I’m sitting in my tent in the middle of nowhere. You can’t believe what I’m looking at right now. I’m on Devon Island, the largest uninhabited island on earth. This is an amazing place. The terrain is almost like Mars. It’s just rocks and cliffs.
Devon Island is located in Baffin Bay in Nunavut. The island has northern piece called Grinnell Peninsula. We are on the eastern edge of Grinnell Peninsula, about 5 miles south of Tucker River. We’re camped at a river in a valley, but the river and valley don’t have a name. There is so much land up here and no one has given it names. It’s likely no one has ever been in the valley we are exploring. The Tucker River has been explored a little by geologists. But where I am is untouched by any scientist.
Everything went smoothly earlier this week getting from the research base at Resolute Bay to our remote destination. The people who do logistics for the base were able to organize and orchestrate the process of inserting us into the research site that we had carefully mapped out ahead of time.
For the trip directly north of the base, my colleagues and I squeezed into a small Twin Otter plane along with all our gear. It’s a rickety old plane and a rugged ride, but the plane is efficient up here in this situation. We flew an hour directly north from the research base and landed on a remote strip of Devon Island.
The base crew also had sent up a helicopter, which landed shortly after our plane landed. We then transferred everything to the helicopter and in two trips the helicopter took us to the vicinity of where we wanted to start our field work.
The aerial view from the helicopter showed us the areas where we wanted to walk and, more importantly, the appropriate place to set up our campsite. Most places up here don’t work for campsites. The tundra is wet and muddy and sometimes there is very little choice where to camp. We are camped on the rocks, but at least it’s dry.
We spent the last couple days exploring rock formations that are exposed here. We chose these formations very carefully for the late part of the Devonian Period, 385 to 375 million years ago. We put ourselves in the middle of different exposures of rock.
The last two days we walked eight to 12 miles a day, essentially walking from exposure to exposure in different directions.That’s how we spend our time.
And we already found our first fossils! Very interesting, good fossil sites already.