The god of Arctic weather is determined to keep us confined to our tents today. The weather is horrible, with constant cold drizzle punctuated by brief downpours. This is very likely the most rain we have ever had in our 9 years of work on Southampton Island. It’s certainly the coldest day in this year’s expedition.
Our team is of different mindsets about the impact of the rain. I suspect that it will be damaging at the time of egg hatching, if only because the newly-hatched chicks are barely covered in thin down and must leave the nest site with the parents to find better foraging areas. Imagine impossibly long-legged chicks, the size of puffballs, following their parent though rocky terrain, constantly threatened by jaegers, foxes and snowy owls. Now imagine the same situation in a cold wet drizzle. The parent can brood the chicks to keep them warm, but the chicks must wander about to find nourishing chironamides or mosquitoes, which prove their abundance in the brief periods of little wind.
The impact on us is a frustrating confinement to camp. The cold and the frigid drizzle present too great a danger for us to wander about the tundra. Plus, we can only see a short distance ahead of us, so sighting bears would be difficult. For the moment, we will wait for the inevitable clearing or at least the promise of better conditions. But after 12 days of roaming the wide openness of the tundra, the restricted space of our tents increases our feeling of claustrophobia.