Saturday, September 06, 2008

Part IV, Day 4: 080724

My first full day in Resolute, and several other first-time experiences. At breakfast I met up with Derek and his companion Günter (from Austria), and we quickly went over plans. I got some space in a lab above the main floor of the warehouse, which is across the “street” from the living area of the PCSP. The PCSP is basically Resolute’s airport – most of the buildings that are not abandoned at the airport, about 4 kilometres from town, are PCSP facilities. This includes such core airport facilities as the control tower (actually, an office halfway above the ground floor of the warehouse) and the fuel-storage building ("NO SMOKING" in enormous letters, in case the stacks of hundreds of 45-gallon fuel drums weren't obvious enough).

Derek and Günter have been here for about a week, working principally with Debbie, a local Inuit who lives in town when she’s not out hunting or fishing. Including Debbie’s name on my applications to work in the North, on Derek’s and other’s advice, may have been important in securing the permits and support I was able to get; I was highly pleased to finally meet her. Then, we went over to the warehouse to talk to George and get me set up on an ATV. I’d never driven such a vehicle before, nor any of its relatives like snowmobiles or motorcycles. It’s pretty straightforward, though, and once I got a helmet and a floater suit (since we would be working around water, and Günter highly recommends floater suits for general driving around) I was happily practicing in the parking lot, carefully avoiding running into the helicopter. Debbie had some additional useful advice, particularly regarding treacherous terrain – basically, when in doubt, put it in second gear.

We first drove out to Char Lake, a body of water that has received considerable attention over the last 40 or so years from geologists, limnologists, ecologists, and other scientists. Derek told me the name was probably no longer particularly appropriate, considering all of the sampling that has been done of the local salmonid population.

Debbie and Günter used Derek’s shiny-new electric motor to get out along the gill net they’d deployed previously, and collect the fish.

There is a shallow pond area at one part of Char Lake’s perimeter, where I found a few critters among the vegetation. Other parts of the shoreline are largely devoid of plants, including mosses and lichens.

The ATV I was using, parked near the shore of Char Lake. These little Kawasaki’s are actually 2-wheel-drive, not 4x4. The terrain is not rough, so I suspect they’ll be quite sufficient as long as we don’t wander into anything really soft and muddy.

After lunch, we visited several other lakes nearby, including Small Lake (it’s smaller than the others), North Lake (guess which direction we travelled), and Seven Mile Lake (guess how far we went). Names of water bodies, as in other places I’ve been this summer, tend towards the vaguely-descriptive rather than the memorable.

Derek’s ATV with trailer (for hauling the boat and nets) at the inflow stream of North Lake. There was some interesting filamentous green algae (green slime) in the stream, and some critters.

On our way back to the centre in the late afternoon the weather cleared up a little and the sunlight picked out some interesting highlights on the terrain, particularly near the shoreline. Derek called a stop to take pictures just as I was thinking of pausing for some shots; I took several, but I think this one is my favourite.

After dinner, we discussed plans for tomorrow. The local Hunter’s and Trapper’s Association (commonly referred to as the HTA) has elected a new president or something like that (I’m not clear on the details), and as a long-term scientist in the area, Derek thinks he should spend some time meeting people and discussing long-term plans. This means he hasn’t decided whether he will go on the helicopter tomorrow to Amituk Lake, about 45 kilometres to the North-East. With 1 passenger seat in the front and 6 in the back, the helicopter has enough room for only 3 people in addition to the boat, motor, nets, etc. Derek seems to be leaning towards letting me go in the chopper while he spends the day with the locals; either way, our plans are highly weather-dependent: nobody is going anywhere if the weather turns foggy again. Derek and Günter are leaving to the South soon, so tomorrow is their last field-work day; the next day is reserved for packing and putting stuff into long-term storage. If I don't go to Amituk, I'll be able to work in some of the ponds near the PCSP, unless the weather turns really bad (which it could, Derek told me they had 100 km/h winds the day before I arrived).

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