Friday, August 10, 2012

A perfect day on the Seward Peninsula

Our time in Anchorage was a good introduction to Alaska. We stocked up on needed supplies, organized our thoughts, and then it was off to Nome on the Seward Peninsula. The Alaska Airlines flight was less than two hours and we arrived just after noon. Still south of the Arctic Circle our team of 11 modelers, Martin, and BER managers saw the Horton Sound and Bering Sea out windows on one side of the airplane along with mixed tall and short shrub tundra out the windows on the other side of the airplane. It was a vivid introduction to the landscapes we were going to see in the next few days. Everyone exited the airplane with smiles and there seemed to be a lot of excitement for what awaited this group. Our journey had just begun, but I was hopeful that it was going to be a good day; a good week...

Larry Hinzman was at the airport to greet us, it was good to have him with us.  We loaded our luggage into the van for the short trip to the Aurora Inn and Suites. This Inn is a great place to stay and convenient to downtown, etc. After checking in, we picked up our second rental car and had a quick lunch at Airport Pizza. Interestingly, this restaurant is not anywhere close to the airport. Maybe all the other good names for a restaurant were already taken.

After lunch, which incidentally was pizza, it was then off to the grocery store for food and a few last minute items that would come in handy in the days to follow. We would be traveling to field research sites in Council, Alaska on Friday and we would need to be prepared. Food prices are high in Nome because lacking roads to the outside world, all food and everything else for that matter has to be transported in by air or sea. That carries with it a high price.

Once the necessities were taken care of, Larry organized a trip out to Anvil Mountain. This is a prominent feature to the northeast of Nome and was home to several weather monitoring stations the UAF staff had established over the years. It provided a reasonable first-day destination for our group and a chance to stretch our legs while orienting ourselves to the ecosystems that surround Nome. We spent the next three hours taking pictures, asking questions which Larry eagerly answered, and seeing the monitoring stations that dotted the landscape. People broke off into small groups to look at the vegetation, probe the soil, and generally get a sense for these complex landscapes. Martin was very comfortable in this environment, you could tell that he was at home in the outdoors.  I was pleased by how engaged he and others were in the many conversations that were taking place across the tundra. You could tell that people were really thinking about what they were seeing. There was diversity in everything we saw; meters, even centimeters, made a big difference.  As one looked across the valley, this diversity was obvious in larger scale patterns that played out across the slopes of the surrounding foothills.

Our afternoon ended as we hopped back in our vehicles for the short trip back to Nome. Tomorrow, we head off to Council and it looks to me like everyone is eager and ready for what lies ahead.