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> July 27, 2006 - Daily Life
post Jul 28 2006, 02:49 PM
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Group: TREC Team
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Member No.: 27

Some of you have been asking me about daily life and what a typical day is like. Our typical day is not like a normal day back home, so it should be fun for you to read this! The days are starting to feel quite normal to us now, and we expect that the life we return to in a few weeks will seem strange!

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This is where we post a letter. Morten is the postmaster and he will take it to town next time he goes, or sends it with the supply boat on Thursdays.

Post Office Box
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We wake up by 7:00am and enjoy breakfast served at 8:00. We have communal bathrooms with a shower, toilet and 2 sinks. The shower is neat because there is a heat setting on 38° C (100.5F) so you turn on the spigot and the right temperature water comes out. That is adjustable, but I have never once adjusted it. Good idea! I think I want one of those at my house.

Shower Faucet
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You have seen the kind of breakfast spread that we are given, so we enjoy that and then make our lunch of sandwiches and spreads. We also fill our small thermoses with tea – this brings much comfort out in the field on a cold day. Then we meet in the living room for our morning powwow. This meeting arranges who will be going where; it is important to have groups of 3’s going to various places, for safety reasons. Generally within each group, one person will carry the riffle, one the flare gun and the third the radios and satellite phone. We are very conscious of polar bear and it is important to never be too far away from each other or our guns.

Then we pack our packs (we use backpacks, not daypacks, since we carry so much clothing, equipment and big lunches!) and meet at the garage to gather what ever items we might need, and then we hike to the lake. This is about 4 km (2.5 miles) and takes us just about 45-50 minutes. The first few times we did it, it took us over an hour, so we are all getting stronger and faster. At the 2 boats, we split into 2 groups, put on life jackets and raingear and push off. It can be a very wet ride, and depending on the wind and the lake surface, it can be rough. The distance we travel on the lake is about 4 km, and takes us about 15 minutes. Then we are at the south shore of the lake.

View From the Zodiac Boat
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We then depart our separate ways. Some might be working the lake and stay in the boats. Others might be hiking 17 km (10 miles) to collect water samples from the two ISCO machines stationed along the river. One group might be hiking around Kongressvatnet, while the third might be hiking up the glacier 29 km (18 miles). We need to hike well to get all the work done, and can’t lounge around or fall behind too much. Because we all hike everyday, we generally are strong hikers and don’t have problems keeping up. All the groups check in with each other every hour on the hour with our radios. So far, it has been a fun little chat, with a joke or mini story, but if something bad were to happen, we would all be aware of it and be able to assist if needed. We also carry the satellite phones so that if there was an emergency, we could call the station and get help.

Checking in on the Radio
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We have all been trained to be careful and we can never forget that part of our job. In fact, we tell one another if we are getting a blister on our foot or if we are tired. This might seem minor, but it can quickly lead to real problems for the hiker and the larger group. We also remind each other that “there are no heros” which makes us more aware of our care level and responsibility to stay well for the group. Taking a day off to stay back is important too, since we all need to rest sometime (I am doing that today, and nursing a few blisters). Some days we take Nuna, our friend Carolina’s dog with us. She is a retired Greenlandic sled dog and is trained to pull. She has carried back up to 8 kilograms of weight in water samples for us in her backpack and she loves it. She is also a great polar bear warning dog. Her tail will puff up huge and she will give 4 warning barks before just barking like crazy. I only know this because I was told – we have not seen a bear here.

Nuna on the Job
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We try to arrange to be back at the south hut not long after 5:00pm. We then repeat our course back to the station by boat and foot arriving just before 7:00pm for a delicious dinner. We all look a bit frightful at dinner, with wind blasted and sunburned faces, wild hair and blurry eyes! After dinner, there is still much more to do. Many will be working directly with their samples; some will be researching, talking to Al and Mike or plotting and graphing data. We also enjoy laughing and playing cards some nights too. Soon, there will be presentations, and students will work hard to prepare for those. Sharing their ideas and findings is a really important part of being scientists together in the field.

We make sure to hang up our wet clothes, turn boots upside down on the perforated rack above the heater, clean mud off our gators, put clean firearms back in the locked cupboard and set all radios and phones to be recharged. Eventually we get to sleep, with the ducks quaking outside and the midnight sun shining through our windows.
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