Monday, June 25, 2007

New research site

ITEX site near the coast, sunny for one second and then foggy for the rest.

ITEX, International Tundra Experiment
is another project that I am working with, which is in a new (for me) area of barrow that is closer to the shore line.


It is a pretty neat area, flat and lots of tundra with 100+ plots of land about 2 ft wide that are being studied, some control and some experimental. The experimental areas are plots that are allowed to be "heated" up and measurements are being taken to see the what may happen to the rest of the land during climate change.

First Image: Foggy conditions, the crappy board walk.
Second: OTC - Open Top Chambers for the experimental
Third: The control plots.

This area is further removed from people than the tram lines that I have been working on, which have nice boardwalks in place and a heated control shed. At the ITEX site there are only small parts that have boardwalks that are smaller and not so friendly. During my first time out, early into the day, my left foot slipped in between the two tracks of the boardwalk and became stuck in the middle as the rest of my body weight fell on to it. Needless to say , this hurt and I had to still complete the measurements for the next 4 hours. By the end of the day I was having trouble walking and could not bend my left leg backwards at all, and I had to really slow down and be extra careful as I twisted it once more after the first fall.

Local Hospital.

Upon returning I noticed that the back of my knee was bruised and my leg was a bit swollen, so I iced it and took some pain medicine which helped out a lot. However sleeping that night was not good due to the shocking pain I felt when I mistakenly moved it. Luckily, everyone let me sleep in (10:00 am) when I woke up and I radioed from my bed to Santonu to see if he had left to the field or not and if he found help, I was happy to hear that he had help and that I could rest for the morning and work on data in the lab. I slept the whole day and did nothing, which felt great, however the day was horrible because I woke up with a terrible headache (light and sound would shoot pain into me), a stiff leg, pain in my left foot and waist. The headache did not go away for at least 6 hours and the pain in my foot and waist is still very much there. I have been getting better with each day, but I am still feeling worse toward mid-day and evening.

Happier with my own knee brace.

I can only walk so much and I cannot bend my knee fully yet. I could not find a knee brace at the town store and so I went to the hospital and there I had a nurse check my leg who told me that I had pulled a tendon and gave me a free brace. She told me to return in a week should I still feel bad. I will certainly do so, I am worried about the next time I scheduled to go to the field. I am happy to hear that we will be getting a local high school student to help us but I will be going back to the ITEX site to repeat the same measurements. I am not looking forward to this at all. Last week I went to the field everyday and I believe that the same setup is happening this week too.

The King Eider Inn.

I was able to go and check out some other places around town on the day that we went to the hospital, such as the King Eider Inn. It is a very nice, clean and small hotel near the airport. They require you to take off your shoes before entering and they have a few rooms and one large beautiful "Presidential Suite" $$$. I wanted to stay there so bad! It has a four person hot tub (I have not see a tub of any sort for a month!) and a sauna. The people there were very friendly and showed Amorita and I the rooms even though they knew that we were not staying there.

Santonu, Amorita and I in front of "Stuaqpak", which means big store.

After this we went to Stuapqak and bought some food supplies in where a few items will ring up a big bill!
Santonu in front of the Gun section which is next to the kid toys!

I have been eating a the northern most Mexican restaurant in the world called Pepe's! The place is famous and so is the owner who was on the Johnny Carson Show.

Pepe's Mexican food.

Later that night we watched a movie "Kill Bill vol. 1" as we watch a movie every Saturday night on the projector in the Conference room.

Movie night replaces climbing day.

I am bummed out that I will once again miss out on the climbing wall, I am getting weak and I miss my little fox dog. Other than that things are still going well! - Good Night.

Foxy kissing Matt. wait... Matt kissing Foxy! - Photo by KARLA

Foxy and her fox pups. - Photo by Photoshop

Monday, June 18, 2007

Blanket Toss and rain

Snow to flooded fields, relives only more surprises.

