This is part of a series, read my previous post: The North Slope

Katie Morrison and I arrived on Cooper Island, having completed a 25-mile voyage in a small motorboat, with our trusty captain Lonnie at the helm.

Arriving on Cooper Island, 3.5″ x 5″ ink and watercolor sketches

We were met by George Divoky and Pierre-Loup Jan, a population dynamics modeler from the Centre d’étude biologique de Chizé, a local branch of the French National Centre for Scientific Research. Pierre-Loup was assisting George and analyzing the Cooper Island database as part of the Sentinels of Sea Ice (SENSEI) project.

Pierre-Loup Jan, Katie Morrison, George Divoky, and myself

Immediately after we set foot on the island, Lonnie scanned the horizon and spotted a polar bear.

A polar bear on the horizon, photo by Katie Morrison

We all watched the bear as it strode along the north beach and disappeared over the horizon. The bear was a reminder that we had to be vigilant at all times, keeping watch. As a group, we had protection (noise makers and guns), and our camp was enclosed by an electric polar bear fence.

First sketch of camp, 3.5″ x 5″ ink and watercolor

All in all, camp was cozy. George slept in a cabin and there were three additional tents: one for Pierre-Loup, one for me and Katie, and an additional tent for storage. We’d gather in the cabin for meals together.

Inside the cabin, 3.5″ x 5″ ink and watercolor

George was well-stocked and prepared for his extended summers on the island. We had large amounts of dried food, barrels of drinking water, wind generators and solar power, as well as radios and satellite devices for communication.

Camp, 6.5″ x 15″ ink, watercolor, and gouache

In any new location, I work to build my palette of place, a vocabulary of color, light, and my experiences. I quickly began sketching to explore the limited palettes of earth, sky, and water.

Cooper Island Pond, 6.5″ x 15″ field watercolor

Sitting near camp, I sketched Black Guillemots, the subject of George’s research, soaring about, and the Arctic light that has captured my imagination for years.

Sketching at Cooper Island Pond

I looked forward to exploring the island more and learning the daily work of George’s research.

In my next post: Behind the Data