2 April, 2002
The morning starts by waking up in the cold morning, pulling on the bunny boots, eating a bowl of oatmeal, stuffing sleeping bags, tearing down tents and packing sleds. It's time to go to work. It's time to do what we are here to do…. Science. A typical work day needs to be described before further explanation of our measurements are given. There will be detailed lessons on each measurement but for now, the reader needs to understand science and the amount of data that is taken on a science expedition traverse across Alaska.
Imagine a NASCAR race stop pit. The crew is hovering around the car in a mad rush for new tires, checking the engine, fueling up and then zooom the car pulls off. Now parallel this scenario to the SnowSTAR 2002 measurement site. The 6-snowmachine crew pulls up to the site, jumps off the snowmachines, unties and unpacks the sled, the crew takes off with scientific equipment in hand ready to measure the snow. It happens efficiently. The team works as one, as a team.
Matthew has pre-determined the measurement sites by using GPS and topographical maps. The sites are chosen according to vegetation: either tundra or forest. When reaching a site, the wind direction is recorded and the line of measurements that will be taken is determined. A 100-meter tape measurer is pulled out. This meter tape is used to mark the places where the measurements will be taken. Eric takes the magna probe that is attached to the GPS and walks the long line of approximately 1 mile which records at least 200 measurements. Jon runs the magna probe on the 100 meter line which records 201 measurements. I begin digging the 4 snow pits and take 10 Snow-Water-Equivalence samples along the line. Matthew digs the main snow pit and begins making his 100 discrete measurements of things like snow grain-size distribution and density in the pit. Glen and Ken run the light intensity meter which requires the use of the heated sled and computers. It records up to 120,000 measurements of how the sunlight penetrates the snow. After Glen and Ken finish the light intensity meter the pentatrometer is ran which records up to 90,000 snow-hardness measurements. All of these measurements are performed in approximately 2-3 hours at a given site.
On some days the technical and time consuming chemical samples are also taken at the site.
Now double or triple all of those numbers in a given day because two to three sites are performed each day. All of this work is performed along with traveling up to 20 miles a day on snowmachines. And the end of the day arrives, camp is chosen, sleds are untied, unpacked, an army of 6 people quickly erect two tents, the cook stove and wood stove is set up, snow is melted for water, dinner is fixed, data is processed, journals are written, jokes are told, people depart to beds of sleeping bags. It's been another day of cold science on the Alaska range.
SO WHERE IS MRS. CHEUVRONT???? LET'S PLOT!!! We've made it past the Arctic Circle!!!
Latitude: 66.51964 degrees North
Longitude: 160.18114 degrees west
The shelter was left in the morning and the caravan of snowmachines traveled onward. Two complete sites were finished and we jostled and bumped along the trail. My eyes spotted a fox running across the tundra. It sat upright for a minute and studied us as we studied him. We continued to travel 22 miles across the frozen and snow-covered Selawik lake. The air temperature had dropped and we were surrounded by ice fog. The lake appeared eerie in parts scattered with pressure ridges of ice. The colder temperatures and fog has brought us across the Arctic Circle. We camp tonight at the base of huge snowdrifts, sculpted by the wind. The Arctic is here. I have arrived. It has greeted me with cold.
Temp max: -2 degrees Celsius
Temp min: -11 degrees Celsius
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