A photo journey into Arctic research and culture, Part 1 / by Florencia Mazza Ramsay

Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost city in the United States – a good 320 miles north from the Arctic Circle, only 5.3% of the Earth's surface lies as far from the Equator as Barrow (NOAA weather data).

Around May 11 or 12 the sun remains above the horizon for the entire day thus beginning a 24 hour daylight period. Barrow's Sun Won't Set Until Early August – that’s about 80 days of sunlight –

12:45 A.M. in Barrow

Coming up to here requires a lot of preparation, both individually and as a group. After hoping on and off airplanes from El Paso to Barrow (check the Google Tour, we were welcomed by cold, cloudy weather and a meal at the Top of the World Hotel

Photos: (clockwise from top left) A travel weary Marcela boards our last flight from Anchorage to Barrow. / Stephen is unaware travelers must cross the tarmac to board our last plane. He severely underestimated the frigid summers up here. / Barrow's luggage claim, not the fanciest but effective / A sign welcomes tourists in town; built over the ground where original village once stood. / Not my kind of polar bear greets guests at the Top of World Hotel

We've been through gun training, Arctic Field training & GPS groundwork. A lot of unpacking, grocery shopping and overall preparations for busy season ahead.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Stephen receives firearm safety training at Ft. Bliss Rod & Gun Club / Gabby preparing to unload a few rounds / Allen O'Brien shows us how deal with an unconscious person in the Tundra / Cute little patch for completing Arctic Field Training / Meanwhile, Dr. Craig Tweedie is interviewed by a Chinese film crew doing a story on Climate Change / Spencer, a geospatial technician going through the ins and outs of the differential gps system / Jackpot! in the local supermarket; glad the essentials are here / Reindeer meat which I will not be partaking in. 

 

The first part of our season was spent with the BAID-UTEP crew hurriedly completing surveys on the Elson Lagoon Coastline. By straddling the kilometers of coastline, carrying precise GPS equipment, the guys aim to record coastal erosion from year to year. This region has been particularly affected as warmer temperatures thaw the permafrost coastal line. The ice covered lagoon limits boat access to there coastal areas in early June, so the crew must hike through the mushy tundra to get things done. They, in collaboration with other universities also maintain towers and tramways bearing tons of sensors, time lapse cameras and instruments to document weather patterns and tundra responses to climate changes.

While at the hut, Ryan and Stephen craft a mission plan for the upcoming week / Stephen's first visit to the tundra / Ryan checking in on one of the lab's many coastal time lapse cameras / Group day at the International Tundra Experiment / Ryan helps Marcela replace a 3d printed infrared camera; a little bit of group collaboration goes a long way in the field / Stephen gets ready to record Dr. Rhett Herman study sites / Funny enough, Stephen is wearing clothes with the same colors as the BAID logo / Dr. Rhett Herman sets up a system to measure temperature withing a microclimate inches above the ground; Rhett and Sarah O'brien are looking at preferential nesting sites for migratory birds / Marcela and Zeke teach me how to fly a very serious kite

During these three weeks we have experienced the craziest weather possible. Snow, fog, wind, rain, glorious sun and all in one day. As soon as you get the grip on how to dress up for the day, getting used to the cold is not as difficult as expected.

The Barrow Arctic Research Consortium where "the lab" is / Stephen being cold in a super cold day / Outside of the lab in a cold but sunny day / All that snow you see there is now extra green vegetation / Told you, pretty green / "The fog" makes you think about all those zombie movies...  /  Snow! / We don't get much snow in El Paso, bear with our excitement / Fog, sun and ice happening altogether / Sun and breaking ice

We had the opportunity of walking over the frozen Chukchi Sea, the same stretch of water that our friends from San Diego State University jumped into on surprisingly hot day (58F).

Stephen walking over the frozen Chukchi Sea

Sunny, warmer days still bring joy to the locals and everyone around (including the gigantic mosquitoes). The mosquitoes are different here. They're bigger, slower and, well, stupid. If they do manage to land on an exposed piece of skin, which is likely because they swarm in the thousands, their itchy bites last for days. It came as a surprise when, during a presentation by Aquatic Ecologist Dr. Malcolm "Mac" Butler, I learned that these millions of little blood sucking invertebrates do not nest in the many ponds and lakes of Barrow.

Cassandra has her Baywatch moment after jumping into the freezing Chukchi Sea / Locals enjoy the higher temperatures and bring their grills out for a "night" at the beach (the photo was taken 12.30 A.M.) / Dr. Mac Butler shares part of his 40 years of research history

There are so many exciting things happening. Keep tuned for the 'blanket toss' celebration (Nalukataq), a very special 4th of July, lots of birds, boat adventures and world renowned researchers! Thank you to all those who helped make this project a reality and thank you for reading!

Quanaklaaglutin - "Go with care" and Happy 4th!