Last week on Instagram, we asked you to vote on your favorite National Geographic photo of the year. The 14 images in the contest ranged from a pack of grey reef sharks on a hunt to a portrait of a prom queen in Flint, Michigan. These finalists were selected by Sarah Leen, National Geographic’s director of photography.
More than a million of you voted, and the race was tight.
In the end, Paul Nicklen’s photo of an Inuit man and his dog sled team in Greenland took top honors. The photo was featured in the January 2018 National Geographic magazine story about melting Arctic ice.
“The story was a rare opportunity to connect the livelihoods of a community to the importance of conserving ocean wilderness,” says Kathy Moran, the photo editor on the story. “This moment of whimsy captures the relationship between the Inughuit [the northernmost Inuit community], their lifestyle, and the environment.”
Since the 1980s, more than a million square miles of Arctic sea ice has been lost—an area about the size of Alaska, California, and Texas combined. By the 2050s, it’s likely the only remaining year-round sea ice will be concentrated north of Greenland and around Canada’s Ellesmere Island. This ice will be the last stand for much of the Arctic’s wildlife that depends on ecosystems at the sea ice’s edge for survival.
Those who live where the ice is melting, like Naimanngitsoq Kristiansen in the photo, will lose their traditional ways of life and be forced to find other livelihoods. National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project, which is dedicated to the conservation of marine habitats, is working to protect this “last ice” area.
For even more amazing images, see National Geographic’s 100 best photos of 2018.