Open, Pack, Close. Open, Pack, Close. The more than 100-year old warehouse on Herschel Island is crowded, possibly as it was way back in time when the Hudson’s Bay Company had their goods for storage and sale in this large wooden structure with a tin roof. Everyone is busy, and more and more of our scientific equipment and our laboratory consumables are stored in boxes made of aluminum, plastic, or cardboard. Open, Pack, Close. For a short time, the warehouse looks quite messy for everyone who does not participate our work. Even though it is difficult to identify, we make progress slowly but steady.
One large aluminum box gets filled with all Zodiac accessories: anchor, ropes, and live wests. Open, Pack, Close. A plastic actionpacker contains leftover dry food that will survive the cold winter on the Island. Open, Pack, Close. A third box is open right now, and Maarten cleans all our tools with fresh water and prepares them with WD40 spray for the winter, while Taylor is writing a detailed inventory of each piece in this box. Open, Pack, Close. Writing an inventory is highly important for the planning of future expeditions. This work, however, is very monotonously and most participants are happy once it is finished.
Not only the warehouse gets prepared for the winter. We also clean our new laboratory building, collect everything that is needed for daily life in our cabin, pre-write packing list for the fright transport back to Germany, and do a final round in camp just before the twin otter arrives. Michael and Konstantin observed the weather forecast since days and decided, after consulting the experienced park rangers, to re-schedule the flights that will bring us from Herschel Island to Inuvik one day earlier than planned. This decision proofed to be wise: the flight weather was great, and we were able to fly back to Inuvik with two twin otter flights. Right before boarding the plane, we spotted a polar bear at the other side of the cove, making it a perfect memory to end of our field work.
Back in Inuvik, we first visit the Aurora Research Institute (ARI) to plan the next days, which will contain the preparation of the freight, customs arrangements, and, of course, more inventorizing. But before doing so, everyone enjoys a warm shower in the ARI rowhouses, a shared flat, where our whole group gets accommodated for the next days. While packing boxes and writing freight lists, we all realize that we have been far away from our beloved people at home for more than three weeks and that the expedition gets more and more exhausting.
Finally, on our penultimate day in the Arctic we have been able to do a little bit of tourism. Our truck drives us the 150 km on the Arctic Ocean Highway between Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk. Since 2017, this completely new road through the Mackenzie Delta connects the rest of Canada with the Arctic Ocean. Many people are concerned what this will mean for a small community such as Tuk. Pingos line the last part of the road – we are in the Pingo Canadian Landmark area. Pingos are hills in permafrost landscapes which contain a core of pure ice and that exceed the surrounding tundra by several tens of meters. Unfortunately, we were hit by a storm that made it uncomfortable to stay out for too long. Luckily, colleagues are everywhere, so that we enjoy a cup of tea together with Julian Murton and Thomas Opel from University of Sussex in the UK, who will use the next favorable days for ground ice sampling and soil studies.
We head back to Inuvik in the early afternoon to prepare the last bits and pieces for the flights back to Germany on Friday.