It began as a straightforward day, but quickly took a number of twists and turns. The biggest major wrinkle was that Jason discovered that he had forgotten a cable for the differential GPS. The idea was that we were going to survey the valley on our hike down and use these data as QC data for the lidar acquisition, planned to start in a few days. But he decided not to turn it on during our rock crossing as likely the antenna would get jostled too much to acquire reliable data, so we didn’t find out about the cable until now. So the choices were for one or more of us to go back and get it, or try to find an alternate cable and get it sent to Kaktovik fast. Given that it was Sunday in civilization, we opted to go back and get it. So Jason and Joey headed off – with no packs! – while Kristin, Turner and I headed down valley, with the idea that we would all meet our airstrip south of Jago Lake in the evening.
The main reason our trip to Kaktovik, and this hike to get us there, was to help manage the chaos of running a major airborne geophysical project out of Kaktovik. Though strictly speaking this is civilization, in the end it’s a village of 300 people on the edge of nowhere with a very limited infrastructure. Plans have a way of going awry here, and people who live or work here regularly accept this as situation normal, and the unspoken strategy for success here is the standard one of ‘if you want it done right, you better do it yourself’. So my role in Kaktovik is basically just to keep the project moving by solving problems as they arise. The first major problem arose about a week ago or more, when Tom decided to go back to Palmer due to medical reasons. He is the local fixed wing pilot and without him, Kaktovik has no local air taxi operator, greatly stressing a thin logistical network. This creates problems for us because we had planned to use him to deploy our GPS base stations throughout the tundra. So a new plan arose where Aerometric hired a consultant to help with this and to do this based out of Coldfoot, working with Dirk, the pilot that did all of our work with the Beaver in April and May. I had also already primed US Fish and Wildlife to help with this effort, and they also now ponied up with personnel and support. So now we had more personnel help than we needed with less air support, and I’m trying to coordinate this while hiking with a 90 pound pack and a 2 year old, down a caribou trail covered in grizzly tracks and half-eaten caribou carcasses.
Turner seems unimpressed with this diaper change, but doing it without turning him into mosquito bait is no minor feat. (Click on the panorama and drag to look around, press Shift to zoom in, Command (Mac) or Control (PC) to zoom out.) Enlarge this panorama
It took us a while to get there, but eventually we did, and so did Jason and Joey. We took a number of breaks, both to rest our backs and give Turner the chance to stretch his legs. Once we got onto the open tundra, all Turner wanted to do was run. He hadn’t been able to run for the past two and half months due to the terrain. Now, with no obstacles, sharp rocks, slippery ice, etc, he could run in any direction he chose and was incredibly happy about it, and so were we. After a final stretch of tussocks, we found our airstrip and old camp site, and within an hour and a half of our arrival, Jason and Joey did too, so we ate a quick dinner and were asleep by midnight. The clouds parted during this time, and we were treated to views of the sun sweeping across the northern horizon throughout the night in our bug net tent, warm enough that we didn’t need sleeping bags.
Dragon wanted to eat the mosquitos.
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Monday, 30 June 2008 04:53
Day 69: A long day ends in successWritten by Matt Nolan
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