Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A couple more days in Barrow

What a busy past few days!

Monday (03/12):
We started pretty early preparing the team to go into the field. To our surprise, the weather was actually warm! Well I guess 10F feels pretty balmy after the frigid days we've had. There were huge beautiful snowflakes flying everywhere with absolutely zero wind! Prof. Henderson went for another 300m surveying the line with her magnaprobe, and Dagmara went with her to set stakes. I'm not gonna lie, it was an exhausting evolution. To reach the ice surface, we had to dig into the snow for about 1.5m and then another 50cm with the drill. Not to mention falling into a snow pile and hearing water splashing underneath. A little nerve-racking to say the least. 

Dagmara digging through the snow

Molly, Mike, and Chris (Guys over at CREL) worked on surveying different sites around the ice ridge with the LIDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging. What a cool piece of equipment! It takes a 360 degree scan of a designated area and produces a 3D image onto a corresponding laptop. The scans taken today will be compared to the LIDAR scans taken from the Twin Otter turbo-prop that should be surveying the area later this week. This kind of technology is not only useful for surveying the Arctic terrain, but also useful to the military and law enforcement communities for reproducing, in extreme detail, areas of operation and crime scenes either back at base, or in a lab.

Molly stands on top of a ridge working with the LIDAR equipment

Wendesday (03/14):
Today was a whole new kind of least for some of us.  We started out the day at -20 degrees Fahrenhiet with a wind chill of -45 degrees. We had to be extremely careful when we went on the ice, because any exposed skin for more than a short period of time would quickly result in frostbite. 

We got to experience a new vantage point of Barrow today. Toni was able to hitch a ride in the twin-otter plane that NRL  (Naval Research Laboratory) has been flying over our survey site! We were able to get some cool aerial shots of the ice we've been working on for the last couple weeks.

Toni and Professor Henderson checking out the NRL plane
A shot from the ground of the NRL fly-over

Today was also Brower's birthday! Brower is the head bear guard with UMIAQ, the organization that works with us for our logistics. We celebrated with a barbecue on the ice: some hotdogs, hamburgers, baked beans, and a birthday cake. Oh yeah, and don't forget the whale skin and blubber that Travis brought over for us to sample.

Chuck and Obi deliver the cake for Brower's birthday
The highlight of the day though definitely had to be our trip to Point Barrow.  We all boarded snowmobiles and went on a 20 minute ride to the northernmost point in the United States. At the point,we came across the infamous whale bones that are sitting there, along with the recent (as in, less than 24 hours ago recent) polar bear prints in the snow. Luckily none were to be seen...although it would have been nice to catch at least a glimpse of one.

The entire team getting ready to head out to Point Barrow

Fresh Polar Bear tracks!

No one is looking forward to tomorrow, as we will all be heading away from Barrow...a trip so far that for some of us will be the only one of its kind in our lives. The bright side is a stay in Anchorage, Alaska for a couple days for some STEM outreach. We will still be in Alaska, but with the current temperature of 30 degrees in Anchorage, it might as well be summer after our stay in Barrow.

Please continue to follow our blog and if you haven't yet, check out our website ( and like us on Facebook ( Stay tuned for a post about our trip to Barrow High School and Anchorage and the awesome chance we had to teach the kids there about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

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