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What a Day- From Pancakes to Northern Lights!

01/31/2011, 12:00 AM by Lollie Garay
Beautiful Northern Lights<br/><br/>Credit: Steven Baer
Beautiful Northern Lights
Photo Credit: Steven Baer

Jan 31

Temp: 8.1°F (-13.3°C)

Midday Temp: 14° F (-10°C)


Pancakes with blueberry syrup- that's how OUR day started! Breakfast was hosted and prepared by Stephen and Zac. The team enjoyed the warm ambience and the yummy food as the plan of the day was discussed.

Tish and I are riding out to the campsite with Alice and the UMIAQ support team. They're going out to break down the camp, so we're taking the opportunity to try the light meter and the underwater cam again. Hope we have better luck this time :)


We arrive at Bldg. 36 to dress for the trip to the campsite. It's pretty "warm" out, so I decide to don only the orange mustang suit instead of the heavy-duty coveralls and parka. What a change from the week before!

The air is still thick with freezing fog and gives a whiteout effect with no horizon between sky and ocean. It gave a serene special effect as we cut through on the snowmobiles. I tried to grab my camera, but it was tucked too far down my suit to reach it. How do you spot a polar bear in this icy soup??

As soon as we arrived, the UMIAQ team set to breaking down the tents. Tish prepped the light meter and we organized the supplies we needed. However, the hole outside that we had used the day before was frozen solid. So Tish decided to wait until the small tent was taken down, then use that hole for the meter.

On the first attempt it appeared that the light meter was working, until it descended further into the ice. The meter began to register erratic readings. After several attempts, it was obvious it wasn't going to work. We recorded the readings such as they were, to help analyze what went wrong. Then it was my turn.

Tony helped me fasten the camera to the end of the copper pole. We had left the pole pretty much assembled except for the single cotter pin we had to put in to join the two parts. It only took a few minutes to be ready to go. I was really, really hoping to "see" something.

I carefully maneuvered the pole down, wondering what was down there. After about 5 minutes, I carefully began to bring it up and was excited to see that it was still on.

Much later Tara helped me identify the small, blurry organisms as crustaceans. She explained that they each move differently through the water but it was hard to determine exactly what they were. But for sure it wasn't a polar bear in the far distance... rats!

We finished all work just as the sun rose over the snow banks, and took a few minutes to snap some pictures. In no time, the tents were down and loaded onto the sleds. I stood and took a 360° turn to soak it all in one last time. The light of the sun gave the frozen ocean shadows and hues of soft color. But, Ice Camp was gone...for now.

As we rode into the sunrise, we paused to pull up the stakes that had marked the trail. When we arrived streetside next to bldg. 36, Marc was there snapping pictures of our arrival.


Once in, we scrambled out of our gear to get to Barrow High School to meet Tim Buckley and his class. It was a short visit just to touch base and make plans for a visit in April.

By the time I got back to the hut it was after 4PM. On Tuesday we would visit Mrs. Greene's Middle School classroom, and I had things to prepare. It had been a busy day, and I decided somewhere around ten o'clock it was time to go to bed.


Sometime around midnight, the stomping of running feet and excited voices wakened me. It scared me to think that something might be wrong. I jumped up to find Rachel in the hallway. I asked her what was wrong. Her answer: auroras! Shortly after, there were 6 of us cramped in the truck heading out to find the elusive Northern Lights, driving as far as possible from lights before stopping.

There, in the dark Arctic cold we stared in awe as the collision of charged particles and gases created clouds, ribbons, curtains, and finally a "rainbow" of twisting filaments that spanned the sky in pale shades of green. It was magnificent, and some of it captured on film by Steven! Then, in the midst of all the oohs and ahhs, I heard someone say "Happy Birthday Karie!" How special is that!!!

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