What was the best part of your PolarTREC experience?
Since coming home I’ve been asked several times, “What was the best part of your PolarTREC experience?”, and I’ve been stumped to come up with an answer. I really haven’t been able to narrow it down to just one moment or learning experience. Every part of my Arctic research expedition journey, beginning with the supportive professional development we were part of at the PolarTREC orientation back in February, through the time spent in Barrow conducting research and working with my incredibly talented, tireless and good-humored expedition team of Dr. Carin Ashjian, Dr. Robert Campbell, Dr. Steve Okkonen and captains Bill Kopllin and Mike Fleming, has been absolutely amazing.
PolarTREC Expedition Team Final Day in Barrow! Final...
Journey to Point Hope!
Flying high on Era Airlines 10 seat plane on the way from Barrow to Point Hope Alaska! September 11, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
I have at least one more journal and a movie in the works for the end of our research in Barrow, however I didn't want you to think I disappeared all together! I'll post those in the next few weeks so keep an eye out, but for now I thought you might enjoy knowing what we're up to! In a way our research continues, just in a different manner and place. I'm now in Point Hope Alaska!
Mountain view on the way to Point Hope Alaska! September 11, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
Aerial View of Point Hope! September 11, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
For research to really matter, people need to know about it! This includes other researchers but...
Oceanographers collect data in many ways. Some instruments are set on moorings that are deployed beneath the sea surface for extended periods of time and retrieved at a later date.
Oceanographic mooring design and mooring locations. Graphic courtesy of Dr. Steve Okkonen. September 8, 2012.
Join us in our anticipation of one such mooring's retrieval in East Barrow Canyon! This mooring has been collecting data for more than a year.
The weather looks good for the next two days! Stay tuned for more adventures.
##What can live upwards of 200 years, dive to depths of 500 feet, break through sea ice with its head to take a breath of air, weigh more than 75 tons yet sustain itself on tiny zooplankton such as copepods and euphasiids (krill)?
If you guessed the bowhead whale you are correct!
Bowhead whales appear to be the longest-lived mammals on our planet. Pretty amazing.
Here in Barrow it's still a little stormy out on the Arctic Ocean so I’m learning more about whales this morning! Sitting in the hall in front of a Bowhead Whale Aging Study poster I can see that as part of this study the whales sampled were found to be between 1 and 135 years old! Listening to local wildlife biologists it appears that more recent data supports the whales living more than 200 years. Wow! During our...
Through the Porthole: What is the landscape like in Barrow?
Whale tails and mountains. Springs School student drawing. June 2012. Photo by LIsa Seff.
Alaska is a huge state with a wide variety of vegetation and landscapes. Barrow is very flat and is located on the Arctic Coastal Plain. It is considered an Arctic tundra biome based on it's lack of trees, simple vegetation structure, low temperatures, low precipitation, low nutrients and short growing season. I find it interesting that you can also find tundra in mountain regions, such as the area I hiked with Dr. Okkonen and Dr. Campbell back in August. We began our Crow Pass hike at the base of the mountain in the forest but we soon found ourselves in Alpine tundra conditions as the elevation increased, the temperatures decreased...
Rule number 1: Always wear your life jacket out on deck, be aware of your surroundings and know your limits.
Always wear a life jacket on deck, no matter how interesting and distracting the marine life is! September 2, 2012. Photo courtesy of Dr. Carin Ashjian.
Today we’re going out to complete sampling stations along transect number 6, which means we’re heading out into the Beaufort Sea approximately 46 miles from our home port of Barrow! Every three miles or so we’ll be stopping to use the CTD, collect water samples in Niskin bottles and/or collect organisms (hoping for krill!) in our Tucker trawl and ring net tows.
Niskin water sample collection bottle on board the R/V Ukpik.September 2, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
Whew! With a stiff breeze blowing from the Northeast the seas have...
Through the Porthole: What instruments do oceanographers use in the field to collect data?
