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> July 20, Heading back to Barrow
post Jul 24 2005, 08:21 PM
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TREC Teacher

Group: TREC Team
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July 20, 2005

The sun was out! And, the temperature was back up to almost 50 F! It felt wonderful, and made paddling the kayak back up to the campsite much more pleasant. After portaging the kayak up to our gear pile, we turned it over to dry in the sun and wind, while we finished packing up. With most of our personal gear packed, and the kitchen packed up, we looked at the kayak. We had put it together in a little over an hour. The instructions had said to disassemble exactly the opposite of how we had put it together. We were also supposed to look at how it was packed originally so that we could repack it in the bags. OK, so it was 1:45 pm by now, the helicopter was due at 3:00 pm. No problem, right? Well, actually, it worked out great. It only took us about 30 minutes to disassemble and pack away, with 45 minutes to spare!

Brian is ready to paddle the kayak back to our campsite across the lake.
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We had all of our personal gear packed and we were just starting on our tents, (We would leave Brianís bright yellow tent up to make it easier for the helicopter to find us. His rain fly and mine could come down.) when the helicopter showed up early. I was scrambling to get my tent down quickly because I didnít want the helicopter to have to wait very long. There were some people from Barrow on board that were taking a look around the area (William Leavitt, Rex Okakok, Delbert Rexford, Wasca Williams, and the mayor of the North Slope Borough, George Ahmaogak!) and they told us there was no hurry. They took some of our gear back to Barrow with them, and we continued packing our tents.

We were finally all ready to go and I was feeling a little sad to be leaving. The weather was beautiful, the sun shining, and it was much warmer than yesterday. Lots of birds were flying around. We noticed that the shorebirds were starting to form flocks. There were flocks of 20 to 30 sandpipers buzzing around us, and it was the first time that we noticed Golden Plovers, too. They were also grouping together in flocks of 20 or so. This behavior is called staging and it means that they are preparing for their migration back south in about a month. It was so nice out, how did they know that itís already time to start thinking about heading back to their wintering grounds? These migratory behaviors are not fully understood, but perhaps the birds notice signals in the light intensity which is decreasing as the sun inches ever lower in the sky.

It was a beautiful day to sit and relax in the sun while waiting for our helicopter pick up.
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The helicopter returned for us, loaded the rest of our gear, and we were on our way back to Barrow. It was a beautiful flight back, looking at all of the patterns on the tundra and the ponds and river channels. Mayor Ahmaogak was on board with us, entertaining us with stories and educating us with interesting comments about landmarks along the way. We noticed a flock of white birds on the water below; they are probably snow geese that have molted their flight feathers. They are flightless until the new feathers grow in for their long migration back to the southern parts of North America. Weíll be back in a little over a week to help band snow geese. That should be exciting! Rounding up snow geese with helicopters!

Can you see the white spot in this picture? That is the molting snow geese. You can also see the shadow of the helicopter!
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Finally, Barrow comes into view on the horizon. It looks so small whenever I fly home. The large expanses of tundra to the south, the open Chukchi Sea to the northwest, and the Beaufort Sea to the northeast dwarf the small town of about 4500 people. Iím looking around and trying to get pictures of everything, looking for my house and other familiar places. Our pilot, Ed, does a great job lining us up to land on a large dolly used to move the helicopter into and out of the hanger. Itís been a great flight, and itís good to be home.

Here's a picture of Barrow and Browerville (a suburb of Barrow to the right of the lagoon!) as we come in closer.
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I can see Barrow High School (the building with the red roof) through a side window in the helicopter.
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