This summer, two Vancouver Aquarium staffers are visiting communities in Canada’s Arctic. Eric Solomon, director of the Aquarium’s Arctic Programs, and Neil Fisher, Aquarium photographer and videographer, will share their perspectives on people, places and experiences as they learn more about changes taking place in this region. This third installment is written by Eric Solomon.

We arrived in Cambridge Bay on a Sunday, and by the time we settled in, both stores in town were closed, as was the community’s only restaurant. But we met up with some familiar faces who introduced us to some of their friends, and their friends’ friends, and soon we were all sitting in a beachside home looking over the bay and having a lovely meal.

Among the old friends were Eddy Carmack and Diana Varela, respected oceanographers who were in Cambridge Bay preparing to head to sea on the research vessel, the Martin Bergmann. New friends included Oksana Schimnowski, project manager for the Arctic Research Foundation, the nonprofit organization that operates the Martin Bergmann, Sarah McNair-Landry, an Iqaluit-based adventurer and guide with a long list of skiing and dog sledding accomplishments that make me look like a couch potato, and Matt Debicki, a luxury superyacht captain turned marine consultant.

Unable to join us were Helen Drost and partner/research assistant Simon Dockerill. Helen has been here for the last few weeks conducting studies to understand what impact the changing climate will have on Arctic cod, a critical link in the food chain. Helen has been in the lab virtually 24 hours a day since we arrived, taking advantage of every expensive minute of her time in the Arctic.

Our first full day in Cambridge Bay was spent preparing and shipping 18 of those live adult Arctic cod to the Vancouver Aquarium. Making things work up here requires resourcefulness and a lot of help from others. A grandfather-granddaughter team of Jerry Puglik and six-year-old Makaia Shannette Hikhaitok Havioyak collected our cod. Helen arranged the shipping and maintained the fish in the lab (provided by the Nunavut Arctic College).

 

Eric Solomon and Helen Drost prepare to place an Arctic cod in a bag of seawater for shipment to the Vancouver Aquarium. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium.

Simon and 14 year-old Austin Townsend showed us where to find ice in a local fiord and helped chip and haul it back, and a welder named Rick helped us fill the fish bags with pure oxygen for the fish to breath on the way to Vancouver.

Arctic cod and welders both need the same thing: pure oxygen. A local welder helps fill bags of seawater and Arctic cod with oxygen to ensure the fish have enough to breathe during the long trip to Vancouver. Photo credit: Vancouver Aquarium.

We just heard that the fish arrived at the Aquarium, and are now getting used to their new home, where they will contribute to important research like Helen’s. With that mission accomplished, we shifted our attention to finding some narwhals rumoured to be hanging around just outside the bay. We’ll pick up there in my next post.

 

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