More field work and visiting birds are everywhere! Some very curious which I had not seen since my trip to the Galapagos.

Ducks resting just a couple feet from me and the tram line work.

The snow is almost completely gone and the field is now flooding and the land is exposing the ball like moss and polygon shaped areas about 10 - 12 feet wide.

Depressions in the ground from hexagons like patterns everywhere.

A local BASC member pulling materials on snow sleds via a bike!

Today... out to the field once more and I learn that what takes 4 hours will take 7 hours. I also learned that a sunny day can change in minutes as my hands turned red to purplish and I was forced to retreat to the control shack and layer up my clothes. Rain off the horizon with winds shifting made the temperature drop fast! From 38 to 28 degrees in minutes. This is the first time it has rained since I have been here and it added a somewhat gloomy setting to the field, even though the rain was more of a slight sprinkle, it means that more is to come. This will affect our field work, as our sensors require little to no rain.

Blanket launch!

What was made gloomy was quickly changed once again as the locals held their first Blanket Toss of the season! No rain, half or more of the towns people and people being flung into the air... and ... whale meat! Lots of whale meat.

Whale meat everywhere.

Whaling is totally illegal for the non-natives, however even the locals have very strict rules, they are never allowed to sell it and they cannot hunt unless they need to eat. There is a quota for the amount of hunting in the season. After the opening talks and prayers people ate and mingled. There was also dancing and even more blanket tossing.

Whaling Crew Flags, successful whaling season and the fruits of labor are shared with everyone.

The participates are decided by the whaling captains whom have had a successful season. There will be 3 parties of the 3 main crews, but I believe that there will be more (smaller) ones to come.
Little kid walking around.

After the quick visit, I got to eat and then hours of typing (field data) along with several other smaller task (all work), followed my the more relaxing... blogging. Also there is a good gym in the BASC complex which I hope to be going to soon.
The BASC gym with weights, basketball, ping-pong, pool (billiards), and a "climbing" peg board.

Also, check out Amorita's blog!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Summer's coming...

I am happy to get to talk to my family today and get some comments from people to my blog. Thank you everyone!! It's is nice to receive some communication from people back home, it's a bit distressing to feel like your being out of the loop for such a long time.

Timed Image, camera free riding on cart

So something hit me a couple of days ago while I was alone in the field... a thought... I realized that I had archived a major goal that I had set for myself a long time ago when I was working as a switch tech at T-Mobile in Albuquerque, NM. I was happy to have a great respectable job that was demanding and interesting however rather upset about my environment... a very cold, window-less, secure, stale office; thinking all the time how I would rather be doing field work traveling to interesting places, meeting new people (and cultures), outdoors mixed in with some danger. And that past wish hit me as I was walking alone, in a different world, loaded shotgun in hand, fully clothed and with enough food and water for days; my only communication... a radio. It made me smile, gave me energy and again I saw that I am still doing very well; a lucky good life surrounded by great people, wonderful family and a waiting little dog...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Guns and butter

Shotgun safety Training

Not being able to update my blog in a few days, I am now going to go over a quick update. Field work has been a bit rough do to the near 10 hour work days (field), followed by a couple of extra hours immediately after coming back! Lucky we only do this every other day. And lucky I made it to the only Japanese restaurant, which was quite a treat!!

Ah! Japanese food!

I will be going out to the field again in about an hour. Should be interesting because there was a brown bear spotted walking around our field site yesterday. The snow is melting quickly.

Above: Snow 1 week ago.

Snow melt three days ago!

We commonly have a bear guard with a rifle and/or a shotgun out there. Since we been getting foggy and windy days lately we have to be on guard even more than normal. We been told that bears can smell some 20 miles away. So, all this talk about bears led us to an important subject and a subject that I have been waiting for... gun training!

Live firing, shooting at a board.

