27 July, 1998


Fairbanks, Alaska

An early start to a long day but a much anticipated one. At 8.00 am we were scheduled by our dear coordinator, Renee, to visit the permafrost tunnel which was located approximately 15 miles north of Fairbanks. Upon arrival, we were met by Matthew Sturm who would be our tour guide. He was an excellent informer of the geology and relative earth history of the tunnel, as well as on the current research conducted by Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory (CRREL). Since it was summer, the entrance of the tunnel was kept frozen by refrigeration, as the environmental warmth would result in melting. Upon entering the tunnel, and about 35 feet inwards, there was upward and downward miniature outgrowths of ice columns, the same as stalactites and stalagmites. As we moved further into the tunnel, Matthew pointed out information of interest the labels for which were prominently posted. He also indicated the intrusively wedged ice sheets, age of the various strata of the earth, and the fossils that were trapped in the layers. In addition, he shared with us the logistics involved in dealing with such a fragile environment. At other sections there were ice cores which were collected for intense study on various aspects of the tunnel and the permafrost region. What was also fascinating was to observe the distinct regions and soil profiles as the earth's crust changed from one geologic time period to the next. This whole experience was very impressive. I certainly developed a greater appreciation for earth's history as I witnessed the various phenomena associated with crystal movement and deposition of soil strata, formation of ice shelves, and arctic fossil evidence. Although we were warned about the pungent odor of the decaying organic matter, it did not seem to be a problem after a while, because the enriched opportunity presented at that moment superseded everything else. It was fantastic!! Thanks Matthew.

After we left the tunnel, and were heading back to town, we stopped briefly at one of the view posts of the Alaska pipeline for a photo opportunity. At that point we were able to see the actual pigs on display that are located inside the pipeline. Their function is to clean the interior of the pipeline as the crude oil flows through it. Pigs are sent through the pipeline every 4-6 weeks. They also detect corrosion. At this point, the pipeline was about 20 feet above ground. Since we were all hearing our stomachs talking to us, we decided to go to breakfast at Sam's Sourdough on the recommendation of Renee, Tim and Aaron.. There we feasted on reindeer sausage, sourdough pancakes and hash browns. MMMMMM...gooood.!!! Following such a hearty meal (yeah, the portions were huge), we visited the University of Alaska campus, the bookstore, and the museum. Each of these were great, but I was really impressed with the museum exhibits on various aspects of Alaska. At that time there was a special exhibit on Indian masks. This was a grand display of a rich artistic tradition with masks and native artifacts as old as 1000 years. This exhibition reflected time travel at its best. Other fascinating displays were the auroras, the commemoration of the Japanese/United states army conflict associated with the settlement of the Aleutian Islands and environs. Displays of Arctic wildlife, remains of woolly mammoths, whale skeletons, and taxidermic specimens. They were all very good.

Next stop, visit to places of interest and a walking tour of downtown Fairbanks. Tim and I visited the Visitors center, the ice museum, and the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. Here again the displays, documentaries, traditions and life styles of the arctic people, the environment, and the wildlife, were well described. These too were quite a major source of information. The ice sculptures at the ice museum were also quite a spectacle. While Tim and I were revering in the educational opportunities, the young people were enjoying shopping and the sights of downtown Fairbanks. Tim an Aaron revisited the pawn shop/thrift store they had found the day before because they were so intrigued with the collection of items found there.

Following our downtown trip, we visited the ARCUS staff, and familiarized our self with everyone prior to the afternoon picnic they had planned for us. It was quite a warm reception and with that, a wonderful evening was anticipated. From the office, we drove to the Large Animal Reserve to look at the musk oxen. These were really massive beasts. They were grazing a way off, so visibility was aided by our powerful binoculars. Caribou and reindeer were also in another section of the reserve, and were more curious of their human visitors. After leaving the reserve, we drove up to the scenic look out of Fairbanks where we had a spectacular and panoramic view of Fairbanks and the arctic tundra. This was breathtakingly beautiful. It was soon time to go to the picnic, so off we went. That was a evening of fun, fun, fun, good food, and fine friendship. We played croquet, whether we knew the game or not, and was not embarrassed by our off-shots, sometimes near perfect shots, and at times only heaven knows what that hit was called or intended to achieve. Some individuals were very successful even though they were playing the game for the first time. Others like myself were hopeless, but enjoyed every moment of it.

I wish to take this opportunity to thank the entire ARCUS staff and their significant others for a grand evening, and for being such gracious hosts. To Wendy and Renee, thanks a million for providing such a wonderful experience of the Arctic. Keep in touch and God bless. A special thank you to the National Science Foundation, and parcticularly Dr. Merav Ben David, my Principal Investigator, Dr. Stephanie Shipp and Dr. Wayne Sukow for providing the superb opportunity for me to be a TEACHER EXPERIENCING THE ARCTIC. IT CERTAINLY WAS AN EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME, AND ONE OF TREASURE-FILLED MEMORIES.

Cold Regions Research and Engineering Permafrost Tunnel (from the CRREL brochure).

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