Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Arctic Resources

 Since getting home to Cortes, I have read madly. Books have been a way to build off of the trip, as well as pretend I'm still there.  The learning continues... 
As I write this, I am waiting to board the Vancouver ferry. For the next few days, I will be immersed in Arctic research. The annual ArcticNet Conference is in Vancouver, and I've abandoned school in order to attend. As ArcticNet supports much of the Canadian research in the arctic, as well as the Amundsen and the Schools on Board program, many of the scientists from the ship will be there. I can't wait to see them all!

I will write a post after the conference, but, in the meantime, I'll leave you with this list of resources. This is by no means a definitive list - simply what I have found interesting.

Climate Change and Science

The Changing Arctic Environment: The Arctic Messenger 
By David P. Stone

The Right To Be Cold
By Sheila Watt-Cloutier
An excellent book on climate change as a human rights issue.

The Arctic Climate System
By Mark C. Serreze and Roger G. Barry
Complex but definitive overview of the climate system.

Silent Snow: The Slow Poisoning of the Arctic
By Marla Cone

Ted Talk: "Arctic Amplification" of Global Warming by Prof. Philip Wookey

The base of the arctic food chain and primary production timing: http://www.whoi.edu/cms/files/jietal_gcb12074_138980.pdf

***Very good videos, some filmed from the Amundsen are made by Parafilms (Search “Parafilms” on Vimeo): https://vimeo.com/parafilms
Discover the Arctic Ocean - https://vimeo.com/123017093
Climate Change - https://vimeo.com/122800376
Stratification - https://vimeo.com/125523274

Children’s Picture Books

Mama, do you love me? 
By Barbara M. Joosse

North Pole, South Pole
By Nancy Smiler Levinson ; illustrated by Diane Dawson Hearn

Ookpik : the travels of a snowy owl 
By Bruce Hiscock

Whale snow 
By Debby Dahl Edwardson ; illustrated by Annie Patterson

Kumak's fish : a tall tale from the far north 
By Michael Bania

Berry Magic 
By Teri Sloat and Betty Huffmon ; illustrated by Teri Sloat

Children’s/YA Novels

The Call of the Wild

The Golden Compass (sometimes called The Northern Lights)
By Philip Pullman

Big, Beautiful Coffee-Table Books

By Jerry Kobalenko

Through the Eyes of the Vikings: An Aerial Vision of Arctic Lands
By Robert B. Hass

The Center for Earth Observation Science, University of Manitoba, has published several books. They are all very beautiful, and the CCGS Amundsen and some of the scientists onboard during Schools on Board were involved. They are difficult to get hold of.


Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage
By Kathleen Winter
A beautiful book by a brilliant Canadian writer.

Unraveling the Franklin Mystery: Inuit Testimony
By David C. Woodman

Camille Seaman
Camille Seaman takes beautiful photos of icebergs. She has also given a TED talk, which shows the flipping of an iceberg.


“Before Tomorrow”
(Available at the Co-op)

Monday, 19 October 2015

11:00 am
October  18, 2015
Cortes Island, B.C. 

During my time in the Arctic, I learnt so, so much. I have brought back a better understanding of the arctic ecosystem, climate change, and science as a whole.

I so enjoyed learning about all the tiny, specific aspects of the ecosystem – the phytoplankton, the zooplankton and sediment from the sea floor – and it gave me a sense of the incredible biodiversity that the arctic holds.

            Perhaps most importantly, I am bringing back a LOVE of the arctic, and of science. The beauty of the ocean, ice and mountains was staggering, and made me realize what we could loose. Being able to observe the scientific process onboard the ship gave me another way of looking at the world.

            Although I asked masses of questions, the scientists don’t have all the answers yet. The Arctic is full of unchartered waters! Future discovery in the North is both exciting and essential.

            Whether I end up studying Arctic science in the future or not, I will carry this experience with me for my whole life. I hope to share it with you, too! Once I’ve caught up with school, I will be doing presentations on Cortes and in Campbell River. Keep your eyes out!        

            Thank you to all the supporters of this trip. I appreciate all the time, advice, and financial contributions. Part of the intention behind crowdfunding was to invest me fully in the trip. I strived to get the most out of the opportunity and collect things to bring back and share. I am incredibly lucky to have the backing of such an amazing community!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Tara Warkentin

Monday, 12 October 2015

October 10, 2015

Our time onboard the Amundsen is coming to a close, but the last day was truly amazing.

We met in the morning to go over our presentation, prepared as a thank you to the scientists and crew. It took ages, and by the end we were exhausted. However, there were many last-minute things to be done. Zoe and I set up camp in the officers’ lounge and painted a million postcards. Watercolour sunrises and diagrams of small benthic organisms covered our table. It was a great way of celebrating individual moments: my first iceberg (we named him Lyle); the light, early in the morning; a petri dish of zooplankton.  I hope that when the postcards arrive, they capture the Arctic as I experienced it!

After lunch, Zoë, Gabriel and I went to help section box cores. Michelle Kamula, the scientist we were assisting, studies the history caught in sediment. I think it is fascinating that we can see the past by looking at the bottom of the sea floor!

