I was up at 4:30AM to check weather, which was nearly perfect, and I checked in with Jessica and Nick to let them know that today could be our day. We only need about 3 days of this weather to complete the project, and in one day we could gather our most essential data. They arrived from Deadhorse about 7AM and we quickly redeployed the ground-based GPS. I sat in the truck as they taxied off, waiting around to get a picture of them taking off with the background of mountains. But they never took off. I called them on the radio and they said they were having issues with the lidar. So they came back to the ramp and we fooled around with things a bit more. I unplugged their antenna going to the top of the plane and plugged it back in, and about this time the unit came alive again. So they taxied back out, and this time they took off. I headed back to Waldo’s for some breakfast, but by the time I was finished, the plane flew overhead and landed at the runway. It was broken again. In the air, they had talked with the manufacturer and decided to head back to Anchorage where a technician from Canada would meet them in a few days to troubleshoot the complicated system. So despite the rare and perfect weather, today would not be the day to complete the work started 50 years ago and attempted many times since. I’m not one to believe in curses, but every mapping project attempted out here since the first in 1957 has failed, and it was certainly beginning to look like our work might end up as another footnote in the long list of failed attempts.
Nick untangles the antenna cables as Jessica lines up the tripod over a temporary marker, in Waldo’s backyard.
The laser sits inside the box in the foreground, where it is mounted into a hole in the floor so it can see the ground. The control electronics are in front of the seat in the middle-ground where Jessica sits.
Cleared for takeoff!
It being July 4th, Kaktovik had some festivities lined up. No official fireworks, but lots of local color and kids for the games. So we spent some time in town and met with the locals. All of the hikers and tourists were shipped off yesterday, so we were the only outsiders there. I find it a bit interesting that it’s the tourists who take a real interest in our work. A conversation about glaciers with them can take several hours. Not so much the locals. The typical question of ‘So are the glaciers still melting?’ gets answered ‘Yep, faster every time we look’ and suffices in most cases. So it was kind of a day off for me, with no schpeeling and no lidar. I took a long nap with Turner in the afternoon, and started sorting some gear after a nice dinner.
Turner pumps some fluids into himself after a grueling foot race in the 2-3 year old age bracket.
As I was settling in for the evening, however, I got a call from Jessica. They were now in Bettles. On the way to Anchorage, they decided to stop in Bettles to attempt a small job there and see if any of the fiddling they were doing in the plane may have worked. As it turned out, it did – the system was now fully functional. Such things scare me a bit, as they had not clearly identified the problem. In my experience in geophysics the past 20 years, such intermittent problems are almost always caused by loose or bad connections with the cables. I don’t know if my jiggling of the GPS antenna cable solved the problem in the morning or not, but my guess is that it is something along these lines. In any case, the plan is that they are going to head over at 6AM tomorrow. The weather still seems stable here, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed, both for weather and for system stability. Benny also arrives tomorrow. He’s never been to Alaska before, let along the remote Arctic, so it’s shaping up to be a busy and interesting day.
What is IPY
Friday, 04 July 2008 21:42
Day 74: Celebrating Independence Day and a bit of lidar successWritten by Matt Nolan
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