The weeks leading up to our trip in early June to install two time-lapse cameras on Mount Herodier above Eclipse Sound were busy and challenging. I had to configure and troubleshoot the camera systems that would transmit images of sea ice conditions before and after spring breakup, and plan for an array of possible equipment failures. My colleague, Patty Chambers, and I had to pack for highly variable Arctic weather, stuffing our oversized duffels.
Eclipse Sound is at the heart of Tallurutiup Imanga, a proposed national marine conservation area that will protect and maintain this rich marine ecosystem. Oceans North has worked closely with five Inuit communities in support of this national marine park.
Once we arrived in Pond Inlet, windy conditions prevented us from deploying the cameras for the first three days. But fortunately, the weather cooperated on the last day, so Patty and I packed up our field gear and headed out.
Along with our guides, Alex and Jefferson Ootoowak, we traveled 14 kilometres east to the base of the 675-metre Mount Herodier. There Patty and I donned our heavy packs and started up the challenging three-kilometre hike to the camera site at the summit. At the top, we were able to adjust the two tripods, replace a failing solar panel, and install and test whether the time-lapse camera systems were transmitting to the Oceans North server in the south.
That’s when this text message came in via satellite from colleagues back in the office: “The first pictures are coming in. The image feeds are working!”
Patty and I cheered loudly as we stood at the summit! As we knew from past experience, the successful capture and transfer of images from such a remote location using these complex camera systems was far from certain, so this was cause for celebration!
Back in Pond Inlet, we monitored the incoming images and felt waves of relief with each successful transfer of a picture. These cameras will provide near real-time images of the ice that serves as a highway for the community of Pond Inlet. The time-lapse photos will be available on our website and via the visually engaging touchscreen that Patty installed in the Nattinak Visitors’ Centre in Pond Inlet.
Since 2015, Oceans North has collaborated with Dr. Dany Dumont, of the Université du Québec à Rimouski, and his team at Institut des sciences de la mer de Rimouski (ISMER), on this sea ice monitoring project. The near real-time image feeds will be used by researchers and Arctic enthusiasts to observe and study both the breakup and freeze up of sea ice in Pond Inlet and Eclipse Sound – barring obscured visibility due to inclement weather. With additional data, our partners at ISMER hope to develop a model to accurately predict ice breakup in the region. The images will also help researchers assess the impacts of commercial shipping and icebreaking on the structure of the region’s landfast ice and the biologically rich floe edge.
As we prepared to leave Pond Inlet, Alex asked if he would be able to see the images, as he planned to go to the floe edge to hunt. The camera feeds might reveal if there was enough open water to make his trip worthwhile, though they are no substitute for the traditional knowledge Inuit hunters have developed for safe travel on the ice. To me, this was validation of the best kind—a real-life and practical use of the sea ice images captured by the two cameras atop Mount Herodier.
Jeremy Davies is a marine conservation geographer with Ocean Conservancy which partners with Oceans North on Arctic projects. Patty Chambers is a digital outreach specialist with Ocean Conservancy.