I’m writing from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, hoping everyone had a great weekend in New Orleans and beyond. We just arrived back in Prudhoe this evening after a final day at Toolik Field Station. Tomorrow morning, we fly out to Barrow, Alaska, where we will be “base camped” for the remainder of the expedition.

Clear Prudhoe
Because of the clear weather, we were finally able to see the infrastructure of Prudhoe Bay for the first time. America's largest oilfield looks much grander when it is not shrouded in fog.

Check out the weather information at the bottom of the page, and you may have a hard time believing we’re in the Arctic at all. Today was clear and comfortable, and made me wish we had another day left in the helicopter (see the photos and journals for our chopper travels on August 13 and 14 if you haven’t already). One of our team members, Dima, left early in the morning to catch a flight to Barrow where we’ll rendezvous tomorrow. Those of us remaining in Toolik took the truck out to a final field site. In a change of luck, we were able to successfully retrieve all the soil temperature information we needed for the day; no pieces of equipment had been chewed or scratched on as they had at other sites.

In order to walk across vegetation to our sites, Toolik Field Station installed several miles of wooden boardwalk. If you examine the picture below, you can see that the boardwalk is anchored into the ground with a series of poles. These poles are adjustable, and allow one to raise or lower the walkway to account for frost heave. Frost heave occurs when moisture beneath the surface freezes and expands upward. This action can push the surface soil up (and anything resting on the surface). Being able to adjust the height of the boardwalk helps make sure the path stays straight, even when the ground shifts over time.

Adjustable supports
The adjustable supports on either side of this boardwalk allow it to be adjusted as the ground surface shifts.

This photo shows a segment of the boardwalk without adjustable supports. You can see that without adjusting the height of the boards, the boardwalk will shift and warp along with the ground.

The changing of the active layer can also cause shifts in the surface and pose problems for structures. We will address this topic fully later in the week.

Next stop, Barrow!


Question for Students

Today in class you began to discuss the differences between observations and inferences. As I have been collecting data across the tundra, I have captured several photos of interesting finds along the way. Below each photo is an accompanying phrase. Use your notes, and decide whether each phrase is an Observation (O) or Inference (I). Write your response in today’s PolarLOG.

1. The bird that was once in this egg grew too large and hatched (O or I?)

2. A series of tracks can be seen in the mud (O or I?)

3. This hole in the ground belongs to an arctic ground squirrel (O or I?)

4. There are two carcasses (dead animals) lying in the grass (O or I?)

5. For number five, write one observation and one inference that can be made about the photo above.

Weather for Prudhoe Bay

Convert degrees Fahrenheit to degrees Celsius by the following equation: C = (5/9) x (F – 32)

High: 55 degrees F

Low: 42 degrees F

Precipitation: none

Sunrise: 4:53 am

Sunset: 10:58 pm

% Humidity: 90%

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