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 Day Off: Up the Haul Road to Deadhorse View next topic
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Joined: 23 Mar 2004
Posts: 24

PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 6:55 pm Reply with quoteBack to top

Sunday is a rest day here at Toolik Lake. Everyone has a different approach.
Some lazed around camp, or caught up on their reading and washing. Others went on an adventurous hike into the mountains to see glaciers and Dall Sheep.
I chose to go with my researcher Michelle Mack 150 miles up the Dalton Highway to the Arctic Ocean. The purpose of the trip was to pick up her husband and baby at the airport in Deadhorse. They're here for a week visit. The intent was also to ride a tour bus in to Prudhoe Bay and get a tour of the oilfields, and gaze upon the Beaufort Sea. That part was foiled, as the Arctic Caribou Inn mis-quoted our reservation time and we missed the bus.
We made the best of it, though, by driving around Lake Colleen and identifying many very cool species of birds! A two mile loop took over an hour as we stopped every ten yards to focus the binoculars and key out a "new to me" bird. Topping the list for exciting sightings are; King Eider Ducks, Tundra Swans, Greater White-Fronted Geese, Arctic Loons and Red-Necked Phalaropes! As a birder, needless to say, I was VERY excited!

The trip up and back afforded us many opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Caribou were everywhere along the haul road. The males have these huge velvet antlers. Their coats are brown and white and shedding. Their camouflage is amazing. The males, females and young just hung out and grazed on the tundra. They were only a little nervous about our truck.

Other interesting sightings included Arctic Foxes. One was all white and rather conspicuous on the brown tundra as it hunted for voles and goose eggs. Short-Eared owls were also out hunting that morning.

"The North Slope" is a term used to classify this region. One hour north of Toolik Lake and I saw why. Following the Sag River north we soon left sight of the mountains, and the grade was all downhill.

Approaching Deadhorse I could imagine why this region is called a "Coastal Plain". The very flat topography is a result of permafrosted ground that is overlain with soggy soil. Frost action causes features such as pingo(frost-wedged hills), and patterned ground (polygons of raised and sunken land). Kettle ponds spot the landscape, and winter ice breakup gave them a mysterious green hue.

All in all it was a very worthwhile trip. We got to see a bit of the oilfield "culture" at Deadhorse. We walked around the yard where much of the drilling equipment is stored. One rig looked like a ship on wheels! The tires are twice as big as me! The rig appeared to be made by "Radio Flyer" the same folks that make little red wagons?!


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Toolik Field Station Lena River, Siberia Svalbard, Norway Summit, Greenland Prince Patrick Island, Canada Healy Icebreaker Caribou Poker Creek Barrow, Alaska