Expedition in the Arctic

Autor: Charel Klein

Visiting the arctic was always one of my childhood dreams.

This summer, I had the great opportunity to join scientists who visit Greenland every year as part of a long term project. We worked on a long term study on lemming cycles in North-East Greenland. With three other people, from France, Germany and Switzerland, we spent 2 weeks in the biggest national park of the world. The project is carried out in the Karupelv Valley (72.30 N; 24 W). With 3542 km2 the island of Traill is bigger than the surface area of Luxembourg (2586 km2).

 

The main work to carry out was to observe Sanderlings nests (Calidris alba) of which we find the first pairs in the area. We had to visit the nests every second day, mark the colour code of the adults, check if they got predated or not, ring the chicks when they start to run around in the tundra and to collect the tiny tags from under the sanderlings' nests after they finished breeding.

 

We had to also check the population of predators in the research area. Therefore we visited the old burrows of Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) and counted the number of Long-tailed Skuas (Stercorarius longicaudus), Parasitic Jaeger (Stercorarius parasiticus), Gyrfalcon (Falco rusticolus) and Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus). Futhermore we searched chicks of Long-tailed Skuas to get some feather samples for an isotope research.

In two weeks we hiked about 200 km and checked all the important points in the research area. We slept in tents and spend our time eating and chatting in an old trapper hut from the thirties. Our shower was the whole Kong Oscar Fjord with Icebergs and as toilet we had to ditch a hole near a streamlet. We used flowing water from glacier and snow water to drink or cook and eat trekking food from cans (some from 2005 !!!). During the time in Greenland we had 24h light and between 0-15°C. The number of midgets was incredible and torturing! not even comparable with the deep jungles.

 

I was very happy of the different bird species that I have seen up here, the beautiful flora and all the big mammals like Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus), Musk ox (Ovibos moschatus), Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) and seals.

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