7 June, 2002
Three hours of packing and repacking, loading the truck with gear, unloading the truck to load the helicopter, clamping on seat belts, and the summer field research season of King Eider and Tundra Swan breeding biology.
Many things happened today, so many that I feel overwhelmed in writing about them and believe you would be overwhelmed reading them. Rather than giving you a rundown on the entire day's events, I will try to highlight them for you. First, the flight: riding in a helicopter is way different than a plane. It flies much lower to the ground, creates much turbulence on the lakes and ponds and definitely makes more noise. It was great! We saw caribou with their newly
born calves, swans, waterfowl, tundra polygons, melting lakes and ponds . . . the Arctic!
When we arrived at Olaf (specific campsite name), I felt like it was a bit of a remake of "Never Cry Wolf." We through all of our gear
out of the helicopter, stood by our pile of stuff and watched as our connection to the world of people whirred away. We waved, hooped a little, then got to work setting up camp. We set up a larger family tent for our gathering/cooking/hanging out place. Then we each set
up our own dome tent in different areas to allow for some privacy at times. We set up a "privy tent" furnished with a nice white bucket and began digging a permafrost freezer hole for our few cold items.
By the time we had all the unpacking finished and camp set up, most of the day was gone (not the light, though!). We each did our own thing for about an hour, cooked some supper and are now relaxing. (9:00 pm with full light from a sun sitting at about 40 degrees above the Northwest horizon).
As we set camp up, I definitely took breaks to look around, wonder and listen. I've already asked many questions and successfully identified three birds as I went for a walk by myself (after a bird lesson from PI Robert Suydam). There are a few wildflowers dotting the tundra of browns and dull greens, the first flower I saw was the Pasque flower or Crocus (the South Dakota state flower - my home state!). The view from camp also reminds me of home a little. It is wide open with a few low rolling hills. In contrast, though, there
is water to be seen in almost all directions - streams, ponds and lakes. The weather was surprisingly beautiful today with highs were probably in the upper 50 degrees, light winds and pure blue skies! What an incredible welcome the arctic has provided!
Tomorrow we'll be heading out to investigate the area - just get acquainted with our new home, try to find some king eiders, and learning lots! I hope you enjoy birds, plants and science as I hope to broaden your interest and knowledge during the next two months.
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