Clint Wright, Vancouver Aquarium’s senior vice president and general manager, has ventured into Canada’s Arctic for the fourth year in a row to conduct research on narwhals, which make up a vital part of the Arctic ecosystem. Keeping track of their population size and understanding migration patterns are important in making sure their populations stay healthy. Clint will be providing regular updates on his research, starting with this first blog post.

We are comfortably housed at the Sauniq Hotel in Pond Inlet with a temperamental internet connection, waiting on the weather to improve in Grise Fiord. The weather here, meanwhile, is spectacular with blue skies and temperatures in the teens.

The hamlet of Grise Fiord is located on a narrow strip of land backed by a large mountain. A short runway lies parallel to it, so the small planes that service Grise have to approach dead onto the mountain, and then bank sharply to land on the strip. Needless to say, low clouds obscuring the mountain, or strong winds, potentially cross-checking you into the mountain, are to be avoided.

Clint Wright is the Vancouver Aquarium’s senior vice president and general manager.

Clint Wright is the Vancouver Aquarium’s senior vice president and general manager.

This morning, Grise is experiencing strong gusting winds, which means the supply run from Resolute Bay cannot take off. The plan for the day was for the Resolute flight to drop off supplies and some of our team at Grise, then head on to Pond Inlet to start ferrying more people and supplies back and forth. The first flight was not likely to land at Pond Inlet until noon, so now that is delayed for at least a few hours. There is a real possibility, right now, that we might not get out until at least tomorrow.

On the flight from Iqualuit to Pond Inlet, I was seated next to Dr. David Barber, professor at the University of Manitoba, who is working on climate change – he is looking at the Arctic marine environment as a system. He was heading up north as lead scientist aboard the Amundsen (a Canadian Coast Guard ship that serves as a research vessel for part of the year) with 40 other scientists plus 40 crew. Among a number of projects he is focused on are storms and their considerable effect on the Arctic environment. His observation of the dramatic change to the Arctic environment he has seen in the last 10 years was quite sobering.

Last night we re-organized our camp supplies that had been left since last year, and made a short list of supplies that we will pick up today from one of the two major stores here. Then, I expect we will just hang out waiting for the weather to change favourably…

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