Saturday, October 03, 2009



This morning I completed my last bit of work for this field season, after finishing my last bit of field work yesterday morning. An hour of data-entry and proofing this morning, and I’m done work until September. It’s a pretty nice feeling, not surprisingly.

Everyone else here still has much to do, of course, so I’ll be helping out where I can; I expect to do a fair bit of cooking and cleaning over the next 10 days or so. Katherine’s work in particular continues for 6 more early mornings, and I’ll be able to assist her with some of her other tasks as well.

Not a great deal has happened in the last few days, but I did see a couple of interesting things.

I tracked a bumblebee (Bombus sp.) back to her underground home while running the FTIR at the Cassiope site the other day. She disappeared under this little bit of Cassiope tetragona a couple of times, so I think this is where her babies are sequestered. Rather than an act of pleasant maternal care, I might have stumbled upon a grim struggle of life-and-death, however – I later saw a smaller bumblebee nearby. There are 2 species of Bombus here, and the larger one is a nest parasite of the smaller, so what I may have seen was an act of parasitism, as a Bombus hyperboreus took over the nest of a hapless Bombus polaris. Still maternal care, but with a dark zero-sum-game aspect to it.

I saw a quite large bumblebee while I was running my soil gas probes a couple of days ago, and I took a video of her crawling around on my equipment.

Yesterday morning a group of 5 possibly juvenile walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) were feeding and roaming around in the shallows very close to shore below base camp, and the tide was very low. This allowed us to get very close to these animals, animals that I consider the ne plus ultra of proof that one is in the High Arctic, at least at the same level as seeing narwals (Monodon monoceros).

Another shot of the walruses.

I also took a video of the walruses

The tide lifts and drops icebergs on the shore; at the second low tide of yesterday in the afternoon, I exposed pretty much an entire roll of film on these few, mainly because of the interesting light, shadows, shapes, and colours in and around the ice. I’ll post those picture after I get my film developed.

My watch died sometime during last night. The timing is fortunate, as I no longer need it for my fieldwork. RIP, faithful timekeeper.

After I wrote the above, at around 3:00 pm, a group of kayakers arrived. This is a tour group run through a private company whose name I have forgotten. This kind of High Arctic tourism is not cheap – the copilot told one of my companions that the total price tag for all 11 passengers was in the order of $110000, or about $10000 per tourist.

There was some kerfuffle because they were transporting some equipment back to Resolute, and their gear was partly mixed with ours, but this was sorted out without too much difficulty. I know perhaps the least of anyone about what belongs to whom, so I stayed out of that discussion.

As per their usual routine (I gather), the kayakers set up their tents close to our outhose. This was annoying to my companions, but it really didn’t bother me any. Most of the group took off in the late afternoon for a bit of a hike – I saw them through my binoculars about ½-way up the Dome – so they really didn’t cause as much disruption as my companions thought they would.

There’s an interesting social dynamic at work here. We (my companions and I) have settled more-or-less into a reasonably stable social situation. There’s plenty of grumbling about such-and-such a person doing something wrong, or not working as hard as another, but it’s pretty minor. The arrival of a group of strangers, who have purposes highly different from our own (work vs. play, bluntly) and are almost entirely much older than us (I was the oldest person here, at 31; these tourists all appear to be retired, and one or two look older than 70) has thrown all of us for a loop. I feel like I have reacted the least to this arrival, but it’s hard to tell. It’s generated some topics for (ranting) discussion, at least. We seem to have become rather hermit-like, to varying extents.

They’re planning to depart for their 10-day tour tomorrow, so the disruption is temporary.

The tents of the kayakers, just below our outhouse (hidden behind our food-shed).

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