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DATE: October 13, 2017

SNIP: In late August, the temperature of the Beaufort Sea hovers just above 10 degrees Celsius. For some people, the first steps into the water might be invigorating, but if you linger, it becomes stingingly painful — which is why Dustin Whalen came prepared with large rubber chest waders.

This was not a personal mission to dip a toe in chilly Arctic waters and come away with photographic proof. On the contrary, the federal government scientist was looking for a time-lapse camera, one of three that met a watery end by the very forces they were meant to capture: rapid erosion on what may be the world’s fastest-disappearing island.

“This is our third year trying, and as of today, this is our third year failing,” said Whalen, who works for Natural Resources Canada. “We really can’t predict just how the island will change.”

Pelly, the island in question, lies about 100 kilometres northwest of Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., a hamlet largely known for its remoteness.

The average rate of erosion for an island in this area is about 1.5 metres a year. What they have found on Pelly is that it’s washing away by as much as 40 metres each summer.