Arctic Tern I

Arctic Tern I

Arctic Tern I is a polar expedition vessel. Acquired by Students on Ice in 2009, Arctic Tern I is a unique platform for Arctic education, science, film and media. At 47 feet and with a retractable and shoal draft keel, she is versatile, cost-effective, nimble and flexible – able to access coastal areas that are hazardous to the navigation of traditional Arctic expedition craft.

Arctic Tern I was designed and built specifically for polar work and has been safely voyaging in high latitudes since 1995. Arctic Tern I is designed and built by the same yard behind Eric Brossier’s “Vagabond” sailing vessel that completed the first Arctic circumnavigation (via the North-East and North-West passage) in 2002. Her steel hull and full complement of modern navigation and telecommunications gear make her a tough, reliable, and safe platform for collaborative research, education and media projects.

Registered in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada, Arctic Tern I is named in honour of the legendary glaciologist Dr. Fritz Koerner. Fritz was nicknamed Imiqutailaq (Arctic Tern in Inuktitut) by his Inuit friends in Grise Fjord because just like that extraordinary seabird Fritz would annually migrate from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back. Since 2009 SOI and its partners have conducted a number of projects with Arctic Tern I. Examples of successful projects are:

Seabird colony census and banding at Bylot Island

Absence of population data for the seabird colonies of Bylot Island presents a problem for careful development in the area. Arctic Tern assisted with this need by undertaking photography of the cliff-based colonies. Standardized methodology and technologies were employed to ensure the utility of the data. The resulting images were delivered to the Canadian Wildlife Service for census analysis. In addition, trained and licensed technicians were put ashore to scale the cliffs and place geolocator tags on a sample of the population.

Pelagic seabird observation

While at sea, the watch schedule for Arctic Tern included (as safety permits) a dedicated bird observation crew post. Using the “Eastern Canada Seabirds at Sea (ECSAS) standardized protocol for pelagic seabird surveys from moving and stationary platforms” (Gjerdum et al, 2012) the crew recorded observations of pelagic seabirds and reported these back to the Canadian Wildlife Service and Environment Canada.

Orca observation and filming

There is anecdotal evidence that as summer sea ice retreats, pods of Orca are expanding their territories north. This movement, it is presumed, is putting new pressure on the preferred prey species – generally presumed to be marine mammals – and consequently has both ecological and social implications. These dynamics aren’t well understood and this predation hasn’t been captured on film. Working with our partners at Wild Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the University of Manitoba, Arctic Tern operated as a mobile field station in pursuit of fresh science and exciting film of these impressive animals.

Sailing to Siku

During the summer of 2012, the Arctic Tern I supported a WWF expedition to the heart of the Arctic where summer sea ice is projected to last the longest. Scientists, journalists, and WWF experts explored the Last Ice Area — the northwest coast of Greenland and Canada’s High Arctic Islands. Along the way, they conducted research and spoke with local communities to fill in the knowledge gaps about this remote area. This 6,000 nautical mile, four month expedition was a great success!

Please find out more on the Arctic Tern I’s own website.

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