Today was an interesting day. We met around 11:30 to get ready to head out to the field. Before we left, Cory noticed that one of the tires looked a bit low, so we stopped by the garage and Kim took a look at it for us. She needed to change the tire, so I took a couple of pictures while we waited.
Before we drove away, I grabbed a couple of lavender lemon cookies that had just come out with the hot lunch to bring with us to the field. I started to eat my sandwich in the car, and then the car started acting funny. Cory tried to find a place to turn around, but decided to just use the road to do it. The road is used mostly by the oil industry, as it was built along the pipeline for that reason. There is not much traffic, but the traffic is typically large 18 wheelers. Instead of getting a clean turn, the engine stalled and could not be restarted. Cory was able to use the tilt of the road to get us back onto one side of the road, but we were still mostly blocking the southbound lane. He tried to call the field station – which we were still close enough to see – with the satellite phone, but we were never able to get the call to go through.
Cory jogged back to Toolik and I stayed with the truck, using the CB radio to tell any trucks I saw coming down the road that we were there and blocking part of the road. I had a lot of time waiting there, enough to be a little nervous about the trucks and whether they were hearing me ok on the radio, and enough to also take some cool photos in the meantime.
Help came in the form of Charles, who had heard we were stuck. He works for the company installing a fiber optic cable along the road, doing GPSA Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system used to track the location or position of objects on the Earth’s surface. work for them. He towed the truck straight, so we were on the side of the road rather than blocking the road. He also put some cones around the truck to easily identify it for others driving by, and drove me back to Toolik. We arrived just as Cory and Kim were in another truck, on the way to come get me. Charles and I drove behind Kim and Cory back to the truck, and then we got our supplies – and five squirrels – out of the stalled truck, and Kim drove us out to the field site at Atigun. We got there around 2pm, so a little later than we'd planned.
We caught a few squirrels, including two females who will get the last of our temperature logger implants. We also caught a few repeat males, including Orange/Orange, named for the colors of his ear tags. We actually catch him quite often, and today we caught him twice. I think he has a love of the carrots, and may now have realized that after that first capture, we haven't brought him back to the lab again. But, we decided to bring him back to the lab to use in our PolarConnect event tonight. Oh, Orange/Orange, maybe you'll learn to stay off the carrots now.
Kim picked us up at 5pm, and we were just a little later getting back. We always count the number of traps we have in the field before we leave, so that we know where all 80 of them are. We always write down which traps have been set at which burrow, but this is a second way to make sure we don't accidentally leave a squirrel in a set trap overnight. Tonight our numbers didn't match, so Cory did a quick check of the locations where we leave traps to make sure we had recorded everything correctly. So many things to think about in the field. On the way back, we drove into a thick fog, and just like that, it went from sunny to cold and foggy. The camp is surrounded by fog. Almost eerily so.
When we got back, the first thing we found out was that Team Wolverine had an animal in one of their traps. Their traps are more sophisticated than ours, and they send an email when something has been trapped. They don't know yet that it's a wolverine, but they are hoping it is. Cory and I have been planning to snowmachine out with them to their traps the next time they caught an animal, and this is the first one they have caught in the two weeks I've been here. I was so excited to have the chance to see one, and then I realized that tonight I have my PolarConnect event at 10:15pm. There was no way I could snowmachine 25 miles there and then back again to arrive on time for my own talk. And this is the last wolverine they will catch, as this is the last collar they have to put on an animal. I was really disappointed to miss this kind of an opportunity, but I'm also excited to talk to my students tonight.
It's a good lesson. Things don't always go as expected – with the car today, and with the wolverine, for example. But that's also ok. Not everything goes as expected all the time, but there are other great things that happen instead. I know I got a great GoPro video of a squirrel today, and I made a silly video last night that I'll share here now. Plus, I decided to use my "all of my friends are gone, what should I do now?" time to take my first official shower in two weeks! I even washed my hair. No one will recognize me tomorrow!