People who travel in the Arctic very quickly get used to the idea of getting stuck in small towns. It happened to me last year and this year is no different.

We started our journey north to satellite tag and collect samples from narwhals by taking a flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit. Then it was on to Arctic Bay, Resolute and finally Grise Fiord. Our schedule, though, was weather dependent, and we arrived later than anticipated.

Narwhals usually have only one tusk.

Narwhals usually have only one tusk.

Six small aluminum boats were waiting at Grise Fiord for our team of scientists, animal care specialists and others with related expertise. They took our team 30 kilometres to a camp in a fjord adjacent the town. We haven’t seen any narwhals yet, though I don’t expect it to be like it was in Tremblay Sound in 2012 with narwhals in the hundreds swimming up the channel. I think that today’s storm might move the narwhals into the fjord for shelter, but a cruise ship, which we saw at the mouth of the fjord, may actually divert the whales.

Someone that has been successful in catching his animal of study is Nigel Hussey of the University of Windsr who has travelled with us to catch and tag Greenland sharks. He set out longlines overnight, and I was impressed the next morning to see he had caught two 2.5 metre Greenland sharks for tagging.

We have nine full days left to tag narwhals and collect samples, so our fingers are crossed that we will see some. In the meantime, I know what I’m to be doing every day from three to six in the morning: the polar bear shift, which isn’t so bad considering there are 24 hours of daylight right now. The other day, a polar bear ventured into the town before anyone noticed it, so here’s hoping it doesn’t take us as long to notice one if it heads into our camp.

In other Arctic fauna news, we’ve seen ravens and Arctic hares that have been sitting beside the white sandbags holding our tents down, thinking that they are sitting beside other Arctic hares! It’s always a delight to view Arctic animals, but what I really want to see is some narwhals…

resize thumbnail 2011-10-07 - Our World Wolf Eel and Clint - Meighan MakarchukClint Wright, Vancouver Aquarium’s senior vice president and general manager, has ventured into Canada’s Arctic for the fifth 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. This is his first blog post of this series.

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