Is how Ronnie described this early morning's activities as he was grinding and buffing our permafrost drill bits with the handy dremel tool we carry along in our toolbox. This is a pretty good motto for our entire expedition actually. To pull off a 1000 mile research-based snowmachine expedition with some added, potentially complex logistics involving incoming and outgoing team members via airplane you have to learn to take things slow and to roll with the conditions and situations that arise in the middle of the Arctic.
We're happy to write that Andy, Andrea, and Anne made the journey back to Deadhorse yesterday and are about to board the Alaska Airlines jet headed south this morning. Many, many thanks to 70 North for making this part of the project all function so smoothly! We'd also like to thank the BLM Arctic Field Office for all of the help with the permitting for this project and for letting us invade their space at Umiat and Inigok. These generous actions go a long way in keeping everyone safe and comfortable amidst a major ground blizzard and to also keep our level of productivity high as we take our time to accomplish our science objectives.
Speaking of which...we installed our third real-time lake data buoy yesterday. We now have sites established at a lake near Toolik Field Station, Inigok, and Teshekpuk Lake! There's a photo below showing the awesome design that Chris developed along with the help of the Anchorage-based company Beaded Stream. The data can be accessed if you click this sentence! Frolicking Weasel is the lake near Toolik, Lonely Wolf the lake near Inigok, and Peat Ball is the lake near Teshekpuk. There are two tabs of data for each site that describe current ice and snow conditions. Do a comparison of the ice temperature data among the three sites if you're interested!
If you like what we are accomplishing on the trip like our recent USGS facebook post! And let us know if you agree with Catherine P. and we'll get to work on our men and women of the CALON and ALISS projects calendar for 2016...
The CALON team has traveled more than 400 miles from the Brooks Range to near the Arctic Ocean over the past two weeks. We have completed our lake surveys around Toolik Field Station, Umiat, and Inigok with a productive interlude with the ALISS team at Inigok. Now we are stationed at the Teshekpuk Lake Observatory, our northernmost outpost on the transect. Today we are gearing up and packing our sleds to travel to a place where the Arctic Coastal Plain meets the Ocean, the Ikpikpuk Delta. We will focus our efforts there for the next 10 or so hours and then recoup for the evening before taking our measurements on the lakes between Teshekpuk and the coast over the next two days. Three more days of solid fieldwork at our northern turning point and then we'll start the slithering, crawl back towards Toolik Field Station!
Excellent, smooth, beautiful ride to the Teshekpuk Lake Observatory today! Made the run from Inigok in about 4hrs. Lot's of caribou, one red fox, a snow owl on the ride and a raven waiting here at the station providing the warm welcome.
All is well here while Andy, Andrea, and Anne are warm and cozy back in Inigok awaiting their pickup from 70 North tomorrow.
After weathering the 24 hour plus ground blizzard we awoke to a rayleigh scattered sky this morning with light, variable winds and pleasant twenty degree temps. We efficiently cleaned up the snow styrofoam that packed in every nook and cranny possible and dug out the disappearing sleds buried by the snow drifts that were born the previous day.
Today is a bit bittersweet though...ALISS has to say goodbye to CALON. Team Andy is out with Ronnie and Anne wrapping up the last set of NMR surveys. The results and number of sites surveyed are way beyond expectations for the first official ALISS field campaign! We covered a nice array of site types and we were able to image lakes with taliks, lakes without taliks, and lakes and drained basins with isolated taliks. We're are going to pair these novel datasets with the ages of the different landforms to fine tune a talik model to describe the interaction between lakes and permafrost degradation and formation. All in all super productive and fun and probably a wrap for the Inigok area, so next April we'll focus the NMR studies at Teshekpuk. But today the rest of the CALON crew will be headed that way to switch gears and wrap up the remaining two nodes located near the Arctic Ocean. Traveling conditions are spectacular today so we are hoping for a smooth transition over the bumpy snow covered tundra...
Is how the National Weather Service describes our current weather conditions: Mostly cloudy. Blowing snow. Visibility one half mile or less at times. Highs in the upper teens to lower 20s. East winds 25 to 35 mph with gust to 45 mph.
The blowing and drifting snow has changed the entire layout of our camp or actually our tent city has changed the entire layout of the snow. We had a well developed network of trails between the dome and our sleeper tents, between the dome and the outhouse tent, and between our sleeper tents and the outhouse tent. Throughout the day yesterday though 4' tall drifts began to form around our tents and bury our gear sleds. It will definitely be some work to dig things out over the next couple of days. We weren't really here to see this awesome transformation though, we were out doing our surveys...
