Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
Images and Maps
Winter has arrived in northern Alaska - this view from the plane shows the Brooks Range covered in snow.
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Daily Update

Dispatch 01 - September 10, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Overcast skies, 25 mph winds, air temperature 35° F

Three Seasons in One Day
"... don't attempt to walk to the hotel from the airport - danger of polar bears..."

You know you're in for adventure when those are your travel instructions!

Our science party has now assembled in Barrow, Alaska. At 340 miles north of the Arctic Circle, it's the most northerly city in the United States. We are here awaiting our helicopter transfer to the icebreaker USCGC Healy (scheduled for tomorrow, September 11th). Our diverse group of scientists and technicians has come from all over the USA - Massachusetts, New York, California, Washington, and Alaska (see the science crew page for details). In the nearly two days it has taken us to get to this remote outpost, it feels like we have passed through summer, fall, and winter. I left Boston wearing shorts and sandals. As our plane descended into the Fairbanks, Alaska airport, the tundra was alive with the reds and yellows of autumn foliage. As we touched down at Barrow's tiny airport, a 25 mph blast of 35 degree air hit me in the face. Welcome to winter.

Tire tracks
Our accomodations in Barrow - the NARL hotel, part of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium.
Click to enlarge
Today we had our first science planning meeting. All of our eyes are on the weather right now. The wind is howling outside the windows of our hotel, and six foot waves are crashing on the beach. Tomorrow at 7:30AM, the Healy's pilots are scheduled to begin flying the ship's two HH-65A Dolphin helicopters to Barrow to pick us up and bring us out to the ship (Barrow has no deep water port, so the ship can't just pick us up here in the town). Once the science party and our 6,000 pounds of equipment are aboard, the cruise can begin in earnest.

During the afternoon, we explored our surroundings. Barrow is home to 4,500 residents, mostly Inupiat Eskimo. Aside from the US Post Office, you would never guess you are still in the United States. The Inupiat have their own language and rich cultural history. Not many tourists venture this far north, and our large group was certainly a curiosity. We didn't venture too far from the safety of our vans, however, since the polar bear warning was very real. Today two bears were spotted in the town, but the townspeople managed to chase them off. News like that certainly makes you look both ways before you step out of the hotel door!

Barrow waves
Ominous dark waves roll in from the Arctic Ocean.

This year I won't be alone writing these dispatches... I'll have help from some very creative young scientists - including elementary school students from Varnum Brook Elementary School in Pepperell, Massachusetts and the Morse Pond School in Falmouth, Massachusetts. In addition to their questions I will also entertain questions from the general public - join the adventure by sending me an email at arcticedge@whoi.edu. I'll do my best to find answers to your questions about the Arctic Ocean, polar research, or what we're having for lunch on the icebreaker. Let the journey begin!

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