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...