NWT Ice Patch Study 2011

Tom Andrews (NWT Archaeologist’s Permit 2011-004)

Bad weather—rain, fog, and low clouds—plagued our fieldwork this year, significantly restricting our ability to reach the ice patches by helicopter. Though we were camped in the mountains from August 15th to 18th, the weather permitted only a few hours of flying each day, usually later in the afternoon. This year, our Tulita partner, Leon Andrew, was unable to join us due to other commitments, but his seat in the helicopter was ably filled by Todd Kristensen, a PhD student at University of Alberta. Todd plans on focusing his PhD thesis on the broader cultural and ecological context of ice patch use in the NWT.

As with the 2010 field season, we were shocked at the amount of melting at several sites. It seems that as the ice patches melt, they reach a critical balance point where enough dung is exposed to dramatically change the albedo of the patch, leading to rapid melting. We have seen this in recent years most dramatically at KhTe-2.

Despite the poor weather, we discovered a new archaeological ice patch site, KhTf-3, where we recovered approximately ¾ of the proximal end of a wooden arrow. Though the nock end was recovered, the distal end with the projectile point was not. The site was at an elevation of just over 2000 metres.

(Edited by Shelley Crouch, Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre)