Monday, February 19, 2007

My Dear Students: Thank You for Your Questions I

Starting today, I'll be answering the questions you've been asking. I will try to get to most of them over the next week. In some cases they overlap, so you may not see the exact wording of your question. Keep on sending me your wonderings and I'll do my best to get to them all. JD

1. What are the accomodations like for scientists in the field?

Here is a picture of the building where we eat and sleep. It's the only maintained building in what amounts to the ruins of a joint Canadian-US rocket testing site abandoned in the late 60s. It's plenty warm even though fine snow drifted under the door during the blizzard on Saturday. We sleep in bunks, two to four to a room, and we eat great food three times a day prepared my our good-natured cook named Mark. I plan to get his recipe for potato salad before I come home.

2. What's it like running on that snow?

Well, that depends on the the snow. If you thought snow was snow was snow, here are some words to change your mind.

upsik -- wind beaten snow
zastrugi -- wind beaten scoured snow
theh-ni-zee -- fluffy snow
pukak -- course crystalline layer of snow formed at the base of snowpack (It's beautful when you dig it up and the the crystals sparkle in the sun. JD)
pittuk -- a snow drift
matsaq -- snow on the ground soaked with water
siqoq -- drifting snow

Notice that most of these northern words for snow involve wind, which I'm getting a lot of.

3. Can you share some Inuit words?

Here are some words I know:
An iglu is a home built of upsik. (Also an Inuit word, see above.)
A qamatik is a sled with runners to carry freight, including field workers like me.

4. What is your fave. and least fave. thing about the Arctic?

My favorite thing about the Arctic is the absolute and complete silence. If you sit still long enough for your nylon not the rustle in the cold you hear absolutely nothing. I've never heard silence like that before even growing up close to the wilderness in Idaho.

My least favorite thing is planning a half hour in advance to go outside. I'd probably get better at it, but so far every day, I've had to redo at least three major components of the process due to forgetting about one of the early layers. Today I made an improvement by figuring out how to wear enough clothes so that I'm warm enough without the parka, and then I put the parka on too. Toasty! I just have to remember to get my boots on before I'm fully clothed otherwise. I keep on working up a sweat getting the things on when I'm already bundled up and still need shoes on to go outside. Once we're bundled we stay warm as long as we keep moving.

5. Daniel wants to know if the food's good.

Daniel, don't worry. I'm getting plenty of food, and enjoying eating about twice as much as usual in order to stay warm. Here's the room where they feed us.

6. Dani is asking if you dump water out of a cup, will it freeze immedietley and crash on the ground? Bagel wants to know if when you urinate outside, does it freeze?

Dani, the water seems not to freeze in the air. I'll be trying again tomorrow to see if a smaller amount will, or if it will freeze at temperatures lower than -28C. I'll let you know. Bagel, stayed tuned for Tuesday's post about the cryosphere. That's where you'll find the answer to your question.

7. Any birds? Any insects?

We've seen ptarmagin and and redpolls. No insects.

8. How about auroras? Have you seen any yet? If so, can you describe them?

I did stay up one night to see the Aurora. It doesn't happen every night and we have to get up very early every morning, so I've seen it just that once. Words don't describe it, but here is a picture of the Aurora I saw taken by Wan-Li who is a biologist working at a nearby national park.

1 comment:

Bill Dean said...

Dear Ms. Dean,
You mentioned that the station where you are staying had once been a Canadian and US rocket testing facility. Farley Mowat speaks of this facility in his book, 'Never Cry Wolf'.

Knowing what is involved in testing and maintaining rockets, I am wondering if you know whether there has been any hazardous waste clean up of the site since it was closed down?
Bill Dean