15 July, 2001
Preparation & Reasons for research
Life on the ice.. .. (almost)
Last night, I couldn’Äôt sleep.
The upcoming trip to Alaska filled my thoughts; when I wasn’Äôt scrambling in the dark for a pen to write down notes about last-minute preparations, I was dreaming about the adventure to come.. ..
Over the last several weeks, preparation for the trip has kicked into high gear. In addition to talking with teachers and students involved in summer school (and hopefully, this expedition), family and friends, Greg Baker, local newspapers, etc., I have also had to plan some of the logistics of my stay on Matanuska Glacier.
Of all the preparation, planning for shelter was the easiest.. .. Because we will be camping near the glacier, Greg advised that I bring a tent, ground cover, sleeping pad and sleeping bag.
Contrary to legend, Alaska is not forever shrouded in snow. As the land receives more and more sunlight as spring turns into summer, the land warms. Anchorage (about 80 miles SW of Matanuska Glacier) receives 18 hours of sunlight a day for much of July. Greg has advised me that in addition to the long hours of sunlight, the location of the glacier between two mountain ranges makes for a parcticularly sunny and pleasant mini-climate. From 60 or 70 degrees F (about 20 degrees C) during the day and slightly cooler at night. He also warned that sudden changes in temperature are NOT unusual.
How do people respond to wide changes in temperature, often times in a matter of hours? Bring layers of clothing.. .. long underwear, shirt, vest, jacket, hat and gloves to cover your top, and long underwear, pants and a shell to cover your legs. Layers are easily removed if you get too hot, and trap air to keep you warm if you start to get cold.
Have you ever tried to plan two week’Äôs worth of meals? Un-refrigerated meals? Un-microwaveable meals? Un-bakeable meals? And then pack everything you need for those meals in a backpack along with two week’Äôs worth of clothes, a stove, first aid and your shelter? We are going food shopping in Anchorage or Palmer tomorrow, but there are no menus but the ones we bring, and we will not have access to a pantry or spice cabinet. Don’Äôt get me wrong: I love macaroni & cheese, but I can’Äôt live on it for two weeks.
I planned a menu that includes some of the following meals: macaroni & cheese (of course), rice and broccoli with bean sauce, chili, rice curry, burritos, cheese fondue, salsa soup with corn dumplings, Italian polenta, mung bean stew, etc. Eating well in the backcountry requires careful planning; I’Äôve included a picture of the spice cabinet for the meals in the field.
I share this information to show the level of planning that goes into taking a trip to the backcountry.. .. and, besides cameras and a computer, I’Äôm not in charge of bringing any of the scientific instruments. Matanuska Glacier is a popular research site because it is relatively EASY to get people and gear to the site. If this is easy, imagine what "hard" is! (I’Äôll bet some of the other TEAs have some stories!)
Science at work
I spent last weekend in Detroit at my brother’Äôs wedding. When I explained the upcoming research project, one question that several people asked was: "Why is this research important?"
There are two parts to the project and thus two responses.
Part 1: Using seismic reflection and ground penetrating radar together < /i>
Part of our work is to fine-tune the use of these two methods for "seeing" underground. The application of this work is far-reaching. Engineers and architects can locate hidden faults and mines, planners can locate buried pollutants and trace the likely path through the groundwater, etc. "Seeing" underground is a useful ability for many people.
Part 2: Testing a hypothesis about how glaciers pick up layers of silt
We know that glaciers carve the land, but we don’Äôt know how the layers of silt get trapped in the ice. The second part of our work is to test a hypothesis about how glaciers pick up layers of silt. This portion of our research is simply about extending human knowledge. Curiosity is a good thing.
The hour grows late, and, as my grandfather would say, "That’Äôs enough talking
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