March 19, 2012 Returning to Alaska
The 2012 expedition is underway! After a long last week of school, which was made wonderful by my students and staff at Talbert, I said the final goodbyes. To make sure that I was good and tired, and ready to sit on an airplane during the 9 hour trip to Fairbanks, I ran the dry but cool L.A. Marathon on Sunday. With the loving support from my family, I was on my way Monday morning and looking forward seeing Alaska again.
After leaving Seattle, I found a break in the clouds and took a few photos of the ocean near Anchorage. You can see how the surface water has begun to freeze. The different shades in the ice are due to some ice being thicker or one sheet covering another. The shape is due to the movement of the ice pieces as they form. Each new piece will hit against the one next to it rounding off the edges of both until they take on a circular pattern. In places where the ice is thicker and the movement stronger, the ocean becomes covered with round pieces of ice, which is called Pancake Ice.
Flying toward Fairbanks, we passed over some very beautiful landscapes. With Mount McKinley in the background, I could make out many features including hills, valleys, rivers, and glaciers. This is weathering and erosion at their best. I also noticed that the rivers took many shapes and paths as they moved through the land. Some of the rivers, which are frozen and covered with snow at this time of year, cut through in a more straight direction while other rivers seem to meander around like they can’t make up their minds! What do these patterns tell you about how the water in the river moves when it’s not frozen? What does this water movement tell you about the slope of the land? One of the rivers was moving in such a way that it almost turned back on itself. This forms a turn that sometimes cuts off part of the river, leaving it as a separate small lake feature. These features are known as Oxbow Lakes.
After landing in Fairbanks Elizabeth and I drove to the Fred Meyer store and shopped for the food we will need for the next ten days. In the airport I was also greeted by two of the locals. An Alaskan Grizzly Bear, which are found in the areas around the study site in Healy, and an Arctic Polar Bear, which you can find further north of us. These are good reminders of how large and dangerous other mammals can be to people working in the field. It also made me think of how Climate Change is affecting the way that these animals survive and how their habitats will change in the future.
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