Wednesday, 25 June 2014

June 22nd
We were second on the list for a flight out to the breeding islands on Axel Heiberg today. A small group of climate scientists flew in from Resolute on a twin otter first thing and John (the helicopter pilot) had to make several flights in to help the establish their camp. This meant we did not get airborne till near 7pm. We landed on Brant island to find one extra nest, one nest with an additional egg and another pair looking like they were very close to breeding. The wind was freezing and despite the nests being very well insulated with goose down (like my sleeping bag and jacket) we had to work very quickly (see pic). Tom measured the eggs and we inserted a tiny temperature logger in each one (this will allow us to work out when the eggs hatch and also how often the female leaves to drink and eat...if indeed she leaves at all). So only one more nest, which was a bit disappointing, but we had identified some more potentially good looking breeding islands in Borup fjord on the Elmerson peninsula about 40 miles due north of Eureka. The flight across Greely Fjord from the Schei Peninsula was glorious, Tom spotted a Narwhal in one of the open leads between the ice, lots of trapped bergs, hard dark cliffs rising out of white blue ice, landscape being partially reflected in the meltwater on the surface of the frozen sea... apologies.. others could put it in far better words, you could never grow tired of flying around Ellesmere an Axel Heiberg. After about a 20 minute flight we arrived at the islands we had seen on the maps, but again we were disappointed, the islands looked perfect for nesting with vegetation on the nearby shores to feed the growing goslings, but no Brent. Our disappointment was eased slightly, as by this time the sky had cleared and you could see for 70 miles plus, with the peaks of the Agassiz Ice Cap visible down the Fjord to the south east. On the way back across to the grey of the Fosheim lots of ringed seals were basking in the late evening sun by their breathing holes in the ice (the seals will have kept these open all winter).

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