Through the Porthole. Artwork by Springs School Student. June 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
Part I: The acoustic Doppler current profiler
The acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) is an instrument that measures the ocean current speed and direction throughout the water column using the Doppler effect. On the R/V Ukpik the ADCP is mounted on a BioSonic towing body (like a very heavy sled) and towed alongside the vessel at approximately 5 knots.
accoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP). Photo from NOAA Ocean Explorer Website August 2012.
Towing the ADCP mounted on the Biosonic Towing Body alongside the Research Vessel Ukpik. August 29, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
Not sure of what the Doppler...
Does anyone really know what time it is?
One thing I've noticed while on my PolarTREC expedition is that you lose all sense of time. At first I attributed this to the change in time zones and daylight hours, but now I've realized that time is relative to one's daily routine. When your research is based on weather variables and ocean conditions instead of clock specific dates and hours, time and routine take on a whole new meaning. So...does anyone really know what time it is?
Barrow Time! Persistence of Memory original artwork by Salvador Dali, 1931.
At home we wake up to walk our dog before work. I get to work early to set up for the day’s labs. I stay after work to organize materials from the day and provide extra help. I'll stop by the market on the way home. In the early...
A Stormy Day in Barrow Alaska!
The research team and the captain made the right call. As the day went on the ocean and atmosphere conditions in Barrow turned from bad to worse. Wow, what a quick switch in the weather. When I arrived in Anchorage I could have worn shorts and was down to a tee shirt while we hiked Crow Pass. On the boat from Prudhoe Bay to Barrow the sun peeked out from time to time and I had moments where I wondered....had I packed too many clothes?
Today the weather definitively headed in a different direction as a cold wind kicked up from the west at approximately 25 mph!
White caps on the horizon. August 27, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
The chill of the wind quickly reminded me that we are perched on the Arctic Ocean. Brrrr......Suddenly I couldn't wear enough...
A ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy, the United States newest and most technologically advanced ice breaker arrived in Barrow! The complex process of transferring researchers, crew, equipment, samples and trash to the stability of land after weeks at sea began Saturday morning.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy offshore downtown Barrow Alaska. August 25, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff
At the same time logistic coordinators, crew, researchers, and anyone standing nearby helped to undertake the process in reverse, delivering the ships new arrivals to the rolling decks of the ship! What a process and not an easy task given that there is no dock to pull up alongside. All ship transfers are handled by small boat, barge or helicopter....
What an amazing adventure!
I was awestruck as we entered a futuristic world of heavy industrialism combined with dust, mud and the open tundra!
First glimpse of Prudhoe Bay. August 22, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
After several delays, and a flight change through Barrow, we had arrived in Prudhoe Bay! Dr. Okkonen immediately rented a pick-up truck ...and I'm going to guess that it's hard to rent any other type of vehicle, as everywhere we drove there were trucks, trucks and more trucks! We made several stops to pick up instruments and equipment and then we were off, traveling over dusty gravel roads that would wind their way to our final destination: The Research Vessel Ukpik! We meandered through a seemingly endless world of oil rigs, stainless steel pipelines and open tundra. It...
It took a variety of vehicles including cars, trucks, planes and the Research Vessel (R/V) Ukpik to complete our journey! While there were a few delays and changes in routes along the way, we all arrived safely and are ready to begin the research! Dr. Steve Okkonen and I arrived aboard the Ukpik late this afternoon and were met at the Barrow shore by Dr. Carin Ashjian and Dr. Robert Campbell. Along the way from Deadhorse to Barrow we deployed a mooring with several oceanographic instruments. The instruments will collect data for the next few weeks until they are retrieved on the way back to Deadhorse at the end of our expedition. I’ll include more pictures from that trip in the next journal-but for now, here are a few details about my journey here, as well as a math...
After a great night’s sleep following a very long day of traveling, research scientist Dr. Robert Campbell and I headed out to meet Dr. Steve Okkonen for a day hike up to Crow Pass in Chugache National Forest. A funny thing happened on the way to the mountain! As we were driving along, we took what appeared to be a wrong turn. However sometimes, a wrong turn can turn out to be the right turn, and this was the case today! What a surprise to see two moose grazing near the side of the road!
Moose sighting off the port side of our car while driving around Anchorage Alaska. Photo by Lisa Seff. August 21, 2012.
