The worldwide Augustana College experience

Greenland (Week 3)

I am finally back from my week-long excursion to Booth Sound! We weren’t so sure that we were going to get to head out there because the weather was picking up and the ocean could have been too rough to make it there. Since our boat was out of commission for the time being, we got taken out to our location by the Greenland Contractors boat. This boat has an enclosed cabin on it to keep us dry and out of the wind on our way to Booth Sound. It’s usually used for taking visitors around the area for short trips to see the sites. But, we took it a bit further; about 50 miles north of the air base.  We made it safely to our destination and got our camp set up for the week.  I wouldn’t say we packed light.  We had to take about 4 or 5 dingy trips from the GC boat to shore to get it all unloaded.   It was all needed though because it had all of our food and cooking supplies, traps for catching birds, and all of the camera gear for our photographer.  Once we had camp set up, we headed over to a small island close by to catch Arctic Terns.  These birds have the longest migration of any bird in the world.  They travel from Northern Greenland all the way to Antarctica! We captured and released four of them on our first visit to the island, but with this particular species we added another component to the sampling process. We took blood and feather samples, measurements, and a band on the ankle like usual. The extra part was also attaching a geolocator to the birds so we can follow their migration to Antarctica.  These are small, lightweight,  expensive pieces of equipment that won’t weigh the birds down.  The weather started to pick up again so we headed back to camp.  The next morning we learned some very interesting news from Jeff Johnson, our geneticist.  He went for a hike the night before and stumbled upon a strange looking boat.  The man inside was a Frenchman, Mathieu Bonnier, who is ROWING his custom boat from Quanak, Greenland all the way to Alaska through the Northwest Passage!    This trip is going to take him around 2 years to complete.  This first half of his journey he plans to stop in Resolute, Canada.  This was quite a surprise to all of us at camp because the odds of seeing another person out where we were are slim to none, especially a man from France!  He was staying in the area because of the weather and he did not want to go back out during a storm.  So we fed him one night and talked about his trip and what we were doing out there.  When the weather finally seemed to clear up, we helped our new friend launch his boat back into the water so he could get back on track with his journey.  The next few days we kept returning to the island where the Arctic Terns were nesting to catch as many as we could and put the geolocators on them.  Once we finished our goal of 22 Arctic Terns we started to think about where else we could go to get samples.  We wandered around the area for a bit and stumbled upon a pair of Parasitic Jaegers in a marshy wetland by an inland lake.  We had some fun catching those two and dealing with all the muck we had to walk around in.  The following day, Bridger and I went for a day hike to look at previous cliff sites where Gyrfalcons and Peregrine Falcons have nested in the past.  This was a 6 or 7 mile hike to our destination across rocky terrain.  We found the nests of both species of falcons and collected feathers and prey remains to be sampled.  I even got some video and a lot of pictures of the male and female falcons swooping overhead protecting their chicks.  This was quite a site to experience.  These birds were very interesting to observe and photograph.  Once we felt satisfied with the amount of feathers and prey remains collected, we headed back toward camp with another 6-7 mile hike.  As we were leaving the cliff sites, we heard a noise coming from off the ocean.  I have heard icebergs breaking off and making loud noises but this one was different.  We saw whales breaching the surface and praying water! I couldn’t quite make out the type of whales they were, but Bridger suspected them to be Narwhales.  This turned out to be quite an exciting day for me because I have never experienced anything quite like it, nor have many other people.  I’ll put up more photos when I get the chance!

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