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> DEJA VU, Flying from ship to shore
post Jul 1 2005, 05:45 AM
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Sunday, June 26

Before we went to bed Saturday “night,” the sky was clear with bright sunshine, so I was not expecting to have any delays getting off the ship like we had getting on the ship two weeks earlier. When I awoke to a dense fog, however, I had a strange sense that this cruise was going to be very “symmetrical,” with it ending much like it began. Sure enough, the word came over the ship that the helicopter flights would be delayed. Thoughts about if we would be on the ship for breakfast soon changed to wondering if we would be on the ship for dinner. Haven’t I written that before?! Around noon, the helicopter flights finally began, and the slow process of taking two or three at a time to shore began. Since we had to be out of our rooms to make them available for the incoming science crew, all of us had gathered in the conference lounge to wait on “the call” for when it was our turn.

Waiting for “The Call”
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Each of us chose various ways to wait for our name to be called for the helicopter ride to shore. For Val Schmidt, on the sofa in the foreground, that meant catching up on some sleep biggrin.gif

Waiting for each phone call, and wondering if we would be next to go, was a strange feeling, hard to describe. It was like a combination of waiting to be picked to be on a team, or a bad movie where the mysterious voice on the other end of the line would decide who would be the “chosen ones” and who would be left behind. It was even stranger when with each return helicopter run, members of the next science crew were being brought on and given a tour of the ship just as we had done two weeks earlier. I realized we were just visitors here, but this had been our “home” for two weeks, and it was hard to not feel like “our” territory was being taken over as the new members passed through the conference room, and this was even more pronounced when as I walked by, I saw new names on the door to what had been my room. Illogical feelings, I know, but there none the less. Thinking about this then made me wonder if the Coast Guard crew feels that way sometimes about all the different science groups that come on, especially since this IS their home for a much longer period of time.

After thinking about this for a little while, I then came to the realization that this trip WAS going to end…it was just taking a little longer for me since I was part of the last group out. The last four of us finally got “the call” just before dinner time. We suited up in the mustang suits for one last time, and took that one last helicopter ride. Even though there were four of us, it was actually more spacious than the flight out to the ship because only two had to be in the back, a third was next to the engineer, and the lucky fourth sat in the co-pilot’s seat. I wasn’t the lucky one. The flight to shore was relatively uneventful, but it was still an exciting thing to do. When we landed, we took off the mustang suits (I almost forgot I had to return it! smile.gif ), and then thanked our helicopter crew for another exciting ride and for the cruise in general.

Ice Before Land
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This is the edge of the ice pack that is still against the shoreline. Seeing this meant we were close to land

Lots of Controls
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I couldn’t resist one last picture of the inside of the helicopter

Thanking the Crew
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After we landed, we thanked the pilot (right) and flight engineer (left) (unfortunately I didn’t get their names) for a safe flight and great cruise overall. To the left is Stefanie Brachfeld, one of the researchers.

Tragedy in the Wilderness

When we talked to some of the other people already on shore, they had said one of the reasons there was some delay between flights was that earlier, two campers in Kaktovik, a small town on the shore near the Canadian border, were killed by a grizzly bear and brought back to the same place that we landed because it was a search and rescue operations base for the North Slope. The town was comparatively far from us, but the idea that this was where the victims were brought to still gave most of us a graphic reminder of some of the dangers present in this remote area.

Search and Rescue Logo
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This is the logo for the search and rescue base where we landed. Not too much earlier, helicopters had arrived with the bodies of two people killed by a grizzly bear in the town of Kaktovik

Map of Region
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This is a closer shot of the map on the search and rescue logo to give you an idea of where Kaktovik is (furthest to the right) compared to where we were in Barrow (furthest north, center). The distance between the two was several hundred miles, but still close enough to make us aware of dangers on the north slope

Putting the news of the bear attacks aside, we returned our thoughts to more personal issues…What next? The symmetry of the trip continued when we were told it was not yet decided exactly where we would be staying, and we still had to wait for more luggage to arrive from the ship. We occupied our time by watching with fascination the equipment and luggage being flown out and flow in by helicopter.

As One Goes Out….
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A helicopter bringing a load of equipment out to the Healy for the next science cruise

…Another Comes In
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Our last load of luggage from the Healy being gently lowered to the ground. These pilots had some great skill!

Once the last load was brought in, we all loaded it up in the vans and trucks and went to get some dinner. This time we ate at Arctic Pizza. It was a place with a great oceanfront view, but it was still hard to get used to seeing an ocean of ice instead of rolling waves! It’s strange how the ice melts…There is a pack of ice that stays along the shoreline, there is a pack of ice further towards the pole, and there is open water in between. One of the ice/water edges melts poleward, and the other melts shoreward. I wasn’t there to confirm this, but I imagine rather than melting smoothly and evenly towards shore, the ice pack along the shore might also break up into large chunks and get carried away by currents. Anyway, our dinner was very good despite some rather slow service. That wasn’t much of a problem because we were still having to wait for one of the drivers who was bringing us to where we were staying to finish up with transporting some of the new science members who were going out to the ship. We took advantage of this time to walk through a park just across the street from the restaurant that was the remains of an old native settlement and their homes that they used to build into the tundra. At the edge of this park was a steep cliff that went down to the beach. Erosion along this cliff exposed many whalebones and other relics that were interesting to see. So, once again, having to wait resulted in a rewarding experience.

Ocean View
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This was our view from inside the restaurant. It’s hard to see, but the ice, along with a few areas of meltwater, goes from the shore to just about the horizon. Open water appears to be the bright line along the horizon. The mounds shown in the land outside the window were the remnants of an ancient village that we walked through after dinner

Arctic Pizza
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A view of Arctic Pizza where we had dinner. One of the researchers, Jens Bischof, is shown in the front of the building as he crosses the road to join us in the park

Historical Site
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This was the sign at the entrance to the park that explained the significance of the site

Using the Land
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This is a close-up of the sign in the previous picture which explains how the homes on this site were built

Big Bones
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Erosion of the cliff at the edge of the ancient village has exposed some whale bones. Since they were used to construct the homes as explained by sign, I wonder if these were remnants of those homes or more recently beached bones

We finally got back to the BASC facility around 11:30pm, and once again, a place to stay was eventually determined, and that having been done, most quickly went to sleep after what had not been such a busy day, but a long, tiring one since we had such little sleep from the day before. Most people would be flying out to their respective homes the next day, but for me and a couple others, the adventure would continue on a little longer.
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