A new expedition exploring the incredible places in northern Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has revealed the spectacular landscapes, wildlife and life that once thrived there.
In its most recent expedition, Expedition 11, a team of scientists from the US Geological Survey (USGS) has mapped out 1,800 miles of coastline, measuring nearly 7,000 square miles.
They also discovered one of the world’s largest fish farms and a new species of fish in the region.
The expedition, headed by Dr John Stroeve, the USGS’s director of the Alaska National Laboratory, said: “There are so many fascinating things that we have found here, it’s just amazing to think we’ve only scratched the surface.”
The USGS said that although the Arctic Refuge covers an area of 1.8 million square miles, it is the world-largest, with more than 1.5 million square kilometres of landmass.
The refuge is the largest protected area in the world, stretching from the southern tip of the continental shelf to about 500 kilometres north of the Canadian border.
Dr Stroevel said the area’s remote location and the harsh climate meant that scientists could find a lot of different things in the refuge.
“What’s so cool about the refuge is that there’s so much to see, and you can’t get there by car or boat,” he said.
“It’s so cold.
The air is so frigid that it’s hard to breath, and it’s so wet that it freezes over, and that’s a major reason why it’s really important that we can get to these amazing sites that we found.”
The team has found the most remarkable feature of the refuge, a huge fish farm.
“This is probably the most spectacular, spectacular thing that we’ve found,” Dr Stoeve said.
A new species A new fish species has been discovered in the area.
“The new species, called the Duxellia cormorant, was a little bit smaller than the D. rex and a little smaller than a trout,” Dr Stephen Stroeves said.
These fish are a major pest of the Dussau river.
“There’s this huge fish called the Cormorants that come in from the sea,” Dr David Smith said.
In order to find the new species Dr Stueve and his colleagues collected thousands of cormors from the river and put them in a lab at the USFS station in Barrow, Alaska.
The fish were kept in tanks in a sealed freezer, where the temperature fluctuated between -35C and +50C.
The team then collected the fish and took them to the USBS.
“We put the corms into a freezer, put them into a water tank, and they came out and they were all completely alive and healthy,” Dr Smith said, adding that it took weeks for them to recover.
Dr Stephen said the discovery of the new fish has also attracted attention.
“You know that one of my students has taken his picture with it, which has been shared by a lot, including a lot at the University of Bristol, and there’s a lot more interest in it,” he added.
The scientists have also found the world first example of a freshwater crocodile, which was found in the same area.
They named it the Great Crop Carcharodon and named it after the town where it was found.
“In the spring of 1849, there was a big clamor, and the locals said that this crocodile was on the verge of coming down the river, so we thought it was the great clamor,” Dr James Boulton, a scientist from the University at Buffalo and lead author of the study, told BBC News.
“Then, in the summer, the great clams turned up, and we found this one and named him Great Crocodile.”
The researchers said the team hoped to study the new find further in the coming years.
Dr Smith, who has also worked on other expedition projects, said the discoveries were very exciting and that they would be of great help to future expeditions.
“If we can make a little more of the discoveries, it will be very useful to future research,” he told BBC Alaska.