Thursday, March 12, 2015

Finish with a Bang

Team shot from final day on the ice
Tonight is our last night in Barrow, Alaska.  The last night of our field campaign.  In some ways it is very sad to be leaving such an incredible, majestic landscape that is so unique and foreign to anything back home.  It marks the end of my 3rd successful field season and sadly I don't have any concrete plans to head to either pole in the near future (although if anyone is looking for an extra field hand... I am always interested).  Unlike the end of most expeditions though, we are still a long ways from home.  Although we are leaving Barrow tomorrow, our epic road trip is just commencing.  This will be an adventure-filled 5,000 journey across Alaska, Canada, and the northern USA to attempt to bring our ICE-MITTs (and the sea ice inside) safely home to Dartmouth.  You can be sure to catch all of our stories and fortunes (or misfortunes) right here on this blog (internet connectivity and my non-laziness/tiredness not withstanding).

Mr. Polar Bear comes to bid us farewell
According to you, my readers, (by virtue of the number of site visits to this blog) the most interesting/exciting/awe-inspiring parts of this trip has been polar bear encounters and aurora sightings.  I whole-heartedly agree.  Thus, for our final full day here, the powers that be complied and gave us a final farewell of both.  Ellyn has a philosophy that polar bears come out when the aurora will be good.  Seeing as all 6 of our polar bear encounters have coincided with good aurora viewing evenings, she may be on to something.

Ellyn takes in the aurora on our last night
We had pretty much just finished packing when Natalie and Rachel decided to take a walk in town.  For those of you following closely, Natalie just arrived last weekend and is here only for our final week.  She was one of the students who helped come up with the original design of the ICE-MITT over 2 years ago.  Shortly after they left, Ellyn and I received a text to put on our coats.  Immediately we knew this meant a polar bear must be around so all 4 of us jumped into the truck and hit the road.  As we are driving down the road (quite slowly I might add as we were carefully scanning around to find the polar bear), we suddenly see him (or maybe her?) strut out and cross the road directly in front of us.  This prompted Rachel to ask the age-old question, "Why did the polar bear cross the road?"  At only 10 feet from our truck, this was definitely our closest encounter and easily the highlight of Natalie's week here in Barrow.

To top it off this evening (just minutes ago), Ellyn and I did one final drive to the end of the road at the northernmost point in the US.  The aurora spirits rewarded us with one final beautiful showing of dancing greens shimmering across the sky.  A beautiful reminder that the Arctic is one of the most special environments in this world.  A place I know that I will surely return at some point in my future.

Goodbye, for now, Barrow

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