Damage to Herschel Island's flora and fauna would represent another major loss. Visitors rave about the gorgeous wildflowers and uncommon combination of wildlife. The island is one of the few spots on Earth where black, polar and grizzly bears share the same habitat. There are also moose, musk oxen and caribou, as well as bowhead and beluga whales. "It's the only place I know where you will have the whole food chain hanging out together," Pollard says.
William Fitzhugh, head of the Smithsonian Institution's Arctic Studies Center, sees Herschel Island as just the tip of a melting iceberg, as many other Arctic archaeological sites have begun disappearing. "We're losing a lot of the Arctic record much faster than we were before," he says.
But Doug Olynyk, manager of Yukon's historic sites, puts the potential loss of Herschel Island and other archaeological sites in a broader, vastly more worrisome, perspective. "It will be sad that people won't be able to experience Herschel Island in its true glory, years from now," he says. "But once Manhattan starts being flooded, I don't think people will care about Herschel Island."