Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Field work and Nalukataq

Today was a good day out in the field. Although I have not been getting much sleep lately, I was energized and managed the hike without a problem. I've been assigned to monitor water levels for the Biocomplexity experiment at the Barrow Environmental Observatory. It is much more complicated than it sounds, because we have to use a differential GPS system that has centimeter accuracy! So what the usual routine consists of is taking the GPS equipment and hiking a good...I would say between 3-4 miles around the site with it. With the battery, receiver, and controller on my back, the extra 25-30 pounds of weight start to wear me down towards the end. The hike wouldn't be so hard if it were on a hard surface, but the tundra is very mushy and sometimes the moss behaves like a sponge and sucks my boot in!
I went out at around 10 am today, and it's nice when you're the only person out there for miles. I love going out there by myself; it's a great feeling to have nothing but wilderness all around you. As soon as I arrived at the control shed, it was off to do water levels! I usually hit pond #12 first, since it's right next to the control shed. I put the GPS receiver on top of the pole that is in the pond, and I usually wait to get radio link, then GPS then records the elevation from the top of the pole. After that, I use a measuring tape to measure the distance from the top of the pole down to the water. I do this for ten ponds in or around the experiment site, and process the data here in the lab.
Anyways, back to being out there by's great! Today I saw a loon, geese, swans, lemmings, pharalopes, sandpipers, ducks, and the Alaska state bird, mosquitoes! Ah yes, I'm sure many of you have heard the horror stories, well, it's true...they're ginormous! Luckily though, they are not too bad up in Barrow because the wind usually takes care of them...but today was a gorgeous day and we had hardly a breeze, so I saw many of them hovering around me :\ But I love the wildlife here; I have also seen snowy owls, an arctic fox, and a weasel. Later on Craig said we would all get the chance to go to Ivotuk, and I'm counting down the days ._. He said that we would be able to see moose, caribou, and bears! I like to go out to the field with Craig, like many people that worked with him out there before me, I've also felt his intensity when it comes to field work, and it makes me nervous at times but its a big part of what makes him such a great leader. One time when we were hiking out to the BEO, he spotted bubbles of methane in one of the ponds. He's just so knowledgeable and passionate that I miss him being out there with us sometimes, he's great inspiration :D

Monday we went to a festival that the native people here call Nalukataq. I believe it celebrates the end of whaling season? When we arrived they were having a blanket toss; it was a bunch of people gathered around holding a blanket made out of seal skin. They use this to toss a person pretty high up in the air! When we arrived they had the blanket toss going, but only for the little kids. I don't think I'm going anywhere near this thing, I've been deathly afraid of anything that resembles a trampoline :\ Shortly after the blanket toss they distributed muktuk (whale meat) among some of the families that were there. Many of them were waring their traditional coats, and the little kids looked very cute in them. We will be attending the next nalukataq tomorrow, and I hope to see then what they have been practicing so much for: music and dancing! I'm also happy that tomorrow I get another day in the lab, although it gets very boring if there is nobody around, so we'll see. I think I'll probably make time for a nice walk down the beach! But for now, I'll end this blog with a picture of when we went to The Point :)


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