Thursday, 16 August 2018

Introducing Alexandra Fiord

I have just returned from 5 weeks of field work at Alexandra Fiord. This is the first of a series of blog posts I wrote while there and will post over the next few days. Our field site is located at the old RCMP post along Alexandra Fiord at 79°N. Alexandra Fiord is located on the east side of Ellesmere Island and the post is situated on the south side of the fiord near its exit into Buchanan Bay. It is a beautiful location and on a clear day Greenland can be seen across Kain Basin.
Alexandra Fiord from East Ridge. The RCMP buildings are located
on the far side of the Twin Glacier river fluvial fan.
The buildings we use were built in 1953 for the RCMP staff and Inuit families that lived at the post. We live in one of the RCMP buildings, another building serves as the field lab and the other buildings are used for storage of tools, materials and food. Our first order of business on arrival this year was to clear up the mess made by a polar bear that had broken into the main building over winter. There were pots, pans, books and sundry stuff strewn all over the floor but the damage was minimal as the bear couldn’t reach the food stored in the attic. The bear had clawed at the attic hatch and left huge paw and nose prints on the walls and windows.
Alexandra Fiord RCMP Post with Skraeling Island and Bache Peninsula
in the background. The lab and main living building are the closest
buildings. The photo was taken from a helicopter on 13th July.
Broken sea ice, small icebergs and land fast ice filled the fiord when we arrived and slowly cleared out and broke up over the summer. It was cool wondering through the small, grounded icebergs at low tide taking photos especially when the water was still with perfect reflections in the fiord.
Land fast ice and small, grounded icebergs on the shore in
front of the Alexandra Fiord RCMP buildings.
Grounded iceberg, north shore cliffs and glacier
reflected in Alexandra Fiord.
The scenery is stunning with steep cliffs and glaciers on the north shore of the fiord dropping precipitously into the fiord. The entrance of Alexandra Fiord from Buchanan Bay is guarded by Sphynx Island to the west, so called for its outline resembling a sphynx, and Skraeling Island to the east on which there are remnants of old Thule settlements.
Looking south from camp towards Twin Glacier and Prince of
Wales Icefield with the airstrip in the foreground. Our field work
is conducted in the valley between the airstrip and the glacier.
Looking north from camp across Buchanan Bay is Bache Peninsula and, on a clear day from a high vantage point, the mountains and glaciers at the southern side of the Agassiz Icecap can be seen. In past years, I could see the same icecap looking south from Lake Hazen. Looking south from Alex camp is the glacial valley where we conduct our plant ecology research. At the head of this valley is Twin Glacier and the Prince of Wales Icefield. Alexandra Fiord is in the land of the midnight sun - the sun did not set throughout our field season and I found the best time to take photographs was at midnight when the sun is less harsh and the lighting takes on pastel shades.
Midnight sun - chilling out at Alexandra Fiord.


  1. Hi Zoe, Thanks for this description of the field site. Did you have to be on guard against polar bears? Where there mosquitoes? I am eager to hear about your main research questions. What were you doing there scientifically?

  2. Hi Richard, Thanks for commenting on my post. Polar bears are regular visitors to Alex as there are seals in the fiord and out in Buchanan Bay. So we were always in a bear aware mindset. However, we saw no polar bears this year. I personally have never seen a polar bear in the Arctic in the four years I have done field work in Nunavut. There were of course mosquitoes and they were quite bad for a week or so. Then the numbers dwindled and I adjusted and built up immunity to their bites to the point where they were no long an annoyance. I have upcoming posts on the field work we conducted so stay tuned...