Thursday, August 07, 2008

Part III, Day 4: 080711

Today was a day of excitement, with plans rendered asunder and plenty of good collecting. We started at a more normal, less illness-inducing hour, and proceeded out to the field for some collecting.

We had intended to transport 5 or 6 of our group of 8 people across the Churchill river to an unnamed beach a few kilometres inland from the mouth of the river. This would require 2 or possibly 3 trips with our little Zodiac, but the weather was fine and clear, and we’d packed lunches and were planning on spending pretty much all day on and near the water.

David and I were ferried over by Christy, with Lauren along to provide a second person to help Christy if required on her journey back to the East side. However, the crossing was a little rough, though not too bad, and we discovered that our little Zodiac really does much better with 3 people aboard rather than 4. Christy and Lauren took quite a long time to get back to the East side, visible to me through my binoculars.

David and I set about collecting and watching out for bears, and I waited for Christy to radio to me and let me know when Chen and possibly somebody else might be coming over, too. However, about 20 minutes after I last saw her on the Zodiac, Christy radioed to me and simply told me the weather was deteriorating, winds were increasing, and she wasn’t coming back to get us. She had to find another boat, a worrying prospect for me in a town with virtually no other water traffic.

Still, Christy is very reliable and resourceful, so I wasn’t worried, and neither was David – he was having a great time collecting some novel stuff, and I’d found some interesting splash pools on the rocks. After a little while, Christy radioed again and said she’d arranged with Mike, owner of Sea North Tours, to come over and “rescue” us. Sure, sounds good. Back to collecting and bear-watching (no bears yet).

The small and apparently unnamed beach where David and I were “stranded” and “rescued from”. Mike told us the beach had no name, but the decaying house just above the beach used to belong to a man named “Joe Bighead”, so I call this beach “BigHead Beach” in honour of this man.

Joe Bighead’s old cabin, quietly decaying into the tundra about 100 metres above his beach.

At one point, I was happily picking big, fat, red water mites out of my net, and I glanced up to scan the horizon for predators. I spotted Mike and Christy heading directly for us, probably less than 5 minutes away. Not wanting to unduly delay our “rescue”, I quickly found David and told him it was time to go. We scrambled down the rocks to the beach, and happily boarded Mike’s much larger and better-maintained Zodiac, to return to Churchill.

It is unfortunate, I think, that Chen and others never had the chance to explore BigHead Beach. There are habitats there that I think would have yielded very interesting specimens for all of us, though it’s pretty difficult to get there, and the bear-detecting horizon is worryingly close.

In the afternoon we returned to the station, and managed to get a bit of collecting in at my traps near Bluffs A. We had planned to be out on the water after dinner with Mike, but the increasing winds caused him to cancel those plans, as he had seen whitecaps on the water beyond the mouth of the river. His boats are bigger and better than our little Zodiac, but they’re still not exactly ideal for heavy weather.

Tomorrow we’ll go in the opposite direction from the station, visiting some of the more boreal forest-like environs to the East and South.

No comments: