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.

Some more pictures from my walk to the other ridge

These pictures are in backwards order from how they were taken, but the first picture here with Bernard at the bottom left will maybe give a better idea of scale. It was taken 2 seconds after the one I posted the other day with the sun. Here we are on the ridge opposite the PEARL lab, elevation about 650 m.

This is part of the flat part between the ridges. The ridges don't go down too far between them (maybe 50m or so?) but are way steeper than they look in the picture - we had a fun time trying to climb back up the one the ridge sits on! Sliding down there would be great if you had a crazy carpet with shocks. The rocks would get you otherwise...

Here's the lab (and the moon) from the bottom of the small valley between the ridges. The shadow going halfway up the hill is made by the opposite ridge behind me. By the time we got back, it had almost reached the lab (at 4pm or so).

This is looking over the "edge" of the other ridge, out to the fjord (looking away from the lab). That's the side you don't want to fall down.

Here Lies the Laser

From Bec's Eureka Diary that gets mailed to the Polar Sunrise Campagin team:

March 7 2009
Farewell DIAL

We have sad news to report today. The DIAL (ozone lidar) at PEARL finally
died last night. It has served EC well since PEARL was first started as the
Arctic Stratospheric Ozone (AStrO) Observatory in the early 1990s, and has
been a great member of the ACE Validation campaigns for the last few years.
Its death by old age was not unexpected, and its successor is already in the
planning, but we are thankful that it chose to survive through a record 17
nights of high-quality measurements this campaign before dying as the sun
was getting too high for great measurements anyway. Emily and Bernard are
obviously very disappointed that it stopped before the end of the campaign,
and did their best to revive it, but to no avail. RIP DIAL!

So as you see, the dial has finally died. Friday night, we went to the lab as usual, ready for another night of measurements. We filled up the laser, turned it on, and it sounded like an airplane in low gear. The power was also really unstable. We've been getting around 50W out of it usually (one day up to 58W), but this day the power was all over the place, and dropping down past 40W. That is not how it usually sounds, and that's not what the power is supposed to do, so we turned it off, pumped it down, filled it back up with a new fill of gases. Sometimes if we don't get the mix just right, strange things happen with the power. This time, it sounded even worse - more like an airplane in low gear that is having some troubles and maybe you'd like to get off the plane before it takes off because it, not to mention you, might not survive the flight- so we turned it off again. We tried most of the stuff in the book to see what might be wrong. We did leak checks of various sorts, flushed the system with Helium, and it's currently filled with an HCl mixture. It is a very sick puppy and we will be closing it up tomorrow.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Today at supper, I sat with Cristen, Felicia, Rodica (all from UofT) and two pilots. The girls and I of course feel as though we've come to the ends of the Earth on a Grand Awesome Adventure. And we have. It's pretty darn neat up here and it's pretty different from anywhere I've ever been before. Only thing is, for many of the people currently staying in Eureka, this is not the end of the line by any means.

The pilots are working for the next two weeks doing two runs per day bringing supplies up to Ward Hunt Island. These supplies are all sorts of things (barrels of diesel and gas, tents, etc. ) for people who are going to go to the North Pole! Some of them are skiing or walking there. And one of them is going completely on her own.

The walk I took to the ridge opposite the lab today somehow seems minute in comparison... but it was a great walk! I like it here.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Hi everyone,
Bob told me that he was having trouble commenting on my blog. And Mum wonders whether I do actually read my comments. Turns out I do read the comments, and I've tried to figure out why comments weren't working but they seem to do okay for me. I signed out of my blog and left myself some trying a few different ways. I'm a bit new to blogging so I haven't got all the fancy stuff figured out yet :) You can always send me an email at emccull2 at uwo dot ca if you need to get in touch with me, although it is a fun time to go on my blog and find that people actually do look at it! I'll put up a real post later.

Fun current fact: It's -35 C with a 20 knot wind (from the south which in Eureka means the clouds will start rolling in sometime soon), so most people will get frostbite on any exposed skin in 2-5 minutes. That's what the pretty coloured windchill chart on the wall of the lab says, and I find it entertaining to look up current conditions on there when we come up here. I don't have frostbite though thanks to the neckwarmer Mum mailed me before I left - Thanks Mum! (And thanks Dad, if the one she mailed me actually belongs to you).

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I have no clue what this thing is - any ideas? Bernard thought it might be a very frosty snow covered inuksuk but I'm not convinced. If that is the case I'm sure I know what Chad would think of THAT (You would not believe the number of inuksuks the "clever" tourists build in Gros Morne National park in Newfoundland that the park staff then have to take down). But it doesn't look like that's what it is to me, so I'm open to ideas on what it might be.

Walk in the Wilderness

Today we woke up at the lab around 2pm and it was still really light out, so after breakfast we went for a walk around the lab. It's the first time since I got here that I've actually seen the sun. It's really beautiful there, and everything, is bigger than it looks .

That's the moon in the top of this picture of the lab - it just never sets at the moment.

This isn't a sunset. It's "daylight" :)

We plan to go on lots more walks in the coming days because it's going to get brighter for more of the day while we're up at the lab. I would have been content to stay out there for hours (or more than we did anyways) as it was only -30 C and not windy at all. It's good to go play outside for a while after being cooped up inside too long!

Back to the lab

Yesterday the day shift came down from the mountain and told us it was all cloudy and windy again, and that we would probably not want to go up. It was Bingo night at the station so although I was sad for the prospects of no data, I was kind of excited for games. And then we looked outside and there was a moon and there was Venus and there were stars and it wasn't cloudy at all by the time we wanted to go! Our rough cutoff for wind is 20 knots, because any more than that and the snow on the roof all blows into the hatch and onto the telescope. Because the winds were only around 10 knots, gusting higher, and seeming to die down, we decided to chance going up. Bernard is an EC employee, which is government, so unlike grad students he actually has to think about what day of the week it is and whether people will be angry with him for working on a weekend and then not getting any data. We went up anyways, and what a good idea that turned out to bee - we got about 8 hours of crystal clear data again!