We had two days of class, the first in class safety training and the second day live firing. This is not my first time with guns, however it is my first time with a shotgun. We had a member of the police force out with us and we learned how to load, unload and safety the shotguns we would be using (should we want to). The second day we got to fire off a couple rounds. Ok, two rounds is certainly not enough to learn, but we at least got to feel the kick back. I am glad that we had this class because I have already come across a couple of shotguns and could not tell (until now) if they were loaded and on safety.

Climbing wall for $3.00 all day at the local Gym.

Saturday passed again and I thought of my climbing pals and peña blanca and I am worrying that I am getting weak! So, when Sunday came which is our "day off" (not really) I went to the climbing wall here at barrow! Only 3 dollars for the whole day (cheaper that when el paso had a wall) and Amorita, Rob (a science teacher, researcher and track coach) and I climbed for a couple of hours! I AM SO WEAK NOW! I must go every weekend for a couple of hour (that's about all we will get). The climbs were all really easy (v0-) but hey its something.

Amorita climbing stronger than any of us... not surprising.

Me on the "hardest" climb. We all made it up.. to the skull.

Time to eat and then back to the field...

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Changing Field Work Conditions

I SAW MY FIRST ARCTIC FOX!! Otherwise it is another day in the field, so far we have been going out everyday of the week and it looks like that will be the case for awhile. We are working on smoothing out our daily jobs so that we can get more done. We help out digging a ditch for a monitoring running water from the ever melting snow.

The condition of ground is starting to get messy, snow mixed with areas of mud, slush, and tundra; all which makes for a tough walking conditions. The season of the snow mobiles is now over, so we are stuck to walking everywhere and it is killer on the feet. The walk to our research area is about a 45 minute walk, which would normally not be so hard, however the lack of a true path is rough. We are about to go out to the field again after lunch and it looks like it will be a hot day of around 55 degrees with full sun and some wind (10 mph).

Being that Saturday passed by, it made me think about climbing and my climbing buddies and I already miss it very much. But for now.... it's to the field again!

Friday, June 1, 2007

First day of field work...

may 31, 07

Today was the first day of field work. Most exciting! My hope was to not only have a great day helping with research but also... get to drive a snow mobile (or snow machine as the locals call it). And would you know it, I get the chance right of the bat. The snow machines are very powerful and shockingly they can go up to 200 mph. Ok, I didn't get it up to anywhere near 200 mph (more like 30 mph) but let me tell you it felt very fast. The ride is very rough, and because the snow doesn't make bumps very obvious you must be ready to get some air at any moment. Thus, any thing not tied down will come flying off, this can include people too, as my research mate, Santonu, found out. Poor guy was on the back of one of two sleds that were being pulled and hit a bump that shot him right off and it was not for a good kilometer that we noticed! He was most lucky not hurt and had a good laugh and memory of this rough ride. All together we had 5 snow machines and the drive from the research faculty took about 15 minutes and left us in a nearly completely white environment much like the loading console straight from the Matrix. A strange, unsetting yet exciting feeling of both danger and safety as you can see for miles, however still hyper-aware that you are indeed in the natural food chain. Once we to our site, we unpacked our equipment and we split into 3 groups, santonu and I, Dave and Amorita, and Craig with Alex and Sandra.

Santonu and I watching the Tramline Progress. 300 meters of tramline and 3 tramlines.

The area that Santonu and I were focused on was a dried lake bed as is covered in over 4 feet of snow. On the lake bed lies 3 train-like tracks that support our mini train that carries sensors to measure various things a regular intervals for a total of 300 meters. Because of the heavy snow, the track had been bent and snaked left and right instead of being perfectly leveled and straight, and so we had to walk the track straightening and leveling each section for each track and log any pieces that needed to be replaced.
One of two snow sleds that we pulled with the snow machines.

This took the whole day and was very exhausting, but worth it as we were able to run our train on each track and test the sensors.Long day. After this was a bit more fun driving around the snow machines! After this we went and ate! Good day!