Thursday, August 29, 2013

Where I'm heading...

Might see some of these
I'm heading up north again in a few weeks – I won't believe I'm actually going until I get on the plane as delays are typical, even expected. Excess ice has already pushed our schedule back and it's impossible to predict what else might come up before I leave.

This year I'm conducting oceanographic sampling in Scott Inlet, a remote fjord on northern Baffin Island. Two moorings were installed on my behalf last summer (I couldn't go because I was 8 months pregnant at the time). If luck is with me, I'll get those moorings back, download the data, then put them back into the water for another year. Additionally, my plan is to take as many CTD casts as I can and help out with the other work that will be going on (fish tagging, acoustic moorings and maybe shark wrestling).

I fly into Clyde River, a small town I've never been to. All I know so far about the town is the only guest house is closed for renovations. After a night there, I'll be getting on a small research vessel. I've been on this ship before and learned that it gets quite bouncy in rough weather and I tend to get sea-sick (will pack gravel).

To get to Scott Inlet, we'll have to skirt the edge of Baffin Bay a place I've read a lot about. Baffin Bay is a large body of water bound by Greenland to the east, Baffin Island to the west, Ellesmere Island to the north and Davis Strait to the sound. Obviously, locals have known about this place for as long as they have lived there (since about 500 BC). Wikipedia says that John Davis was the first European there in 1585, but I wonder how far the Vikings got exploring the area as I recently saw a documentary about a potential norse trading post on southern Baffin Island (no idea if the show was presenting a fringe idea or not).

Even though Baffin Bay is choked with ice in winter, European whalers frequented the area early in the age where European powers sent sail boats exploring the Arctic. There's a large polyna (the North Water Polyna), much further north than I will go, that's highly productive and home to many marine mammals. Baffin Bay is one possible starting point for the North West Passage and many explorers passed through including Sir John Franklin. Interestingly, a B-52 crashed on the ice in 1968 with its nuclear payload.

A couple hundred km north of Clyde River is Scott Inlet, a narrow fjord filled with large islands which I know little about. This time of year the daily mean temperature is 0 degree Celsius, so it could be quite cold. I'll have to pull out my fuzzy gloves and wool long johns. I wonder if I'll see northern lights?

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