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Snow Buntings on the Barrow Pen

4/21/2018

We finished up coring, sensor and camera deployments, and breaking down camp. Last task was to see if we could get Dr. Jones back to civilization without injuring him further. Bundled in a well-padded cross fox sled seemed like the only option.

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Go and Allen took the normal route crossing Admiralty Bay at Oarlock Is. But Misha and I, with Ben in tow, decided to try a coastline snow road to see if it would be a smoother ride. A shroud of ice fog to the north told of open water farther out.

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Traveling a snow road on sea ice crossing Smith Bay was relatively easy, but hard snow made Misha’s machine overheat and we decided to cut across Cape Simpson. Tundra and lake snow was relatively smooth, yet still a bit much for poor old Ben J. We took it slow and stopped many times to make sure he was OK. Despite the slow go, it was perfect travel conditions with exceptional visibility.

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The first obvious sign of civilization was the KBRW radio tower about 5 mi out from NARL by about 7pm. Shutting off our noisy snowmachines upon arrival at hut 142, the call of a snow bunting and then seeing its crisp white body with black highlights dart along a power pole gave us the surest sign that winter is over in the Arctic and we had arrived back safe. I tried getting a picture of these beautiful little birds for the blog, but chasing their gentle rattling call was more work than we needed on our final day here. Getting last lake and snow measurements (super deep snow BTW, drift at snowfence west of NARL was way bigger than I’d ever seen), shipping cores, drying and packing gear, and sending most of companions back south was a full day. Am excited to get home to family and Fairbanks and then return to see what summer bring to the Arctic this year as always!

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