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> Working with the United States Geological Survey
post Jul 18 2005, 02:39 AM
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So last night we were treated to an Eskimo Dance. That is when some of the village people get together and practice their drumming and dancing. Men and women are both involved, and what I thought was great about the whole thing was how people (audience and dancers and drummers) just came and went. You didn’t have to stay for the whole thing. It was also great to see young people show up and watch and even participate in the different dances. The dancing tradition is definitely continuing here in Pilot Station. At a certain age kids are able to “stand” at the dances and that means they are able to start to practice the dances. I spoke to one of the ladies who was dancing and she told me that they travel once a year or so to different villages and dance together-so this drumming and dancing brings both the village together and villages together too!!! The dances were neat too because they represented different parts of the culture. For example there was the basketball dance, and basketball is a real big part of this community.

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After we hung out at the Eskimo Dance for awhile, Martin Kelly told us there was going to be a softball game up by the school field, so we headed up that way. Well there wasn’t a softball game, but there was a pretty serious basketball game going on. It was really fun to watch because these guys are great passers—the basketball was always moving around. Martin Kelly coaches the basketball team and he said that even though many of the players from Pilot Station are small, they are really fast and aggressive. He was pretty proud of the fact that Pilot Station won a tournament against Nome, since Pilot Station is such a small town compared to Nome. Max even joined in for a couple of rounds. It seems to me, from my experiences in the Arctic, that basketball is something that is loved throughout the region!!!

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Today, I spent the morning at the tribal office posting on the web page and then Charlie Couvillion showed up from the U.S. Geological Survey. He is a hydrographer, or a guy that works with water and rivers. He is the main collaborator in the PARTNERS Project for the U.S. and is a great guy! First of all, he has a four wheeler here in Pilot Station, so we finally fit in!! I even learned how to drive it, and although it was fun to walk around town, it sure was handy to have the four-wheeler. Especially once we started to try and get equipment from all the different places down to the shore—and it was a fiasco. The biggest thing that we had to deal with was getting the boat down to the shore because no one has any gas including the guy that Charlie borrows a truck from to haul it down. Pilot Station has been out of gas for a few weeks now—the barge with gas was supposed to come in on July 2, but it isn’t going to show up until July 19. Luckily though, some of the U.S.G.S. guys filled up some tanks in the winter and so Charlie was able to dump 5 gallons of gas in the guy’s tank and we got the boat down to the water. However, in order to do this took many trips to many different people’s houses to figure out where Pat (the guy who owns the truck) was, and where the truck was, etc. After about and hour and a half of dealing with logistics though, we had the boat launched and ready to go to work for the afternoon.

First, we went to these cliffs about .2 of a mile from Pilot Station where the U.S.G.S. has a site that measures changes in the level of the water. They are able to measure the different levels of the water by having a pipe connected to a meter that measures water pressure. As the level of the river goes up, the water pressure goes up and visa-versa. The U.S.G.S. workers (with the help of some computers) are able to use the different levels of the water to determine how much water is being discharged everyday. They even have a website that shows this information daily. Anyway, we were there to try and fix part of the pipe that got broken when the ice cleared out of the Yukon in May. It was a little tricky because it involved working on a cliff. But, between the three of us we were able to get the job done in a relatively short amount of time.

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Once that was taken care of, we had our second job of the day I found incredibly interesting. In addition to the survey site that we helped get going again, the U.S.G.S. used to a bunch of equipment to make sure that the data from the survey site is accurate. We were able to use a lot of this equipment to collaborate and make sure that data that is being recorded from the pipe in the water measuring water level was getting accurate readings. To do this, we first set up a G.P.S. (Global Positioning System) on shore and then we ( I should say Charlie instead of we here since he did most all of the work!) hooked up a laptop to this panel that is a sonar device attached to it that can go in the water and send and collect sonar data to measure the depth of the water and the velocity of the water at different depths.

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We then traveled back and fourth across the whole channel of the river and while we were doing that the G.P.S. was calculating our exact location across the channel and the Sonar was determining the depth of the river and it was breaking the river into one foot by one foot cells to determine the velocity of the river in each of those spots.

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So as we traveled across the channel, a picture of the channel with both depth and velocity of the water was being built on the computer screen. This exercise gave us a reading of the discharge data which we then compared to the survey site that we visited first to make sure that everything was accurate. The two readings have to be within 4% of each other which they were if all is well. This was a pretty fun way to spend the day, even though it was a very cold, windy day. It was actually funny because up until today, I hadn’t used half of the clothing and gear that I had brought, and I had actually been making fun of myself for bringing so much cold gear with all the really hot weather we have been having. However, today I was very glad I had all of it (hat, gloves, long underwear, etc.).

When we finished with the collaboration of the survey site and our trips across the channel we went back to the Fish and Game Camp that we visited the other day. That is where Charlie is staying tonight. Anyway, we got invited to have dinner there, which would have been great as they have quite the kitchen set up and a loaf of fresh baked bread had just come out of the oven as the Cornish Game Hens were heading in, but we have a busy day tomorrow and figured we ought to get back to Pilot Station village and get set up and ready to go. So our little house has turned into the processing lab for tomorrow and we are going to get an early start with hopes that we may try and catch a flight out tomorrow. We would like to be able to get out tomorrow because there may be weather moving in and if we get stuck here on Wednesday we miss our flight to Anchorage….so with any luck we will have a smooth day of sampling and processing and will be in Bethel tomorrow night!!!
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