Chris and Ben made a ~100 mile round tripper to the lower Fish Creek area to survey our lakes there (11 in total). On the ride back the duo would go through long stretches of traveling without motion, going the same speed as the wind blowing the snow that was lightly falling from the sky and racing along the ground, sometimes looking at the same snowflake for what seemed like miles. Andy, Andy, Ronnie, and Anne NMR'd three sites about 10 miles east of camp and got another set of great results which was described as fun filled and action packed. Allen stayed back to do work locally on the lakes around camp but since we only have four machines he was stuck on foot. He humped a 10' sled around behind him measuring lake ice and snow depth on across lake transects and probably worked the hardest of the entire crew. Instead of cruising across the tundra on a snogo to get from site to site he had a completely different experience as the blowing snow pelted him before racing westward.
We wrapped up the day with a couple of pizzas and a lasagna for our midnight dinner and had some pretty good laughs about nothing in particular before crawling in our tents that were fluttering like a hummingbird.
Makes the long, challenging fieldwork days in cold weather conditions productive and fun. Yesterday we split up into two teams to tackle our various components of the plan. Chris, Allen, Ronnie, and Anne attacked our two manipulation lake sites. One lake is currently a floating ice lake and the other a grounded ice lake. Our plan over the duration of the new ALISS project is to convert the floating ice lake to a grounded ice lake and the grounded ice lake to a floating ice lake. Chris's team spent the day installing sensors and instruments to measure the conditions prior to the conversion. Andy, Andy, and Ben spent the day doing NMR surveys on these two lakes to image the permafrost table below the lakes prior to the manipulation. Team Andy also did NMR on two other lakes to capture a range of lake depths and lake ages. All in all a really productive day. We wrapped up the fieldwork by 11pm and then enjoyed a Turducken for dinner around midnight before calling it a day.
We are now seven thanks to Mike and Bob at 70 North! Three members of the recently funded ALISS project flew into Inigok over the past two days with lots of science gear in big heavy boxes. ALISS, or the Arctic Lake Ice System Sciences project is a recently funded National Science Foundation project awarded to co-Investigators Chris Arp, Andy Parsekian, Anna Liljehdal, and Vladimir Alexeev with Ronnie Daanen and Ben Jones as "senior" personnel. The project also includes some talented graduate and post-graduate students and specialists. Allen Bondurant is working on his Master Thesis in Arctic limnogeology at UAF, Andrea Creighton is working on her PhD in Geophysics at the University of Wyoming, Anne Gädeke is a hydrology Post-Doc at UAF, Lei Chai (UAF) is working on past and future Arctic climate modeling, Melanie Engram (UAF) is our SAR guru, and Carson Baughman (USGS) rounds out the team. This project will examine the extent and dynamics of bedfast and floating ice lakes in relation to hypothesized interactions and feedback with permafrost and climate. A combination of remote sensing, field monitoring and geophysical measurements, experiments and physical models will be used to isolate processes, quantify interactions and project changes. We made our first NMR measurements yesterday evening and the Andy's were excited to be testing this high-end equipment in a world with minimal electromagnetic noise - far removed from urban interference...
We're sitting in Matthew's dome in Inigok now watching the dancing blue flames inside the drip stove. We had an awesome ride from Umiat today. We also got to see some new faces. Richard Kemnitz flew into Umiat just as we were packing to leave so we got to chat for a bit and Ronnie Daanen flew out to Inigok to meet us about an hour after we arrived here. Our last two crew members for this part of the trip will fly in tomorrow with the rest of the geophysics gear and we will focus our lake studies around here for the next 5 days. And then head for Teshekpuk!
What used to take us 3 to 4 days during the early years of the CALON project has been boiled down into 1 long, solid day of drilling and probing around Umiat. Our sites here are spread out around the Colville River valley and up on the tundra plateau to the south. In the past it might have taken us one whole day just to figure out an optimal route up to some of our sites. Yesterday we started at our site closest to camp and then worked our way to the farthest southern site. We did all of our snow and ice surveys, ran about 5 km of GPR profiles, and probed the talik on two lakes in about 10 hours. This in spite of some dense, impenetrable ice on three of our lakes that made the augering bone jarring. We didn't get back until after 9 pm but felt pretty good about the day and the results.
The lake ice is thin here too. The average ice thickness is 95 cm this year compared to averages of 110 (2012), 130 (2013), and 120 (2014). What we are trying to learn is whether this is just happenstance or part of some longer-term ice thinning trend in these Arctic lakes that is shifting them from bedfast ice lakes to floating ice lakes. At one lake, we measured a shallow 2 m talik that has formed since 2013 as a result of thinner lake ice growth.
We made the 100 mile run from Toolik to Umiat yesterday in ~9 hours. Quite a different experience than our 14 hour epic run last year with Ned and Guido...We stopped and did some snow surveys for Matthew Sturm while en route and enjoyed the bright sunshine in between while cruising through deep snow at times and riding over big snow bumps at others. It was the first time that we've done that route without at least spending some time digging our machines out of a sticky situation!
