Monday, October 26, 2009

This is the end....

Well, I think the blog is nearing its end. We didn't manage to catch the last bear, I guess it will have to wait until another less foggy day comes along. All in all it was a successful field season, we managed to catch all of the bears we were after except two. Of those two, one of them didn't have any type of tracking device (try and find a white bear in a white world without any help).

It was quite a task getting everything packed up. Our field gear totaled around 600 lbs and took up three pallets. Shipping all that stuff back to Laramie is no small feat. Normal shipping carriers like Fed Ex and UPS don't exist in Deadhorse. Instead you have to use local carriers like Lynden or Carlile. First the shipment will fly down to Anchorage, then go to Seattle on a boat, and then by UPS ground to Laramie. With any luck, we should see our stuff back in Laramie two weeks from now.

I decided to end with a bunch of random photos from the past month that hadn't made it into previous posts. We were very lucky to have wildlife biologist / professional photographer Mike Lockhart on this trip. He graciously shared several pictures with me for this post. You sure can tell the difference between a professionals' touch and my pathetic attempts at taking pictures. Thanks for sharing Mike! Well, I've had a great time sharing my Alaskan experiences with you all and I hope to see you soon. Peace out.

Bullen Point. The North Slope of Alaska is dotted with old military installations called the DEW (defense early warning) Line. These were used most extensively during the cold war as early indicators of a potential attack from Russia.

Point Lonely. Many of the DEW Line sites have since been decommissioned, like Point Lonely. However, they are good spots for us to have fuel caches for the helicopters. The radar equipment is quite powerful, one of the pilots said it has a range of around 300-400 miles.

When I was up in August we stayed at Oliktok, a DEW Line site that is still functional. Oliktok was really neat because a pair of peregrine falcons was nesting in the radar unit while we were there.

Most of the drilling on the North Slope is onshore, but there are a few offshore rigs like this one.

One thing you get used to around Prudhoe Bay is an extensive system of pipes. These are used for blowing off excess natural gas.

All over the Beaufort Sea coast are these little fishing shacks, some in better repair than others. Occasionally you find a polar bear napping in one of them.

The Prudhoe Bay hotel. Most of the architecture in Deadhorse is composed of modular units. So imagine a hotel made up of double-wide trailer houses all linked together (Dana Petersen photo).

I took this picture on the Dalton highway after a wildlife viewing excursion. What do you think, could it be an Ice Road trucker?

The Trans-Alaskan pipeline runs all the way from Prudhoe Bay down to Valdez Alaska, a distance of 800 miles. The pipeline is 48 inches in diameter and the steel is 0.5 inch thick. It takes oil almost 12 days to get from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez.

A better shot of a Musk Ox. This picture was taken about 30 miles out of Deadhorse on the Dalton Highway (photo Mike Lockhart).

A musk ox calf. If the musk ox feel threatened, they circle the wagons with all the adults facing outward and the calves in the middle (Mike Lockhart photo).

Most of the caribou have migrated off the North Slope by now, but there are still a few that linger around all winter (Mike Lockhart photo).

This was really fun to watch. Foxes often employ this technique to capture small mammals. You see them crouch down and go really stiff, kind of like a hunting dog when it goes on point. Then they do this really impressive jump and hopefully pounce down on dinner (Mike Lockhart photo).

Mike Lockhart photo.

Mike Lockhart photo.

This has got to be the world's cutest animal. They're very inquisitive and not at all afraid of humans. This little guy was being very playful with Mike one night (Mike Lockhart photo).

Although the number of birds was certainly much, much lower this trip than in August, we did see a number of interesting birds including this Gyrfalcon. He had just recently killed a Willow Ptarmigan (Mike Lockhart photo).

Speaking of Willow is a whole flock of them. Like arctic foxes, willow ptarmigan also change color for the winter, turning you guessed it......white (Mike Lockhart photo).

The polar bears were obviously really cool. But one day we happened across this pack of wolves, and man, they are just as cool. I think we saw a total of 8 maybe 9 wolves in the pack. They likely came down out of the Brooks Range, but they were really close to the coast, maybe 1 or 2 miles inland from the ocean (Mike Lockhart photo).

Two of the wolves were jet black, which I thought was totally rad. These wolves were the first I've ever seen outside of a zoo, so I was super excited. I don't know, they looked bigger to me running around in their natural habitat (Mike Lockhart photo).

White bear, white landscape. You've probably thought at some point, "How the heck does that work?" Well, if the snow is somewhat fresh we mainly look for tracks. If they're fresh, with a little bit of luck they lead to a bear. Surprisingly, I found it quite a bit harder to see bears in the middle of the month when we had a brief warm spell and most of the snow melted (Mike Lockhart photo).

This picture was taken on Cross Island, about 10 miles offshore. The Inupiat people also hunt whales here, and I thought this was a great photo to really demonstrate how massive these whales are (Mike Lockhart photo).

Cross Island is probably no more than 1-1.5 miles long and maybe 1/2 mile wide. That said, I think there were about 14 or 15 bears on it. Mike got a great shot of these two cubs in a shoving match (Mike Lockhart photo).

Sunset on the Dalton Highway. When I left Deadhorse the sun was coming up at about 10:15am and setting at 4:45pm.