Monday, October 25, 2010

Encore des loups

Wolf. There were a bunch wandering around the runway today so we drove up to see them. We went for a walk this morning to find the muskoxen (which are my favourite), but the pictures didn't turn out so well. Even at noon, it's not super bright out anymore, now that the sun has not come up for a few days.

Low-tech zooming - being quiet and letting the wolf wander up to you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Water Survey

Today Colin and I went out onto the sea ice with a group of people from the station to help out with the weekly Water Survey. Of course, this is the Arctic and it's winter, so most of the "water" isn't very liquid. It was pretty cold out, so we did the throw-the-cup-of-hot-water-in-the-air-and-watch-it-sublimate trick. It had nothing to do with the water survey except that we were outside and it was fun. That's Colin in the picture.
I had a turn too, but it looks like someone made my head invisible in a poof of magic smoke. Actually, come to think of it, all bundled up in my snowsuit my entire self could have become invisible and the picture would look the same, I think! Anyways, that was just for fun. Next came the work.

Every Friday, the met tech has to take an auger onto the ice, drill a hole down to the bottom, and measure the ice thickness. We drove out in a truck to a spot about 100 m off shore. I asked how they do the first few measurements in the fall, when they're not too sure whether the ice is thick enough to walk on yet. Answer: whoever measures the ice does so with a rope tied around them. Not kidding.

Result: 48 cm. Plenty for trucks. You measure by dropping this metal stick down through the hole. The stick has a wire and a tape measure attached, and you yank those until the stick gets caught horizontally across the bottom of the hole. Then you measure. Then you let one end go down so that you can pull the stick back up through the hole.

The hole in the ice filled in pretty quickly with slush. I tested with my hand to see how cold the water was, and let me tell you - I'm glad I wasn't swimming in it!


The hills behind 0PAL are beautiful. There is Blacktop off to the right, and you can see station creek just over to the left. You can see them, can't you? Yeah... neither could we through the ice fog which thwarted our lidar observing efforts for days and days this week. We blame it on some EC people trying to get a plane to fly them from Resolute (where they were stranded for 4 days or so) to Eureka. They eventually got here and it cleared up for a day or two. Then, they got the brilliant plan to go home again. On a plane. The threat of that plane made the weather not cooperate for enough more days that in the end, the plane was cancelled and the EC crew will fly south with us on the 26th. Did I mention that everything we had to do this week depended on clear skies?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


The wolves are back in Eureka and we drove up to the dump yesterday to have a look. They were pretty filthy from snuggling in the dirt, but so cute! Well, the babies are cute anyways. Not sure that's the right word for the awesome adult wolves. There were maybe 15 of them around, mostly snoozing in the sun. There was a herd of muskox too. The picture from yesterday shows the muskox and a wolf not 20 feet from eachother, but neither seems particularly bothered by the other.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Look closely

Appearances can be deceiving

1) Colin does not actually fit into the space that we're working in. He's too tall, so it's pretty funny to watch him squash to get around the telescope and onto the laser table. From where he's standing, the roof is about shoulder height on him.

2) I'm smiling because I've just managed to unscrew the thing that was stuck into this spot, and have not yet realized that the new thing I want to screw in there is not going to fit. By 3 mm.

Friday, October 15, 2010


Saran wrap is birefringent. Turns out.

... but shiny new 0% reflected polarization pellicles are not! Isn't it snazzy? That little golden circle of cellulose is the key to our depolarization measurements (and my general happiness). Colin and I managed to get it aligned (again) yesterday :) This means that our depolarization measurements (water clouds vs. ice clouds) might have a chance of telling us something useful!

0pal, bigger and better

Last year, 0pal was a collection of shipping containers connected by a plywood bridge. The bridge is gone. Long live the Giant Building they Built Inside 0pal! The new construction, which links the two halves of the 0pal lab together, looks great. It's awesome. High ceilings, lots of windows, and it's a nice shade of blue. There's a ton of space inside, and I'm finding that the cubical (where we used to enter the CRL container) is feeling warmer now that we don't open the doors directly into a flurry of snow and wind. The building was put in this summer, and is about 8000 times fancier than what I had figured was going in. Quite a nice upgrade - it makes our lab feel like it's in a real building.

This is Colin (with the Muskox in Cabridge Bay). He's from Dal and works on the CRL also. We're up here working together for 2 weeks to install lots of bits and pieces in the lidar.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Guess who's back? (and I don't mean me)

Parkas on a rainy day in Yellowknife. More importantly, we had an old friend on the plane with us from Yellowknife to Eureka.
Remember Brutus? The lead wolf from the pack who spends some time on Ellesmere, some on Axel Heiberg? He met a sad demise earlier this year, but I am happy to report that he has been autopsied (result: natural causes), taxidermied, and brought back to Eureka. Here he is, all unpacked.Brutus has a shiny new display case at the weather station and a nice plaque to go with it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Many more wolves. And more airplane too.

This morning we decided to go see whether we could see the wolves again. We weren't quite expecting as many as we saw, nor just how happy they were to get close to us!

We counted about 19 or 20 again. Such beautiful animals. They were really calm and curious. We didn't walk up to them so much as they would wander over to us. Even as soon as the truck pulled up, they all came right over. Very cool experience!

