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This episode is the second part of my conversation with Gérald Darnis, a French marine biologist who studies zooplankton in the Arctic on the Canadian icebreaker Amundsen.
We’ll start by talking about this incredible boat: Gérald will describe it in such a way that you’ll picture yourself onboard. You’ll also find how sensitive electronic instruments are being used in a way that protects them from the extreme cold.
I was also curious about what a typical day may look like on board, but there is no such thing! The scientists on board are experts in so many different fields that they all work at a different pace. In the case of Gérald, the rhythm can be quite intensive, sometimes with only a couple of hours for sleep here and there. Why? Because the Amundsen stops each year at the same places – Gérald and his team need to collect and study samples of zooplankton along this route in order to see the changes that occur over time.
In the previous episode, you’ve learnt about the importance of zooplankton as the basis of the marine biosystem. And you’ve also found out why studying it in the Arctic helps understand the impacts of climatic change on the planet.
In this episode, I’ve asked Gérald whether he’s witnessed any signs of global warming over the years during his expeditions in the Canadian Arctic. We’ll discuss a few examples such as the recent sighting of orcas / killer whales, which are not usually seen in this area of the globe. Indeed, because of their long dorsal fin, orcas cannot swim (and come out to breathe) in seas covered with ice. The melting of the ice is now opening the way to these predators, making animals who were protected from them until now vulnerable.
What’s more, the new routes resulting from the melting of the ice opens new opportunities to exploit natural resources and develop tourism. Gérald will share his opinion in the topic. It’d probably be better if these beautiful areas and pristine water remained the privilege of a few to see and enjoy in a respectful way. Getting stranded in the ice days away from rescue would endanger human lives. In the same way, any oil spill would have catastrophic consequences if they couldn’t be managed straight away.
banquise (nf) = ice floe, icefield, sea ice, ice pack
béluga (nm) = beluga, European sturgeon
cartographier = to chart, to map
commandant,e (n) = captain, commanding officer
congélateur (nm) = freezer
conserve (nf) = conserve, preserve ; tin, can
échantillonner = to collect samples
faire le guet = to be on watch, to keep watch
fonte des glaces (nf) = melting of the ice
garde côte (nm) = coastguard
nageoire (nf) = fin (fish), flipper (mammal)
narval (nm) = narwhal
orque (nm) = orca, killer whale
pétrolier (adj, nm) = oil; oil tanker
puits (nm) = well
ruche (nf) = beehive
s’échouer = to become stranded ; to wreck oneself
- How many people live onboard the Amundsen during expeditions?
- Which unusual duty can the captain of the ice-breaker perform on board?
- Our conversation was interrupted by a loud sound. What was that sound?
- Around 70 people
- He can marry people
- Gérald’s parrot
Links & Resources
- ArcticNet : http://www.arcticnet.ulaval.ca
- Groupement de recherche Québec-Océan : http://www.quebec-ocean.ulaval.ca
- Article Washington post : https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/business/mapping-arctic-waters/?utm_term=.d6b36bbf6f4b
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