Monday, August 10, 2009

Balloon Launch... finally!

I have been waiting for this moment since last February:

This is Andre and he let me launch a weather balloon!!!!

It kind of made my week. It was awesome. Thanks Andre!

This is Bubba

And he is a muskox.Bubba is a lone muskox. He looks pretty old, and for the last 2 or 3 days we have seen him alone lying in the sun by the beach on the way to the lab. He has been getting lots of sun, lots of rest, and hasn't been eating too much. We didn't realize it until zooming in on photos we'd taken, but he's also only got one horn left. Maybe he took on a muskox he shouldn't have?

In order to get the laser aligned, we ended up staying at the lab working until 1:30 am one night. That was cool because although the sun does not set, it does move around the sky, so at 1:30 it was in a part of the sky where we never usually see it because we're asleep. This day on the drive home we saw some really nice reflections of the hills off Slidre Fjord.

We went for a walk last night, all four of us, and saw some cool plants on the way.

Today we went down to the ocean so that Bruce could put his hand in. Two of us were brave and got in above the ankles. The faces show just how pleasant this experience wasn't, especially compared to the swim in idyllic conditions this past week! It was ICY!

The laser is aligned and we're all set up to start measurements as soon as it gets dark in the fall. We're heading back to Yellowknife tomorrow morning, then back south the day after that. This continues to be an awesome trip.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Polar Bear Dip

Polar bear dip! This was the greatest day I've had since I arrived in Eureka. Worked for the morning in the lab, then drove partway down the ridge and went for a 4 hour walk on the hills and valleys overlooking Eureka Sound. It's all rocky up there, and it was such a nice day. It turned out to be about 14 degrees according to the weather station staff, but it felt much warmer. We took a break halfway through just to lie on the hill, soak up a bit of sunshine and some of the heat radiating out of the rock. The air was so still, and when there was a breeze it was a warm, gentle wind. As we walked back toward the truck (so as not to be late for supper down at the station) it just got hotter and hotter in the sun.

We drove the rest of the way down the ridge, and Bernard says, "I just want to dabble my feet in the water" and Mike and I though this was of course a great idea. It was the perfect day for it, and just in case we didn't get another chance, we wanted to wade in the Arctic Ocean. Well we did more than wade. Twice. We didn't set the camera to take a picture the first time, so we decided to do it again right after! Such a fantastic time.

Detector box for the laser: This is the part that collects the scattered light from the atmosphere and counts the photons in photomultiplier tubes. I spent many hours staring at this part of the lidar yesterday.And to top off the perfect day, we played a round of disc golf with some folks from Quebec who are up here studying greater snow geese. Turns out that during the summer they hatch goslings and none of the birds (adults included) can fly as they lose their flight feathers. So the people we met just have to catch the birds and band them. These bunnies in the picture below stayed with us for the first hole of golf. They were too intent on gnawing on the plywood to be bothered by frisbees whizzing past their ears. Better than gnawing rocks I guess?

Awesome day.

Today's update on the laser: we turned it on! The chiller is filled and operating. The technician from the laser company has arrived and today worked all day to check our connections, check for gas leaks, check the electronics of the laser, etc. We just ran it with helium inside (so that the electrodes could fire but it couldn't lase) and then after that we filled it with the usual HCl, Xe, He mix to leave it for an overnight pressure check. Tomorrow we will let it lase and shine it through the hole in the roof and try to get it aligned a bit. We also cleared out the old lidar lab next door (basically abandonned) and consolidated about 40 boxes into a more reasonable number. Excited to see how it goes with the laser lasing tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Rose Rocks!

I don't have a single picture of a rose rock. Neither do the other two people who were rose rock hunting with me. Plenty of pictures of the hunt, we found plenty of rocks, but not a single picture of them to put here. Just realized that. Still, the hunt for rose rocks and the 4 minute beach trip were the highlights of my day.

There's a creek beside the weather station, and it's pretty dry this time of year so we went across it to look for rose rocks after work. These are neat things that look spikey and they erode out of the hills. Apparently they're formed in the sea, with the crystals growing out in all directions. Pretty cool and I'll put some pics of them here later if I remember. From the pictures you can kind of see the kind of ground we were digging in, and that there were some pretty steep hills. It was so pretty and it was fun to be out playing today. We spent about 4 hours walking and climbing and hunting around in the dirt for cool rocks. We saw teeth (or some kind of plant but we think its teeth), fossilized shells and, of course, rose rocks. On our way back, we saw lots of prints in the mud in the creek: fox, wolf, muskox, bunny, bird.

We also walked through the forest. There are willow trees here :) Sort of.

And other pretty plants too.
The picture at the top is from our drive up to the lab this afternoon. Some more ice had floated into the fjord and I particularly liked this iceberg. I could have sat there all day, but was only able to for a few minutes before we had to continue up to the lab. We took a quick stop to watch some muskox run away farther up the ridge as well, and then settled in for an afternoon of plumbing and pipe fitting, hooking the chiller and gas lines up to our laser.

