Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 6, Reality Check

Lois is partially correct, I AM cold but not sad, just wondering why no one has posted any comments--enough whining--the internet was down here for about 36 hours so i better write fast--

Today was reality check day, we went out to the point for the first time today, the temp was about 30, with a 15-20 mile per hour wind coming off the ice, so it felt like 15 degrees. I took some pictures so you'll get an idea of the landscape or lack thereof--it is a flat level plain of gravel at the end of a nine mile long spit of land which is also gravel. Driving out on the ATV's we buddied up, and the Barrow kids have grown up with these things all their lives so they got to drive, for the first 6 miles or so it is pretty packed and the ride isn't smooth but pretty easy, but the last 3 miles is in soft sand/gravel and these damn things slew around all over the place, and its fine if you're driving and in control but clinging to the back can be an adventure. One bear guard leads and one brings up the tail end. We get out to the point and one of the tents has blown about 50 yeads across the plain. We have two, one is the cook tent(except we forgot the propane stove) and the other is the bathroom tent which consists of an 8X 8 tent with a 5 gallon honey bucket with a toilet seat. the bathroom tent is the one that blew away. These are not tents like you are used to thinking of tents, these are 1 8X8 and 1 8X12 mental framed with waterproof coated canvas, and it takes 6 people to set them up, the frame is 3/4" conduit and the canvas has to be stretched tight or the whole thing blows away, the bottom of the tent has an extra 18 border, which you flatten out on the ground, put logs on, and shovel about a foot of gravel on top of it to keep it stable. The NSF people ( the 7 0f us) are supposed to have a lunch provided, which today was supplied by Pepe's (nothernmost mexican restraunt in existance) and with all the bucking and slewing of the ATV's the lunches ended up scattered all over the equipment we were hauling in little trailers behind us, so we spent about 30 minutes cleaning off mayoniase, mustard and cherry pie off shovels, buckets, and supply boxes. Next we started the survey, which consists of the 20 of us standing about 4-5 feet apart with a handful of orange and red pin flags. We walk in a line for 100-150 yeards, looking closely for 1--human remains(red) or 2--anything out of the ordinary, like historical artifacts or Inuit artifacts(orange). The whole area is littered with discarded faunal bone, seal, whale, walrus, caribou. We do this 4 times covering an area of 80-100yeards X 150 yards. after we are through the area is a flutter with orange flags and actually 3 red flags that we'll look at tomorrow. Meanwhile the bear guards are patrolling about 50-100 yards out on the perimeter on their ATV's like indians circling the wagons, cept these indians are on our side.
Clothing wise I did not overpack--Today I had on the -45degree boots with sock liners and 1 pair of mohair socks, long underwear and jeans, tomorrow i'll probably add either another layer of long underwear or the wind proof pants, the top is long underwear, sweater, shirt, and Matt's heavy jacket, I went through 3 pairs of gloves, once they get wet, you gotta change them(even the waterproof ones--the head had on a skin tight backlava, polar fleese hat drawn down over the ears, a polyproplyene full face mask and the hood of Matts Jacket thrown over the whole thing. I still ended up with a reverse racoon look, normal around the eyes, and sorta purple around any exposed skin. We wrapped about 3PM and reloaded all the gear and took it back to the lab and worked there for a couple of more hours.

We went out to dinner at a place that has a Thai cook, but you have to call ahead to make sure he's there that evening, he also gives Thai massages and cuts hair (see the pictures!!)

On another note, BASC has about 6 of those king cab pick up trucks, anyone who need one for business can take one, (along with a two way radio in case you get into trouble and need help) this is not a place where you want to break down and have to walk. The keys are always over the visor, only rules are don't lock the truck and don't put on the parking brake. No one here locks cars or houses, one of my roommates is from NYC and is struggling mightily with that concept.

For those people who are giving Lois trouble I've included a "Proof of Life" picture with 5 of us in it--from the left are Brittany, me, Tony, Shelia and Paddy. Brittany and Shelia are volunteers from Fairbanks, Tony is a grad student from Missouri and Paddy has her masters from Mcmasters in Canada--Andrew is the one taking the picture from NYC, entering grad school at Cornell and Krista is not in the picture but in Grad school from Western Ontario. The background is the skull of a Bowhead Whale.
Tomorrow we lay out transit lines and start shovel pit testing. Its very much like playing the game Battleship--we run a line 100 or 150 meteres long and every even number put a pin flag, run another 1 meter away and put a pin flag at all the odd numbers, do that 2 more times and you have 300 pin flags. At each pin flag you dig a 1/2 meter X 1/2 Meter X1/2 meter deep hole. if you find anything you extract and record it, if you don't find anything (or if you do ) you do a shovel pit test form recording stratigraphy. If you get lucky and find a burial you expand the pit to accomodate the size of the burial.

More later--see the pictures, please


CJ said...

Very Cool! So have you seen any bears yet? Hopefully they are in the distance.

summer widow said...

Looks cold. Don't worry, once you start digging, you'll soon warm up. How much time does it take to set up and what happened to the honey bucket when the wind took the tent? Hope no one was using it at the time.

Matt Grant said...

Heey, sorry took so long to comment, very busy here lately. Looks like a pretty barren place, glad that the jacket is helping, sounds like you need to find some better gloves though, do they sell gloves up there? Keep up with the updates, very interesting to hear about how much different life is up there. Love the pictures, will continue to check the blog daily, miss you lots, keep in touch.

Amanda Grant said...

Hey Dad! Sorry it took me so long, i have been really busy with work and thesis and all. So how is it!, i love the blog! Are you going to make it all three months!?

Dave Grant said...

1--No bears, but that's a good thing, its interesting to watch the bear guards, they take it very seriously, constantly scanning the ice looking for movement.

2--The digging does not really warm you up that much, we take the honey bucket back to town every night and empty it. It takes time to load all the gear in the tubby's that we tow behind the ATV's and time to unload and then at the end of the day reload the tubby's and unload back at the lab. All the artifacts have to be transported back to the lab and the shovels, transit, total station for shooting in position, lunches, honey bucket, it takes about 30 minutes each way on the ATV's and probably another 30 minutes at the beginning and end of the day so probably 2 hours a day lost to transport, packing and unpacking.