We arrived to Umiat as the Marsh Creek camp was making it's way back to the Haul Road. So we're the only ones around Umiat right now. Richard Kemnitz (BLM) was supposed to catch a flight up here yesterday but got bumped until Tuesday. Bummer cause that's the day we are planning to leave for Inigok. Thanks again to Richard for firing up the power system from Fairbanks and for letting us stay in his warm, cozy quonset hut!
We just had a delicious pancake breakfast courtesy of Andy and we're gearing up to hit our lakes around the Colville River. Here's some photos from our ride yesterday between Toolik and Umiat, with a stop to kiss the tip of the Tundra Stone for good fortune.
It was a great last full day of fieldwork around Toolik. We wrapped up the surveys on the last two lakes here, did a few more GPR transects, and probed around for the talik on a lake. We also set up this cool near-real time lake buoy that Chris designed. Among other things, it measures the temperature at 10 cm increments from the lake surface down to 2 m depth. So we'll be able to sit back in our offices and watch the ice melt, the water warm in the summer, freeze back up in the fall, and get thick (or thin) during the winter.
Jeb and Laurel also helped track down a replacement iTC for Chris's machine that will arrive when we're in Inigok. But Jeb's bomber throttle repair job will likely last the whole rest of the trip and then some. But good to have the replacement part show up just in case something else happens to it though.
We wrapped up the day with a solid sled packing session. We have six packed and tied down already. The other two are packed and just waiting for personal gear duffel bags before we wrap them like a burrito and lace them up.
Off to Umiat in the morning!
All in all a pretty successful first day of fieldwork. We got up early, had breakfast and then packed the sleds for the afternoon's work. We completed our surveys and measurements on 4 of the 6 study lakes near Toolik Field Station. All four lakes had the thinnest ice thickness measurements that we have made here around Toolik during the past four spring field trips. At one of our intensive study lakes average ice thickness was 69 cm. During the 2013 trip this lake was frozen to the bottom, with an ice thickness of 138 cm. At another lake the ice was 89 cm, compared to 146 cm in 2013. Whereas on Toolik Lake the ice was more similar (16 cm less this year). So seemingly a thin ice year for these lakes located near the Brooks Range. It will be interesting to see if the pattern holds as we move northward over the next few weeks!
Being out today also got us familiar with riding around on the machines again and navigating from site to site in flat light conditions. The field day did start off a bit rough though with a ripped parka and broken intelligent Throttle Control (iTC). Not sure that the name really fits the workmanship of the piece but nothing a bit of duct tape couldn't fix for now while we wait for the new part to hopefully arrive when we meet up with other crew members in Inigok a few days from now. Great to have our first field day in the fieldbooks!
Tomorrow we'll finish up the measurements on the last two lakes here, do a few more GPR profiles of the snow, ice, water, and lake sediments below and then start packing for the Umiat departure slated for Sunday morning.
The drive up the Dalton Highway yesterday was just about perfect. We had blue skies nearly the whole way up and only saw about 10 trucks on the move due to the highway closure north of Toolik. Coldfoot had a population the size of an average Alaska town though with all of the truckers waiting for the highway to reopen. We rolled into Toolik just in time for Jeff's (the chef at Toolik) linguini and clam dinner. After dinner, we unpacked both of our rigs and organized our gear for a bit. This morning we're packing a few sleds and plan to head out to do some fieldwork on the lakes around Toolik this afternoon. More from the frozen tundra this evening...
Smooth first leg of the journey! Jones arrived to Fairbanks around 6 pm and met with Arp and Parsekian at Pikes Waterfront Lodge to discuss the upcoming expedition.
The team is off for Toolik Field Station around 9 am tomorrow. The weather forecast is optimistic and road conditions south of Toolik are reportedly good.
To the north of Toolik is a different story though... See today's ADN column about an interesting hydrological phenomenon occurring in the Sagavanirktok River.
A light snow began to blanket Anchorage this morning. This during a winter in which the city received the second lowest accumulation of snow on record and a winter in which Boston received 5 times the amount of snow as Anchorage. A possible beckoning call for Benjamin Jones as he heads away from the big city and on to Fairbanks today where he will meet up with Christopher Arp, Andrew Parsekian, and Allen Bondurant for a final pre-trip planning session. Tomorrow morning will involve some last minute packing and then northward to Toolik Field Station arriving just in time for dinner (hopefully).
The 2015 CALON crew!
The winter storm wasn’t’ really over, but Wendy and Lollie managed to fly out of AKP today, bidding farewell to Byron, who is going out to hunt geese (actually, he was out hunting geese yesterday during the storm as well and caught several). The view of the mountain pass as we left AKP was stunning.
Lollie and Wendy celebrated the end of their successful trip with a great meal and beers at Pike’s Landing in Fairbanks. Wendy has a long trip in front of her, and she should reach Houghton tomorrow afternoon. Lollie will be going back to Barrow tomorrow morning.
