Arctic Bound!

For the next 3-weeks, I will be a board the Icebreaker USCGC Healy in the Arctic Ocean. I am taking part in a research cruise with scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and several other schools. It's great to be back -- I was fortunate to spend a total of 6 weeks on the Healy back in 2002. At that time, we spent 3 weeks in the Bering Sea to the south, and 3 weeks in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska, where I conducted a large part of my PhD thesis research. This year we will be heading east out of Barrow, AK (the northernmost point in the U.S.) to work along the North Slope of Alaska, in the Mackenzie River Delta on the Canadian border, and up in the Canadian Arctic, in the Amundsen Gulf and around Banks Island. The overarching goal of this research trip is to improve our understanding of past abrupt climate shifts so that we might better understand how Earth's climate will respond to changes in the future.

Day 1: Arctic bound!
There was some beautiful scenery from the plane on the way into Anchorage.

There are no long distance roads on the North Slope of Alaska -- and no roads that connect Barrow to the rest of Alaska. This means most people/supplies arrive on the two daily Alaskan Airlines flights. We were on the 6am triple-hopper from Anchorage. The 737 jet stops in Fairbanks and Deadhorse/Prudhoe Bay before arriving in Barrow. It was a nearly full flight most of the way and I was quite surprised to see an airport packed with people when we arrived in Barrow (shown below), but these flights are really the city's lifeline to the rest of the state.

Barrow is a town of ~4200 people. There are no paved roads due to the permafrost, and a lot of the structures are built on pilings to deal with the winter snow. There are certainly more scenic parts of the town, but I snapped a few photos while in the middle of town (see below).

We were greeted at the airport and transferred to the Barrow North Slope Search and Rescue hangar to await our helo flight out to the ship, which was anchored just offshore. Before getting on the helo, we had to don mustang suits for cold water survival -- here's CCU alumna Shannon Klotsko and I getting ready for the flight.

It was a very short flight (only about 5 minutes) aboard the helicopter, but we were all pretty excited!

You can see a bit of sea ice floating around the Healy as we approached in the helo.