All in all, a very good day!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Laser is in. Disc Golf. Muskox are scraggly

I would to introduce.... the new laser! That's what is in the 990 lbs crate on our favourite new gantry. We got it mostly into place on the table yesterday, so that's when the pictures here are from. We had to go truck-gantry-dolly-gantry-table as the gantry wouldn't fit through the doors inside with the laser. Fun times. We had to build a frame around the bottom of the laser to be able to lift it off the crate. The laser sits on a heavy aluminum plate, and I learned how to tap a hole (make a hole with threads for a screw) to attach it to the frame.

Muskox!!!! On our drive up to the lab this morning, we saw a whole herd of muskox close to the road, so naturally we got as close as we could and then got out of the car to take pictures. They are so scraggly and so funny!
Distracted photo of three of us waiting for Bernard to hurry up and figure out how to set the self timer so he could be in the Success Photo of the Laser In Place picture. This one was funnier than the right one.
And here are the 4 of us who have been hauling the laser around for the past 3 days:

We have hit a few snags such as the laser feet not fitting in the spacers we had custom milled to fit them. We ended up having to re-drill the holes and grind them out with a dremel tool.

After that we put the chiller in, put the wires and hoses for it under the floor and did other small jobs that had to be done. We should be hooking up gas lines tomorrow or Monday, depending on weather. If it's terrible, then we'll work tomorrow but if not, we're going rose rock hunting! I'm pretty excited about that, especially after our fun time last night.

After supper yesterday, six of us went out to play disc golf. I'm slightly better at this than I am at mini-putt, which as some of you know, is not saying much. Add to this the fact that the frisbee golf course is set along a creekbed and the sides of hills and slopes up to a ridge. It's an awesome course with some really neat holes (sticks stuck in the ground that you have to hit). Some you have to throw over the ridge to a hole you can't see, and others you have to send over cliffs to a hole below, without getting your disc in the river. Pretty awesome! It was fun to get outside and play for a few hours and go hiking to see what's behind the station.

It's really pretty here, and there are lots of small pieces of ice in the fjord, but it is mostly open water. The people who work at the station for several months are planning a bonfire in the next few days to burn up some of the rotten, warped etc wood from old projects. Perfect time for a polar dip! So Mum, I know you were joking about it, but I just might try it if it goes ahead...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Back in Eureka

Here lies the laser, in its final resting place.

We made it to Eureka yesterday, but to catch up on things up to now...
Caribou is delicious! 50$ Gets you caribou, salad, homemade fries and a Heineken for supper for one person. Definitely something I was glad to do once while in Yellowknife. This is at Bullock's Bistro, and the atmosphere there is super cool. It's a small place, and the walls are covered with pictures, postcards, stickers, and writing from people who have visited.

From Yellowknife we flew with Bernard and Mike from EC up through Cambridge Bay and Resolute to Eureka, getting in just after suppertime. We started working early this morning up in the lab. We're here to take out the old laser and put in a new one. Here are Bernard and Mike.

Today we managed to dismantle and remove the old laser. The laser weighs around 3 or 400 pounds, so we had an A-frame crane brought up which we assembled and used. We (including Matt the Operator who helped us all day) are now pros at assembling and dissembling that frame and moving heavy things on it. It does not fit through doors assembled, but needs to be in the laser room to put the laser onto a dolly, and the needs to be in the garage to put the laser up in the truck, etc etc so long story short, we have the operation down to a science. This is good news, as tomorrow we will be installing a heavier new laser which comes with much more dire consequences if we drop it. Such as it is not already broken, and therefore we care whether it becomes so during installation!

After supper we went outside to play on the beach. The ice just broke up this week, but there are still plenty of chunks and mini-icebergs floating around. I have also confirmed that the Arctic Ocean is in fact very cold.
Wildlife seen to date:
- Muskox (with babies!!!!!)
- Arctic Hares (lots and lots and lots and I have a video I might try and post some other day)
- Plovers (I think. They were doing the broken-wing-distract-interfering-humans-away-from-my-nest thing.)
- Other birds. Will have to look these up but they were cool. Altogether we saw at least 3 to 4 different kinds of birds.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Made it to Yellowknife

Just a short post for now as I haven't taken any pictures yet. I traveled to Toronto last night and then caught an early flight this morning to Calgary and then on to Yellowknife. Matt the CANDAC operator is also coming from Toronto, so it's been nice to have some company today. Tomorrow we will meet up with Bernard and Mike from Environment Canada and we will all together take a Summit Air charter flight up to Eureka.

