23 August, 1998

August 23, 1998


Up at the break of dawn to go to the ARCSS grid in

Atqasuk (English name Meade River). Atqasuk is about

60 miles to the south of Barrow so we had to once

again board Cape Smythe Air to get there because

there are no roads to the place. The grid is about a

mile south of the runway over a mixture of tundra

types I have experienced so far. There were high and

low center polygons like those seen on the coastal

plains AND (they're back) tussocks! There was also a

stream that ran near the grid that was narrow, but

incredibly deep. Fritz tells me it is because it

probably runs over the ice wedges that form the

polygons and is called beaded drainage. What it

looks like is narrow stretches with pools over the

intersections of the polygons. From the air it looks

like beads on a string. In this stream were

Grayling, which look sort of like an Arctic trout.

The weather was also very cooperative and gave us

sun, clear skies, and a cool breeze to work in. I

really needed the weather to recharge my batteries,

even though there was no chance for a sunburn (TOY).

After probing the site Anna, Javier, and I walked the

mile or so (it seemed like 20) into town and looked

around. The population must be around 50 to 100

people from the number of houses we saw. It was

really warming to see children playing in front of

the houses and in the school's playground. It has

been such a long time since I have seen people other

than adults, I had almost forgotten about the

innocence of youth.

The flight back to Barrow was in a single engine

plane and the pilot never got above 100 feet so we

were able to see a lot of detail on the ground. I

saw a herd of caribou running across the tundra, many

polygons, and the meandering of the Meade River, all

while being buffeted by the winds. If the weather

was like this up here all the time, people would be

flocking to Northern Alaska by the thousands.

After dinner, it was a night in the lab, entering

data and trying to stay awake. We have been going

like gangbusters since early August and our time is

nearing an end. In fact tomorrow we should be done

with our data collection. This will give us a whole

day to visit the sights around Barrow on Tuesday. I

can hardly wait!


Atqasuk… what can I say about Atqasuk? The town is

very homey. There are children playing and doors

open. It has been a while since I have left my door

open at home and still felt safe. To say more about

this humble community, the largest building in the

actual town is the school: a marvelously new-looking

facility raised above the ground and on the top of a

small hill. This whole town is the epitome of a

youthful America, back when America consisted of

rural towns and friendly neighbors - not that I would

prefer to live 40 miles from the next town (Barrow).

It is a little too isolated for my tastes, but the

view of lakes and bluffs is extraordinary.

After we returned to Barrow, we worked (as Don has

said) like gangbusters (whatever that means).

Actually, I spent the evening doing the tail-end of

my homework for the summer.



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Don and Claire Gommersall working in the National Science Foundation lab in the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) in Barrow (photo by Javier Lopez).

Ptarmigan just sprouting their winter plumage (check out the white feathers growing in [photo by Javier Lopez]).

The crew piling onto the bigger plane to go to Atqasuk (pilot, Anna, Jim O'Brian [boarding], Fritz, Sam and Jim Bockheim [photo by Javier Lopez]).

The lake at the southern end of the ARCSS grid near Atqasuk on one of the most beautiful days of the year (photo by Javier Lopez).

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