12 June, 1998
Today was a Barrow day as I was asked to once again accompany the helicopter crews to Barrow for parts and post. Riding in the choppers is fun and the whole method of how energy is transferred to overcome gravity and also for transportation is cool to witness and experience. However, they shake and vibrate at a frequency that absolutely wipes you out after a couple hours of flying. My respect for the ADVET group increases with each operation they perform in flawless fashion.
Being back in Barrow for a couple of hours was pretty interesting. It was grand opening day for the new Alaska Commercial store and while there picking up a few odds and ends I encountered about 20 of my students from Barrow High School. Many of them have taken summer jobs with AC and they were decked out in uniforms and busy as bees. They asked lots of questions about how things were going out on the ship and it was very nice to see all of them enjoying the summer and working together. The activity at the store was absolutely beyond description! Hustle and bustle and shopping and socializing were definitely on everybody's lists of things to do on this sunny Friday in America's farthest north community.
The North Slope Borough Search and Rescue folks helped us out with landing and refueling while we were in town. Many of the kids mentioned that they had seen the choppers flying over and wanted to know if that's how I had arrived. The Coast Guard helicopters are quite distinctive with their orange and black paint jobs and enclosed tail rotor assembly. The noses of the machines are round and black and invite the insertion of a smile when drawing pictures of them. Most of the air crew took a minute to call loved ones in the Lower 48 and expressions of happy and sad were on most the guy's faces.
We spotted a polar bear with yearling cub as we approached Barrow and they seemed not too concerned with us as we circled for a photo opportunity. The ice is still very solid but several leads had developed just offshore of Barrow that were not there two days ago. This all looks like first year ice due to it's flat and relatively smooth appearance. Where there are pressure ridges and uplifts, the blocks and chunks are all very sharp and angular indicating a lack of weathering and deterioration on these surfaces.
It was a great day for flying with blue skies and visibility near endless. On the return flight we were able to spot the ship from 20 miles away. It would seem that with these warm sunny days the ice pack would be in serious retreat but that is not at all the case. Visual and microwave images show solid, heavy ice in the direction of Barrow canyon and beyond. The goal is to try for one station there and all aboard hope we succeed.
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