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10 June, 2004

Getting Set Up (kind of)

After an early start this morning (I got up at 5:00 a.m. to find the sun moving further south and up in the sky), I spent a couple of hours in front of the computer preparing stuff for posting.

I mentioned before that life in the field occasionally presents challenges that require flexibility, perseverance and creativity. In other words, getting set up can present unanticipated challenges, trying the patience and wits of the team.

A couple of hurdles we are still resolving:

1) We need ultra-pure water; the lab that was going to make it at Toolik Lake isn't (at least for a couple of weeks). So we'll have some ultra-pure water delivered from Fairbanks in the next couple of days. (The support staff at Toolik Lake and University of Alaska at Fairbanks is astounding!)

2) The gas chromatograph (more about this device in a later post) is attached to a computer that isn't working! What to do with the broken computer? Call tech support, take out and reinstall cards, clean and inquire. Still working on this one.

3) The gas chromatograph requires the use of a precisely-controlled oven, but the regulator that controls the temperature is not working either.

It has been a long day with lots of fits and starts. I am again amazed at the ingenuity and resourcefulness of this amazing team of people, and the offers of help and ongoing support we have received from the staff at Toolik Lake and University of Alaska at Fairbanks. --

Getting set-up

Penney and Amanda are looking at cards and circuits in the computer.

Gas chromatograph... not feeling so well.

During a lull in the activities, HawkLunch took a look around camp. This is our double-wide Trailer of Science.

Toolik sauna... HawkLunch doesn't like saunas; the heat makes his fur mat.

Home sweet tent

Known affectionately as the penthouse, HawkLunch climbed the stairs to the outhouse!

The office, dining hall and kitchen: The unassuming front is probably to fool the casual squirrel from figuring out the bounty that lies within.

HawkLunch and other squirrels have long known that there is no such place as "away". Humans at Toolik Lake seem to have figured it out too. All trash is sorted into three categories: burnable, non-burnable and metals. The burnable trash is burned here.

The runway: If you've been to the airport, you may have a picture in your head of what a runway looks like. Get that picture out of your head. The runway here was a dirt road deep enough to hide a squirrel den.

The tundra: To the uniformed, the vista offers little change. A little closer to the ground, HawkLunch appreciates the diversity of life on the tundra, including many different kinds of lovely blossoming flowers.

An Arctic squirrel! One amazing thing about Arctic squirrels (called sik-siks, after the sound they make): In the winter they hibernate so deeply that they will not wake up; their body temperature lowers, their muscles lock, their metabolism slows to a standstill. They become little squirrel-sicles. Every couple of weeks, they shake themselves awake to warm up, then go back to sleep and wait for spring. (Editor's note: not being a squirrel, I don't know if any squirrel dreams, much less squirrels who hibernate.)

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