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17 April, 2003

Departing Little Diomede

The wind died down last evening around ten o'clock and calmer weather settled over the island. Almost immediately a tractor began clearing the snowdrifts from the icy landing strip, a task that took all night. As I woke this morning barely a hint of glitter like snow danced in the light breeze and the sun began to peek between the clouds.

Gazing southward I notice a large lead has opened and is considerably closer to us than the northern lead. In fact, the lead seems to have consumed our southern most drill sites. The strong northern wind has broken and blown large sheets of ice away from the mass the lay between the islands. Looking through binoculars I can see the floating ice drifting with the current back towards us indicating that this open area will not remain for long.

The hunters appear to be happy about this new and closer hunting area. I have observed several men driving snow machines to the helicopter pad, pointing south towards the lead, and discussing hunting strategies.

It is very hard for me to believe that my three-week session here is coming to a close. I find myself walking outside several times to capture one more image on film or store that one last memory in my mind. I make one final check to make sure that all my gear is packed and ready as we are called to wait in the elementary school for the plane to arrive. One last game of tag with the elementary students leaves Lee beneath a pile of first and second graders. Every man for himself, and I make my escape down the hallway and glance back at Lee struggling to get free from the tangle of kids.

We wait for about thirty minutes when we are told of the planeís approach. We are quickly loaded on to snow machines and taken to the landing strip. The plane touches down shortly after. Final photo's and good-byes carry us on to the small nine-seat single prop plane. Our luggage and gear is quickly loaded and we begin to taxi down the runway.

As the wheels lift from the ice I cannot help being a little saddened by my departure. Although anxious and excited about rejoining my family and getting back to my students I feel as though a small part of me has stayed on the island. I cannot begin to describe how outstanding this experience has been for me. The involvement in a cutting edge scientific research project and the cultural experience are beyond comparison. My mind is filled with fond memories of people, places and science, memories that I will always cherish and remember with a smile. I look forward to my second session project involvement on board the Canadian Ice Breaker Laurier this summer as we travel through the Bering Strait.

I will continue my journal for a few days after I return and recuperate in order to answer the remaining questions sent to me.

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