This evening will just be running a few errands getting some things Matt needs to bring up to the weather station, finding some supper (I think I'm going to eat a cariboo. Maybe an arctic char, but I've had that before so I am hoping for cariboo. I'll let you know if I do) and maybe going for a walk? We'll see. I'm pretty exhausted and it will be a long day of flying tomorrow, so I should see whether I can get any work done tonight as there will definitely be none getting done tomorrow!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm going back!

It's been awhile since my last blog post, but I found out last week that I'll be headed back to Eureka in several days, so I thought I'd revive ye ol' blog and record whatever new adventures come my way. This time it will be daylight while we're up there (so we can't take data this time), and we're going to replace the laser that quit at the end of the spring campaign. Wish us luck that everything goes smoothly... I'm counting on the extra vitamin D to keep everyone happy and stress free, but we are going to be trying to move things that weigh several hundred pounds, and there won't be much space to move said things around in, so I guess we'll see! I'm excited, anyways. So this week I am packing and writing and packing and writing and re-analyzing data (all of which are not that exciting to watch or read about), and I'll put more updates once I actually get on my way.

To keep you entertained until then: I give you the picture of me, Elliston beach (root cellar capital of the world, in case you were unaware. It's on the east coast of Newfoundland near Bonavista), and the puddle on a rock which had tiny bugs that I seem to be quite enthralled with. Chad thought it was funny and I think he took the picture mostly because it shows an excellent display of Emily Fashion Sens(ibl)e with the legwarmers visible even in the middle of summer. I don't care if it was June - it was chilly!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Final days...

Don't make me leave!

I'll be heading home tomorrow morning with a Summit Air flight from Eureka to Yellowknife. We'll stay there overnight, and in the morning fly to Edmonton, then on to Toronto, and finally I'll catch an airport shuttle back to London.

This trip has been a terrific experience, and I've learned so much. I've got tons more photos which I will post here this weekend once I'm back to the land of speedy internet.

Thanks for an awesome month, Eureka!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

More pictures from the last few days

It has been a tired few days for me trying to switch back from nightshift, so here are some pictures.

Arctic Fox in a Snowbank (what I didn't put up are the two pictures I took of the wrong snowbank. I saw the fox, and then took a picture of the snowbank to the right. Twice, before I noticed...) This little guy lives around the station and one of his favourite spots is in a little hole in that snowbank where you can see him in the picture. I took this out the dining room window at the station.
This next picture, I did not take. It's in the folder Rodica gave me and I think she said Volodya took the picture. Anyways, this is what the fox looks like when you can actually see him! (He's really little by the way, about the size of a regular sized cat?)

Ozonesonde on a milk crate. The ring on the top is tied by a string to a weather balloon.

The yellow thing with the curly bits is the GPS. The flat metal strip on the right somehow measures temperature and pressure but I'm not sure how. The part that measures the ozone is inside. The clear straw you see sticking out the right side in the above picture sucks in air. It brings it into a tube with 2 solutions which transfer ions in the presence of ozone. It basically works just like a battery, so the sonde just measures the current, and can infer how much ozone there must be at that altitude. Nifty, eh?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Group Picture

Here's the whole Polar Sunrise team:

From left to right: Emily, Tom, Cristen, Rodica, Bernard, Volodya, Felicia, Pierre, Bec and Matt

Photo by Volodya

Two students from U de Sherbrooke, Konstantin and Yann are also up at Eureka, but their instrument is not at PEARL. They work on a starphotometer at 0PAL right by the station. When we're at the station overnight (if it's cloudy) we generally eat supper with these guys who are also on night shift. More often than not, Mike (I think he's a MetTech - he works in the weather office) is up with us too, but he just switched off of night shifts the other day.

More of the lab and how we do things

Rodica took the first two pictures. This one is the office where we work at the lab. That's Bernard on the phone. I sit at the other desk that you can see in the corner. There are two more desks in this office, and there's another office just the same next door. As you can see, I'm missing.

And that's because I'm in here at the time, letting Rodica take pictures of me "working with the lidar". She's the one who took the lab pictures I posted earlier. In this picture, the laser and a turning mirror are above me. The light goes down to the bottom part to go through the Raman cell.
This is also at the lab. There's a kitchen on the wall behind the chairs with a stove, sink, fridge, cupboards, etc. We sit in here and watch movies after our brains are too tired to do real work any more but we have to stay up to mind the laser for another 4 hours.
Here's one of the trucks that drives us up to the lab. There's a white one just the same and another with the water tanks on the back. Matt and/or Pierre drives us up when we need to go, so usually one of them brings us up in the evening, and then we wait at the lab until just before supper the next day and drive home with the day shift. There are heated garages here and at the station (although there it's not attached to the building) so that the cars will start again. There was a discussion at brunch today over just how long you have to hold the key down for the engine to start in some of the other trucks (15 seconds) and how much gas you actually need in the truck for it to work right in the cold. Anything not in the garage needs to be plugged in or left on.