Thursday, April 3, 2008

Out on the Trail

The past few days have been filled with the repeated calibration of our air samplers.  I have had some trouble getting them to operate correctly in the cold and the best advice we got from the manufacturer was to "put a light-bulb in it" for some warmth.  Anyway, more on that later.  

Today I suddenly found myself in dire need of calibration data from one of the air samplers which was soo conveniently located 7 miles into the tundra , and only accessible by snow machine.  I got my tools together, radioed in for a snow machine, and was on my way by 4:30 pm.  About half-way to the control shed where the air sampler was located I started to notice a decrease in the visibility of the trail I had to follow.  I made a good decision and turned back (especially due to the ever present danger of polar bears and this being my first unescorted journey).  Now I was never in any danger, I mean I'm not that stupid to mess with polar bears or the vast expanse of the tundra.  Below is a clip of my trip back to BASC.  What you can't see in this video (and neither could I!) are the wind blown mounds of snow which snuck up on me and tried to throw me off the snow machine.

Later in the day we had some real snowfall and it was time to collect some fresh samples.  The wind wasn't too strong but it was snowing hard enough that there was a complete "white-out".  From a first-hand experience there is nothing in nature that is more confusing and disorienting than the horizon disappearing.  All I could see was white, there was nothing for me to focus on... until I heard something.  All it took was a simple "uh, guys...?" and we found ourselves trying to keep up with our own legs which were leading us to the nearest shelter.  You see when you mix not being able to see a great distance with the largest terrestrial carnivore on the planet you become a bit skittish, but not without good reason.  We were only about 50 yards from the lab and most likely in no danger but it is good to be safe!

Obviously our flight response was in full gear.

In the foreground is one of our sampling buckets, just past that is a small ridge which drops about 10 feet to our sampling site.  Can you imagine what it would look like to see 3 scientists, all decked out in white, scurrying up that?  Notice the lack of horizon.

Fooled by a PPB! (Potential Polar Bear).  Rifle training starts tomorrow...


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