This week I flew to Fairbanks, Alaska for a week of training to become a PolarTREC teacher. I am going to Finland in May to participate in an archaeological dig! We will be digging up prehistoric hunter/gatherer settlements.
On the flight to Fairbanks I sat next to a "real Alaskan." He has lived here for 59 years, which is longer than Alaska has been a state. He worked on the Alaska pipeline the first day it was started. He has a cabin in the woods that he can only get to by plane, where he has to wear mosquito netting and watch out for bears. He hunts moose, fishes, and picks berries there. He is also a recreational gold miner, an ex-bush pilot, and owns a small fleet of trucks and bulldozers. In short, he has done just about everything you associate Alaska with. He wants to move the state capital to the coldest part of the interior of Alaska "so those $%&@* politicians can all freeze!"
The finish line for tomorrow's Yukon Quest sled dodg race is in the background.
I spent today in a conference room at the hotel in orientation. There are four teachers here from Northern California, which is more than from anywhere else. They issued me a computer and digital camera, along with a whole backpack full of mysterious cords, plugs, batteries, battery chargers, data sticks, and other computer stuff. I am going to learn a lot of new technology on this trip.
I met Heidi Roop, a graduate student from Arizona who works on hydrology and geochemistry in the Sierras all summer and invited me to bring some students by to see her project in June when we drive through Yosemite.
I also met PolarTREC project managers Reija Shnoro, who is from Finland! I asked her to explain Tove Jansson's "Moomin" children's books to me. She said that the Moomins are happy and safe, and that's why Finns like them.
Fairbanks doesn't seem that cold - about like upstate New York in mid winter. It's really a bit colder than that, but the air is so dry and the sun so bright that you don't experience it as any colder than that.
A lot of this orientation is going to be technology training. They're also going to take us to see musk oxen and reindeer, and take us down into a "permafrost tunnel" to see 30,000 year old ice, dirt, and fossils! So far it's been too overcast at night to see the northern lights.