Polar Careers: UMIAQ employee Brower Frantz, Barrow, AK

Bear guard Brower Frantz surveys polar bear tracks on the way to Point Barrow. Photo: Molly Rettig
Bear guard Brower Frantz surveys polar bear tracks on the way to Point Barrow. Photo: Molly Rettig

Polar Field Services could not accomplish the work we do without the help of our outstanding colleagues. We benefit greatly from the personal knowledge and experience of many of our native colleagues who grew up in the Arctic. Among them is Bower Frantz,  a bear guard and supervisor for UMIAQ.LLC, a Barrow-based company that provides field logistics to researchers and other groups.

Frantz is tasked with keeping researchers safe as they drill, slice, probe and travel on sea ice off the coast of Barrow. His work also gives him a front row seat to scientific research and the changing climate.

Frantz was recently featured in Alaska Business Monthly where he offered his long-term perspective on the changing climate, among other things:

One obvious change is that shore-fast ice is getting thinner and breaking up earlier in the year (as well as freezing up later). Through the 1980s, the ice used to be solid from November through June or July. Locals could go whaling and travel between coastal communities without worrying about falling in a crack or floating away on a broken slab of ice. Now there's a large gash in the ice shelf in front of town, only a few hundred feet from shore.

“That’s the first time I’ve seen open water so early in the year, in mid-March. That was definitely an eye-opener,” Frantz said.

Last week, a whaling crew was nearly stranded when an opening (called a lead) formed between them and the shore. They managed to cross the big crack, plus 10 smaller ones, on snowmachines to get back to safety, and the ice was evacuated for the day. These events could become more common as the ice becomes less stable.

Frantz says sea ice research can add detail to the history and trends that locals are already seeing. And he enjoys being a part of it: snowmachining on the beach, tundra and ocean, setting up camps and supporting groups on the ice.

To read the full article on Frantz, click here.