By Jeremy Heywood, Vancouver Aquarium diving safety officer

We explored the area to the east of Cape Colborne, which delineates the south-eastern most part of Cambridge Bay (the body of water, not the town). After about an hour boat ride, we decided on a dive site near an exposed sand bar approximately one kilometre off shore, near a long rocky bluff called Ippiugaq Cliff.

The nautical chart showing this part of the ocean had no depth soundings, so we estimated the depth of the first shallow dive based on the colour of the water. Light blue is shallow, dark blue is deep. This dive exhibited the typical characteristics we have come to expect for this area — silty bottom with scattered rocks and drop stones covered with marine life.

Jeremy VA_2016NES_Team2_CB_Cape_Colborne_anemone_arena_JBH

Anemone arena at Ippiugaq Cliff dive site.

For the next dive we chose a spot that looked somewhat deeper. To make sure we did not exceed safe diving depths, we deployed a sonde (an oceanographic tool used to measure various parameters including depth, temperature, pH and salinity) to determine the depth. At this site, which was about 32 metres deep, we found a field of Alcyonium soft corals, some up to half a metre in height. We also noted several bizarre looking hedgehog Paramphithoe amphipods on the corals, with which they seem to have some sort of symbiotic relationship. We decided that another deep dive was in order, and put it on the list for later in the week.

Hedgehod amphipod

Hedgehod amphipod on coral.

As a break from diving, and because we had a long list of non-diving tasks to accomplish, we stayed on shore the following day. Much of our equipment is left in Cambridge Bay between trips in what is known as a c-can (or sea-can), the standard steel shipping container seen at ports around the world. Our c-can is located near the Cambridge Bay dock, and was in need of some organizing, so we spent part of the day getting it in order.

We also set up a small photo studio in the Nunavut Arctic College and photographed some of the more interesting specimens we have collected over the past few days. Add to that groceries, planning the next day’s activities with our boat driver, John, and collecting a bunch more Triops, and you have a fun-filled day of expedition housekeeping.

The wind came back the next day. A brisk south-easterly wind precluded our original plan to get out to Dease Strait, but we were able to dive a couple of new sites in the West Arm. The first dive, a deep one across the Arm from Cambridge Bay airport, was notably our coldest dive yet. The temperature logger on the divers registered a low of minus 1.13 degrees Celsius at a depth of 33 metres. Astoundingly, the temperature near the surface on that same dive was 9.2 degrees Celsius — a difference of over 10 degrees.

Tomorrow we are expecting the arrival of our colleagues on the One Ocean Akademik Sergey Vavilov, part of the One Ocean Expeditions trip that started in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland and ends right here, in Cambridge Bay.

End of Arm

“End of Arm” dive site at the end of the West Arm of Cambridge Bay.

With global temperatures on the rise, we’re racing against time to gain insight about one of the least scientifically understood regions on the planet: the Arctic. This month, scientists from Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre head north to expand upon innovative Arctic research projects started in 2015, in collaboration with Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR), the federal agency responsible for advancing Canada’s knowledge of the Arctic and for strengthening Canadian leadership in polar science and technology. This blog series chronicles our scientists’ time and research efforts in the Arctic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.