Today was our first full day spent away from Nester One, the secluded, beautiful, research camp in Wapusk National Park, that over the past five days had become our home. Today, waking up in the heated rooms of the CNSC to an electronic alarm (our alarm at Nester had been the smell of bacon and Webs voice offering us eggs), eating breakfast in a room full of people outside our tight knit group, using a car to get from place to place, we were through back into society.
Despite being back in Churchill, the day was no less of an adventure. We headed out early for the Richie Lakes Bog, a bog spanning over 10 kilometers of tundra. The hike to the site was beautiful, the ground covered in spongy mosses and lichens. As I hiked, I found myself looking down, rattling off the scientific names of each plant we passed in my head, and thinking of how the permafrost, just meters below my feet, effected the surface that I was walking on. Nowhere else on earth can I look down and identify, by color, texture, and shape, what plants I am standing on, or understand what is happening beneath the ground to cause fens, bogs, beach ridges, and hummocks to form. There is something incredibly liberating and empowering about being able to understand what is happening around you, and
Once in the bog we quickly completed our site. By this point in the trip we have become an incredibly functional team. What the first day took us several hours to complete, we finished in under an hour. It’s a very cool feeling to be part of an amazing team that comes together so quickly over a common goal. That, for me, has been one of the highlights of this years trip.
After our first bog we took a break, lounging on the hummocks, telling stories, doing cartwheels, catching frogs, and eating. The food here always tastes extra delicious. After lunch we raced the clouds to complete another transect before it began to rain. The rain came just as we were finishing up the second site, this time a treed fen. Again, it was incredible how well we worked together, how each person knew their role and how they could efficiently help in the data collection without prompting. Now, wrapped up in rain gear, we retraced our hike through the spongy mosses and lichens and back into the vans.
Earlier that day, Webs had promised us all donuts from gypsies, the local bakery, if we completed three sites. So when Webs proposed doing a third site in the cold rain, whether for the good of science, or maybe just for a donut, several people jumped at the offer. Nine of us stayed to do the site (luckily the sun came back out and we finished the transect quickly enough to have a large mud fight), while the rest of the group went back to the CNSC to get warm and begin organizing our gear for the trip home.
As always seems to be the case up here, the days adventures were still not over. After dinner we set out to watch the sunset at Cape Merry, a jut of rocks sticking out into the Hudson Bay. From our spot on the rocks we could simultaneously watch the flaming red sun set over the Hudson, and the streams of beluga whales leaving the channel to begin their winter migration. It was one of the most beautiful things that I have every seen. I feel so lucky to have experienced that moment, and all the incredible moments that we have had, with this really amazing group of people.
The adventures of the day aren’t yet over; time to go look for the northern lights!!!!!
-Natalie Rudin, The Park School