16 July, 2002
After a hard day of work, a night at Fox Den Camp by myself, and a return today to Camp Olak - I am TIRED! It wasn't the usual work that tired me out, but the HEAT and relentlessness of the "mozzies." Let me back up to yesterday, then progress to the point of exhaustion felt now.
Yesterday, I woke up to the heat of the arctic sun - yes, from one extreme to another! I ate a little breakfast, tried to figure out where the heat came from, prayed for wind and then I packed up food, cookware, etc needed for a night's stay at Fox Den Camp. I was looking forward to the solitary two days and one night coming up, but I wasn't looking forward to the mosquitoes and heat I was going to have to battle. I made it to Fox Den Camp a little before lunch time - the mosquitoes had chased me most the way, I was sweating and dehydrated. It was quite a luxury to be able to climb into the tent and escape the starving insects while I satisfied my appetite and thirst.. After a little self-motivating, I put my bug jacket back on, loaded the radio transmitter equipment into my pack.
My job yesterday was to walk around the area west and north of camp and hope to locate our one bird we managed to get a transmitter on. To do this, I have a receiver (a metal box like thing that can be programmed to different frequencies) and a large antennae connected by a cable. I walk around with the antennae held above my head, turn it slowly and listen to the receiver. If the bird with the transmitter is within a half mile, I should hear a "blip" noise. By turning the antennae, I would be able to determine the birds location in relationship to my position (there is a front and back to the antennae, so as it is turned, when pointing toward the bird, the "blip" gets louder). Well, if you think finding one bird in the tundra is like finding a needle in a haystack - you are right! Rebecca tried near the nest site the day before, and I covered about 9 miles, zig-zagging around my area!! Not even one encouraging blip!
Yesterday, as I was listening for our lost king eider, there was absolutely no breeze, no clouds - just lots of sun and mosquitoes. I spent the entire day sweating away inside my bug jacket. My hands had to be exposed most of the time!! The bug bites complement the rash marks quite nicely! I can't believe the extremes in this area - in the sun, the temp was almost 90! Just 5 or 6 days ago, it was snow mixed with rain. Right now, I am wishing we had that back!
Anyway, I sweated through the night at Fox Den Camp. There is now a new camp chore necessary before going to bed - mosquito eradication! After climbing into the tent, you must spend about 15 minutes searching for any moving, black and white, 6 legged flying insect with a long proboscis. Once found, there are many ways to kill- I like the smear technique the best, but it does leave an interesting design on the tent wall. The mosquitoes filled with blood add a little color to the black smudge marks on the blue tent wall!
After a little sleep, I got up, cooked a little rice mixed with powdered milk, sugar and cinnamon, had some cowboy coffee (sweating throughout), and was just about to step out of the tent when I saw Yumiko and Rebecca walking up - I knew this was going to be bad. And it was! They said if plans work out, I would be leaving tonight for Barrow. Sullen, I packed up the camp and went back to Olak. During the walk back, with a heavy back, sun's heat, sweat prevented from evaporating by a suffocating bug jacket, and mosquitoes buzzing all around trying to create their own melodies, I began to wonder if Barrow sounded all that bad??? As it turns out, I am "lucky" - the helicopter could only make one trip today, so Qaiyaan went out and I will be here for a couple more days. The exact day I leave is up in the air - possibilities could be late tomorrow through Saturday. I was thankful for a little more time, as I haven't been able to say my official good-byes to the area. I will start that tomorrow as I join Rebecca and Yumiko for habitat evaluations of the nest areas.
To end today, I thought I'd share with you something I've learned but didn't expect to learn!! (I actually didn't even wonder about this!). Have you ever wondered how long leg hair or armpit hair could grow in just 6 weeks? As I refuse to shave when goose bumps are protruding, I have gone quite unkempt. I was shocked to learn that armpit hair seems to grow much more quickly than leg hair. In addition, leg hair seems to reach a limited length and then cease to grow. Ahhh, there is so much to learn - if we'd only ask the right questions and take the time to observe!
OK, with that entertaining thought, I will end for the night. I really have gained more insight than that, but need the right frame of mind to attempt to put down in writing some of the deeper lessons learned. I will try this week, though.
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