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31 July, 2001

Signing off... for now

12:45 a.m., August 1

Anchorage, Alaska

I am writing from the Moosewood Lodge, a bed and breakfast to the south of Anchorage. Everyone else is fast asleep, and I sit down now to write my last journal entry from the ice.

Life on ice... almost

Last night, a gentle rain began to fall and continued throughout the night. There are few things as relaxing as listening to the patter of rainfall on the (waterproof!!) rain fly of a tent.

Breaking down a tent in the rain is not quite as much fun. Things get pretty muddy and pretty wet. It goes with the territory, I suppose.

From time to time, so does being cold. Last night, some people got really cold for the first time. Over oatmeal this morning, we discussed strategies to make sure that people stay warm as they sleep. Examples included, putting a fleece liner inside sleeping bag, stuffing the bottom of the sleeping bag with extra clothes (so your body heat doesn't have to be wasted on heating up air at the bottom of the bag), closing the hood of the sleeping bag so tightly that just about the only thing you expose to the world is your nose and mouth, etc. As the weather gets colder, these conversations will need to be more frequent.

The more experienced campers (read, Nelson, Jeff and Staci... who have each spent months at a time in the field) were unstinting with their advice about how to make nights pass more warmly and days pass more dryly. This is also education.

Science at work

As I leave the field, I am struck how the process and analysis continues, and how the questions we have raised have not been answered immediately. Indeed, the work that remains before us as we begin to thorough analyze this data is a significant task. Indeed, as we look more thoroughly at the data, we may find that we end with more questions than answers.

Meanwhile, preparing the results for presentation or publication is a monumental task. For others to learn from what we have done, we must share what we have learned in a form or forum where others have access to our data and results.


As my field season wraps to a close, I search for words that will summarize the breadth and depth of my experience... and find instead that words fail.

I leave the glacier richer in knowledge (Professor? May I be excused? My brain is full.), richer in appreciation of the impact of geology on my everyday life, and richer in friendships made with the people I had a chance to work with.

Before I close (for now), a few words of gratitude to the people who have made this extraordinary experience available to me:

(a) Greg Baker for giving so much of his time and knowledge, for his patient explanations and insightful remarks;

(b) the folks at TEA, who dreamed up the crazy idea of sending teachers to amazing places like this; and,

(c) the folks at National Science Foundation, who thought it wasn't such a crazy idea and agreed to help pay my way here.

My most sincere thanks to all of these people.

Keep in touch.



Even in the cold rain, the scenery overwhelms. This morning, on the way back to camp from the lodge, I was stunned by the contrast between the brilliant fireweed, imposing mountains and ghostly mist.

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