Mallory Lab - Acadia University
Cape Vera Field Station
Cape Vera (76.25 N, 89.25 W) is a stunning, 330 m high promontory at the eastern tip of
the Colin Archer Peninsula on northern Devon Island, situated beside the Hell Gate /
Cardigan Strait polynya. The site supports the northernmost colony of Northern Fulmars
(Fulmarus glacialis) in Canada, as well as breeding Glaucous Gulls (Larus hyperboreus),
Black Guillemots (Cepphus grylle) and Snow Buntings (Plectrophenax nivalis). A couple of
kilometres offshore lies St. Helena Island, which supports breeding colonies of Common
Eiders (Somateria mollissima borealis), Thayer's gulls (Larus thayeri), as well as Glaucous
Gulls and Black Guillemots.
The site serves as a northern magnet for migratory birds, as open water is available in the
polynya long before any birds arrive, and thus species diversity at this site is high
compared to the surrounding region. The polynya also supports a non-migratory
population of Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus), as well as Bearded (Erignathus barbatus) and
Ringed Seals (Pusa hispida). Unlike many other marine bird colonies in Nunavut, there is a
large, coastal foreland supporting numerous freshwater ponds below the cliffs. These sites
were the basis of well-publicized, collaborative research on biotransport of nutrients and
contaminants by seabirds.
The field station has 2 cabins (as of 2011), one below the cliffs that can easily sleep 8
people, and a smaller one above the cliffs that can support 4 people. Polar Bears (Ursus
maritimus) are common in the area, so all people working at the site are required to carry
and know how to operate shotguns, as well as having Standard First Aid certification.
Above the cliffs, water comes from melted snow and is in very limited supply. Below the
cliffs, however, there is a wonderful stream that holds meltwater from the nearby Devon
Ice Cap --- a bit chilly for bathing, but lovely to drink. Access to the station is by Twin Otter
or helicopter. A full field season runs from early June to late August.
Copyright 2011 Mark Mallory
33 Westwood Ave, Acadia University
Wolfville, NS B4P 2R6