Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Beer Bottle Beach

With the amount of planes I've been on, I've been still getting use to landing and taking off on a regular runway.  Flying in a little twin otter was surprisingly, much smoother than I expected!  We stopped at a few places, Cape Dorset for fuel and Coral Harbour to pick up another coworker, Jo, who is from Southampton Island.  Each area had a distinctly different type of habitat, from the rocky and hilly tundra, cliffs, to wetlands.  It was incredibly neat to see the land change as we flew and even try to spot some sort of wildlife from the air.  Eventually we began to see Coats Island...and this definitely not your typical runway!  After 3 passes to ensure the rocky beach was safe for landing, our amazing pilots did the smoothest landing I could of imagined.
Then it was time to load all our gear out...and hike it up to camp. Which was on top of a cliff. Around 1km away.  It is a very strange feeling watching a plane fly away without you.  You suddenly realize you are pretty much alone on an island in the middle of Hudson Bay.

It took us most of the day to load all of our gear across a river and then fully down to the end of the beach. From here, we used a pully system to haul each bag individually up the cliff.  Once it was 3/4 of the way up, we then carried it the rest of the way to either our sleeping cabin or to our kitchen cabin.

Pully system on the cliff face
Hike up to the cabin
A few days later we had our first day off and went on a hike to a place that is locally known as Beer Bottle Beach.  This beach received its name thanks to Guinness!  You read that right...the beer company. Apparently back in 1959, Guinness was celebrating their 200-year anniversary and to celebrate they dropped 150,000 bottles into the Atlantic Ocean. Beer Bottle Beach, is an area where many of these bottles had been found, so on our day off we really wanted to find one!  We got somewhat lucky, finding a few broken bottles.  Later on in the field season, Jo, was a sweetheart and went out and actually found us some intact ones!!

Beer Bottle Beach

A Guinness beer bottle!
Caribou tracks along the beach
The landscape all around this hike was stunning. Besides visiting the beach, we visited an abandoned arctic fox den, wandered around a wetland hoping to find some shorebirds (we spotted Semi-palmated Sandpipers and heard a Red Phalerope!), and I even made a freezie out of sea ice.  During our hike I also saw my lifer King and Common Eider (photos will be in Arctic Birds come).
Ice chunk along beer bottle beach

Marshes on Coats Island

Raised ponds along the tundra

Another thing that the arctic is great for, is finding bones!  No matter where we walked you were guaranteed to find anything from walrus shoulder, to caribou hips, spines, and if you are lucky you can sometimes find a fully in tact skull!

Vertebrae in the sand

Shoulder in the sand

Still to come: Arctic birds, mammals, flora, etc.  I am off to Washington, DC, next week for a ornithology when I get back there will be even more to catch up on!

Hope everyone is keeping cool!

Beer bottle close ups: