Tuesday, 4 June 2019

The Resolute waiting game

I am now in Resolute getting ready to fly into our field site. We arrived in Resolute on Saturday via the Nunavut towns of Iqaluit, Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. Our plane from Iqaluit to Resolute was delayed by 2 hours as it had to take passengers to Pangnirtung first. This gave us time to walk from the airport into Iqaluit and look around. The city has really expanded since I was there in the 2014, there are many more housing units especially along the Plateau and at the end of the road where I lived. It was a beautiful sunny, blue sky day, the best day I have ever seen in Iqaluit. The Sylvia Grinnell river, on the edge of Iqaluit, is already in full spate, the river looks green where the water is flowing over the winter river ice. Normally at this time of year the river is still frozen and the river ice is an iridescent pale blue. The locals are saying that snow melt is about 2-3 weeks ahead of normal.

Raven metal sculpture in Iqaluit on a clear blue-sky day
The weather was also good in Pond Inlet and Arctic Bay. We could just about see the tops of the peaks on Bylot Island from Pond Inlet. Of course, Resolute was in fog but it lifted just high enough to allow our plane to land, otherwise we would have been flown all the way back to Iqaluit! With the delay in our flight it was almost 10pm before we arrived in Resolute. The weather in Resolute has remained overcast with snow flurries since we arrived 3 days ago with a brief period of sunshine overnight last night (remember it is 24hours of day light here now!).

Mountains and glaciers of Bylot Island from Pond Inlet

On Sunday we organised all the food and equipment we need to take into the field. We had placed some large food orders that were air freighted to Resolute earlier this year. The weight limit for our Twin Otter flight into Alexandra Fiord is a little less than normal as we will be flying in on skis and landing out on the sea ice. We also want to minimise the number of heavy items we need to carry 1/2km from the sea ice to our camp. We are just waiting for some glass gas sample vials for plant nitrification testing to arrive on special order from the UK and the weather to cooperate and then we will fly to Alexandra Fiord.

Twin Otter plane with skis to land on the sea ice at Alexandra Fiord.
Our equipment and food ready to be loaded on to the Twin Otter

In the afternoon we drove into the Hamlet of Resolute Bay. Around the hamlet we saw five polar bear hides hanging out to dry. I have seen seal skins stretched out on wooden frames to dry before in Iqaluit and Resolute but this is the first time I have seen polar bear hides and five of them at that! Hopefully these are the only bears I see this summer.

Polar bear hide (and a muskox hide on the railing!)
hanging out to dry at Resolute Bay

We also stopped at the Thule settlement opposite the rubbish dump. Most of the site is still under snow but where the ground was bare I found new green leaves of chickweed (Stellaria humifusa) and poppy (Papaver sp.) just coming out. In Iqaluit I saw new blades of grass and new fireweed (Chamerion latifolium) leaves. I expect I will be recording leaf out dates of plants at Alexandra Fiord soon after we get there.

Whale bones of an ancient Thule house near Resolute Bay.
Skins would have been stretched over the whale bones to form
the roof of the sunken dwelling currently hidden by snow.
Herring gull scavenging at the Resolute Bay rubbish dump

A group of researchers from Texas currently at PCSP are working to determine the reasons for the existence of a 23km2 lake 400m underneath the Devon Icecap. Aerial radar and gravity surveys of the icecap are being conducted using a DC3 plane. The researchers think the lake water is saturated in salts from the surrounding salt rich rocks and hence there is water, not ice, under the icecap. On the tarmac the plane rests at a 12° angle which apparently makes installing equipment quite a challenge, any screw dropped just rolls away!

DC3 plane parked at Resolute Bay airport waiting for good
weather to complete an aerial survey of a lake underneath the
Devon Icecap. When not flying, the floor of the aircraft slopes
by 12° make equipment installation quite a challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Pleased you are now able to blog again. Interesting to read this blog & I did chuckle about your screws rolling away! Hope you all & glass vials get to Alex soon.