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2 April, 2003

Working on the Edge

Today the same three icekateers, Jerry, Jim and I, were back on the ice drilling holes. Four holes were augured today two each at the opposite ends of the island where the ice is much thinner and meets the open water.

The purpose for drilling so many holes on the ice at various locations is to collect as much data as possible. All of the data is compared it to the data being collected in the science shack. As my sixth graders know you never, ever, ever just take one reading or sampling.

The weather was overcast, windy and unusually balmy at 30 degrees F (with the wind the wind chill was about zero degrees F).

We first traveled south as far as the ice would safely allow and west as far as the International Dateline to drill the first two holes. The ice was much thinner here because it was newer. Changes in wind direction can easily break these pieces away but we were far enough away from the edge. The ice is also much smoother here since it is newer and it has not had the chance to be crumbled and pushed into piles like the older ice.

Our second holes were to be drilled as far north as possible. The ice was much thicker here and we were able to walk right up to the edge where the ice and open water meet. These open water areas are called leads and can be as large as 100 miles long. These areas are usually where all of the animal action takes place. We spotted a number of gulls and ravens feeding and small pieces of what could have been a leftover polar bear kill, the distance was too far for us to be sure. We also sited seal, referred to as oogruk here, about 75 yards away but it quickly dove once it spotted us.

The contrast between the water and the ice was a refreshingly welcome site after four hours of seeing varying tones of white and the potential for wildlife sightings is great here. Fog quickly rolls in and once our holes are drilled we head back. We will return to all of our sites to collect samples and data on a routine basis once all of the holes we need are created.

Open lead at our nothern drill sites.

Our polar bear guard and snowmobile driver keeping watch.

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