And here's a daytime picture of the plane:

Wolves and an airplane

It's dark... but can you see his glowing eye?Back to the truck ride to see the wolves. We saw a whole big pack of them! Up until yesterday, I had on two occasions in my life seen one wolf. That's it. And yesterday there were TWENTY of them up at the runway! We watched them for a while, and then took some pictures. Some of the ones we saw were up on the runway, where a DC3 was parked. It didn't take long for us to realize that the wolves were making quick work (as in quick snacking work) of the power and heater cords running out to the plane...

A quick trip back to the station to get the plane's engineer to have a look meant that we got a tour of the plane. I was VERY excited to sit in the cockpit and have a look around. The plane was built in 1944 and served in WWII. It's still got some of the stuff needed to be able to launch paratroopers out of the back, but the engines have been retrofitted. It's on skis, and I was surprised to see that the skis had wings. Apparently the skis themselves are so big and bulky that they need to be flown also. If I ever get to win an airplane as a prize, I'd pick a DC3 - It's exactly what an airplane should look like.

Frisbee golf

Yesterday was one of the best days I've ever had in the arctic. After breakfast, I went over to 0pal as usual to work, and had a really productive day. After supper back at the station, a few of us decided to play a round of disk golf. I imagine that frisbee golf would be fun under pretty much any circumstances (frisbee where no one is responsible for catching my throws!), but it's very awesome in Eureka. There's a whole course marked out on the tundra, along the edge of a creek, and there's pretty varied terrain. We only made it to about the 3rd or 4th hole along the course when we couldn't ignore the sound of the howling wolves for any longer - we quit our game and decided to go find the pack. At -42 C, no one was complaining too much about the idea of a nice warm truck ride up past the runway to the dump where they sometimes hang out.

As a side note to the cold: Yes, Stephanie you do get used to the cold, but it can still freeze you if you're not careful. It's a dry cold, so -30 or -40 doesn't feel as bad as it would if it were also damp. Likewise, if it's windy, it can be not so fun. When we come up here we're issued arctic gear including -100C rated boots, a pair of snowpants and one of those Canada Goose parkas that are super warm. Mine is even warmer because it's bigger than I am, so it goes past my knees. Once you're snuggled into your snowsuit, you're not really that cold. Only thing is that you have to watch how much skin is uncovered on your face (or your hands if you're taking your hand out of your mitt too often for picture taking purposes). My biggest problem is that my glasses frost over really quickly from my breath. I have a choice: Don't cover my mouth or nose and be able to see, or cover them up, be blind, but not risk frostbite. Yes, I've tried ski goggles. They give me a lovely extra 10 frost free minutes of vision. Needless to say, when we were playing frisbee golf, someone (in a giant black parka against the bright white snow) had to go stand by the hole so I'd know vaguely where to throw...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's been a busy few days

in Eureka.

We arrived a few days ago, and have been working and playing (hockey on sea ice!!) ever since.

This is a wolf we saw today right by the weather station. We followed him for a while, but tried not to get too close because he was alone - and therefore probably HUNGRY!

This campaign I'm doing some hardware work for the CANDAC RMR Lidar which is run by a group at Dalhousie University. The lab is at 0pal (Zero-altitude PEARL Auxiliary Laboratory, where PEARL is the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory). PEARL is the big red lab on the ridge that I was at last year, but 0pal is down near the weather station - very convenient 14-second commute to work every day. The lidar lab is pretty small, on purpose. It all fits within a shipping container that has a hatch in the roof for the light to come in and out. The black foam core things in the front (looks like the top of the table but it's not) cover the lasers, and the big black box that I'm making holes in is called the polychromator. The things sticking out the top are photomultiplier tubes, one for each wavelength of light that is received and counted by the lidar. Part of what I'm doing in Eureka is to move and install a depolarization channel in the lidar so that we can differentiate between water and ice in the clouds. The results of that should be very interesting later, but for now it just means that I have to drill holes through metal plates so that I can hook everything into the box. The primary telescope mirror is at the bottom of the biggest black box (at my elbow), which extends down almost to the floor.

PEARL and 0pal... Yes, Mum, there is one more: SAFIRE. It's a radar, and Zen and I went out there today with Keith when he did his checks on the building. It takes up a whole field, and each antenna is much taller than I am.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


This year, the U of T crew for polar sunrise includes Rodica (on the left, looking interested in the snow), Cristen (centre, gazing at the sunset) and Zen (yes, he's writing "Zen") and Felicia (who didn't come on the walk). We got to Yellowknife around lunch time, which is much earlier than usual. For once, we had a chance to walk around while it was still light enough out to see. We walked downtown and then found a trail around a lake and followed that. We went past a building which has all the flags of the NWT peoples out front, and then went out onto the lake. There were snowmobiles zooming by, and I think I spied a game of soccer down one end of the lake. Around the corner there were a bunch of kids playing hockey. It was nice to get outside after too many days on airplanes this week! (four full ones. 2am until time for bed kind of days). Plus, I just really like Yellowknife. Next morning, we were off bright and early for Eureka.

Tugboats to the Arctic

These are some of my favourite things about Halifax:

Another Polar Sunrise campaign on the way and another trip to the Arctic. On the way, a stopover in Halifax. This trip I'll be working with the Dalhousie University group on the CANDAC- RMR lidar at 0pal, so I went out to Hali for 2 days to learn about their system and to pick up some bits and pieces to bring. Figures that the only pictures I took were of tugboats.