Sunday, August 14, 2011

Enjoyed Anchorage, Now off to Nome

Posted by Sam Wright on behalf of Stan Wullschleger
It was a long day getting to Anchorage, but arrived at the Ted Stevens International Airport late on Saturday afternoon. Checked into hotel and decided to go for an evening run on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. Twenty hours of daylight makes this an easy decision. The Coastal Trail goes along the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet for 10 miles or more to the west of Anchorage. I was impressed by the scenery and by the number of people out enjoying the trail.

Left the hotel early Sunday morning with plenty of time to check-in for the flight to Nome and get through security. On the way to the airport the shuttle dropped off a party of hunters at Lake Hood. There are hundreds of seaplanes around the perimeter of this lake. I was told that 1 in 30 residents of Anchorage have a pilots license. My son, Kevin, is a pilot and currently training to be an air traffic controller. He and his buddies in Oklahoma City would enjoy this aspect of the Anchorage area.

I met Larry Hinzman at the airport, along with Bob Busey also from UAF, and we traveled together to Nome. Its a 90 minute flight in an Alaska Airlines 737 Combi. The cabin area of these planes is divided to carry cargo in the front  and passengers in the back. Nome can only be reached by barge or plane, and thus the airlines take every opportunity to transport people and supplies to this coastal town.

We spent much of the day in Nome visiting the handful of hardware stores and checking on the availability of general supplies needed for field research. Bob has a lot of practical experience working in the area and knows his way around. We drove out of town to the top of Anvil Mountain. Anvil Mountain was a military radar site at one time; now it provides a good location for the deployment of communication towers. Bob, Larry, and others from UAF maintain a repeater at this site along with a weather station. The repeater allows data from several sites to be gathered remotely using telemetry and then downloaded to a web-accessible site at the university in Fairbanks. From there, data can be processed and shared among project participants and with the larger scientific community. This capability will be an asset for any research site we might establish on the Seward Peninsula as part of the NGEE project.

Tonight Larry, Bob, and I will have dinner with a colleague of Larry's who lives in Nome. This will be a good opportunity to learn more about the area and to discuss our plans to potentially conduct at least a portion of our research near Council. Council is located about 1.5 hours drive northeast of Nome and has been the site of several successful research campaigns including ATLAS. Council lies at a zone of transition (i.e., ecotone) between boreal forests, shrub lands, and tundra. It is a hotspot for rapid changes in permafrost stability, surface hydrology, and vegetation dynamics. The rest of our team arrives tomorrow and we will visit this site on Tuesday.

As for Monday we meet with representatives of CH2MHill Polar Services to discuss logistical support at Council and then have an afternoon meeting planned with local community leaders and representatives of several state and federal agencies. We have prepared to short presentation on the NGEE project. It should be a good day and we look forward to receiving constructive feedback on our plans.