmost mayor article in HUFFINGTON POST

March 30, 2016

While on Spitsbergen island in the Svalbard archipelago, I interviewed the mayor of the world’s northernmost permanent settlement in the wake of the collapse of coal, the town’s main industry. This quick Q&A summarizes his vision for the path ahead.



Miner statue, Longyearbyen
© Randall Hyman

Methane article in HUFFINGTON POST

March 29, 2016

Here is a condensed, easy-to-read version of my article about the promise and peril of methane hydrates off the coast of the Svalbard archipelago.



Friederike Gründger, a post-doc scholar working with Helge Niemann, filters methanotrophic microbes from water samples to measure methane consumption during research cruise in the Svalbard archipelago, Norway. © Randall Hyman

Sami Easter Fest article in SMITHSONIAN

March 24, 2016

Easter is celebrated lots of ways around the world, but one of the most unique is found in northern Norway, in the land of the Sami, where colorful costumes and hypnotic singing are par for the course. Here’s my article about it in Smithsonian Magazine.



Women in traditional Sami costumes from across Scandinavia perform at the Sami Easter Festival in Kautokeino, Norway. © Randall Hyman

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