The Arctic in general

In the following, the Arctic is presented in general as a natural space, as a settling area and as a destination. In contrast, subsequent chapters give you an introduction into each arctic region for which you will find our specific tour offers.

dimensions of the Arctic
Arctic Ocean
characteristics of the arctic nature

(light conditions, northern light, climate, permafrost, fauna and flora)
settlement and population
travel possibilites in the Arctic (in general)

Definitions of the Arctic:
One of the definitions of the natural space of the Arctic that is easiest to unterstand is determined on land by the timberline of the lowlands: therefore, arctic areas are those areas around the North Pole where no high-growing plants exist, even though favourable conditions may prevail. In these areas only tundra is present. This botanic boundary does agree with the climatic definition of the Arctic: the 10°C-July-isotherm. To the north of this line of eqal temperature, the main temperature on a yearly basis of the warmest month of the year does not exceed 10°C. Based on this climatic and biological definition the extent of the Arctic shows strong variations: during ice ages the area was twice as large as today, for thousends of years during the warm period of the Atlantic it was significant smaller than at this moment and in future, due to proceeding climatic warming, the extent of the Arctic may shrink again.

According to above mentioned geographical definitions following areas do belong to the Arctic: all of the northern russian islands and a great part of nothern Sibiria, the north (north of the Brooks Range) and the east of Alaska, the north of Yukon and the main area of the Northwest Territories, as well as Nunavut in Canada, almost all of Greenland (except of the very most south), a small part of northern Iceland. The arctic Norway contains the vulcanic island Jan Mayen, Spitsbergen inclusive Bear Island and a tiny little part of the mainland close to Vadsø. However, for example the norwegion Northcape, Sweden or Finnland are not defined as arctic areas.

In comparison to the geographic definition an astronomic is used occasionally: the Arctic is constrained by the northern polarcircle. It is defined as a circle on the Earth with a consistend distance to the North Pole (ca. 66°33' northern latitude at this moment, one degree of latitude equals 111 km). To the north of this latitude the sun does not set for at least one day and does not rise for at least one day. The former event is called polarday or, if clear sky is prevailing, midnight sun (summer solstice). The latter is called polar night (winter solstice). These phenomenons are due to the Earth's rotation axis that is declined to the orbit of the Earth around the sun. Since this decline changes over time, the polar circles also shift. Even though, the polar circle is a defined border that is easy to calculate and also popular for tourists, it does not influence the nature - the woods and the agriculture of Scandinavia do extent much further north, whereas the arctic tundra of Canada in particular is found further south of the polar circle. Therefore, the polar circle as a defined border of the Arctic is practically useless.

In addition, political arctic borders defined by different nations do confuse in particular. These definitions depend on compromises of negogiations in between the interests of neighbouring countries (according to the international AMAP program: in the USA it is the 60° N latitude, in Scandinavia the polar cicle, the same for Russia, but only until the Ural, east of it the 10°C-July-isotherm or the border of the permafrost is used).  By the application of the definitions suddenly a by far larger area belongs to the "Arctic", like northern Sweden, northern Finnland and the Faroer that are according to climatic and biological defininitions definitely not arctic.

Considering these different definitions it is important to challenge statements about the "Arctic" on which definitions it is based on. Tourism for instance: some generous politic definitions of the Arctic end up in arctic tourism like bus tours to the North Cape, hotel holidays in the norwegian town Tromsö or railway tours to the great russian seaports Murmansk and Archangelsk. But more than 200 000 visitors of the North Cape every year exceed the number of travelers in the whole Arctic based on the climatic definition by more than twice!


Last Modification: 22.10.2010