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3 July, 2003

Back to Work

Today in Kotzebue
Iím wearing long johns, boots, long sleeved shirt, fleece jacket, wool socks and boots and still it is a bit nippy here. Thatís what life is like in the Arctic Circle. One year ago there was a blizzard on this date, so I guess I should count myself lucky that it is only in the 40ís.
What Science Is Happening?
Picture this: you are using a steering wheel to maneuver your vehicle between points on the video screen in front of you. You get the most number of points for aiming exactly in the center of the street you are on, you use the reverse and throttle to accomplish you objective.
What are you doing?
A.) Playing Pole Postion
B.) Playing Street Machines
C.) Playing Nascar 2003
D.) Making an under water map.
If you said D you are, of course, correct. We spent 7 hours on a boat with Captain John Goodwin mapping the near shore Kotzebue area. (For more on Mr. Goodwin, tribal elder see journal dated April 24th).
Question 1:

Why do you need a map of water?
It is not the water itself that we are mapping, but the bottom surface. We need to map before we begin sampling so we can take variables into account. If we find more life on one area than another then we need to know is this because of the depth of the water or for some other reason. For example we came a across a sand bar and several readings were only 2.5 feet deep, however, not too far from that there is a channel dug into the ocean floor so barges can bring supplies to Kotzebue and the water is 50 feet deep.
Question 2: How do you map the bottom of the water?
We use two different instruments: First we use a GPS or Global Positioning System. This handy piece of equipment is becoming more popular and widely used. It uses satellites circling the earth to give you and EXACT reading of where you are with in a few feet. We drive back and forth making lines over the area we wanted to map.
Every 100 yards or so we stopped and looked at depth finder. This is a radar device that tells us how deep the water is below us. It sends a signal down and records the echo as it bounces back from the bottom, just like a submarine or the echolocation used by dolphins and whales. We then wove back and forth across our lines, using the GPS to tell us where we had been before and aiming exactly in the middle to get an even location between the points.
When we returned, we fed this information into the computer (mostly my job), tomorrow we will sort it and the computer will make a 3 dimensional map. When we have that we can decide the points at which we will take samples.
Classroom Connections:

Things for you to think about (answers tomorrow)

1.) Would you expect different, more or less animals in the deeper water. Why or why not?
2.) I could not see very far down in the water, even when we were in 2 feet. Does then mean that the water is dirty or clean? Is there more likely to be life in murky green water or clear blue water, why or why not?
3.) Tomorrow is the 4th of July. People here go all out, it is the big summer holiday and every one parcticipates. I was very surprised to learn then that there are no fireworks. Why do you think this is? (Hint: They DO have them on New Years Eve.)
What other things have you heard a GPS being used for? 4.) Make some guesses at other things a GPS could tell us.


Learn more about our project here
View curriculum for this project, ďAsk a ScientistĒ and learn about other Arctic Real Time research at Arctic Alive
City of Kotzebue Webpage
Listen to the local radio station KOTZ live

The boat coming to take us out to do mapping.

This is the GPS unit we used to make a map. First we made lines parallel to shore and then perpendicular.

Melinda and John discussing the best way to get a cross section of the area.

Gerald is our boat captains grandson and our biggest helper.

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