Sandbars guard the exit to Paulatuk and prove to be a headache for us on the row out of the community. We make a five kilometre detour before setting our heading to the far eastern shore of Darnley Bay and Cape Lyon beyond.
We row into the deep waters with the intent of cutting a large corner of the bay with a traverse. The idea quickly shows its weaknesses. This direct route to the far shore is shorter in distance than one more closely following the coastline but this direct route also exposes us to more risks. Travelling further out in the bay means water depths too deep for our ground anchor. If a wind starts pushing us where we don’t want to go we’ll be limited to our sea anchor to slow us down. We discovered the hard way in Sellwood Bay that our sea anchor still allows significant drift enough so that in a twelve hour blow we’d be right back where we were three days ago.
We make the difficult decision to head closer to shore, to take the longer coastal route in shallower water, so we can better control our movement. Our decision proves to be a good one as the next 24 hours has us deploying our ground anchor twice, both times to halt the aggressive push of a 20KN south easterly that would have blown us right out into the middle of Darnley Bay.
The wind eventually dies down long enough for us to row continuously to Cape Lyon, a 24 hour burst that claws back some lost time. The calm seas help us in our data collection duties as well. We’re teamed up with the Vancouver Aquarium and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and they have tasked us with collecting ocean data along our route so that ocean scientists might get a better picture of what’s happening to the waters of the North West Passage. We use a special device called a CTD that measures a host of different ocean characteristics including conductivity, temperature and depth as the acronym indicates.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has very little CTD information across the passage making our data collection a very valuable endeavour. Understanding what’s happening in the arctic ocean will help better understand what climate change is actually doing up here.
Deploying the CTD is a fairly straight foreword process but is one that still requires effort and commitment certainly from rowers who often have their hands full with more pressing issues. The device itself is roughly 3 feet long and 4 inches in diameter and has a number of black rubber hoses emanating from the white cylindrical body. The CTD is attached to a down rigger and is steadily lowered to the ocean floor, a five pound lead ball attached to the underside to facilitate a smooth decent in the water, and is brought up again. This is done twice. All the data is stored in the device but routinely is downloaded to the computer to ensure nothing is lost. We try to take measurements once to twice per day.
There are drawbacks having a boat the size of the Arctic Joule but there are advantages too. Thanks to our big bessie we’re able to collect scientific data that may help scientists better understand the waters of the arctic and how the water is being affected by climate change,