Sunday, September 30, 2007

Top of the World

Bob and I both headed north to Barrow last week for separate fieldwork projects. Barrow is the northern-most point in Alaska and serves as a hub for several of the North Slope coastal villages, as well as a whole host of science research.

We've just passed the equinox, so there are still almost 12 hours of light, even up in Barrow. However, the angle of the light is low and the amount of incoming solar radiation is dropping fast.

What used to be the Navy Arctic Research Lab, established in 1947, is now the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium. The naval architecture remains in the quonset huts and other utilitarian buildings.

I'm not sure what these giant radio dishes are for...they litter the coastal skyline. Bowhead whale skulls are also prominent fixtures; these juvenile skulls are mounted next to the community college.

Bob and his Swedish colleague Anna were installing soil moisture and temperature probes in a permafrost polygon. It was great to see some familiar faces up there. Even if those faces were burned by the steady 40 mph wind. It snowed the last couple of days I was there, but little accumulation.

Other nature highlights included seabirds, snowy owls, and this feisty fox.

A few days after we left, the autumn whaling season was set to begin. I don't know if this little boat is used for whaling, but it seemed as ready as any of the others I saw lying around. Which is to say rotten and hardly seaworthy. But that is in the spirit of these arctic towns.

The biggest story around town these days is the new football field for the Barrow Whalers. This is a bright blue and yellow astroturf field on a little sand spit on the north side of town. If you want a real field good story, check out the ESPN coverage. I'm guessing there will be a PG film in the near future. It's easy to see how it captured the imagination of the media: pretty positive story in a town where there aren't many.


abmatic said...

oh! oh i know! at least i *think* the dishes are all for satellite downlinking. Polar orbiting satellites (from the US at least) send their info down when they pass over alaska. Its a big problem because the dishes are booked almost continiously which leaves little room for new satellites to be brought online. Do you know if those are the same dishes?

jc said...

Probably, you're right, Abmatic. We have dozens of them here in Fbx, too. I think the round dome is for NEDIS products, but I don't what the others download, specifically. I'm sure the harsh climate doesn't really help the capacity problem.