Frost and flags

I was walking into the BARC (where I have my office and lab) after lunch the other day, when I came upon this scene:

Flags at the BARC

A closer look:

Flags at the BARC II

Who put them there, or why, we do not know.  But there they were and are.

Last night, hoarfrost started building up on things.  By this afternoon, my car was covered in it.  Hoarfrost can be amazing, with long fern-like feathers growing off of surfaces.

Hoarfrost on the mirror.
Mirror close-up
Frost feathers I
Frost feathers II

The best was the spiral effect the frost that grew on the antenna made.

Hoarfrost spiral on antenna


Chipping away at things

I’ve been chipping away at a bunch of things.  The main ones are the big Late Western Thule chapter and an associated project which involve evaluating every Birnirk & later C14 date I can get hold from Alaska, to see which ones hold up (a number that are cited a lot are really early solid carbon dates!) and what exactly was dated.  In some cases, what was dated was in a different house from the “diagnostic” which is purportedly being dated, and there is no a priori reason to think the houses are contemporaneous.  It may have been the best that could be done at the time, but some revision is needed here.  Once those are done, I can finish the two other papers I am working on.

We got the symposium for the Alaska Anthropological Association meeting more or less put together, pending any additional papers submitted as general papers that the organizers may send us, and next week we’ll just have to decide on an order so the conference organizers can get their materials to the printer in good time.

I’ve also been invited to be a speaker at a small conference on Sustainability and Heritage in Kirkwall, Orkney which is sort of the main kick-off for a Research Coordination Network (RCN) on Global Long-Term Ecodynamics in which I am fortunate enough to be involved.  I’ve never been to Orkney, but I love the Shetlands, so I’m looking forward to it.  There are some great people involved, and we’re trying to do some really interesting things involving the use of archaeological data to illuminate questions about long-term sustainability.  I actually owe them an abstract by tomorrow (which it actually is in Orkney), so I better get to it.

About those gray whales that got stuck at Barrow a few years back…

I’ve noticed I’ve been getting more hits on search terms relating to those whales, probably since the movie “Big Miracle” just was released.  So, since I’m kinda busy with the Super Bowl, I thought I’d put up a few links to the real story.

1) Bill Hess’s blog, where he is doing a series on the whole event.  Bill took what were probably the first professional pictures of the whales, including some may probably recognize.  This features a lot of Bill’s really fine photographs.

2) An article in the Fairbanks New-Miner which has interviews with many of the folks in Barrow who were involved in the original event, including biologist Geoff Carroll.

3) An article in the Anchorage Daily News by Richard Mauer, who covered the original story and hauled out his notes to write this one.

The snow is finally melting!!

We had a serious amount of snow last winter, although I’m not sure if it was an all-time record or not.  By a couple of weeks ago I was beginning to get a bit worried.  We’ve started work at Nuvuk in June some years ago, but it was pretty miserable.  We’re starting in early July this year, but at the rate the snow was melting it was looking as if we might still have snow patches on the ground when we started.

However, we’ve had some warm sunny weather the last couple of weeks, and the snow is melting.  Patches of tundra are starting to show through; people are heading inland after geese.  We drove out to the end of the road to take a look at Point Barrow.  I was happy to see lots of gravel showing.  Once the gravel starts to appear, it absorbs lots of heat, and the snow melts faster.  Given another month, we should be in good shape.

Point Barrow seen from the end of the road.

It was misty when we drove out, but I think it was a mist from snow ablating (going from solid to vapor directly).  It happens here a lot on warm days, resulting in mist rising from the ground as well as from puddles  & ponds.

Spring comes in a blaze of glory

It’s the first day of Piuraagiaqta today.  It’s Barrow’s Spring Festival.  I was sort of stuck in the office working, but it was a gorgeous sunny day, with ice crystals hanging in the air.   I looked up during the afternoon, to see one of the best ice halo displays I have ever seen. I didn’t have a camera with a wide-angle lens, so I could only get part of it in one shot.

Ice halo over Barrow, showing sun with 22º halo, parhelic circle running through the sundog, and the lower tangent arc on the horizon.
Ice halo, showing sun with 22º halo, a parhelic circle through the parhelion (sundog), and an upper tangent arc.

Then my camera battery died.  I didn’t get a good picture of the outer 46º halo.  The whole display looked a lot like the Parry 1820 display.

But just then, as I was turning to go back inside in disappointment, I heard a snow bunting singing!  I couldn’t see him, but he was there, and so I know spring is too.

My “upcoming trip to Fairbanks”–almost ready

As Tripit puts it, I have an “upcoming trip to Fairbanks” for which I very nearly forgot to make travel arrangements.  I remembered last week, and got the travel done, leaving only the paper, the poster, and the proposal I had to get done first.

The poster was finished on Friday, and sent off to Maribeth for final additions and printing.  She had a touch of flu, but has recovered in time to work out the final edits, and will be getting it printed.

I started serious work on the proposal earlier in the week, and got the final numbers on Friday to plug in.  It went off to the contracting officer this morning, and now we will see.  Costs keep going up here in the Bush, and it makes it tough all round.

I have the paper (or the PowerPoint for it) almost done.  I need to get a picture of Herman Ahsoak’s shed where he keeps his whaling gear (not in the house, behind it, just like folks have for centuries), and improve the map of the whaling captain’s work area at the Peat Locus at Nuvuk tomorrow, and then it’ll be ready.

