6 April, 2001
Spring has sprung in some parts of the country but not in Nome, Alaska! I awoke to howling winds and blizzard conditions. The airport closed last night canceling my flight home. I felt like I would be able to leave on the Friday evening flight. Warmer temperatures and better visibility were predicted.
The morning began with a phone call to my class. I was so excited to talk to each child. They each had a question that wanted me to answer. It was a very enjoyable time. I could tell they were anxious for me to return to school!
During the afternoon I had an opportunity to help the Alaska Department of Fish and Game edit a musk ox hunting application. I was a guinea pig in the sense that the department wanted to make sure the directions were readable and clear. I was the perfect person to be chosen to test their application, as I had no prior background filling out this type of application. Teaching kindergarten, I often have to simplify difficult concepts or new and unusual words or ideas.
As the day progressed the thoughts of flying out of Nome tonight looked really grim. I called the airport 4 times before finally being told that the flight was cancelled. I called home after being rescheduled on the morning flight. My friend and I had dinner and as we were sitting at the table talking we suddenly looked at each other and at the same time said, "Is that a jet?" Sure enough, I picked up the phone to hear the Alaska Airlines representative laughing saying the cancelled flight had just landed and we were now back on. I was informed that I needed to come to the airport promptly. The airlines had my ticket from the previous day and I had not given them a local phone number where I could be reached. If my friend and I hadn't heard the jet, I would never known my flight was back on schedule. Isn't it interesting how things have a way of working out!
My trip to the Arctic has been a trip filled with many "firsts" for me. I brainstormed a list of "firsts" the other day. The science included many firsts for example: testing for chlorophyll, sieving samples, core sampling, canning samples, entering data, setting up lab equipment, observing a dredge, observing the zooplankton tow, and being an observer for the Marine Animal survey. I had my first opportunity to share the science with 5-8th grade students. I made my first conference call to the National Science Convention. I wrote my first series of arcticles for the Knoxville News Sentinel. I had my first experience living on an icebreaker, my first experience on a helo, a four wheeler, a snow machine, and a cargo jet. My first view of musk ox, huskies, eagles, walrus, bowhead whale, seals, spectacled eiders, ravens, and moose. My first time to see a reindeer corral. My first taste of halibut fajitas, whale, muktuk, caribou, smoked salmon, smoked reindeer, and pilot bread. My first time in the pack ice. The first time to climb to the top of the ice tower. Dinner with the captain of the ship. Visiting with an Iditarod musher. Viewing the aurora borealis, an ice bow, a pink moon, and ice diving. Sleeping on a wooden platform, climbing into the middle bunk on the ship, surviving 23 hours without sleep, going without any makeup for the entire trip. I learned how to climb into and out of mustang suits, helo flight suits, and gumby's, and practicing how to emergency vacate the ship in the dark. These are just a few ideas that came to mind. I am sure I will discover many more firsts as I begin to share my experiences with others. What a multifaceted experience! I could never have dreamed that all this would be possible.
It is hard to believe that the traveling portion of my trip is coming to an end. I state it in this manner because my trip is far from over. The experiences, memories, and friendships will go on forever. I will always be grateful to the National Science Foundation for making this experience possible. I am thankful for all the help, support, and caring attitudes from my science team. I truly feel blessed in having the privilege of working with a group of talented, energetic people under the leadership Dr. Jackie Grebmeier. I want to thank the USCGC Polar Star crew for providing opportunities to enrich my trip. This has been my first trip to the Arctic but I hopefully it won't be my last!
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