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Traveling on Evolving Sastrugi


We’re on the north shore of Teshekpuk Lake in a warm cabin! Seven hour ride down the Barrow Peninsula and then across Meade, Ikpikpuk, and several other rivers to our destination. It was still blowing pretty good when we left Utqiaǵvik and drifts were big and soft. Thankfully drifts had and were continuing to form and were not yet to their unforgiving hardness. Classic drift form on coastal plain is called sastrugi (Russian). Normal (NNE) wind directions produce drifts mostly oriented the same way and as they grow, migrate, and erode take on a sharp “fin-like” ridges with about a 2ft texture in 10x10ft patches more or less. They look really cool (except when riding over about 20,000 of them) and will make sure to get a good picture tomorrow. Today only got my camera out once on ride; at brief burrito stop by a cabin to get shelter from the wind along the Meade River.


Cutting across sastrugi coming south was brutal and seemed like we’d never make it to Tesh.  But then once started heading east and mostly going with drifts (plus into the wind as opposed to across it) travel improved greatly. Ben spotted a snowy owl as we bounced over the final patch of high centered polygons arriving under a brilliant starry sky. Interesting observation!