From August 21 to August 27 we are living and working at the Trail Valley Creek Research Station. Here, we are measuring characteristics of the atmosphere, the land surface and the ground along transects of stable and degraded (thermokarst) permafrost. The research station is located about 50 km north of Inuvik. It was established in 1991 and has become a long term meteorological and carbon flux observatory to which we can compare the results of our MOSES campaign. Trail Valley Creek drains 58 km2 of tundra, with patches of shrubs and boreal forest, and is underlain by ice-rich continuous permafrost. This area is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, with melting of ground ice, expansion of shrubs, thinner snow covers that are melting earlier in the spring, and changes in runoff.
Like a turtle on its back…
We drive with our trucks on the new Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway up to the camp. We can see the camp from the road, about 2.5 km away. It seems easy enough to walk there. We have 6 backpacks, 1 sled (filled with equipment), and metal probes for thaw depth measurements, drilling and surveying. We are optimistic that our luggage will not be a problem for us. Hah! It takes us 2.5 hours to make it to camp, taking several stops to rest and going back and forth several times. My knapsack is so heavy that once out of balance, I simply fell over, and was not able to get up again, like a turtle on its back.
Our tent village consists of 12 inhabitants, most of them from the universities in Ontario and Quebec. Working in the field based in a tent camp means that you spend a lot of time just organizing your daily routines. Living outside is fun, but simple tasks such as meal preparation or getting water for cooking take a lot of time. Luckily, Trail Valley Creek is a several star science base that is well equipped and the camp managers (thanks, guys!) make sure that everything runs smoothly.
End of summer
During quiet nights, I can hear the ptarmigans talking to each other across the tents. In the early morning, the frozen water frozen in my bottle and frost flowers on the tents and on the tundra indicate below zero temperatures and announce the end of the summer. The summers here are only a few weeks long, and within days we see the tundra changing color and summer turning into winter.
Click through the pictures in the gallery below to see some beautiful impressions of the landscape at Trail Valley Creek!
Edited by: Sina Muster