101 episodes

The Arctic and the Antarctic are privileged locations for observers interested in understanding how our world is shaped by the forces of nature and the workings of history. These areas have inspired countless humans to undertake epic expeditions of discovery and have witnessed both great triumphs and miserable defeats. As a planetary litmus paper it is at the poles we can detect the effects of natural oscillations and human activities on the global ecosystems.

Curiously Polar Chris Marquardt

    • Places & Travel
    • 4.8, 9 Ratings

The Arctic and the Antarctic are privileged locations for observers interested in understanding how our world is shaped by the forces of nature and the workings of history. These areas have inspired countless humans to undertake epic expeditions of discovery and have witnessed both great triumphs and miserable defeats. As a planetary litmus paper it is at the poles we can detect the effects of natural oscillations and human activities on the global ecosystems.

    103 Voices of the North, pt. V - The Sound of the Far East

    103 Voices of the North, pt. V - The Sound of the Far East

    Video version of this episode
    The ‘shore of two oceans’ is home to an ancient, Paleo-Siberian group of Arctic natives. With roughly 16,000 people the Chukchi who live in the interior of the Chukchi peninsula have traditionally been herdsmen and hunters of reindeer, while those who live along the coasts of the Arctic Ocean, the Chukchi Sea, and the Bering Sea have customarily hunted sea mammals such as seals, whales, walruses, and sea lions. The Chukchi call themselves the Lygoravetlat, which means "genuine people." In their long, turbulent and changeable history, the Chukchi did not have many constants, and its cultural traditions, such as music and shamanism, have suffered particularly in recent history.
    The Chukchi represent a kind of bridge between cultures and combine throat singing with drum dance, later also with classical singing. Their unbreakable link with the natural world is found over and over in Chukchi folklore. The rich tradition, nurtured by centuries of development, is made up of numerous tales of animals and people. What is unique for the Chukchi, however, is that only women practiced both the local form of throat singing and drum dancing in order to say goodbye to the men who set off on the hunt. But in addition to the state-organized ethnic folklore groups, there are also young, up-and-coming bands that integrate the traditional music of the Chukchi into contemporary music.

    • 33 min
    102 The Greatest Ecological Disaster Since Exxon Valdez

    102 The Greatest Ecological Disaster Since Exxon Valdez

    Watch this episode as a video.
    In the beginning of June Russia has declared a state of emergency, just five days after a power plant fuel leak in its Arctic region caused 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil to escape into a local river, turning its surface crimson red. The Ambarnaya river, into which the oil has been discharged, is part of a network that flows into the environmentally sensitive Arctic Ocean. Built on permafrost that’s rapidly melting in a warming Arctic, the pillars that supported the plant’s fuel tank started to sink. Two days passed before local authorities learned of the spill from the Nadezhdinsky Metallurgical Plant. Even then, local officials only learned of the spill from social media. The plant is operated by a division of Nornickel, whose factories in the area have made the city of Norilsk one of the most heavily polluted places on Earth.
    Open a map of the area
    The surprisingly open media coverage of this incident gives an unprecedented insight into mining and drilling operations in the Russian Arctic and its connected threats for the fragile environment.
    Environmentalists have said the river would be difficult to clean, given its shallow waters and remote location, as well as the magnitude of the spill. A World Wildlife Fund speaking to the AFP news agency described this as the second-largest known oil leak in modern Russia’s history in terms of volume.
    The Russian chapter of activist group Greenpeace said damages to the Arctic waterways could be at least 6 billion rubles (over $76 million), and has compared the incident to Alaska’s 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. Its estimate does not include atmospheric damage due to greenhouse gases and soil pollution. The installed buoys will only help collect a small part of the pollution, leading us to say that nearly all the diesel fuel will remain in the environment. The clean-up effort could take between 5-10 years.

