Team Shrub touched down at the Inuvik Airport at around 11:30 am on Thursday 13 August. It seems both surreal that we are no longer on Qikiqtaruk-Herschel Island and totally strange to be back to the land of internet connectivity and modern conveniences. I think we all have mixed feelings about the return: happy to be back in touch with family and friends, but sad to leave our Arctic fieldwork home.
The final days on Qikiqtaruk were pretty epic. In our last days, the weather deteriorated to high winds and rain, culminating in a storm. This meant no fieldwork and TeamShrub trapped in doors in the Trappers cabin trying to do computer work. As the winds continued to blow with rain and near freezing temperatures, our cabin fever increased. All we wanted was one more day of fieldwork, to collect the last of the drone data and to do a bit more point framing.
On our final full day on the island, the clouds parted. So instead of finishing our packing we went out for a final data collection session. Haydn and myself headed up to the long-term ecological monitoring plots to finish our data collection looking at variation in plant biomass estimates across the growing season. Up on Herschel the tundra is looking very brown and yellow now. Winter is coming.
The rest of the crew were on team drone and headed out to conduct the last flights over the phenology plots and Collinson head. These final flights give us imagery across the growing season from before the peak of the summer into the autumn. The drone fieldwork has become pretty efficient over time with Jakob flying 45 different flights and over 6 hours in the air in total. Joe and Santeri have also become very proficient at hiking around with the huge landing pad. There was only one minor mishap involving Joe, a gust of wind and a puddle.
When we returned to camp it was time for the French feast, a feast hosted by the French members of the Alfred Wegener Institute crew and involving savoury galettes and sweet crêpes. Delicious! Then some tunes were played and a bit of dancing ensued. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning Team Shrub agreed that it was time to finish off our packing for our flight the next morning.
Our final hours on Qikiqtaruk were a mad rush of packing surrounded by a beautiful pink sunset-sunrise. By 10:05am when the plane landed we were packed and ready to go and everyone had got at least one restful one hour of sleep.
Back in Inuvik, we have been internetting, showering, doing laundry, and catching up on life after a month away from the outer world. Next we head down south to Kluane to plant our Herschel shrub samples in the common garden, set up Haydn’s decomposition experiment, and collect the last of the plant trait data. Only one more week of fieldwork for the Team Shrub 2015 field crew.