By Jeremy Heywood, Vancouver Aquarium diving safety officer
Right on schedule, our colleagues John Nightingale and Eric Solomon, who had been travelling on the One Ocean Expeditions vessel Akademik Sergey Vavilov arrived in Cambridge Bay. We met them, said our hellos and discussed plans for the next few days, including setting up an Arctic sea creature meet-and-greet with Kullik Ilihakvik Elementary School students. John and Eric went to talk to the school principal, and the rest of us left to dive.
As it was quite windy, we decided to do shore dive at a site we call Tank Farm. Other teams have done this dive, but as we had not yet been diving there, we selected it as our dive for the day. In a previous post, I noted that we had experienced our coldest dive to date. But, this dive easily beat that mark. At approximately 35 metres, which was the deepest part of our dive, we experienced a temperature of minus 1.67 degrees Celsius (sea water freezes at about minus 1.8 degrees Celsius).
This was by far the coldest dive any of us had ever done. However, our drysuits and warm undergarments kept us warm for the most part, and we were able to observe more wonderful Alcyonium soft corals, and mystical-looking marine snow that covers everything at that depth — a scene reminiscent of tall buildings jutting up through a cloak of fog.
The following day we went on our last dives for the 2016 Nearshore Ecological Survey (NES). We completed two dives at and around Simpson Rock, in the mouth of Cambridge Bay (about 15 kilometres south of the Hamlet of Cambridge Bay). We were feeling the wear and tear of two weeks of diving, but managed to collect some useful specimens and images on these last dives. Overall, the Vancouver Aquarium NES 2016 divers completed 56 dives at 28 dives sites, with 21 of those dives were at new sites that we had never previously surveyed; a success by any measure.
We packed up and in the afternoon gave a presentation to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS) staff summarizing our activities over the past couple of weeks. Without our collaboration with Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR) and CHARS, our project would have been a much more trying undertaking. From the accommodations at the CHARS triplexes (purpose-built residences for scientists) to the assistance received in planning and executing the project, POLAR’s support has been an essential component in the success of the NES 2016. We look forward to continuing this productive partnership for years to come.
The next day we left for Yellowknife and went on to Vancouver via Edmonton. After a day of rest at home, we’ll get right back to work, cleaning and sorting gear, collating data, reviewing photographs and video and planning for next year.
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.