    • 22 min
    101 Voices of the North, pt. IV - Microcosm of a Vanishing Culture

    101 Voices of the North, pt. IV - Microcosm of a Vanishing Culture

    Spread over an immense tundra and forest-tundra zone from the Kanin Peninsula on the European side to the Taimyr Peninsula on the Siberian side of the Russian North, the Nenets are one of 40 Russias indigenous small-numbered peoples of the North, Siberia, and the Far East. Like their ancestors, they are still mainly nomadic people with their main subsistence coming from hunting and reindeer herding. Their shamanistic and animistic belief system, which stresses respect for the land and its resources, also intimately linked their song tradition with shamanistic ritual in the past. But the Nenet’s song is much more complex and contains several different types. Part four of our exploration of Arctic indigenous music.
    Here's what kept Chris busy for the last weeks: PHOTO SENSEI - interactive video sessions with your favorite photographers and educators

    • 40 min
    100 Voices of the North, pt. III - The beauty of Joiks

    100 Voices of the North, pt. III - The beauty of Joiks

    Spread over a vast area, covering four countries, the Sámi people have inhabited the arctic and sub-arctic regions of Fennoscandia for over 3,500 years. To make up for past suppression, the authorities of Norway, Sweden and Finland now make an effort to build up Sámi cultural institutions and promote Sámi culture and language. Currently, the revitalisation of the Sami culture has grown strong and the Sami traditions have been reinvigorated by increasing awareness and conscious efforts to preserve the Sami culture as a unique and valued part of the Scandinavian societies. A characteristic feature of Sámi musical tradition is the singing of joik.
    Joiks are song-chants and are traditionally sung a cappella, usually sung slowly and deep in the throat with the apparent emotional content of sorrow or anger. In a way, it is similar to the Inuit throat singing and isn’t at the same time. Using the voice and forming sounds deep in the throat might appear similar, the outcome and performance, however, is completely different. Joik, the singing tradition of Sami, is considered to be ancient with roots presumably in prehistoric times. It is unique to the Sami culture and particularly among European singing traditions. This singing tradition is characterized by a special vocal technology that utilizes nearly the whole range of the human natural vocal potential and was original without instrumental accompaniment. The use of words could vary from one region to another, from nearly none in the North Sami language area to long epic descriptions in East Sami in the Kola Peninsula. The melodies with regular rhythmic and melodic patterns could often be freely played with and improvised on. Additionally, joik could also be applied to story-telling.
    There is a lot of research about joiks and there is even the theory, that the joik have had and possibly still has a role as a health-promoting and/or resilience factor within the Sami culture, giving the Sámi people a significant difference compared to other indigenous people in the Arctic. Usually sung a cappella, musical instruments frequently accompany joiks in recent years. Joik remains an integral part of Sámi culture because of its integrative quality. A joik connects the performer and his or her listeners, not only with each other but with their collective past by uniting it with present experience. As Richard Jones-Bamman has put it: Joiking effectively collapses time. Not all Sámi can perform joik, but knowledge of the genre is still a key symbol of Sámi communal identity. Even though its existence was long denied in public pronouncements, joik has continued to be practiced and heard.
    For modern Sámi artists like Sofia Jannok the joiek philosophy remains the base of their work, they delicately blend the old vocal tradition with genres like pop, electronica, and jazz. As South Sámi singer Marja Mortensson has put it: “Joik is like a whole philosophy. It’s about the connection with nature and the people around you. When I joik, my head gets filled with images, and I feel that I travel – either to a place or into the soul of the person I am joiking.”
    Check out this Spotify playlist with Sámi music.

    • 37 min
    099 Voices of the North, pt. II - ULO, The World’s Most Successful Record Label

    099 Voices of the North, pt. II - ULO, The World’s Most Successful Record Label

    In a vast but sparsely populated country music is more than just entertainment. This is even more true in a place like Greenland, the largest island in the world. Where traditional Inuit music like drum dance is mainly performed to entertain tourists today it is even more important to find ways to include those over 4,000 year old traditional elements within modern-day pop culture. And when the record label ULO released the rock band Sumé's first album Sumut in 1973 it singlehandedly kickstarted the local rock scene by uniquely singing in the Greenlandic language and using elements of traditional drum dances in the music. The label, that could be legitimately the world's most successful record label, is today Greenland's only major music label. Their least successful releases sell the equivalent of four times platinum in Europe. Their biggest seller was purchased by an estimated twenty percent of Greenland's total population, in numbers over 10,000 units to a population of only 56,000 people. That equates to twenty-five million sold copies in the states! That only can work because the people in Greenland love listening to their local music. Releasing between 10 and 15 records per year, the music scene in Greenland couldn't be any more diverse. Stretching over half the length of Africa, the biggest island in the world spreads its tiny population along a 44,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) long coastline with no roads between the settlements, far away from each other. Music has become the link between people all over Greenland. And music is the new medium of poetry. Rock and pop present thoughts and ideas to Greenlanders. That makes the country probably the hottest music market in the world - if you compare the sales numbers with the numbers of inhabitants.
    Check out the Sounds of Greenland on Spotify.

