Prepping for three weeks in remote Arctic: Yes, we bring duct tape

smallest tent village1
Our personal tents make a village-like home in this vast landscape. (Photo from a previous expedition by Ted Daeschler)

Academy of Natural Sciences’ paleontologist Ted Daeschler is returning to Arctic Canada for three weeks in July for another installment of the Nunavut Paleontological Expedition. Since 1999, Daeschler and his colleague Neil Shubin from the University of Chicago, who grew up in the Philadelphia area, have  carried-out six field seasons to search for Late Devonian-age fossils (385-365 million years old) in the inhospitable terrain of high arctic islands in the Nunavut Territory. Among their discoveries is Tiktaalik roseae, an animal that lived 375 million years ago that is widely recognized as the best evolutionary intermediate between fishes and limbed animals.


It’s a fact that the preparation for an expedition often takes longer than the expedition itself. This is particularly true for exploration in remote corners of the globe where self-sufficiency is required. Our paleontology work this month in the Nunavut Territory of northernmost Canada is certainly one of those places.

The past several months have required quite a bit of time to plan, shop, organize, pack, and ship our food and supplies. Issues of finding funding, obtaining permits, and preparing background research are also part of getting ready. Obviously it’s a relief when the preparation is over and it is time to go.

We’ll be on a remote corner of Devon Island for three weeks. Once the helicopter departs we’re about as isolated as a person standing on solid ground can get on earth. Careful planning will allow us to work efficiently and safely with the limited equipment and supplies that we’re constrained to bring.

From bootlaces to tent repair kits, we need to be prepared for any contingency to keep our equipment in working order. Of course, necessity is the mother of invention and we have “macgyvered” many repairs in the past. Yes,we bring duct tape.

Food is obviously essential, but there’s no running out to the store for some sugar. Every grain of rice, peanut, chocolate bar, block of cheese, etc. has been considered; each chili recipe tested. The goal is like the Goldilocks – not too little, not too much, get it just right.

Food and supplies were shipped to the research base at Resolute (our jumping-off point) a month ago, and arrived safely last week. We’ve also have equipment and some supplies from previous expeditions stored in a hanger there. Lastly, I will have a duffle bag and backpack with my personal gear including the warm clothes, socks, boots, sleeping bag, and all such necessities.

The expectation is that between these three piles of stuff (food shipment, equipment cache, and personal gear) we have everything that we need to make the best of our time on Devon Island and return with new fossil discoveries.