One moose, two moose! Photo by Lisa Seff. August 21, 2012.
The moment the moose became interested in our little blue car! Photo by Lisa Seff. August 21, 2012...
##Aloha Alaska? you might be wondering….
Well, yes if that’s the only postage stamp available from the Post Office for our Springs School Student Polar-Postcards from Barrow Alaska to New York!
Aloha from Alaska! US Postal Service Aloha Hawaiin shirt 32 cent postage stamp for postcard mail delivery. Photo USPS.
Springs students from kindergarten through 8th grade made their own polar-decorated postcards this past June. When we went to our local post office to purchase stamps for our polar themed cards we chuckled when we realized that the only stamps available said Aloha! So, Aloha from Alaska! A special thanks to past students John, Joffrey and Danny who came by school this summer to help place stamps on more than 500 postcards which we then boxed and sent to Barrow Alaska high...
To the land of the midnight sun.
If you checked out the sunrise and sunset times in Barrow Alaska today you would have found the following: not applicable. The sun never sets at this time of the year so each day is 24 hours of sunshine above the horizon!
Midnight sun time lapse video somewhere in the Arctic on youtube.
For a little local New York perspective, sunrise in East Hampton today was at 5:24 am with sunset at 8:07pm, for a total of only 14 hours and 42 minutes with the sun above the horizon compared to the 24 hours in Barrow.
A little compare...
I moved into my home away from home, Quonset hut #166A located at the old site of the U.S. Navel Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) in Barrow Alaska.
Quonset Hut #166! located on the old site of the U.S. Navel Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) in Barrow Alaska. May 18th, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
It looked a little rough from the outside, but as I opened the door I was happy to enter a tiny, freshly painted set of toasty warm rooms with several beds covered in down quilts. A perfect warm hideaway from the Arctic cold!
Lisa Seff with Quonset Hut roommate Cristina Casillo working on their homework assignments. May 18th, 2012. Photo by Ute Kade.
Not long after unpacking we heard that an Inupiat whaling crew from Barrow had raised a whaling oar on their rooftop to signal to the...
Leaving New Yorks JFK Thursday night at 6:30pm my plane flew West landing about 5 hours later in Seattle Washington. My next flight headed North, past the Arctic Circle and over an amazing array of mountain glacial features, eventually landing in Barrow Alaska on Friday morning at 10:39a.m.
Glacial features on Alaskan Airlines from Fairbanks to Barrow Alaska. May 18th, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff
Within just a few hours I was standing on the Arctic Ocean! The word “vast” came to mind as I stood looking out over the cool blue sea ice extending far beyond the horizon.
Lisa Seff standing on the Arctic Ocean sea ice edge in Barrow Alaska. May 18th, 2012. Photo by Darcy Dugan.
While I was in awe of the scenery nature had presented in front of me, I was also mindful of my surroundings as...
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.- John Masefield
Looking up toward the Crows Nest on the WHOI Research Vessel Knorr. April 6, 2012. Photo by Lisa Seff.
Today I traveled North to Cape Cod and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute where I had the pleasure of meeting with two of the three research scientists I’ll be working with in Barrow Alaska this coming summer. Dr. Carin Ashjian, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) and Dr. Bob Campbell, from the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography greeted me warmly as I arrived at...
Isn’t technology amazing!
This morning I threw off the covers at 4:00 a.m. Alaskan Time, 8:00am Eastern Standard Time, to go outside to meet more than 400 Springs School students in the icy morning. No, they didn’t come by plane. Instead I went into their gymnasium through the magic of technology and Skype!
Springs School! Photo by Lisa Seff.
Wanting every student to feel like they were in Alaska too, I thought I should get outside for my long distance visit. Accordingly I pulled on my layers of long underwear, hat, glove liners and gloves, neck gator, extra socks, ski pants, boots and extreme weather jacket that Janet and Sarah had loaned me for the night. I was ready! I was also the only person in the hotel hallways and heading out the door. Armed with a new feeling of...
They caught my attention immediately.