    • 28 min
    098 Voices of the North, pt. I - The Story of Aakuluk Music

    098 Voices of the North, pt. I - The Story of Aakuluk Music

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    If there is one thing that cultures around the world have in common then it’s music. Music helps us to express emotions, to celebrate, to mourn. We connect memories with certain songs, couples have "their" song, films without music are hard to imagine nowadays and even in a time when films didn't have their own sound, pianists played a suitable score in the cinemas. But at the same time music is very much connected to each culture itself, to traditions and language. With the upcoming episodes we would like to shed a light on the music culture of the circumpolar north.
    The first part of this mini series takes a look into the music of Nunavut, probably the largest Inuit territory. In a culture that lives in small communities, was largely nomadic, and is cut off from the outside world for most of the year, music plays an even bigger role. Traditional Inuit music has been based on drums used in dance music as far back as can be known. When you travel along the different Inuit cultures from Greenland to Canada and Alaska towards Russia, you will find the basics of the drum dances in all the cultures and the same applies for the second base of traditional Inuit music, a vocal style called katajjaq, Inuit throat singing. Mostly performed as a duet, this form of throat singing mimics the natural world. Wind, ice, sea and bird sounds dominate.
    This traditional form of singing was only recently threatened with extinction. The colonisation of the Arctic has almost everywhere caused the nomadic peoples to be settled and the language of the colonial power to be spoken primarily at school, Danish in Greenland, English in Canda and Alaska. This effectively prevented the transfer of this purely oral form of expression. Fortunately, however, today we find a lively Inuit culture everywhere in the circumpolar Arctic. And as the Inuit languages see a new rise so does the throat singing. And it’s amazing to see that it’s not only part of today’s Inuit musical pop culture but being adopted by people all around the world. At the German University of Music FRANZ LISZT in Weimar two throat singers from Nunavut, Kiah Hachey and Karen Flaherty, are joined by three electronic music artists, Paul Hauptmeier, Martin Recker and Sergio Valencia. Inuit throat singing usually doesn’t include any form of instrumentation and the two guys simply create environments for the audience to encapsulate and experience the throat singing. They place the wonderful singing into an environment, space if you wish that allows you to ground and reference the throat singing and chanting.
    As music has become a huge part in Western culture it always has been in Inuit culture. Inspired by traditional throat singing and contemporary artists, young Inuit musicians offer a modern take on Inuit life.
    And in 2016 the band members of the band The Jerry Cans founded Nunavut’s first record label. The alt-country band The Jerry Cans started the label because they found it very challenging to navigate the music industry from Iqaluit. When in 2016 Aakuluk Music started its business in Nunavut's capital Iqaluit it was a first-timer. The first label in Nunavut, the first step to build up an infrastructure we take for granted in Western cultures. But up north, things are different. Today, Aakuluk Music’s mission is to record, market and distribute music sung in Inuktitut and originating from Inuit traditions, building hope through music and community, and preserving the territory's distinct culture. And a few more record labels, like Hitmakerz, followed since then.
    Check out Aakuluk Music's sounds on Spotify.

    • 38 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
9 Ratings

9 Ratings

blitzcon ,

Excellent Podcast!

We have been looking a long time for podcasts to learn more about antarcic and arctic regions. Finally we found Curiously Polar! The hosts are engaging, educational, and funny. They have good chemistry in their conversations. They fit a lot of information into short episodes. It's educational but also it is conversational in a laid back style.

3812GWGate ,

Chris and Mario are the best!

Hey, if you love to learn about the Arctic, or about climate, or weather, or ocean currents, or drinks that are served in a Russian coal miners' Pub in Barentsburg on Spitsbergen-- here it is!! If you love curious German photographers, or Italian ship captain/naturalists who speak English with a Norwegian accent-- this is it!! I am now binge listening for the second time, and have already planned my next trip to Svalbard, up to 80 degrees North latitude. If you grew up reading and dreaming of Nansen, Byrd, Amundsen and Scott, this is the podcast that will delight you. The only bad thing is that sometimes they have to pause because they are on adventures that make them (even more) inaccessible than usual. But that's life in the Arctic...

NashuaGuy ,

Great topic!

I enjoy all of these episodes as the Arctic is a place that I am definitely considering visiting in the near future. However I am going to Antarctica this December and hope to hear some information about that as well, as that is my immediate need and it seems to be very much geared toward the Arctic.....but very interesting nevertheless.

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