We left to take group pictures on the Heli Deck. The boat was surrounded by ice, both low to the water and towering in bergs. It was difficult to tear my eyes away, but smiling at the camera was easy. I was so, so happy in that moment, surrounded by such a fantastic group!

To celebrate the end of our time on board, we had “Happy Hour” with the scientists and crew. We walked in to blaring accordion music and grinning Denis, the sweetest Coast Guard on the planet, who was holding glasses of orange juice.

Zoë and I decided to survey the scientists, in an attempt to absorb last advice. Our question: “What inspires you about the arctic/what you study, and what message should we bring home?”

Their replies helped provide a bigger picture to all they had taught us. Philippe, the chief scientist, explained that the whole planet is connected to the Arctic. The east coast is the only place on the planet experiencing colder temperatures. Why do you think this is? When Arctic ice melts, currents bring the cold water down the coast, and that water cools the air. Think of this, he said: You have just boarded a plane. You’ve been planning this trip for months, and you are very excited. Before takeoff, there is an announcement. About twenty screws have been found on the runway, and no one knows where they are from. Would you get off the plane?

This scenario shows our attitude around climate change. We don’t know all the details or the consequences, but we have evidence that something is wrong. Will we continue to push our luck?

Marie told us to follow our dreams and not get sucked into expectations. Becky and Cindy said that the benthic layer is important. Large mammals get lots of funding and attention, but the base of the food chain is vital. Laura emphasized the beauty and importance of the Arctic.

We ate our last dinner with Philippe and Captain Alain. They are both so kind and intelligent, and our conversation ranged from silly jokes to careers.

Scientists and crew packed into the officers’ lounge for our presentation. The theme was connections – between all of us, within science, and throughout an ecosystem. I talked about our floating, self-sufficient Amundsen community, and the Arctic ecosystem at large, as well as the connections between the present (holding a living sea star from the ocean floor), the past (climate history trapped in sediment and living matter), and the future of Arctic science (us!).

After a last game of “Werewolf” with some scientists and crew, I crawled into bed, exhausted. Alex, however, ate five bowls of cereal at 1:30 am with a gang of French scientists.

I have learnt so much in the past few weeks. Lectures, fieldwork, and discussions have brought science to life.  I feel so lucky to be able to approach a researcher at the source of information, and ask questions the moment they arise. Being involved in real research has given us a sense of responsibility. If we miscount zooplankton species, it will affect a data set that will be built on for years. Through Schools on Board, both my confidence and my passion for science has grown.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Journal entry:

October 5, 2015


We’re up in the Bridge. Its very peaceful up here, with the soft tick of instruments; the charts laid out and scattered with pencil marks, compasses, rulers and a single coffee stain. (I imagined the voice of the officer when his mug sloshed… connected to the stain like a ghost). Emmanuel, the wheel man, sits at the window. When asked a question, his face crinkles around his eyebrows and mouth, and his soft eyes blink, as if to say… “I don’t know if I can answer that…” but he smiles, and he replies.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Zooplankton - From Lecture to Lab!

1:45 pm
October 7, 2015
Somewhere between Greenland and Ellesmere Island.
The days have begun to slide together. I am settling into a routine of sampling, lectures, meals and sleep, as well as long periods of transit time, where activity on the ship slows. Once we reach a sampling station, however, everyone whirs into action. Sleep is abandoned, and then snatched up again in periods of a few hours.
The other night, at 11:00 pm, pajama clad and sleepy eyed, I went to get a glass of water. On my way through the halls, I bumped into some scientists carrying coolers samples from the midzone, collected with nets. They opened the cooler so I could see what they had collected:
  • Some small fish with rounded heads and transparent bodies.
  • Small jellyfish with red middle (type of zooplankton).
  • Lots of tiny shrimp.
  • Silvery fish.
They would be up very late, the cooler carriers told me, sorting, counting, and freezing the samples, which will be brought back to a university for analysis.
The next morning, Tibo, a graduate student working on Zooplankton, gave us a lecture. Zooplankton are animals that drift, rather than swim in the ocean. They are important ecological players as both secondary producers and a biological pump (bringing CO2 to the bottom). Tibo collects samples using sediment traps stationed for a year, with different bottles open at different times. The traps are like a time machine, preserving the plankton (using formaldehyde) as well as recording the physical conditions in which they were collected: sea ice concentration, water temperature, and salinity. Will a decrease in sea ice result in greater concentration in phytoplankton, therefore resulting in more zooplankton?
Later… (8:50pm)
In a few minutes, Gabriel (student – Quebec City) and I will join Tibo in his lab to process the Zooplankton samples brought up by the Monster and Hydrobios nets.
A fantastic element of the Schools on Board program is this: listening to a lecture from a passionate scientist, working in the field, and then, a few hours later, seeing the data itself. Even counting and sorting the tinniest organisms is showing me a larger picture of science.

