Our most remote field site in 2011 was Green Cabin, in Aulavik National Park on Banks Island. Five Northern Biodiversity Program team members (Terry Wheeler and Anna Solecki from the Lyman, Doug Currie, Brad Hubley and Ruben Cordero from the Royal Ontario Museum), along with our guides Matt (week 1) and Ivanka (week 2) (from Whitney and Smith outfitters in Calgary) spent 17 days completely free of internet connections, electricity, and most of the rest of the human race. In an increasingly connected world it’s a strange but liberating experience being completely cut off except for Doug’s brief daily satellite phone call to Polar Continental Shelf Project headquarters in Resolute. In addition to our release from technology, we also had 24 hours of sunshine every day, and Matt and Ivanka had the cook tent well in hand. This meant that we had more than enough time to accomplish all our collecting goals for the NBP, as well as a lot of additional opportunistic collecting.
In addition to more time for doing entomology, we also had time to wander the landscape and just watch arctic natural history unfold. Nesting shorebirds were a source of frequent broken-wing displays, leading us away from their nests when we ventured too close during the first week, and long-tailed jaegers were more assertive in their defense of their nests when our routes took us too near their territories. Where there are no trees to nest in, everybody lays eggs on the ground and humans have to tread carefully. We also spent some time identifying tundra wildflowers and reading the geological landscape (where did these badlands come from? and why are these rocks here?)
We also had time for more artistic pursuits, with everybody crawling across the tundra with cameras in hand. Terry, Anna and Ivanka also tried out a more traditional approach to documenting the landscape – with watercolours.
Rounding out the artistic pursuits, there was even a song composed about our smallest and most distant tent, fondly known by many names. In Aulavik Park, Leave No Trace rules apply – we pack everything out . . .