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Who's Waiting Up Top?

Ringed seals stay close to drifting pack ice or shorefast ice for most of the year, and much of their time is spent swimming beneath it. They are great divers and can stay under water for up to 30 minutes.

But, as air-breathing mammals, they must always have a way to get back to the air, or else they will drown.

In autumn and early winter, openings in the ice start freezing over, so the seals create breathing holes. They keep the holes open with their strong claws, and by pushing their noses through the new layers of ice.

This makes seals very vulnerable. When there's no open water nearby, they have no choice but to stick their heads up through the little holes.

Both polar bears and hunters know this. They look for the breathing holes, and wait patiently until the seal needs to come up for air.

For the seals, it's like playing "Russian roulette". If they pop their head up through the wrong hole, they could be facing a spear, a rifle, or sharp teeth and claws. When a seal goes up for a "breather" - it could be taking its last breath!

MORE...
Click pictures for more information and credits.
Arctic: Library and Links
Arctic Animal: Library and Links
Inuit: Library and Links
Library: Polar Bears
Polar Bear Instructions: How to Catch Seals
World's Largest Land Predator
The Ice Returns... the Hunt Begins
A Swimming General Store
Arctic Maps


Double-click any unlinked word DICTIONARY: Just "double-click" any unlinked word on this page for the definition from Merriam-Webster's Student Electronic Dictionary at Word Central.
Arctic Library ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
All sorts of Arctic Maps ARCTIC MAPS & WEATHER REPORTS: Maps of the Northwest Passage, explorers' routes, iceberg sources, Nunavut, the Arctic by treeline, temperature...
Links to related sites. ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
A Guide to Arctic Sunrise and Sunset GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?

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