Welcome to my adventure!!!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Winter Amusement Park Ride

I think I have experienced a new winter amusement park ride....it involves sitting in a wooden box attached to a snowmobile and flying over the tundra....oh yeah, the temperature should be at least -20C. Sound like a lot of fun? Actually, it is not too bad. We have old couch cushions to sit on and the scenery is beautiful, that is if your goggles have not fogged up.

Today was our first full day of sampling in the field. Yesterday, we tested our gear with a half day in the field. It has been sunny for the past 2 days but wind chills this morning were supposed to be around -42C. Lucky for us, there was no wind. It was still cold!!

We were divided into teams of three at each sampling site where we had to dig a pit and investigate the various layers of snow. For each layer we had to measure depth, temperature, density and compressibility, as well as analyze the type of snow particles and their size within each layer. Then we had to take 11 core samples, noting depth and weight of the snow core, and bringing three of the samples back to the lab to measure conductivity and pH. The photo shows me taking the cores with the Adirondack Snow Corer. Yes, that is what it is called - it was invented in the Adirondacks. Go figure, and now it is used for Arctic research. Pretty cool - no, cold :) We then moved to 2 other locations within the site and repeated the process. Then, it was back to the Study Centre for lunch and back out in the field after lunch. In all, each team collected data at 5 sites with 44 snow cores made. With 5 teams, that is 25 sites and 275 cores. Remember what I always say about sample size....bigger is always better. Tomorrow is another day for us to collect more data.
We took the scenic ride home this afternoon; we went out onto the frozen Hudson Bay. We saw huge wolf tracks - the tracks were everywhere. They belonged to a male grey wolf. Here is my foot for size comparison. Did I mention the tracks were huge!

The snow is absolutely beautiful. The snow formations look like the flowing water frozen in place. Instead of liquid water, it is the frozen snow that is shaped by the wind. The wind has an incredibly strong influence on the entire arctic environment. The trees showing something called "flagging." The wind can blow so hard that the trees loose their needles and only have branches on the downside of the wind. If the wind can do that to the trees, I hate to think what it can do to me. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we continue to have calm days.
That's all for now. Time to get to bed, so I'll be ready for tomorrow's field work.


At February 19, 2009 at 8:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's great to read of your adventures and good work for the Earth.

At February 19, 2009 at 11:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello from Connecticut, close to the end of the Hudson. - I was up in Churchill at the end of September with Earthwatch - conditions have changed! We had a wonderful time out in the field and at the center. It was a balmy 28 degrees F. Enjoy the experience! Louise McMinn

At February 20, 2009 at 12:24 PM , Blogger Ms. Anne Green said...

Hello Louise -
We are all envious of your group being able to see Polar Bears. I think we are all hoping for a rare sighting this time of the year.

Regarding the temperatures, I think many of us have acclimated to the temps. - we really gear up when we go out in the morning and have to deal with the -30/-40c temps and by afternoon, when the temps are -10/-20C we are peeling layers and enjoying the heat wave. What is really interesting is how the temperature changes from the bottom of our snow pits to the top. The ground at the bottom layer can be just -1/-5C while the temp at the surface will be -24C. Proof of the insulating properties of snow!


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