This morning we woke up to a new view of AKP: dreary drizzle, which changed rather quickly to a steady rain. We had a morning interview with our last, and 10th interviewee, and then Wendy checked the online weather for Anaktuvuk and saw that a winter blizzard was forecast for the next 2 days! This led to a flurry of activity: we were afraid that we would be weathered in for our departure scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday) so we tried to figure out how to get out before the storm. A Wright Air flight was scheduled to arrive today, and had one seat left. Chris summarily decided to take that flight and departed at 1pm, while Wendy and Lollie tried for another flight with another airline. That plane was scheduled to depart at 3pm, so we raced to the airport and waited. And waited, while a young, irrepressible flight liaison (who just graduated from AKP high school this week) regaled us with insights into airplanes and bad weather: “If you go down in the mountains, they’ll come get you pretty quickly, I think.” And “they say if you have to die, going down in a plane crash is really the best way, because it’s quick and you’re not alone.”
Anyway, the plane tried to land twice, but gave up and went back to Fairbanks.
So here we are. Lollie went to that kid’s graduate party and had a good old time eating caribou, but Wendy was stricken with an inevitable migraine and couldn’t try the caribou she was really craving.
Maybe tomorrow all will be well and we’ll leave on schedule. Meanwhile, the sun looks like it’s trying to come out….
We had another eventful day, and interviewed another 4 people, including Rhoda Ahgook. At 84, she is one of the oldest people in the village, and speaks Inupiat almost exclusively. While we sat in her house, she told the story of her family’s epic journey from Barter Island in Canada all the way to Anatuvuk Pass, travelling by boat, dog sled, and on foot.
We also visited the Simon Paneak Museum, which is overlooking the town. It’s a absolute treasure trove of indigenous knowledge and history, and is overseen by Vera Woods, the curator and researcher who helped to create a stunning multimedia display with videos, touch screens, and recreations of the life of the Numamuit people.
Wendy’s luggage finally did arrive on the afternoon flight, which is a big deal and ensures the success of our field season, because our chargers for the computer and the camera were in her luggage! It hasn’t gone quite the way we thought it would as far as doing the blogs regularly, either, because not only is all this a day late, but the wi-fi connection is very dicey, and Wendy tried loading this movie of her first beautiful morning in this amazing place. It was very difficult to send the movie file and that postponed the posting of this blog.
In any case, we managed to interview 4 elders today, and they were outstanding. The people of AKP have been really friendly and eager to share their knowledge! We heard stories of privation during years of famine in the 1950s, and stories that emphasize these people’s love of the land and joy in their traditional way of life, following the caribou herds and travelling vast distances. In the old days (pre-1970s) they used dogsled during the winter, or else they just walked. And boy, did they walk. Their famous story tells about the summer of 1949, when several of our interviewees were part of a walk of 100 miles to join their people in Anaktuvuk Pass. They were understandably proud of their accomplishment, and it remains a key moment in their lives.
Here’s a selfie of our intrepid team. There’s Lollie, Chris, and Byron Hopson, our resourceful community liaison.
This is Rachel Riley, in front of her vehicle, called an ARGO. Many people have them: they are all-terrain, amphibious vehicles…quite impressive. It is amphibious and doesn’t seem to damage the tundra as much as a 4 wheeler. Rachel just came back from hunting, and she’s a real dynamo at 73 years old!
Wendy got to Anaktuvuk Pass yesterday at about 3pm, ending an intense 50 hours trying to get there. The plane ride was great: traveling over the snow covered Brooks Range and flying into a strip of land along the river, between majestic peaks. This place is breath-taking. You can understand why the Numamuit love it here. Chris and Lollie wasted no time getting Wendy calibrated: we plunged right into a video interview with Thomas Rulland, one of the original settlers of AKP. Last night there was a major event: school graduation. Wendy didn’t go owing to her falling asleep on her feet, but Lollie and Chris did and presumably it was a fun time.
And yes, “Anaktuvuk” does mean place of caribou droppings, but Thomas said there aren’t as many caribou around so the impact isn’t as pronounced.
Here’s a video of Wendy’s view around the Numamuit Hotel.
Wendy spent 6.5 hours in the Houghton Airport, waiting while some sort of emergency (smoke in the air traffic control tower?) took place in Chicago. She finally got to O'Hare, in plenty of time to catch her plane since it was 3 hours late. Despite the kind flight attendants who put her in the front of the plane so that she was able to sprint through the Seattle airport to her Fairbanks flight, she missed the connection by 5 minutes! But Alaska airlines found a later connection to Anchorage, and now she's waiting for her Fairbanks flight, which should get her there in plenty of time to catch the plane to Anaktuvuk Pass, where Chris and Lollie await her. Now, will her luggage show up in Fairbanks?
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