Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 9

Today was awesome. It started out a bit slow as the fog was still in and flying wasn't going to happen for a while. In Alaska, and especially the North Slope, things are dictated by the weather. People work during all kinds of horrible conditions but if you can't see, you can't fly. And if you can't fly, you can't work. And lately we haven't been able to see. But I had high hopes as it wasn't raining and the skies had been clearing the last couple of days in the later afternoon. In fact last night I was standing outside on the phone for about an hour in my shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt catching some sun (at 9 pm). I can't get over the 24 hour light thing, it's just weird.

So we checked in with the helicopter pilots and the word was that we should be able to fly at some point. So we waited:

While we were waiting, we hung out at the airport and watched all sorts of unusual and scary aircraft coming and going, including this Winnebago with wings.

Eventually the fog cleared and we were ready to go, so we hopped in the chopper and flew east along the Beaufort Sea toward our first site. Needless to say we were happy to finally be headed out to do some work. There is truly nothing worse than waiting for an unknown period of time with no concept of when, or if, you are going to be able to do what you need to, except maybe being without beer. Mosquitoes have been a recurring theme throughout my stay here, and this photo demonstrates why they are so prolific. There is literally water everywhere. These are lakes formed by ice flows. The majority of them are about two feet deep, but huge.

To the north, we could see the polar ice cap. It is difficult to see in this photo, but if you look closely you can see the ice cap at the top of the photo. Also in this photo is a phenomenon called a beaded stream. It is caused by ice forming in a small stream, causing a constriction which leads to stream flowing underground or through a very small channel. Where the ice forms the stream forms a large pool, like a bowl.                                                                                                     

This is the caribou herd we saw a few days ago. I finally managed to get some photos from my coworkers camera. In total, we estimated about 1,000 caribou split into two groups. One group crossed the road right in front of our truck while the other herd was located off to our west. In the background you can see the Franklin Bluffs, which still have snow on them at the end of July. This is about 100 feet elevation.


Ok, back to what I actually did today....

Well I saw some caribou.

And we did some work. I still crack up when I look over and see our bear guard standing with a shotgun. In fact, he is a great guy and we get along quite well. You can see the Alaska pipeline in the background and you'll note we are still wearing our mosquito gear. It's much easier and works better than bug spray.

And every now and then I took a good look around to see the view.

And before we knew it, we heard the distinctive thumping sound of our ride home. We made our way back to the chopper and headed in for the night (day). And to top it off, it was steak night at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel. All in all it was a great day.

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