Silak ullumi sujuk- What is the weather like today?Fieldwork in Nain, Nunatsiavut
“Please be advised that PAL airlines flight 962 to Nain is on weather hold. Update in thirty minutes.” These announcements would become a mantra throughout the day, repeated six more times before finally receiving the news of its cancellation. Sorry folks, try again tomorrow. In most other airports in North America, this would be cause for outrage. But in the North, it’s the reality of being closely bound to the weather.
I had never concerned myself with winds, waves and tides. Upon landing in Nain, it was my first and last thought: What is the weather like today? What is the weather like tomorrow? Without favourable conditions we were weather-bound, a florid way of saying: “not doing field work today.” Although I was here to support research on Ogâtsuk (Rock Cod) and Ikaluk (Arctic Char), half our time was spent waiting for the thrashing of wind and surf to calm so that we could head out to the sampling sites.
The euphoria of finally making it out of the harbour aboard the Inuttatik was kept in check by the rush of activity needed to get all the equipment ready. Central to the data collection was a brand new drop camera, assembled and ready to be deployed across 80 sites in Nain’s waters. While the camera captured beautiful tableaus of the seafloor, on board we focused on getting positions, depths and times diligently recorded and saved. Meanwhile, Willie and Ama steered the ship over precise waypoints and ensured we were well-fed with local delicacies.
The field day took on the rhythm of the rocking of the boat. Sometimes high activity, and sometimes a lull while we sailed onwards. On land as on the water, it was in the waiting that connections could blossom. As a new member of the 4D Oceans Lab, getting to know a fellow student, field technician and supervisor helped me feel more integrated in the team. As a newcomer to Nain, sharing stories with locals helped me gain more insight into the area we were studying and thus feel more connected. Captain Willie was very generous with his knowledge of the area, pointing out seals and Minke whales as they surfaced. During weather days on land, John at the Illusuak Cultural Centre shared stories of sea ice and snow, much reduced in recent years. And the brilliant team at the Nunatsiavut Research Centre graciously sharing anecdotes of other research happening in the area, as well as ideas for new directions.
By the end of my week in Nain, wondering Silak ullumi sujuk? didn’t have the same anxiety about it. At sea as on land, we would still be doing meaningful work.