High Arctic Wildlife Census

Kapitan KlebnikovFrom July 17 to September 10, 2006 I was bird lecturer and part-time charismatic megafauna spotter on Quark Expedition’s Kapitan Klebnikov from the Chukotka Peninsula to the Thule area of NW Greenland. We traversed the NW Passage south of Victoria Island, then counter-clockwise around Baffin Island, around Devon Island, west side of Ellesmere, then east side of Ellesmere Island and NW Greenland.

Polar Bear
Only about 40 bears seen (or less than one a day) in the heart of their range and abundance. A few seen swimming well out at sea. Waters mostly open from Beaufort Sea to Davis Strait. Spent many days in or adjacent to prime ice with no trace of a bear and lots of pressure to spot them.

  • Only 3 on crossing 12 miles north of Alaskan Coast in heavy ice.
  • None in open waters of Beaufort Sea, Amundson Gulf and Coronation Gulf.
  • None in ice of Victoria Strait and Larson Sea (and no seals) east of Victoria Island.
  • None in Gulf of Boothia NW of Baffin Island with some excellent sea ice.
  • Only 2 in excellent ice of Foxe Basin west of Baffin Island.
  • None off SE Baffin, as no ice, and just a few bergs.
  • 20 or more in masses of first year ice backed against offshore NE Baffin Island from Cumberland Peninsula north to Pond Inlet. Two females with two cubs each seen.
  • One at shore dump at Resolute on Cornwallis Island.
  • One at Beechey Island ran off in hills.
  • One at major murre and kittiwake colony at Coburg Island, NE of Deven Island.
  • Two on ice in Hell Gate passage of SW Ellesmere Island.
  • Three off NE Bathurst Island in excellent ice.
  • None off E Axel Heiburg Island nor Tanqueray Fjord or Eureka areas of NW Ellesmere.
  • None along entire east coast of Ellesmere Island despite great ice cover (but few seals).
  • None along entire coast of NW Greenland.

Ivory Gull
Now thought to number as few as a thousand in Canadian Arctic. We were told of a small colony on an island near Pangnurtung in Cumberland Sound of Baffin Island, but saw none there nor elsewhere off eastern Baffin Island.

  • Small groups of 2 and 4 were noted flying by our ship at sea between Resolute and Beechey Island off SW Devon Island, and 2 at Beechey Island.
  • Four were found on the Beach at Grise Fjord the only town on Ellesmere Island, but none around any town on Baffin Island.
  • Six were noted with a dozen Glaucous Gulls and 15 all adult Long-tailed Jaegers near a seal kill and Polar Bear at Hell’s Gate off SW Ellesmere Island.
  • Perhaps 15 were seen in one day in four groups in ice west of Grinnell Peninsula of SW Devon Island and were the only birds seen all day.
  • One berg east of Bathurst Island had 20 kittiwakes, a dozen Glaucous Gulls, 2 Sabine’s Gull and 4 Ivory Gulls.
  • Three solitary fly-bys while steaming in ice off eastern Ellesmere Island, but none off NE Ellesmere nor NW Greenland.