It’s funny how something so obvious and expected can stop you in your tracks. A casual observation on my first day in Fairbanks was the missing company of the sun in the sky. At noontime I altered course from the dog sled race to find it, eventually turning a corner onto a street that lead to the softly glowing orb hanging low in the sky. Now seeing the huge photovoltaic arrays outside of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC), facing south at 75 degrees from horizontal, the connection was unavoidable and stunning at the same time.
Lisa Seff and Juan Botella standing by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center Photovoltaic Array. February 9, 2012.
Cold Climate Housing Research Center Photovoltaic Array. February 9, 2012. Photo by...
So what do educators, who have been selected to join a research expedition to the Polar Regions, do between the hours of 8pm and 8am, when they have some time off from the scheduled PolarTREC Orientation hours? Well…..not what you’d think. Sleeping, while an option, was not one often chosen by this group until cellular decomposition felt like it was beginning to settle in! And while we did enjoy great meals and good company, food on the table quickly fell into the background and acted only as a base for discussions on the latest in polar research and educational practices.
Over one such breakfast, researcher Heidi Roop detailed the processes involved with ice core drilling in Antarctica as well as how following the ice, from the drill location to the lab was of top priority to insure...
Listen to Baby It's Cold Outside. Go to Audio tab and click on audio link.
PolarTREC educators learn how to dress for their Arctic and Antarctic expeditions.
Dressing for Success in the Polar Regions
If there is one main piece of cold weather dressing advice for adventurers headed to the Arctic and Antarctic regions it would be: Layers, layers, layers.
Today PolarTREC teachers were very excited to meet with Robbie Score from CH2M Hill Polar Services, and Patricia Jackson from Raytheon Polar Services to discuss appropriate clothing options for their upcoming research expeditions to the Polar Regions. Both companies provide logistical support for National Science Foundation Funded science projects including the projects that PolarTREC teachers will be participating in. CH2M Hill...
Entering the Wardrobe!
Nineteen educators and ARCUS staff disappeared into the ice encrusted, impossibly tiny red hut tucked against the hill. Following at the end of the line I watched as everyone streamed in, seeming to go impossibly beyond the actual depth of the building's outside dimensions.
2012 PolarTREC Educators entering the U.S. Army CRREL Permafrost Tunnnel. Photo courtesy of Juan Botella.
Could this small hut covered with snow and ice actually have a room inside that fit so many people? It reminded me momentarily of the wardrobe leading to the wintery fantasy world in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Chronicles of Narnia. As I crouched to enter the ice-crystal laced hallway I observed that the entrance did in a way, lead to a magical land. However this one was real and provided...
PolarTREC Orientation in Fairbanks Alaska
We finished day two of our PolarTREC Orientation/ShareFair today, and my head is pleasantly swirling with information overload! Happily, despite my sleep patterns stubborn adherence to Eastern Standard Time, the rush of adrenaline from the last two days of research presentations, educational theory discussions, science research breakfast club pondering and hands-on technical training sessions, seems to be making up for my lack of sleep!
We began yesterday with introductions and welcomes by Janet Warburton and Sarah Crowley, both PolarTREC Project Managers. They're both logistical coordinators extraordinaire as they manage and troubleshoot all things imaginable and unimaginable, to lead our expeditions to success, both in the field and...
Crunch, crunch, crunch!
The snow in Alaska gives a crackle and creak beneath my boots that’s distinctly different from walking through the moist, warm, soft snow typical of Springs back in East Hampton NY. I’ve been in Alaska for less than 24 hours, but I’ve learned that you can get a lot done in 24 hours in Alaska! From the moment I swung into my seat on Alaskan Airlines, and found that my seat companion across the aisle was a chocolate German Shepard pup, I realized that this trip was not going to be just an ordinary week. After 19 hours of traveling, followed by few hours sleep at the Westmark Hotel in Fairbanks, I scrambled out of bed to get going to the start of the Yukon Quest, a 1000 mile dog sled race that travels through the rugged terrain of the Alaskan and Yukon wilderness...
This site is supported by the National Science Foundation under award 0956825. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this site are those of the PIs and coordinating team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.