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Barrow, AlaskaCaribou Poker CreekLena River, SiberiaSvalbard, Norway Prince Patrick Island, Canada
Summit, Greenland
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Joined: 23 Mar 2004
Posts: 118

PostPosted: Mon Jun 14, 2004 6:52 am Reply with quoteBack to top

The sign on the chalkboard in the dining hall said, "Friday night: short hike to the Galbraith aufeis." After the last "simple hike" (see a previous journal, "The Big Hike,") I made inquiries as to how steep and how long and was there any srambling down steep rock cliffs involved? I was assured it would be easy. So at 7:30 PM we loaded up two pick-up trucks and headed south a few miles in the direction of the Brooks Range to the Galbraith airstrip and the gravel pit beyond where we parked the trucks. I noticed when we got out that most people were not wearing hiking boots like mine; instead they were wearing their neoprene ExtraTufs, standard Alaskan footwear when you want to keep your feet dry. It didn't take long to see why: we approached the flowing river along which the aufeis had formed, and the first wading requirement. Fortunately, I spent the extra money for waterproof hiking boots; unfortunately, they were waterproof only to the top of the boots, which happened to be lower than the water level. It didn't matter; the beauty of the aufeis more than made up for wet boot discomfort.

Hahn, Halim and I went along on the hike with others from the camp. It was a lovely evening, and who would believe we were in light jackets or shirtsleeves as we hiked along the icy river. And who would believe that there were beautiful tundra wild flowers growing close to the ice. Add to that one of the many gorgeous rainbows we've seen since we have been here, and you have a hike where you can't put your camera away.

An aufeis is where ice forms in an overflow, forming layers or shelves that build up throughout the winter and last into the summer on Arctic rivers. The aufeis forms where there is running water, such as the river we were on, flowing over the ice and building up the layers. The ice can get to be many feet tall, and there can be crevices and caves and beautiful blue ice. We were able to hike up the river of ice alongside the greening tundra.

In addition to the beautiful ice, there was an area of limestone rock that contained fossil coral. Rich, who is the camp "mayor" as well as a geologist, told me the coral is about 180-200 million years old, and could have been moved from as far away as Fairbanks in an uplift. There were also several caterpillars staying warn on the limestone rock beside the river. Caterpillars in the Arctic can live through more than one winter in below freezing temperatures, and finally emerge as a butterfly several seasons later. We frequently see butterflies, we seldom see more than one or two kinds.

We returned to camp about 10:30 PM. I'm starting to get used to the fact that we don't have to hurry back before dark. There are additional pictures of the hike in the album.
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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