Will I stay or will I go

Over the last week and a half I have been on an epic journey from the UK to Canada and up to the Arctic to join the drone research crew at our remote Arctic field site Qikiqtaruk – Herschel Island, but I have been stopped at the final hurdle and am stuck in Inuvik.

Every morning I wake up wondering, will I stay or will I go. This is the third day in a row when I haven’t known whether I would make it into the island or not and I am still here. Yesterday I got tantalizingly close to the island, as we flew out there and couldn’t land due to the wall of fog that was enshrouding the island. I thought I could illustrate the trip with a bit of a photo essay, so that you can all experience the journey of flying out to the island and experience the shared frustrations and beauties of Arctic fieldwork with me.

The journey starts out at the float plane dock on Shell Lake near Inuvik.

float plane
The Cesna 206 float plane that is my transport to the island.

First, you take off and head out past Inuvik and across to the Mackenzie Delta.

The town of Inuvik.  Population 3500.

Here you can see the row houses where we are based when in town in the upper left hand side of the photo.

The Inuvik row houses where we stay when in town.

The Delta was shining in the sunshine yesterday (shining like a national guitar if you will), without a hint of what weather was to come.

The Mackenzie delta in the sunshine.

Out on the Delta there are many beautiful shrubs like these that I captured from the air as we flew by.

Shrubs on the Mackenzie delta looking very shrubby!

On the edge of the delta I spotted a moose and managed to get a recognizable photo!

A moose in the water on the edge of the Mackenzie Delta.

Once out of the delta the plane follows the coast past Shingle Point, the nearest camp to Qikiqtaruk – Herschel Island.

Shingle Point
Shingle Point out on the Arctic Coast of the Yukon Territory. A fishing and hunting camp where the Shingle Games are held each year.

Here there was cloud cover, but the visibility was still really good, but soon after we left Shingle we hit a bank of fog.

Fog and mountains
Fog with the British Mountains in the background.
The sea of fog over the Arctic Ocean.

The fog was thick, but we thought we should fly out to the island to see if there were any gaps and indeed there were. We did manage to duck down under the fog and caught a glimpse of the North side of the island and sea ice in the water.

Slump on the north side
A retrogressive thaw slump on the North side of the island.
Sea ice
The north side of Qikiqtaruk – Herschel Island.

But the fog was just too thick, so we had to pull up and head back to Inuvik.  By the time we got back to the delta, the fog had rolled in there too.

Fog and delta
Fog above the Mackenzie Delta.

But soon, as we made our way back to Inuvik, we returned back to the sunshine.

The Mackenzie Delta glistening in the sunshine.

A beautiful yet frustrating trip, as now we need to return with all that gear and try it again on another day.  The fresh vegetables are rotting away in the loaded float plane as I type.  Maybe I will fly in tomorrow, maybe I won’t.  Only time will tell.

The twists and turns of the Mackenzie river are a metaphor for Arctic fieldwork.

By Isla

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