Monday, February 23, 2009

Barrow Photo Shoot

Today was a BEAUTIFUL day in Barrow. We woke up (after another night of howling winds) to an almost warm breeze, clear skies, and relatively high temps. In fact, here is some proof of the high temps ... a screen capture of my Google homepage shows that Barrow was only one degree lower than my hometown of Norristown, PA at 7 pm Alaska Time.

Because of the great weather, we were able to get our air samplers deployed onto the roof of the science building (BARC) and they are hopefully secured well enough to withstand the next blizzard. (If not, that will certainly make for an exciting blog entry!)

To take advantage of these great temps, we also snowmachined out to Chelsea's instrument site today, about 10 miles away. (We actually took a truck/trailer loaded with 2 machines as far as we could get via road, and then off loaded those and snowmachined in the rest of the way). Luckily, I am pretty handy at driving with a trailer (and being able to back up with said trailer).

In case you are wondering, Chelsea is working with Purdue University (my alma mater!) on a project measuring halogens. (It so happens Chelsea also works for Paul Shepson, who was my PhD advisor, many moons ago). She has moved in with Alexis and me in the hut and has also claimed a desk in our lab at BASC (we have plenty of room). We are now fondly referred to as "The Girls" by everyone up here. Unfortunately, Chelsea's been having some instrumental issues, but due to a combination of bad weather and lack of heavy lifting capabilities (logistics is stretched a little thin now due to other projects getting started up), today was the first she was able to get out to her site in several days. Two BASC staff also came out to meet us there to help and we figured out that her liquid nitrogen tank is a dud ... the next one comes in on tonight's flight ... so she hopefully will be good to go by tomorrow.

While out there we also helped with some snow sampling and took the opportunity to lose the heavy parkas and get some fresh air and sunshine. Here is the photographic evidence:



L to R: Amanda, Chelsea, Alexis

Now, let's just see how quickly this weather changes ... cause we know this won't last long!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Shopping in Barrow ... Priceless

Here is a short video illustrating the sticker shock you'll get when shopping in Barrow.

We appreciate both cash and food donations.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Barrow, Alaska ... The Tour ...

The past few days we've been dealing with the wrath of Mother Nature. A blizzard came in on Monday and just let up this morning. Winds were over 40 mph, which dropped the wind chills to at least -50F. It made getting around difficult, as you couldn't see more than a few feet in front of you. It also stopped the water deliveries to our hut! This was a problem, as a cleaning crew had wiped out our water supply the very day the blizzard came in. So, without the water truck to refill us, we were completely out of water. No shower, no toilet, no sink. Luckily we were able to shower and such at the Ilisagvik College dorms (in the same building as BASC). We just pretended we were camping.

Today the water truck finally made it back to our hut. Just in time ... as it appears another round of bad weather is coming our way this afternoon/evening.

In our few hours of good weather we managed to get to our equipment that was left here from last year and got that all unpacked. It was being stored in another building and required a truck to move some things around. This afternoon we'll try to get our air samplers up and running.

In the meantime, I put together a video that we filmed over the weekend ... an official tour of Barrow. Here you can see what Barrow actually looks like, not the "30 Days of Night" movie version.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Bear Lockdown!

The last few days have been both interesting and productive. We have our instrument set up and running and it is happily calibrating away right now (after finally isolating a pesky leak). We have had less luck with getting our air samplers set up. It has just been far too cold and windy to even try to get them moved from their storage shed to the science building. Today looks no better, we are actually under a blizzard warning. In the meantime, we've made the solutions that we'll need and have those safely stored away and have finished all the unpacking that we can.

As for the bear lockdown ... yesterday a call came over the radio that a polar bear had been spotted roaming around the BASC buildings. Alexis was still in our hut getting ready to walk over, while I was here in the science building (I had come over in time to make it to "Sunday brunch"). Not sure if she had heard the call, I rushed to the phone to call the hut ... luckily, she did hear the announcement and was staying put in the hut. Numerous police, wildlife and BASC vehicles cruised around the area looking for the bear ... but no signs of it. Later it was determined the bear had gone back out on the sea ice and we were given the all clear ... it was safe to go outside again. Lesson learned: always keep your radio with you.

Our evenings thus far have been pretty low key ... we've rented a couple movies (yes, there is a rental store in Barrow - it's the same place where you can get coffee drinks and flowers) and worked on some blog videos (coming soon!).

We'll let you know how we make out with this blizzard ....

For now, I'll leave you with a short video we made illustrating the daylight progression we have currently ...

Friday, February 13, 2009

High-Temperature Exposure Testing

Now that Alexis and Dr G. have arrived in Barrow, it is safe to reveal the true intentions of those lab members who stayed behind at Villanova.

We are conducting a series of experiments into the effects of extreme temperatures on the structural integrity of photochemistry ampules. This previously unpublished image shows the deformation resulting from 3 hours of exposure to a temperature of 850 degrees C. There are no current plans to repeat this procedure, as it has been clearly demonstrated to be a REALLY BAD IDEA.

(For the record, let it be known that this misadventure... er...experiment was completely unpremeditated and that there appears to be no lasting damage done to the muffle furnace. The ampules were not so fortunate.)

Welcome to Barrow!

We have made it to Barrow after a delayed flight in Fairbanks. We arrived late on Wednesday night (2/11/09) and made the trip to BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium) - our new home for the next couple months. On the way to BASC, however, we had a great surprise ... FIREWORKS!

Yes, they really rolled out the red carpet for us!

Actually, right now there is a festival happening in Barrow called Kivgiq, a festival of song and dance. Dancers from all over the North Slope of Alaska (and beyond) are in Barrow to perform. Last night we went to the festival and enjoyed watching a group from Wainwright, and another from Savoonga (on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea). If you are interested in more of the story behind the history of Kivgiq, read this:

Here is a video from the festival last night.

Although we are feeling very welcomed here - we can't really say it has been a WARM welcome. The temp was -40F when we arrived with a wind chill of about -65F or so. Yesterday we came to the lab around 8:30 am and it was -47F (with who knows how low a wind chill!?!). Today it is a balmy -16F, but the windchill is still about -40F with blowing snow. What really struck us was thinking about the fact that back home when we left, temps were in the 60s ... so we went through a 100 degree temperature drop coming here to Barrow.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alexis Sees Her First Polar Bear!!!!

...okay...well...a stuffed one that is.

This encounter occurred at the Anchorage airport. We arrived here this afternoon and will overnight at the Ramada and catch tomorrow's flight to Barrow. We didn't get here in time today to get the last flight out this afternoon, so we wait until tomorrow.

In the meantime we enjoyed a lovely dinner at Sullivan's Steakhouse. Alexis had the Alaskan King Crab and I had a Filet Mignon with Peppercorn Sauce. Yummy! Since Alexis actually knew a few of the people there (she worked at the Sullivan's in King of Prussia), we got all star treatment! Small world to travel across 3 time zones and find people you haven't seen in several years!

Monday, February 9, 2009

It Made It!

Our equipment arrived in Barrow on Friday! We'll find out later this week when we unpack it whether we have any casualties. I must give a big thank you to Sharon at Alta Air Logistics for overseeing the shipment. When the boxes arrived in Anchorage she personally checked on their condition and oversaw the "palletizing" of everything for the flight to Barrow. She made the entire shipping process a breeze ... Sharon you are awesome!!!

Now, it's just a matter of getting US up there. We'll be leaving tomorrow from Dulles Airport ... then to Minneapolis ... then to Anchorage. We overnight in Anchorage ... then on Wednesday go from Anchorage to Fairbanks to Barrow.

Let's hope the volcano holds off until Feb 12. :)