I’m trying to get packed tonight, so I don’t have to rush after work tomorrow.  It looks like a good meeting, although for the second year in a row the Alaska Consortium of Zooarchaeologists (ACZ) workshop and the Alaska Heritage Resource Survey (AHRS) workshop conflict.  This is getting a bit old.  It should be possible to schedule them both during the meeting without conflicting, but that would apparently require some forethought and consideration on the part of those organizing the AHRS meeting.  The ACZ meeting was scheduled way in advance…

Some serious blizzards

For the past week, the weather has been fairly unfortunate here in Barrow.  We had a snow day on Wednesday.  It was a total whiteout,with so much snow blowing around that I could barely see my car out the front door, let alone the
house next door.  The UICS staff discussed it and decided to hold off until after daylight to go to work (so we could at least have a chance to see drifts).  By that time, UIC and everybody else had closed for the day.

View out the front window during Wednesday's blizzard. Notice the snow streaks and the frost flowers.

The weather improved Wednesday night, but no loaders had been heard at NARL by the next morning.  I called into the regular teleconference with one of our clients, and then headed for the BARC.  Good choice.  The drift across the drive was huge.  I headed back to my house for snowshoes.

Fortunately, the ARM project has a telehandler with a bucket.  They also have a contractor who is trying to finish an upgrade to the BARC instrument platform and is a bit behind schedule.  Once the telehandler was dug out and the area around the ARM duplex was clear, Walter brought the telehandler over to the BARC drive.  One and a half hours later, he had a single lane through the drift and place for me to park, so I went in.  Susie, who’s filling in as the UICS temporary admin assistant, came out in a cab.

The wind was already rising and the barometer dropping again.  I went home at for a quick lunch, and there was already a drift at my door.

Drift at the door at lunchtime on Thursday.

The snow was sculpted in very interesting ways, which had gotten more elaborate while the car was out of the way.

Drift at the front of my house, lunchtime on Thursday. The grill is almost completely exposed.

I went back to work, but by 3 PM it was getting really nasty with low visibility.  I told everyone it was time to head home, since the road from NARL was going to get bad (and Susie and I would be spending some time at the BARC with the contractor if we didn’t get out ASAP).  Shortly after that, they closed pretty much everything in town for the day.

We were closed for everything all day today (Friday), too.  I managed to get a few things done and written from home.  We’ve canceled lab for tomorrow, since the loader has only been working enough to get a path for the water and sewer trucks to get the residential huts, and the BARC is undoubtedly behind a huge drift again.  We haven’t actually gotten water or sewer trucks, mind you, but they can at least come tomorrow.

My husband’s weather day was interrupted by the news that something had blown in in the BASC Bldg. 360 server room.  He went over on foot (falling into snowdrifts that he couldn’t see without glasses) and eventually got a repair crew organized to come secure the room so snow didn’t keep blowing in and wreck the servers.  They had to turn off an air conditioner, but that didn’t seem to be a real problem, given all the cold air that was coming in everywhere.

The wind is finally going around to the north, with temperatures dropping, and even a little bit of sunset sky showing!  It’ll be a chore to get to work on Monday, no doubt, but that is the Arctic.  The entire North Slope was under blizzard warning for a couple days.  That was a huge storm, apparently bigger than any they’re recorded for a decade or more.

Now that I’m home…

I was lucky enough to get an upgrade from Alaska Airlines, so at least I wasn’t bent up like a pretzel all the way to Barrow.  They weren’t any too quick about getting the baggage out, and no-one was to be found to issue the Baggage Service Guarantee vouchers after the 20 minutes had passed, so we took my bag when it showed up (after about 1/2 hour) and went home.

Luckily, today was a holiday so I could sleep late.  Once up, there was the usual post-travel laundry pile to start on.  Once that was underway, I had to dig out my car.  There had been a blizzard in Barrow on Friday, which had blown snow into our arctic entryway, among other places.

Snow in the arctic entryway.

It had also blown all over my vehicle, which required significant digging out.  Apparently the blowing or subsequent plowing had somehow packed snow around my left rear mudflap, since that shattered when I pulled out (only went forward) although I didn’t discover that until I got home.

View out the front door, showing snowed-in car, and ivu (ice push) on the beach in the background.

The wind had apparently also caused some pretty significant ice push from the Chukchi Sea onto the beach.  You can see it in the background of the photo above.  The ice is black in places because it was frozen to the bottom.  The ice is very thin for this time of year.  In some places it is probably 20 or more feet tall.

Once I got to work I caught up on emails, drafted a “mission statement” for a working group on coastal erosion I am helping to organize (contact me if you are interested–it’s global, not just Arctic in focus), worked on an encyclopedia article a bit, and took care of things like time-sheet approvals which can be a time suck, but are fairly important (we all like getting paid!).

A Meeting in Abisko

I’m at the Abisko Naturvetenskapliga Station (Scientific Research Station) in northern Sweden.  There is a meeting here of scientists and station managers who are involved either directly (or indirectly in the case of non-EU participants) in a project called INTERACT which is about building research & monitoring infrastructure for arctic research.  I’ve come along since my husband is here representing the Barrow Environmental Observatory, and we are both giving papers at a meeting in Munich after this.

It was quite the trip to get here, but the station is very nice, and it looks like it will be quite an interesting meeting.