The Bug Geek

Insects. Doing Science. Other awesome, geeky stuff.

The adventure begins

I’m sitting in my cozy apartment, waiting for a pot of chili to simmer down, surrounded (literally) by piles of field equipment, thinking about all the work that needs to get done.   I’m Here, in the far Canadian north, on the sandy (!) coast of the Arctic Ocean. 

Before arriving Here, we had one brief stop at Cambrige Bay, Nunavut.  Stepping out of the little twin-propeller plane, I got my first true glimpse of the arctic landscape.  My initial impression was: grey; dark; barren; frozen; rocky.  Alien.  For the first time since leaving my home, my wife, my very comfortable life in eastern Ontario…I realized just how very, very far away from home I was.  It was a bit of a sniffly moment for me, if you know what I mean.  

We took for the skies for the last time, and before clouds once again overtook the view, I noticed that the bodies of water below displayed a beautiful array of very unexpected colour. 

The photograph does not do it justice; the frozen bay was a gorgeous aquamarine.  The smaller ponds ranged from mustard yellow, to pale chartreuse, to teal.  I don’t know what was responsible for the colour or the variation (algal blooms? minerals seeping from the earth below?), but it was beautiful and it gladdened my heart.

We started our descent, and I got my first look at my summer “home”.  The plane landed, and things happened at a whirlwind pace: I was met by my field assistant/guide and his grandfather at the landing strip.  My bags and gear were piled into the big, black family truck, and I was taken to my apartment at the end of one of the village’s dirt roads.  It turned out to be a very comfy and spacious living space.   A quick phone call home, a mass email to family, then I was off to a government building, where I exchanged cash for the ATV I am renting for the summer.  My first ride on the four-wheeler took me through town, past the two grocery/hardware/everything stores, the two schools, and the community centre, then back to my place for warmer clothes, boots and mitts. 

Then, we headed out “on the land”.  To the end of the main gravel road, past the dump, and onto the trails.  We passed frozen lakes bordered by sand any tropical southern resort would envy…through mud-drenched trenches and pools of water so deep I had to lift my feet onto my seat to keep them dry…over hummocky tundra, so bumpy that the best way to ride over them was standing, using my legs as shock absorbers…pond after pond, stream after stream…up steep hills and down the other side…past grizzly bear dens. 

My guide paused at one point to take out his rifle – he provided brief instruction (fill clip, load clip, load bullet, safety off, aim, BANG!) then handed it to me; in the (unlikely) event that he was unable to himself, and it was a life-or-death-by-bear situation, I need to know how to fire a gun.  I shot a few rounds into a pond, initially surprised by the power I felt coming from the weapon in my hands, but quickly coming to enjoy the sensation.    We had a quick snack, packed up, then headed back home, noting possible sampling sites along the way.

The land here is incredibly rugged, and terribly beautiful.

Tomorrow promises to be a warm, sunny day.  We will be setting traps and collecting critters along the way, and my camera will be at hand; the tundra is a very lovely place when the sun is shining, and flowering plants are already in bloom despite the cold.   I’ll have more to share tomorrow, but for now I have to get some sleep – despite the evening sun still brightly glowing outside my window.

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13 responses to “The adventure begins

  1. Katie June 22, 2010 at 11:30 PM

    This is soooo totally cool! Thank you for sharing your adventure.

  2. Ted C. MacRae June 22, 2010 at 11:34 PM

    Cool – I’ll be following along.

  3. Amber Coakley June 23, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    How exciting…looking forward to the next post from the tundra!

    • TGIQ June 23, 2010 at 9:11 PM

      There should be one soon…if I can stay awake long enough. How is it that the sun is shining brightly, and I’m falling out of my chair, I’m so tired?

  4. Rachel June 23, 2010 at 12:36 PM

    This is too cool for words. I’m so excited for you. What an adventure! I have one gripe though. See, I saw you in a wooden shack huddled around a fire stove with 15 or so other peeps. LOL.

    Oh well, glad your having a blast. I’m looking forward to following along in your adventure. Take care and be careful out there.

    • TGIQ June 23, 2010 at 9:13 PM

      LOL, Rachel! I have to admit, I’m living in the lap of luxury, as far as field work goes. I have a comfy bed, a hot shower and PRIVACY at the end of the field day. I couldn’t ask for much more than that! I’m definitely enjoying myself, and I’m keeping a very sharp eye peeled for scary things…

  5. Jason June 23, 2010 at 4:15 PM

    I always forget how wonderful the North is. I am reminded of it’s awesomeness only when described through virgin eyes. I’ve lived in the community you are in, but did not name in your post. I was in Gr.3 at the time. I also know exactly where you drove your ATV. I mean, it’s not like there are dozens of roads leading out of town.

    Just so you know, although the land is VAST, the people are few. So if you need help with anything and no one there can help, let me know. I’ll help out the best I can. I still have many contacts over there.

    I look forward to reading about your adventure. 🙂

    • TGIQ June 23, 2010 at 9:16 PM

      It IS beautiful up here, Jason. My guide laughs at me because I’m contantly turning my head this way and that so as to get another view of my surroundings. It sort of has the same feel as northern Ontario, minus the trees…kind of rough, but stunning. I’m getting used to being fooled by the landscape…every time I think I see a dry, smooth patch of land 20 feet ahead of me, it invariably turns out to be sopping wet and hummocky!
      I appreciate your offer of help; so far I seem to be in good hands, and the people here are friendly. I will remember it though, if I run into any trouble. It’s good to know I have friends here, even when far away from home.

  6. Steve Willson June 23, 2010 at 8:11 PM

    Sounds like a wonderful adventure unfolding and best of all, you have a digital camera to help capture and share the memories. When I did field research as a student, all I had was an almost worthless 35 mm and a notebook that received my scribbled notes and stick figure illustrations. I’m looking forward to hearing more. Have fun.

    • TGIQ June 23, 2010 at 9:19 PM

      I am very happy to have my camera, but I’m quickly finding that I’m going to have to schedule in time to use it! I’ll be posting a few shots shortly, but I really need to just take an afternoon to wander around, photograph the land and the plants (my goodness the plants are wonderful! I saw scores of wild lupins today!) and the wildlife (there are hares, ground squirrels, ravens, and many other small brown birds I cannot name yet, all abundant and not terribly shy). Friday will likely end up being a “wander” day if all goes well. I’m having great fun so far, thank you!

  7. Pingback: Life in the fast lane (subarctic beetles, part 1) « The Bug Geek

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