Notes from the Arctic – Weather Day August 27th, 2010

Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer continues this daily log of his research trip to Barrow, Alaska. With him are Skidaway Inst research tech Victoria Baylor and researchers from the University of Georgia and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Hi All,

Its been a long day of waiting and finally giving-up on getting out to sample.  The wind picked-up even more and the fog has stuck around all day.  We were all set for an 8:00 am departure, again led by captain Quuniq, but we had to scratch the mission.

Although we were all disappointed and worried about completing our research, we trust the experience and common sense of our local logistical support.  So we spent the morning making good use of our time reorganizing our plans, taking care of the many details and small tasks left over from yesterday’s lab day.  The unexpected “day off” also gave us the opportunity to meet with the local logistics support staff at BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium) to plan our next trip in January 2011.  This place will be completely different with our sampling site covered by ice, temperatures around -40°F, and only a few hours of light a day.  Although the weather is extreme now, just wait until January!

I also had an opportunity to meet with Glenn Sheehan, the director of BASC, to discuss future projects and to start making a dent into the pile of other work that has been piling-up.  All in all it turned out to be a pretty productive day, just not in the way I had expected it to be.

In the late afternoon we all decided to go into town to visit the Iñupiat Heritage Center and to eat dinner.

Marc at the Heritage Center

The Heritage center is a small museum dedicated to preservation, advancement, and education about Iñupiat culture.

A Bowhead Whale model at the heritage center

The museum features exhibits, largely photographs, taxidermy animals, and art objects documenting past and current Iñupiat culture.  One of the nicest aspects of the center was that they host local artists that are eager to talk to visitors about their culture and crafts.  We helped the local economy by buying a few pieces ourselves.

Marc with scrimshaw artist

I bought a scrimshaw Bowhead whale baleen personalized for my son David (don’t tell him, it’s a surprise present) and Debbie bought a few.  We also both enjoyed talking with the artists including Mr. and Mrs. Patkotak who, in addition to producing amazing ivory and baleen art, lead a successful whaling crew.

Debbie wanted to take a picture with them since she collects pictures of strong women and Mrs. Patkotak was definitely women of strong character.

Deb Bronk with local Barrow couple

We continue to be impressed with the local Iñupiat people and culture.  Despite the harsh life and climate here, they clearly enjoy their lives and are well adapted to the lifestyle.  We have a lot to learn from them.

After a bizarre trip to an incredibly tacky but not for tourists store called “La Bamba” found nestled in a local neighborhood, we found are way to dinner at the famous Brower Café.

Local Barrow neighborhood taken looking away from the La Bamba store

The café is located in a building originally built by the first international polar year expedition in 1883.  Unfortunately, the dinner wasn’t as inspiring as the history or scenery.

Research team on the beach behind the famous Brower Cafe

After dinner it was back to the station, a little more work, and off to bed.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get back to research tomorrow if the weather allows.

Until then,



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