East Bay Island, 2013, getting to camp

Doing all the shopping and preparation in camp is part of the job of getting to camp, but it is not necessarily the hardest part.For the first crew that goes in each season getting all the gear is only part of the task.  The other part is playing the waiting game for good weather to align in both the departure area (Iqaluit) and at the field camp (Coral Harbour is the closest community). Daily the pilots and biologists in town check a number of sources of information to assess whether we should take off or not.

East Bay Island is a small island in the middle of east bay on the eastern shore of Southampton Island. The island is less than a kilometer long and about 1/2 km wide. In the map below you can see that East Bay Island is just a small island in a large bay on the eastern side of Southampton Island in northern Hudson Bay.

View East Bay Island in a larger map

So before we take off on a 3 hour flight there are a few things that we do. First, the weather. Cloud cover in the area can make it difficult to see landing strips and camps so clear skies are preferred. We satellite images of the north updated every few hours we can actually take a look and see what the conditions in the camp are like. Below is the satellite image of Hudson Strait from May 26th. You can see all the gray and white area indicating cloud cover, which is why we are still sitting in town. You can see that there are some breaks in the clouds around Iqaluit, but unfortunately we need a bit more of an opening than that to get going.

Cloud cover May 26

Next we also check the ice.  The Canadian Ice Service also has great updates of the ice each week (this image is from May 20th), so we can see what the ice conditions are around East Bay. In the image below all the gray area is 100% covered by land fast ice, the red is mostly ice, and the green is actually only about 30% ice cover. You can see that East Bay is all land fast ice, but that the areas around Southampton are starting to open up.  And since eiders don’t need a lot of open water they are likely to start moving into the area.

Ice image - may 20

Now beyond what the pilots check, we also have the luxury of getting to check in with the eiders as well. In 2012 Team Eider on East Bay Island implanted several birds with satellite trackers that track eider movement in real time (pretty cool stuff!!). In the map below you can see East Bay in the black square with three lines indicating three birds leaving in the autumn of 2012. And the three circles show where those same birds were as of May 25th after spending the winter in the North Atlantic. The eiders left last fall, and are currently making their way back into Hudson Bay via Hudson Strait at about the same time as we are also making our way towards East Bay! I wonder who will get there first…….. the birds or the biologists?

Eider tracks

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