From Gourmet Food to Shotguns: Packing for the Arctic Botany Expedition 2012

Return to the Arctic with the Canadian Museum of Nature this summer! This week, the excitement for the trip grows as the botanists prepare for the coming departure for Baffin Island, in Nunavut.

When I was growing up, one of the most exciting parts of going on a trip was the planning and preparation. With each reservation made and bag packed, exciting visions of where I was going and what I would do filled my young head. To my immense delight, I’ve discovered that this feeling does not disappear simply because one has grown up.

A woman stands beside a tent set up outside the museum's research and collections facility.

Some tents are going up… Summer student Amelia Buchanan pitches one of the expedition tents to make sure everything is in working order. Image: Paul Sokoloff © Canadian Museum of Nature

Overhead view of a man striking a tent in a gallery at the museum.

And some tents are coming down… Roger Bull strikes the mock camp that had been set up in the Awesome Arctic exhibition; the supplies are needed for our expedition North! Image: Paul Sokoloff © Canadian Museum of Nature

So, as we prepare for our impending botanical exploration trip to Baffin Island, in Nunavut, I’m downright excited through all the myriad preparations. Once we arrive at the foot of Mount Joy on the Soper River, we will be cut off from the outside world—aside from one satellite-phone check-in each day. Therefore, everything we need we will have to bring with us, all packed into three inflatable canoes. Pack light, indeed.

Plastic baggies containing dehydrated food.

Our delicious dehydrated meals! This is enough food to sustain us over a week of science. Image: Roger Bull © Canadian Museum of Nature

Aside from our tents and the presses needed to preserve the plants that we will collect, much of our weight (some 550 kg or about 1200 lb.) comes from the food we’ll need to bring for the month-long trip. While there’s always fishing (and believe me, with any luck, we will eat a lot of tasty fish!), our diet will consist mostly of dehydrated meals.

These aren’t your standard backcountry-store, grin-and-bear-it foil-wrapped packets though. One member of our team, Roger Bull, prepares these meals in his kitchen and dehydrates them himself. Think Thai tofu curry with orange, lentil salad on the side and a chocolate whiskey cake for dessert. It’s not a stretch to say I eat better in the field than I do at home. Good food equals happy scientists!

In between the food preparation and equipment packing, we will find time to practice essential survival skills for the North. Each of us is fully qualified in wilderness first aid should the need arise.

A woman in an inflatable boat, watching a group of people in the river, trying to get into another boat.

Paddling practice in inflatable boats on the Ottawa river. Image: Paul Sokoloff © Canadian Museum of Nature

Much of our journey will take place on the Soper River itself, so we will practice paddling in analogues of the inflatable boats that we will have up there, before we take on the class 1 and class 2 rapids of the Soper itself.

A man aims a shotgun in a field.

Roger Bull test fires one of the shotguns that the group will bring for predator defense. Image: Paul Sokoloff © Canadian Museum of Nature

And a few days before our trip, we will visit the firing range to hone our aim with the defensive shotguns that we will be carrying. The southern coast of Baffin Island is polar-bear country, and while every precaution is taken to minimize bear encounters, a working knowledge of one’s weapon has saved the life of more than one Arctic explorer!

Follow the 2012 Arctic Botany Expedition live:

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2 Responses to From Gourmet Food to Shotguns: Packing for the Arctic Botany Expedition 2012

  1. Pingback: It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Puts an Oxytropis on Their Head | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

  2. Pingback: 100 Years of Arctic Fieldwork | Canadian Museum of Nature – Blog

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