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11 June, 2004

Word of the day: "tenacity"

Where yesterday was a series of misadventures with equipment, today Yo, Penney and Amanda worked their magic on the malfunctioning gas chromatograph and electron capture detector machine. (Note: their magic is almost identical to the inquiry you may do in a science class. oh, wait. it IS the same: question, collect data, study data, evaluate. again and again and again.)

After many hours and nearly complete disassembly of the entire gas chromatograph, Amanda discovered a loose connection in the back (the wire connecting the temperature regulator), Penney discovered a loose wire on the side, and Yo discovered a blown fuse. Fixing these parts finally got the gas chromatograph back on its feet (or, rather, on the table).

Amanda was very happy, Penney relieved (but apparently mortified at Amanda's dancing) and Yo unwound (they had each taken long turns troubleshooting; Yo had taken the last, intense stretch). Their perseverance had paid off. But we weren't out of the woods (or tundra) yet. With the gas chromatograph working, we realized that the electron capture detector was behaving curiously. The read-out on the front of the device was blinking on and off at random intervals. perplexing. More troubleshooting and several hours later, Yo asked for an eraser. Several minutes after that, the machine was working fine. What do you think he could have possibly done with an eraser to make a piece of electronic equipment start working? Over lunch, we were talking with Rich, the 'mayor' of Toolik, and were laughing about our equipment troubles (only because crying doesn't help). When we mentioned the lack of ultrapure water, Rich immediately pointed us in the direction of another researcher who had the equipment to prepare ultrapure water in his lab. The cooperation between groups is astounding. Still to fix: a.. the auto-sampler (a device that is not 100% necessary, but that would make our work MUCH more efficient)

the computer (one is on its way from Fairbanks).

Yesterday, we also started preparing for our experiments. Yo and I collected water samples from Island Lake, Imnaviat Creek and the inlet to Toolik Lake. Island Lake has crystal clear water; there is very little dissolved organic carbon.

Imnaviat Creek is like tea water; it has LOTS of dissolved organic carbon. More about why we care about organic carbon later.

The Toolik Inlet has dissolved organic carbon levels somewhere in between.

(it is exciting work!) I volunteered for dish duty; while the others were working on equipment that I had no basis for understanding, I had to do something useful. Though not especially glamorous, making sure the quartz tubes we'll be using in our experiments are clean is essential: rinse in water, soak in an acid bath for two hours, rinse five times with distilled water.

(here the quartz tubes are soaking in the acid bath) Amanda's limerick There once was a group of four geeks Who went to the Arctic for three weeks. They worked quite a bit Though their instrument fritzed And they were eaten alive by the 'skeets.

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