Picture update: Unfortunately, I am unable to upload pictures on the ships bandwidth. I will share a digital album when I get home.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

2:47 pm local time

Sunday, October 4, 2015

CCGS Amundsen, Lancaster Sound



Last night, we all went up to the Bridge. Little yellow helmets dotted the foredeck bellow, crowded around the sampling equipment. We watched from above as they deployed the Rosette, the Box Corer, the Tucker Net and other equipment to bring up different samples; each piece collects different aspects of the ecosystem. The last bit of light fled the sky by 10:00 pm, but large lights hit the deck and the surrounding water. I thought I saw a bird swoop towards the water, but it may have just been the edge of a wave.



 Philippe Archambault, the Chief Scientist onboard, was also in the Bridge. We began to ask him questions, and, once we started, our desire to understand gained momentum until there was no lapse in conversation. The languages switched, even within each sentence. He explained the equipment:



Tucker Net:

- Samples organisms fr. Oceans (various levels) in a water column (vertical).

- Mostly zooplankton and juvenile fish species.


Box Corer:

- Collects undisrupted sample of sea floor + organisms using box + “spoon” to seal.



- Collects water samples at a predetermined depth.



He also told us that the organisms at the bottom of the ocean aren’t getting the same nutrients that they have in the past. Traditional organisms aren’t getting all they need, and invasive species are thriving. Lancaster Sound, where we are conducting much of the sampling, is the “Serengeti of the Arctic” due to the huge diversity of life.


This morning, Philippe gave us a lecture on an overview of the Arctic. He talked about what a complex system it is, and the importance of the loss of biodiversity.

Is the Arctic low in biodiversity? No! It is comparable to both the west and east coasts of Canada even though there is much less data.

In studying the north, the effect on the whole biosphere is clear. “We realize that everything is really connected.” Said Philippe.

Tonight we head out for our first sampling operation which could last until midnight. The excitement levels are running high onboard the Amundsen!

Lots of love,
Tara xx


Saturday, 3 October 2015

2:20 local time

Saturday, October 3, 2015

CCGS Amundsen, Lancaster Sound




We are onboard the ship!


The past few days have given me an appreciation for how far the Arctic is from everywhere, and how, up here, you are at the whim of the planet.


Travel depends on the weather, and the elements here are extreme.


On Thursday, we left Quebec city for the airport at 4:00 am, bleary eyed but excited. Along with a crew of about 80 reseachers, Coast Guards, and students, we boarded a chartered plane and flew up up up to Iqaluit, Nunavut, where we touched down to refuel. At that point, however, the wind had picked up, and travel to Resolute was impossible. We all crowded into a 10’ by 30’ room, where we waited for the next 6 hours. Once the thrill of the surrounding landscape wore off, (for there is only so much you can see from one spot), we played cards, read, raced around the building, talked to the scientists and Coast Guards, and eventually, simply waited.

Eventually, the call was made not to fly until the next day. We were shuttled into the town where we checked into a hotel, then went out to explore. The buildings were a mix of old and wooden, brightly painted, and futuristic, geometric shapes that had been shipped in in pieces. The town was a juxtaposition of bright and rough: two children’s bikes, left to rust in a litter-filled creek; the landscape, hard and cold, and the smiles of kids rushing out of school; the hands of crafters offering us their creations, calloused and worn, and the beads, the fur, the stone.


The next morning we rushed back to the airport, and, a few hours later, we landed in Resolute. There we waited again, this time with no pretense of entertainment, for close to seven hours. All this time “doing nothing” had forced our group to bond, and at this point, all shyness had dissolved. Its difficult, but also exciting to thrown together with kids who have had such different lives to me!


Finally, four people at a time, we got a helicopter to the boat, anchored in the bay. We wore GIANT yellow body suits (see picture). I was so excited at that point that, as we swooped over pieces of ice I squealed and gasped and giggled with the person sitting next to me (a very sweet graduate student from France.)


The ship itself brought more excitement. Seeing all the equipment today during the safety briefing was so cool – the design is ingenious, and the Coast Guards are so friendly and willing to answer questions.


We haven’t seen any wildlife yet, but when I woke at 8:00 am and looked out of the porthole into the semi dark, we were surrounded in pieces of ice. It was a first-thing reminder that I really am in the Arctic.


Tonight, the scientists will start gathering data through sampling operations. I think, for the first one, we will watch from the bridge, but we have talked to them about joining in at the next station.


Right now, all of the Schools on Board students are in the Crew’s Lounge. Cara, from Pond Inlet, is drawing. Zoe (Ottawa) is sending an email to her school, and Alex (Montréal) is reading. The others are discussing the dangers of go carts.


In a few minutes, we will go upstairs to the Science Meeting. Everyone involved in the science program also met this morning and talked about the changes in schedule as a result of our delay. It was amazing to see their flexibility, considering many of them are gathering data for their PhD/Master’s thesis’s, and this might be their only opportunity to gather data.


It is really cool to see them work, and think about the future. After another 8 years of education, it could be us! Imagining that is both scary and exciting....

Tara xxx


Note on Pictures: Keep checking, because I will add them to posts once I figure out how to upload them with the ships limited bandwidth. In the meantime, have a look at Cami`s blog (in French and English!): https://arcticadventurer.wordpress.com/