8 July, 1999

8 July

We are in Alaska.

After a brief layover, we flew out of Seattle at 10:00 PM last night. It was dark. Once oriented northward, a faint ribbon of yellowish-pink light was visible on the horizon. We caught up with it. We landed in Anchorage at 12:30 AM to a cloud veiled, dusky daylight. We realized that we were in a different place.

Today's mission was to pick up equipment. We rented an SUV (sport utility vehicle), and a huge U-Haul. We then proceeded to pick up the steam drill - a device which delivers hot water and steam to the tip of a probe which melts its way through the ice to, hopefully, the base of the glacier. It is owned by the University of Wyoming and operated by Joel Harper. However, when not in use, it is stored up here in Alaska. It is one of the most important pieces of equipment for this study.

Andrew Fountain (the PI for the project) had received directions to the storage site of the drill from Joel Harper some weeks prior to our arrival in Anchorage. Joel is not here yet. We were going off of his instructions to find the drill. Though barely legible, we managed to decipher the directions and, after numerous wrong turns, we found our way to the alleged drill storage site - Don Lindsay and Michelle Cunico (PSU grad students) in the U-Haul, Andrew and Myself in the SUV. It was a small farm, seemingly remote, located 15 miles north of Anchorage. Andrew did not know the owners of the farm which housed the critical piece of equipment we were seeking. None of us did. We figured that they had some connection with Joel Harper (who was not with us yet), or University of Wyoming. We never did find out. They weren't home.

Andrew and I began snooping around the place anyway - passing through a gate, walking across a pasture and checking a probable barn. In the hay loft we found some geologic equipment - geophone lines, spools, cable, sleds - coated with a layer of dust. There were three large fuel containers. We needed the fuel containers, but we could not seem to find the steam drill. Eventually Michelle and Don joined us for the search, but to no avail. Just as we were ready to give up we spotted a mound off to the side of the pasture, next to the barn, which was covered in a blue tarp. It was the steam drill. We opened the gate to the pasture, and backed the U-Haul up to the barn. We wondered what the owners of the farm would think if they showed up. We wondered what the neighbors were thinking. We were not too concerned. We figured that they would understand once we explained our mission.

After backing in the U-Haul, we forgot to close the gate to the pasture. A horse came onto the scene from across the pasture and headed straight for the opening. We knew that the owners and neighbors would not understand the blunder of releasing a horse to the wild. Don Lindsay shrieked and ran for the gate. Michelle got there first, securing it just in time to prevent the horses' escape. Two llamas also appeared and headed straight for us. Andrew Fountain (the PI) was quite tickled by the apparent circus which was unfolding. The three farm animals made nice hosts. They looked at us inquisitively, approached us, sniffed at us, stood and stared at us, followed us around, nuzzled us a couple of times, checked out our bags (the horse latched its teeth onto my pack and began walking away), watched us load the equipment, and followed us out. We found the scenario quite humorous.

From the farm we headed to the shipping company to pick our equipment which had been shipped from Portland. After running some errands tomorrow in Anchorage we should be ready to roll to McCarthy.


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Principal Investigator Andrew Fountain fends off a horse from our U-Haul. The steam drill is located behind and to the right of the U-Haul.

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