Anticipation and excitement warmed my insides as I waited in the long line for security on my way to Fairbanks, Alaska for orientation. The first flight to Seattle took me over the beautiful mountain ranges of southern California that were blessed with snow capped peaks for the first time in years. On board the second flight, the comforting yaw of the plane rocked me into a deep sleep as the sky turned to night. The screech of the tires lurched me awake in my seat and I glanced out the open window shade expecting to see sheets of white, but was surrounded by nothing but the black abyss. My excitement grew with the thought of the unknown Arctic awaiting my arrival.
Aerial view of San Diego (top) and Seattle (bottom).
I looked up to see other members of the plane layering on several jackets before they de-planed and I followed suit. It seemed that they knew something about this strange new city that I didn't. And I was right. The cold air slapped me hard in the face as I walked out of the airport and my jaw dropped when I stared at the thick layer of white snow that covered the airport parking lot. So THAT'S what -7 feels like.
Lesley Anderson meets the PolarTREC Orientation team outside of Sophie Station in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The first day of orientation was a blur. Within five minutes of meeting the team, we headed out to the parking lot only to realize that our car had been stolen by an unwelcome hotel guest and was later found by the police left in a snow bank. The excitement was just beginning. I couldn't keep my eyes off of the incredible views of the majestic Alaskan mountain range rising above the thick sheet of snow. I was increasingly inspired by every person I had the privilege of meeting today and feel continually humbled by being selected for such an elite research opportunity. I can't wait to continue the learning tomorrow!
Ruth Rodriguez gazes out over the views from the conference room at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Sunset over the Alaska Range with Denali in the background.