Geoff Carroll

Formerly Geoff Carroll was arctic Wildlife Biologist for Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game.  He lives in Utqiagvik, Alaska.  In 1986 he was one of the six-member team led by Will Steger to reach the North Pole by dogsled without re-supply.  

Remembering the North Pole trek of 1986, by Paul Schurke (MinnPost)

 Will Steger (Wikipedia)

Whales, Polar Bears and Muskox, Geoff Carroll: Biologist in Barrow by Candice Bressler (Alaska Department of Fish & Game)

NPR: Retired Wildlife Biologist Recounts His Face-to-face Meeting with a Polar Bear, January 9, 2022

Interviews

2009

Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll recounts his work as an area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. His responsibilities encompass a vast 56,000 square mile area, primarily focused on land mammals, caribou in particular, which he considers a crucial land resource. He explains the ongoing project of conducting regular counts, including photo censuses every few years and yearly assessments of calf production and survival rates. To aid in the studies, Geoff uses radio collars providing valuable data on caribou movements and behaviors. The North Slope alone is home to four caribou herds, each with populations ranging from 60,000 to nearly half a million. Managing and monitoring these herds necessitates meticulous observations, sampling, and statistical analysis.

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Geoff Carroll recalls his encounters with polar bears during his work on the whale census. Camped on the edge of the open lead (open water) in spring, Geoff and his team made efforts to keep the bears away from their camps. While they generally had benign experiences with polar bears, Geoff shares a particularly memorable incident. One day at their census camp, with separate sleep and cook tents, Geoff was asleep in a sleep tent while one of their whale counters was cooking in the cook tent. Suddenly Jim noticed a polar bear halfway through the front door of the tent, and the gun happened to be near the bear. Jim yelled and threw a frying pan at the bear, hitting it on the nose, causing it to retreat.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the untouched wilderness of the North Slope, particularly the vastness of the sea ice and the sense of freedom it provides. He describes the pristine environment that re-forms every year, offering a fresh start and the opportunity to explore uncharted territory. Geoff expresses his gratitude for experiencing this untamed beauty before the onset of oil development and seismic exploration on the North Slope. He acknowledges, however, that change is inevitable and he anticipates a gradual degradation of the region’s natural state, understanding the need for economic development. Geoff highlights the significant changes in the sea ice that he has witnessed, with open water lasting longer into the fall season and the landfast ice becoming less stable, increasing hazards for travelers on the ice. He mentions the diminishing extent of ice in the Northwest Passage, and predicts future ship traffic in the summer, transforming the Arctic forever.

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Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll talks about his journey to the Arctic, driven by his lifelong fascination with Northern and Arctic environments. Originally from Wyoming, he made his way to Alaska in his early 20s and enrolled at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to study wildlife, which included studying bowhead whales. Initially hired to collect samples from harvested whales, Geoff recognized the need for a more accurate population estimate and convinced his colleagues to start a bowhead whale census. With limited experience living and working on the ice, he collaborated with Iñupiaq whaling crews, assisting them with whaling even as they helped him count whales for science. Eventually, funding became available, and a dedicated census crew was formed to conduct a 24-hour watch and count bowhead whales every spring.

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Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll recounts the story of muskoxen in Alaska. Eradicated in the 1800s, they were reintroduced in the 1930s, and the population grew rapidly but faced predation and health issues, leading to a decline from 800 to 200 animals today. Efforts are underway to understand and protect this unique creature crucial to Alaska’s ecosystem.

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Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll discusses ice fishing to feed his sled dogs, which are Greenland huskies. Geoff mentions his previous experience with Greenland huskies and how they differ from Alaskan huskies. The conversation touches on ther athleticism and fighting tendencies.

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In 1986, wth years of ice experience from his work in the Utqiaġvik, Alaska, area wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll discusses how he overcame months of obstacles and faced extreme conditions to fulfill his dream of reaching the North Pole. With a team of experienced mushers and resilient Greenland sled dogs, his team navigated treacherous ice, freezing temperatures, and open leads of water. Through unwavering determination and resourcefulness, they triumphantly reached the North Pole, leaving an inspiring mark in the world of polar exploration.

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2022

Geoff Carroll shares his extensive experience as a biologist and wildlife manager in northern Alaska for over three decades. He worked as an area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, overseeing a vast territory and monitoring various land mammals, including musk oxen, caribou, moose, wolves, and bears. Geoff describes his job as multi-faceted, involving research, monitoring, problem-solving, and educational outreach. He enjoyed the freedom to prioritize tasks and work independently. Having retired in 2016, Geoff now spends his time in Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow), maintaining his dog team and embarking on occasional trips around town. He reminisces about the dog team’s past significance in his work, often using it to visit villages, gaining a warm reception from the locals. Nowadays, he focuses on smaller trips and continues to cherish his connection with the Alaskan wilderness.

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Geoff Carroll, a biologist with 30 years of experience in northern Alaska, discusses the notable changes in the region. He mentions the diminishing ice cover, flakier ice formations, and the shift from traditional to modern methods in whale hunting. Despite the changes, Geoff acknowledges the resilience of local hunters and their determination to preserve their cultural practices.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the fascinating whale counting program that began in 1974. Over the years, the count has improved and provided valuable insights into the whale population’s growth and health. The population has significantly increased, but due to changing ice conditions, the census has become more challenging. The whales are now staying farther from the shore, making it harder to observe them closely. As a result, local whalers are sometimes foregoing the traditional sealskin umiaq and using outboard motors to intercept the whales in their new habitats.

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Geoff Carroll discusses his love for traveling on the ice with his dog team, but notes that the ice conditions have changed significantly. In the past, the ice was more stable, allowing for enjoyable expeditions, but now it has become rough and less safe. He reminisces about his record-breaking sled-dog trek to the North Pole in 1986 with Will Steger and observes that modern North Pole expeditions have adapted their styles due to the less stable ice conditions, with more emphasis on manhauling and the use of dry suits to navigate open waters.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the changes in the Arctic and how they have and have not impacted the sense of freedom and open spaces he once cherished. While the ice conditions have become less stable, leading to some frustrations and adaptations, he notes that people in the region are generally adaptable and find new ways to navigate the changing environment. While there is a sense of nostalgia for the past, people continue to move forward, embracing new challenges. Geoff also points out that the changes in ice conditions can sometimes show exceptions, with variations occurring in different years, making it a complex and dynamic situation in the Arctic.

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Geoff Carroll discusses the significant decline in caribou herds in the Arctic over the past 15 years, with some populations experiencing at least a 50 percent decrease. This decline is likely linked to warmer winters, leading to icing events that make it difficult for the caribou to access their food. As the population declines, the predator-to-prey ratio changes, resulting in more caribou being preyed upon by wolves and bears. Although there have been signs of recovery, the Western Arctic Caribou herd experienced another decline recently. Despite this, there have been reports of caribou coming close to Utqiaġvik in the last two years, leading to local perceptions that the caribou population is increasing.

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Geoff Carroll discusses the status of Musk Oxen populations on the North Slope, highlighting a positive trend of growth in the southwestern region. He reminisces about his time conducting aerial surveys, covering a vast area of 56,000 square miles, but also acknowledges the inherent dangers in so many flights in small planes and recalls some close calls, leading to mixed feelings of missing the work while being grateful to have come through it all. Despite the challenges, Geoff remains passionate about the Arctic and its wildlife, sharing valuable insights into the changing conditions and the adaptability of both animals and people in the face of shifting environmental dynamics.

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