|PETER CALAMAI PHOTO|
|Stig Falk-Petersen, of the Norwegian Polar Institute, finds his chicken bait didn't lure any tiny amphipods to a trap lowered through the ice.|
ABOARD CCGS AMUNDSEN – Here are the names of the four men and two women left behind today on the ice south of Banks Island: Luc Michaud and Pascal Massot, both of Laval University; Stig Falk-Petersen of the Norwegian Polar Institute; crewman Philippe Guillot; Andrea Rossnagel and Alexis Burt, both of the University of Manitoba. The parka-clad party rapidly dwindled to invisibility as this Coast Guard icebreaker shrugged free of its most recent frozen parking spot and sped west.
Nobody waved goodbye.
That’s because this isn’t some deep-freeze version of marooning Captain Jack Sparrow in the film Pirates of the Caribbean. The plan is for the sextet to get back on the ship when the Amundsen returns to its starting point this evening.
The scientists on board for the current leg of the 10-month climate-change expedition asked the Coast Guard to shift the ship several kilometres to the west so they weren’t fouling their own nest by plunging a steel grab bucket into the ocean floor about 200 metres below.
At the same time, other researchers were getting anxious because several days of trawling through holes in the thick floe had netted little of consequence. So the sextet stayed behind to continue that heavy-duty ice fishing.
They have radios, food, water, snowmobiles, a Bombardier snow-grooming machine with a large heated cab and two tents erected earlier on the ice for shelter if the ship had to be evacuated.
The shore party (floe party?) also boasts a higher ratio of Canadian-certified gun-handlers than most groups who venture onto the ice from the Amundsen. Three of the six are qualified to try to bring down a polar bear with a 12-gauge shotgun or .308 calibre rifle.
Despite such assurances, right now with a wind gusting between 10 and 15 knots it feels like minus 35 C out on the ice.
Stig won’t mind. Stig is my cabin mate. He’s a tall, trim, 58-year-old marine biologist from Norway but he leaves here garbed in multiple layers and looking like a dark version of the Michelin tire man.
“I don’t like to be cold and on the ice it is always cold unless you dress right,” he explains.
Stig is a senior scientist with the venerable Norwegian Polar Institute which began life in 1928. His curriculum vitae (.pdf) runs for 25 pages. He could sit back and let more junior researchers do the grunt work.
Yet Stig is forever finding reasons to go out on the ice even though he doesn’t have to. Today’s fishing party is a case in point.
Stig’s research centres on tiny, tiny critters known as amphipods which he’s been trying unsuccessfully to lure into ultra-fine mesh traps baited with chicken (I am NOT making this up.) The nets used by the ice-fishing party have holes far too large to catch any amphipods.
Yet Doctor of Philosophy Falk-Petersen volunteered to spend at least nine hours in strenuous physical labour on the frigid floe with the nearest real comfort – this ship -- 3.6 nautical miles away, I’ll report back later after everyone is safely back on board.
UPDATE: After 11 hours on the ice, our sextet is safely back on board the Amundsen, triumphant in netting the first Arctic cod larvae of the season. A ruddy-faced Stig says it was cold but a "wonderful day."