A perspective on working in Cambridge Bay

Hello! My name is Andrea Dobrescu and I was the resident technician in Cambridge Bay for the ARCBIO 2019 field season. I first arrived in Cambridge Bay on July 3rd after 2 days of travel and it was a shock to the system. The ever-lasting sun, the nearly flat landscape, the ice in the beginning of July threw me for a loop. I looked down from the airplane during our final approach and tried to get a good look at the place I would call home for the next six weeks. My first impressions of the landscape was barren and a bit like the moon; lots of rock and dust. I remember thinking if we would even find any insects. I was soon assured by the swarm of mosquitoes that greeted me on the runway that there would be no shortage of specimens for my colleagues and I to collect.

The first few days of field work were both nerve-racking and exciting. We slowly introduced ourselves at CHARS and at the EHTO, interviewed and hired our science rangers, Jaiden and Carter, and set up the Standardized Sampling (SS) sites while settling into a daily routine. Get up, eat breakfast, pack our equipment and go out for the day. Come back to CHARS, sort our samples into lots, clean up and then prepare ourselves to do it all over again tomorrow. Our protocol meant that we only needed 2 or 3 hours to service our SS sites. Where we go to collect for the rest of our day was completely up to us. So it was especially worrisome for me when Crystal and Alana left, leaving me to decide and plan the rest of my days. I definitely felt the onset of “imposter syndrome” as I struggled to complete all my tasks while not getting lost (It’s really not difficult to get lost in town but somehow I did it a lot). But soon enough other members of my team joined me, I memorized my routes through town and met many amazing scientists and enjoyed planning dinners with them while we discussed our research goals for the summer.

The more time I spent in Cambridge Bay, the more time I spent interacting with local Inuit and individuals who spend all year up north, I came to appreciate the landscape for the beauty it provides. I found it fascinating to live in a location with full sun for most of July. I was extremely excited to find the remnants of snow in late July and have a summer snow ball fight with my students (I can assure you I was much more excited about it than they were). I enjoyed listening to the stories of Father Pelly, Mother Pelly, and Baby Pelly, laughing when I learned how the Inuit story explains the formation of many of the ponds and rivers around Ovayok Territorial Park as a result of Father Pelly’s burst bladder! I truly enjoyed learning from my two students about their and their ancestor’s way of life in the Canadian Arctic. Much of the history surrounding this area is sad and confusing to understand in today’s modern times, but viewing this landscape through the eyes of the local Inuit made me understand why they love this place and choose to stay.

We landed into a beautiful ice desert at -49°C, grabbed our gear and drove over to the Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS). We met with CHARS staff, received our keys, and slowly made our way into town to grab some supplies for dinner.

Leaving Cambridge Bay and coming back home to Guelph was again a shock for me and also very emotional. It was an exhausting field season and I definitely was happy to spend time with my family and friends while catching up on all that sleep I desperately needed. But saying goodbye to a place and its people that I don’t think I will ever have the pleasure to visit again was tough to do. My time in Cambridge Bay had many ups and downs both physically and emotionally. But the knowledge and experience I gained were well worth it all!