Sad News from the High Arctic

Date: 
25 May 2000

ARCUS received this very sad news from Dr. Michael A.D. Ferguson of Canada.
Dr. Ferguson's contact information is:
Regional Widlife Biologist
Nunavut Wildlife Service
Department of Sustainable Development
Government of Nunavut
Pond Inlet, Nunavut X0A 0S0
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24 May 2000

Dear Colleagues,

I am uncertain who is most appropriate to provide such news, but I think
that it is important for the research community to know soon. Yesterday,
I confirmed the following with B. Hyrcyk at Polar Continental Shelf
Project, Natural Resources Canada, Ottawa, and today the news have been
announced in the Canadian press.

Late Saturday or early Sunday May 19-20, Malcolm Ramsay (polar bear
biologist and Professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon) and
Stuart Innes (seal biologist and Research Scientist with Fisheries and
Oceans Canada, Winnipeg) died in a helicopter crash during research out of
Resolute Bay, Nunavut. The pilot survived. Circumstances surrounding the
crash are under investigation.

My deepest sympathies go to their families, close friends and colleagues.

I was in Resolute in late April and spent several hours talking to both of
them, as my field season was ending and their season was just starting.
Stu was busy being interviewed by a BBC film crew for a series hosted by a
veterinarian. They were interested in how Stu trains and then uses Black
Labrador Retrievers to find ringed seal dens. Those of you in Britain may
want to watch for this show in coming months.

Among other things, the three of us casually speculated whether the lack of
multi-year ice in the High Arctic may create extensive new denning and
other habitat for ringed seals, and thereby feeding habitat for polar
bears. Although our jury was still out, it could compensate for apparently
negative habitat changes for polar bears in Hudson Bay as the climate warms
(Stirling et al. 2000. Arctic). Unfortunately this jury will not re-convene
at a later date.

I had known Malcolm for many years, but these were my first lengthy chats
with Stu. As Malcolm marked students' exams, Stu worked with me on some
population models for Arctic tundra caribou on his computer, and agreed to
help me further with these models after his field season. That won't
happen now.

It is a sad event... during the season when 24-hour sunlight returns to
the High Arctic, and new-born life blossoms in the ocean and on the land.

Mike

Dr. Michael A.D. Ferguson
Regional Widlife Biologist
Nunavut Wildlife Service
Department of Sustainable Development
Government of Nunavut
Pond Inlet, Nunavut X0A 0S0
Phone: (867)899-8876
Fax: (867)899-8711
E-mail: baffbio@nunanet.com