Monday, June 9, 2008

From the Great (not so white) North...

The past few days have been quite eventful, on both the science and social fronts. Snow is rapidly melting here and we are in high gear for sampling. We've done a number of trips to various sampling sites - some more easily accessible than others. We have 14 sampling buckets and are nearly constantly alternating between sampling or extracting the collected samples. It takes several hours to process a bucket of snow/water, so we can't let ourselves get too far behind, or we run out of buckets! All the while, Glenn and Ali continue our photochemistry experiments. We'll soon have weather too warm to complete experiments in ice, but we plan to continue experiments in liquid samples for as long as time permits.

On Thursday (6-5-08), Ian and Ali once again travelled to Point Barrow via ATV to collect snow, ice and meltwater samples. While they were collecting the samples, I managed to process several of our previous samples and then proceeded with the tedious task of cleaning the buckets to ready them for their next use. It took them most of the afternoon to finish sampling, but their hard work was rewarded with a trip to Brower's Cafe for dinner that evening. Located right along the Arctic Ocean coast, Brower's offers good food and a great view for one's dining pleasure. Ali and I shared an ice cream sundae for dessert - a fitting end to a long day of work.

On Friday (6-6-08), Ian and I completed a depth profile of the snow behind the BARC lab building. Previously, these profiles consisted of collecting snow at various depths from the surface down to the tundra. Now, there is a several-inch-thick layer of meltwater under the snowpack (which we now are also collecting for analysis). We're interested in finding out how the pollutants move through the snowpack when it begins to warm and melt. In all, we collected eight 5-gallon buckets of snow and/or water. Ian was kind enough to carry the two heavier water-filled buckets through the snow, up over the snowbank and to our lab. I made the trek with the six slightly lighter snow-filled buckets across the deep slushy snow (which you occassionally sink through up to your hips) to the snow bank ... then Ian carried those over the snowbank to the back door of the building and we hauled them inside from there. It seems like slightly less work when you can "break up" the trip so to speak ... but it still is quite the workout to haul around the buckets, all the time sinking into and stumbling through the slushy, uncooperative snow.

Friday evening I had the opportunity to help the ABC Crew prepare for their upcoming Nalukataq, or spring whaling, festival. The ABC Crew successfully brought in a whale this season and on June 21 will celebrate and share their catch with the community. This means sharing their bounty with the entire community of Barrow. They will prepare a variety of foods ... from whale to geese to caribou ... but it all must be prepared ahead of time, considering the large quantity of food that needs to be ready. We prepared 27 geese within a few hours on Friday evening. It is not a job for the faint of heart (or those with a queasy stomach), as you might be able to tell from the photos below.

Saturday (6-7-08) was a lighter day in terms of our work load. We gave a talk about our research at the Schoolyard Saturday presentation. This is an educational outreach activity organized by BASC that is aimed at sharing research activities and findings with the community. We had quite a large turn out and those in attendance seemed genuinely interested in the topic and asked a number of insightful questions. It is always refreshing when you can talk about your work and not put an entire audience to sleep!

Saturday evening we joined some fellow BASC researchers for a bar-b-que and enjoyed grilled chicken, burgers and hot dogs. A hilarious game of charades followed (honestly, how does one act out "Gerald Ford"???). Around 9 pm, the crowd dispersed to either a.) return to BARC to do work (poor Ian, Glenn and Ali!) or b.) attend a bonfire in town (those rowdy archaeologists!).

On Sunday afternoon (6-8-08) we trekked out to the BEO to do air sampler maintenance and also to collect snow and meltwater samples. This was quite the workout for us, as we can no longer snowmachine on the tundra. We walked several miles (both in and out again) to do the sample collection, getting five 5-gallon buckets of snow/water. (This corresponds to over 200 pounds in case you were curious). We made good use of a plastic sled to help us in the hauling process and we each took turns playing "mule" to get the samples back from the BEO to the truck. Luckily, we enlisted the help of another researcher (one of those aforementioned archaeologists), so we were able to spread out the workload a little more. In addition to the extra help, we had an extra smiling face to make the trip more enjoyable. Sheila is always good for a few laughs (especially when she chases and CATCHES lemmings) ... and many thanks to her for volunteering to help!!! The photo below shows Sheila with one of her catches of the day ... the brown furry hamster-looking thing in her hands would be a lemming (which she named "Scribbles").

Because we spent all afternoon on the BEO, we didn't make it back in time to catch dinner at the college cafeteria. Also, because Sunday was Glenn's birthday, we decided to celebrate with dinner in town. Glenn chose the Arctic Thai restaurant and we enjoyed a variety of dishes. He was also surprised with a huge ice cream dessert (and enough spoons for all of us to share!) in honor of his birthday. The owners were quite gracious in helping us celebrate Glenn's birthday in style.

We have a lot more sampling planned for the upcoming week, so stay tuned for further updates from the great (now not so white) north.

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