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2 July, 2002

July 2, 2002

I think I went a little too far yesterday by laughing at the weather! It was worse today . Actually it began last night. The wind really began to blow and gust, then with it came ice, snow and rain. Most of today was more of the same - never laugh at what mother nature is giving you!

Yes, it was a bit blustery around here for the last 20 hours. During the night, the wind was howling so bad, making my tent crash and whip, the ice was hitting the sides - it finally got to be too much and I put ear plugs in so I could sleep! Unfortunately, the earplugs don't keep the cool air from moving through, so I spent a very chilly night in the sleeping bag!

That may sound a little bad, but it was nothing compared to what happened to our main tent! Our main tent is just a basic family tent you'll see set up at your comfortable state park campgrounds, and we believe now, was not designed for the arctic environment. When we woke up, the 'screen porch' was complete ripped out of the ground, the entire tent was leaning over, most of the metal poles were bent, and the rain fly that goes over the top was ripped to shreds! Now, remember, I finally fell asleep with earplugs in, so unfortunately (or was it) I didn't hear Yumiko and Rebecca at 6:30 this morning trying to put it back up. They were successful, but only to find everything inside in quite a disarray - table was knocked over, rain and mud covered the floor, dishes were everywhere on the floor. Well, while I slept peacefully, they cleaned up what they could and had hot water on the stove when I finally ambled in.

Now, I didn't get out of all of the work, though. As the weather was so crummy, we ate some breakfast then headed to our own tents to try to get a little more sleep or just read. When I peaked out at around 10:30, the tent was collapsing again! Rebecca and I spent about a half hour string guide wire from poles, duct taping poles, using our 'almond' guide wires to anchor the tent in more places. The tent looks like a disaster has struck it, but it is still standing and holding together. We have more guide wires (ropes) coming off the W side of the tent then you could imagine . We're afraid if the wind would switch and come out of the east, a slight breeze and the pull of the west guide ropes would cause the entire tent to immediately flop to the ground! We are holding our breath that the thing makes it through the summer!

This week has been one of 'camp' problems. Remember our friendly ground squirrels? Well, they are getting too friendly now. A couple spend time under the vestibule of Rebecca's tent she finally figured out that they like to chew on the caribou antlers she has there! Well, they probably just need the calcium from the antlers to give them a balanced camp diet - combine that with the chicken breasts they dug up out of our permafrost freezer, the pound of butter they got out of our fridge and the toilet paper they got out of the main tent's screen porch, and they are well fed! No, I don't understand the toilet paper craving, either. To deter their fresh food fancy, a couple days ago I dug the freezer hole bigger. I then inserted a rubber maid storage container into the hole and placed our fresh food inside it. Covered with some styro foam, we should have a squirrel-safe icebox!

So, besides trying to keep everything in camp where it should be, we spent a lot of the day reading and trying to stay warm. Rebecca and I did go out a little - cabin fever struck! I went out to Niksiq lake and did a habitat evaluation for a depredated king eider nest. I also candled the tundra swan's eggs located nearby. According to my novice interpretation of light's penetration through the egg, I believe they should be hatching in 5-6 days. I didn't see any movement, but along the dark line now present, there was a protrusion that is supposed to be the chick's bill. If I am right, there should be swan babies on July 7 or 8!!! If nothing else, the movement and 2 hours of fresh air mixed with gusts of wind, snow and rain felt pretty good!

The weather seem to be settling down a little now, so I have a pretty active day planned for tomorrow. I'll be heading south to some of the same areas I was at on Saturday, will re-check some nests, do a couple of habitat evaluations, and just enjoy the arctic life.

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