Friday, October 2, 2009

Arrival

Greetings from lovely Deadhorse, AK! It's taken me awhile to write my first post due to an internet deficiency in our living space, but I'm on the ball now. I had a great trip up from Denver, with stops in Seattle and Anchorage. Talk about a change in weather. 87 in Denver. 61 in Seattle. 47 in Anchorage. 28 in Deadhorse, with snow on the ground and all the ponds frozen.


Our first polar bears of the year, too bad they were in the Anchorage airport.



This is the plane I rode on to get to Deadhorse. Notice that the front half of the plane doesn't have windows, they use that space for cargo. Deadhorse get's two flights a day from Anchorage to serve all the oil fields up here. Most workers in Deadhorse work for two weeks, then fly back home for two weeks.


For those Ice Road Trucker fans out there, here's a picture of the Brooks Range as it meets the North Slope. These mountains contain the feared Atigun Pass that the truckers have so much trouble with.


It's amazing how much difference a month makes up here. When I left in mid-August it was the height of summer with lots of caribou calves, geese and their young, and even the odd herd of musk ox floating around. I haven't left Deadhorse yet, but no sign of caribou and the only birds I've seen are ravens. I thought I'd post a few pictures from August to show what the north slope looked like then as compared to what you'll see in future posts.



I saw quite a few snowy owls when in August. There aren't any trees on the North Slope, which is a little weird. I certainly wasn't expecting to see gigantic, white owls hanging out on the ground.


I also saw a number of caribou in August. This one was ambling across the airport in Deadhorse.


Other times, I saw quite a few caribou together. This shot was taken from one of the capture helicopters as we were out looking for polar bears.


Check it out, there are wildflowers on the North Slope in the summer! I have no idea what kind of flower this is, any botanists out there?


Here's the Arctic ocean. The ice pack was about 100 miles off the shore when I was here in August. Interestingly, I never saw any large waves coming in like you would on most beaches.


For those of you who don't know, I'm up here to help with the Polar Bear Summer Ecology Project. When the sea ice retreats from the North Slope of Alaska every summer, a number of polar bears follow the retreating ice pack while a separate population of bears remains on shore. Because of declining sea ice, the shore bears are experiencing longer periods of time on shore, conditions that include warm temperatures and a general lack of prey availability. Polar bears in the Hudson Bay undergo a similar situation every summer and respond by entering a state of metabolic depression termed “walking hibernation” to cope with the lack of food. However, polar bears in the Hudson Bay area are undergoing a population decline as longer ice free periods increase the amount of time bears are stranded on land. The polar bear summer ecology project is interested in seeing how the population of bears on land compares to the population of bears that follow the ice. Bears from both populations are captured in the late spring and a variety of measurements and samples are taken. Bears are recaptured and additional measurements are taken in the fall. Data from the project will help us better understand bear movement and physiology during the summer period and will eventually be incorporated into population models to inform management and conservation strategies under conditions of changing sea ice. For a more in-depth background of the project, check out the website: www.uwyo.edu/POLARBEAR

Well, I think I'll end this for today. It sounds like our first day looking for bears will be either Sunday or Monday.

4 comments:

  1. Clark - What interesting pictures. What an interesting place to find yourself. Good luck to you as you experience "winter" in Alaska in October! I knew the '89 trip was the introduction to something fantastic in your life! I'm very excited to view this and will be a dutiful sister and show mom and dad too. Love you. Tam

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  2. I love the picture of Clark and the polar bears. Amazing! I also love the musk ox - - probably because I have hair just like that! That road looks so lonely and barren. Stay warm Clark. Mom and Dad are coming over to view your site - - I'll help them write a comment too. Love ya, TC

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  3. Hi Clark - Your blog is written very well - very informative and fantastic to watch. Its just about as good as a phone call! Where did that gene come from?? It's very personal and very educational - love it! We will continue to observe and enjoy. Thank you for your efforts in writing this blog - - and all the information that was in it!! Our thoughts are up there with you (and prayers too!) It's very wet and soggy here and we're glad its raining not snowing! However, Hisega in the Black Hills did receive 10 inches of snow today! Mom and Dad

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