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> Sunday, June 18th, 2006, Life at Toolik Lake Research Station
post Jun 19 2006, 11:42 PM
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On Sunday, June 18th, we had a “free day” at Toolik Lake Research Station. Toolik is an Inuit name given to the yellow billed loon which you see and hear frequently at Toolik Lake.

Today, I wanted to share about life at Toolik. There are people from all over the world here. Currently, there are ninety-two people at the station. However, the number of people changes daily.

The awesome cooks have a difficult job to try to make everyone happy at each meal. There is a wide variety of food at each meal and lots of ethnic dishes. I ate awesome Indian food the other night. It was a vegetable curry dish with rice. The superb cooks spend the summer in the Arctic and travel to the Antarctic for the winter. They have lots of experience cooking for scientists from all over the world.

The following is a food experiment I tried. biggrin.gif There is a spread called Nutella. Nutella is a European product that is sold in the United States. It is spreadable hazelnut chocolate. If you love peanut butter sandwiches, try spreading Nutella with peanut butter. You will have a Reese Cup effect. Yum! You can find it at your local grocery store. I recommend eating Nutella alone as well. tongue.gif

“Cottonwood Inn” is the building where I sleep. It is named after cottonwood grass you will see in the tundra. There are sixteen people living in “Cottonwood” sharing two bathrooms and one phone. You are only allowed to shower twice a week at Toolik. Your showers are allowed to last two minutes. Water is a precious commodity here. It costs seventy-five cents per gallon! All water must be transported to and from here weekly to Prudhoe Bay (nation’s largest oil field). We are not allowed to flush the toilets frequently either. Yuck! It makes me realize how much water I waste at home when I brush my teeth, shower, wash my hands, or wash the dishes. You are allowed to wash one load of laundry every two weeks at Toolik.
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Cottonwood Inn

Since the ground in the Arctic Circle consists of permafrost (frozen soil that remains below freezing for two or more years), buildings are placed on stilts or cement blocks to prevent the permafrost from warming and melting. Nothing can be buried in the permafrost. If permafrost melts, you will have a huge problem. A thermakarst is when the permafrost has melted and the ground has caved. There is a picture below.
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Aerial view of a thermokarst

Another challenge of the Arctic in the summer is twenty-four hours of daylight. There are blackout shades in the sleeping quarters, but bright light still creeps into your room. When it is daylight, you do not want to go to sleep. You feel as though you are wasting precious hours. Everyone looks really tired all of the time. It is as though we have resorted back to our toddler years refusing to go to bed saying “I’m not tired” when in fact we are completely exhausted. cool.gif

There is a helicopter on the property for emergencies and for any scientist conducting an experiment such as hydrologists who need to fly over lakes or botanists flying over fire damaged tundra.

There are huge generators (machine producing electricity) powering everything at our camp.

There are six gigantic pluses about Toolik Lake Research Station that outweigh all of the minor challenges as described above. They are as follows:

1) View of the gorgeous Brooks Mountain Range
2) Toolik Lake and the loons
3) Sauna (even though it is antiquated)
4) Wireless internet
5) Unbelievable food
6) Fantastic people

Interesting facts about Alaska:

Cars in Alaska have electrical plugs hanging out of the front grill. People will plug in their cars to keep the engine warm so their car will start.

People in Alaska may purchase sun lamps or visors with sun lights underneath to help with the twenty-four hours of darkness during the long winter months. In Barrow, Alaska there is no daylight for 64 days!

Alaska has boroughs instead of counties to designate areas in their state. There are sixteen boroughs in Alaska. We are in the North Slope Borough. There are eighty-eight counties in Ohio!

Kodiak Island is the 2nd largest island in the United States! Find it on the map near Alaska.
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