14 July, 2001
Today played out like a bad movie - all the way to the happy ending! There was the thwarted goal of the heroine from the evil powers that be. The stiff upper lip of the fellow cast members ready to do battle. Some detective work thrown in and in the end, when all seemed lost, good conquers evil and science and perseverance prevail. Now how does all that play into Hyojungís and my trip to Atkasook this afternoon?
The trip was devoted to replacing the sonic anemometer, which had failed a few weeks back. It was sent back to England to be fixed and recalibrated and was promised to be delivered in Barrow on Thurs. (3 days ago). It never made it but the cargo company promised that it would be here Saturday morning, today, without fail.
The Atkasook tower has been down because of the sonic and Hyojung has not been able to gather any data in the meantime. Her dissertation work is based on this and any interruption in data gathering is cause for concern. The tower measurements are also critical to Rommel and the transect he flies in the plane. The Barrow tower is one end of the transect and Atkasook tower the other. So the entire team was glad to hear it was to be fixed soon. Both these people, plus Glen and Joe, have been working here in Barrow for the past few years devoting most of their waking hours to the collection of this and associated data so.
This morning Hyojung calls and says we are not going to Atkasook today because the sonic was not loaded on the plane to Barrow but will be here next Tuesday. The wind was knocked out of everyone. This package had been in transit for 2 weeks but deliveries are so haphazard here, there is really not anything you can do. Hyojung, Spring and myself brainstorm and started calling to find out exactly where the package was. What we found out is that no one really knew where it was but we did find out it arrived in Anchorage a few days ago. We called every office of the cargo carrier it could possibly have been: Anchorage, Fairbanks and then Barrow. We called Barrow cargo first; ěNo, it has not come inî. After approximately an hour on the phone we talked to Curtis in Fairbanks. He was nice enough to say he would put it on the next commercial flight out the afternoon if it came in from Anchorage today. He also said it might have gone out this morning in a batch of boxes headed to Barrow, he just wasnít sure. We saw what we were up against here and got in the truck with our fingers crossed. We parked at the cargo building and disturbed the clerk, who had his feet literally up on the desk, and asked if we can look for a blue box that might have come in this morning. He hadnít invoiced anything yet so he led us back there and it was there! If we hadnít checked it might have sat there till Tuesday! We were too happy to be annoyed and left immediately to celebrate over lunch and catch our 3 PM flight. End of movie. (We even get to fly off into the sunset, as if there was one up here now!)
We arrived in Atkasook and its clear and warm, 70ís, with lots of the dreaded mosquitoes Iíve been hearing about. The village is very small, population 200. The single engine plane, seats 8, lands on the dirt runway and one truck from the grocery store drives up to pick up the supplies that came in. Hyojung asks Mary, the grocery store owner, if we can have a ride to the house that is kept there for the scientists who come into the village frequently. We hop in the back of her truck with the 4 boxes of equipment we have and get driven the mile to the house. The village is so small everybody knows everyone and since Hyojung has been here so often over the past few years we have no trouble getting help. Family members, on ATVís, drive right up to the plane and pick up the three other passengers as they stepped off the aircraft, no terminal, no lines and no baggage claim to bother with.
We go out to the field right away and I do thaw depths along the eight 200 meter transects surrounding the tower. Thaw depth is taken by pushing a metal rod into the soil till it hits the permafrost layer. This depth is important to know for root growth and soil respiration. While Iím doing that Hyojung is in the house assembling the instruments and checking to see if they are working properly. A cable is missing. Rommel is flying his transect at midnight and he will deliver it to her. All is working out fine. Hyojung works through the night getting the equipment operating and installed on the tower and wakes up with a well-deserved, big smile on her face.
It started out as a tense day and ended well. Why Iím writing about this is to illustrate the pressures and frustrations researchers in the field have to go through when things do not go as planned. This is to be expected but when you are seeing someone do everything they possibly can do, come up on the short end and still stick with what they are doing I have to admire them. The field presents many pitfalls and one has to be able to problem solve through them in sometimes less than ideal conditions. This is the creative and frustrating part of being a scientist, which is not on display for most people to see. I have been with this group for 6 weeks now and have gotten to know and respect them for what they do.
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