“When we arrived to catch ducks, there still was ice on some lakes; the ice broke under the feet of two people, and they got into ice cracks. We pulled them out.
At the foot of the mountains, where there is more shade, even in summer much of the snow remains. Sometimes, when you are walking through the snow, it breaks down somewhere at the bottom, so there is always a chance to sink in the snow up to the half of your body. In addition, we wore high boots so that we could cross the steams. Sometimes early in the morning, where the water reached 20-30 cm, you could walk with your boots rolled down, but on the way back, if the snow melted during the day, the water reached up to a half meter.
It is an unenviable situation, if you do not have other dry clothes with you. Being wet, you have to walk back to the camp for 2 or 3 kilometers. So, when we went for work, we always took with us spare clothing: from spare gloves, socks to pants. You never know, what can happen”, – J. Morkūnas shared his experience.
But perhaps the greatest danger in the Arctic, though rather rare, is white bears that migrate through the island.
“We went to work to the fields without guns, and if bears had attacked, we would not have had any chance to escape. But bears usually do not come to the middle of the island, they walk along the coasts. They also come in winter time, when the ice approaches the island; so in summer it is rather safe there“, – the scientist stated.
- Morkūnas’ colleagues, who worked in another part of the Arctic (reference) have mentioned that talks about climate change are grounded. It is visible to the naked eye that glaciers are shrinking. Though the scientist, who caught long-tailed ducks, worked in the Arctic, where no glaciers are present, he says he has noticed other signs that show the change of the climate.
“When walking through the tundra, we can notice that in the places, where shallower lakes used to be, now there are meadows. While working in the course of 4-5 years, it is possible to notice that the water level of other lakes is decreasing. Such are the main effects of the climate change – drying up of the tundra and the decreasing amount of water.
Furthermore, currently shallower lakes freeze up from two sides, top and bottom. In winter, when it starts freezing, the ice begins to increase at the edges and it covers the top first, and then the bottom. When the ice starts melting, the top melts first, but the bottom layer still remains for some time. If sometimes you sink into the ice from the above layer, you still will be able to walk on the hard bottom“, – the employee of MRI maintained.
Another question, raised by the participants of the expedition, was: why long-tailed ducks are reducing in number so significantly? It is easiest to count the whole population of long-tailed ducks in Lithuania, as almost 80-90 percent of them winter in the Baltic Sea. People, who record ducks, can see that the population of these birds reduced by 60 percent over the last 25 years. So, where do they disappear? Are the problems in the Arctic or in their wintering places?
“This year, when it was windy and wet in the Arctic, we noticed that only two pairs of ducks with their juvenile ducklings could be found in the approximate area of 2000 ha. A few years ago, with very good weather and warm spring, we found about 10 pairs with juvenile ducklings in the ten times smaller area. So far it is difficult to state anything exactly. When the project is over, it will be clearer. After all, the Arctic does not freeze in winter as much as before. Maybe birds stay to winter somewhere else, not in the Baltic Sea?“, – the scientist, the participant of the expedition, speculates.