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29 March, 2003

Arrival at Little Diomede Island

I met Dr. Cooper at the Bering Air building in Nome around noon where we checked our baggage, equipment and gear before boarding the small single prop plane. It has been snowing lightly all morning but the pilot predicts a smooth flight.

Once airborne the low cloud cover quickly obscures my view of the Bering Sea. I do not regain any recognizable land or sea until we break below the cloud cover to land at Port Clarence. This brief stop was made to drop off a Coast Guard member at his station along with mail and supplies.

Once airborne again the scenery changed dramatically. Below me lay a contrasting patchwork of white ice, varying in size and shape, floating upon a dark colored, almost blackish green, sea. As we neared Little Diomede Island the pieces of ice grew larger. A beluga whale briefly broke the surface of the water near the point where the ice pieces became one frozen mass and our landing strip.

Our plane lands on the frozen Bering Sea, upon an airstrip that was carved by a bulldozer, between the islands of Big Diomede, Russia and Little Diomede, Alaska almost directly on the International Date Line. We are greeted by a number of native residents on snowmobiles that have arrived to transport mail and supplies as well as us back to the village.

It takes about five minutes to get to the village. The plane has already left before we make it to the halfway point to the village. My Diomede welcome was a blast of frigid wind that seems to instantly freeze my face and starts my eyes watering. A quick adjustment to my parka hood brings some warm relief.

Although very cold, around 10 degrees F and about minus 15 wind chill, the day is very bright and sunny. We unloaded our gear into the school where we will be staying conducted a few brief introductions then went to work. Our team split up into two groups half of which went to work on the seawater intake and purge valves in the instrument shack while the remaining three of us trekked out onto the ice to insulate and bury water lines below ice. The insulation protected the line from freezing and burying it provided protection from snowmobile or other damage.

Two other members of the team were introduced to me, Dr. Lou Codispoti, University of Maryland and Jerry, who serves as our polar bear guard while we are working on the ice.

As I look out over this frozen sea it resembles a large white field of huge, thick, frosty eggshells strewn in jagged piles as high as six feet plus. Other than the occasional dark spot on Big Diomede everything is white. From the school buildings looking north or south dark lines are visible. This area marks where the open sea meets the frozen mass of ice .The unburied section of black waterline snaking across the ice offers the only real identifiable mark on this landscape.

Tomorrow there will probably be no journal posted. I am having difficulty with downloading photos to disks or computer since the cable adapters were lost during one of the many airport inspections. E-mail is also very slow and inconsistent please be patient with regards to my journals.

Thank you.

Diomede Village

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