Saturday, April 28, 2007

Getting an Alaska Suntan

Well, I headed up to Toolik Lake last week for the annual spring snow surveys. Lots of fun! This was my first experience with snow machines...and hopefully my last experience with snow for the year. Fairbanks has already been catapulted into spring. Even the mud is drying up around our house and we are anticipating an early fire season.

Here is a picture of me in the Kuparuk basin on the North Slope of AK. Probably near Imnavait creek, as this is where we spent much of the week.

Here's Sveta taking a break in a snow pit. This is how we take density samples. We cut a core with a sharp cutter at the bottom of a plastic tube and then put it in a ziplock. Then we take it back to the lab to weigh it and calculate the density.
This is also in the Kuparuk basin, with the Brooks Range in the distance.

Next, Amy is posing with her bear repellent. I'm pretty happy with pepper spray so far, but Annie Oakley here prefers the 44 magnum. We didn't mess with Amy. Though a veteran Alaskan, this was some of her first field work. I think she's got a knack for it though and that we'll be seeing more of her out in the trenches.

We saw plenty of caribou walking around. They would walk in lines like migrating birds: it probably saves them energy moving through the crusty snow. They would lie down and melt big holes in the snow that might be four feet across and a couple feet deep. These patches were to be avoided with the snowmachine, I learned quickly.

These clucking ptarmigans were taking a stroll next to Toolik Lake just as the evening fog was rolling in. They are very elegant looking but sound like chickens with hiccups. I was making a heckofa lot of noise stalking them in my snowshoes, but they only strolled a little bit faster and looked for shelter under this shrub. In about three weeks the snow will have melted away here and they will loose their white feathers in favor of brown tundra-colored ones. Pretty smart for a slow bird!

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