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14 November, 1999

A Preview of Coming Attractions

Today Martin and I drove up to Poker Flat Research Range so that I could see the field sites that we will be visiting throughout the winter. The ride north along the old Steese Highway certainly gave me a taste of Alaska, past and present. We drove past thousands of acres of old mining tailings, recklessly dumped there decades ago by miners hungry for instant fortune. (There used to be gold in "them thar hills!") Martin stopped so that I could get a closer view of an old mining dredge (see photo).

The lakes that we will be studying are scattered around the research range. <A HREF="http://www.pfrr.alaska.edu">Poker Flat</A> is the only university owned rocket launching facility in the world! It is currently operated under contract to NASA for launching sounding rockets, downlinking satellite data, and researching Arctic phenomena such as the Aurora Borealis. Hopefully I'll be able to get some good shots of the Aurora this winter. If you don't already know, find out what causes this amazing natural spectacle!

We walked out onto one of the small lakes that had an established transect, marked with wooden stakes bearing orange flags (see photo). The ice was twenty centimeters thick two weeks ago! I quickly realized that my biggest concern out here would NOT be "thin ice", but would be staying warm as temperatures plunge to 30 below this January. Use the graphs below to determine the average temperature & snowfall for Fairbanks during November.

On the way back to Fairbanks, we stopped along the Alaskan pipeline that stretches from Barrow to Valdez. As you look at the photo, notice that this portion of the pipeline is supported above ground. What, do you suppose, would be the reasons for this? Well, tune in tomorrow as I join Martin and Kim for a full day of data collection. We'll show you the tools of the trade and demonstrate their uses!

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