After all was said and done, we (myself, Erin, and Sarah) drove 2h south to Seward, AK for a little fun. We stayed in a hostel (1st for me). We toured the SeaLife Center and hiked up Mt. Marathon (3,000ft). The drive along the coastline was so breathtaking, if I had fallen in the mud, the scenery is worth it.
After leaving Matanuska, we stopped in Palmer, AK for a meal. We all ordered some type of meat and eggs. Our camp food was good dehydrated items, well seasoned and sometimes containing diced salami. One day, now forever known as Nikki Day, Nikki who lives in Anchorage and fellow caver with SAS, flew in to re-supply camp. We had eggs, S’mores fixings, and even cake. We chanted through the night and day…Nikki Day! So, in Palmer at the Noisy Goose Cafe we devoured our food like savages. As soon as the servers hand left the plate our heads went down. We finished our meal and continued on to Anchorge. Once in Anchorage we drove directly to UAA to place our samples overnight in the -80oC freezer of Dr. Birgit Hagedon and many thanks to Birgit and her lab for helping us before and after our trip. That night (6/25) we enjoyed another meal at the Moose’s Tooth and toasted to a job not yet complete, but well done. The next morning (6/26) we returned to UAA to pick up our samples and ship them next day delivery to LSU. When we purchased our tickets back in early March, our exit date centered around the exit date of SAS and freezing our samples at UAA, yet getting them to LSU on a weekday. I asked Brent, how would one accomplish this without UAA, and it is possible but adds a layer of complexity and cost that you would rather avoid. As we stood in line at FedEx, I considered the job near the finish line. Although, we received a FedEx email stating successful delivery to LSU on the morning of 6/27, we don’t breathe easy until a member of our lab sends an email stating samples received, properly stored in our lab, and the temperature condition upon arrival. We received said email and therefore crossed the finish line for our research task in Alaska. Our lab will spend the next few months analyzing these samples to answer what microbial species are in the Matanuska glacier and why.
This experience has been completely FASCINATING! While this type of research is a regular occurance for some, myself and many of you reading are not familiar with this type of research. I hope you have enjoyed this journey with the Christner research group. I apologize for some of the turned pictures throughout a few post, they were not so on my cell phone when I inserted them. On the glacier our internet access was unpredicitable and so I tried as many opportunities as possible to keep you up to date. Now, that I have easy access to the internet, please feel free to ask questions to any post and stay tuned for pictures and other entries that I did not have time to post. I’m so glad a wise man advised me to journal the adventure. The Christner research group (Brent and Amanda) will be in Antartica this winter.
Our taxi cab (bush plane) arrived to the base camp at 4pm on 6/24 to fly each of us to the base of the glacier. The morning rain ceased. He made six trips to transport four people and our gear. We stayed Tuesday night in our tents at the base of the glacier. This area is privately owned land and one can rent a camp site. From there, you can walk to the terminus of the glacier. The gift shop where you pay for camping has a freezer and this is where we stored our samples overnight. During our two weeks on the glacier, we stored blue ice in the same freezer to keep the samples cold for transport to LA. We enjoyed a camp fire for the last time and discussed how nice it was to sit on the toilet seat of our sites outhouse. We thought of the outhouse toilet seat as a gradual re-introduction to civilization. No longer would we have to balance ourselves against a bolder. You could once again prop your elbows on your knees. Bless the person who discovered toilet seats. The morning (6/25) came and would you believe, it was raining again. Brent and I retreived the samples, which were heavier with the addition of blue ice. As I assisted with carrying the box, I stumbled through the muddy, rain puddled, dirt parking lot only thinking; I better not fall in this mud. I will be so mad if I fall in the mud. I did not fall. I wore regular tennis shoes because my boots were not easily accessible (big mistake). They are now yard shoes, provided they make it back. We returned to our camp site to pack our tents…IN THE RAIN. We were finally on our way to Anchorage, a 2h drive. Our job here was almost complete.
We were scheduled to fly from base camp on 6/25, but our pilot sent word on 6/23 that he would need to fly us out on 6/24. We thought Tuesday would be packing, plus squeezing in an assay reading and filtering from a borehole that was refilling with water. On 6/23 we organized a few things on the glacier and agreed to wake up an hour early on 6/24 to organize our belongings in the science tent at base camp. When I made it to the science tent of base camp 30min beyond the scheduled time and Erin shortly after me, like magic all of our supplies were reorganized and the bins lined up. Way to go Brent!! Erin and I have aggreed that there are two things that have been hard to do.
1. Leaving the camp fire at night to go to your tent. Hanging out with this group has been so much fun and conversation at night time camp fires are hilarious…plus the fire is so warm.
2. Leaving your cozy sleeping bag each morning. It is especially difficult when you hear rain on your tent.
The morning of 6/24, it was raining. I’m certain Erin and I were up to help with packing the base camp science tent, but it was too hard to leave the sleeping bag. We completed our task at the glacier and packed all that we don’t mind receiving at LSU for another month and a half. There was nothing fun about packing as it was raining. Stay tuned as I will send out a few more post concluding our field season.
I last posted with an attempt to deploy Remi into a deeper borehole. Well, Remi sort of worked. Keep in mind that this piece of equipment is designed to pump a LOT of water through filters. On this deployment Remi filtered 176L. This is a low amount and I was disappointed until I saw the 1st filter. The filter is a paper-like membrane with microscopic holes. Imagine a three layer cake and the top layer has very large holes, the second layer with holes smaller than the top and the bottom layer with the smallest size holes. Remi has three layers of filter holders and one can choose to use all three or not and with filters having different size holes. Remi’s program stated a normal shutdown after 4h of sampling. The total volume was low due to how much stuff was on the 1st filter. I told Brent that it feels like a risk each time we lower Remi. I stand over the borehole with hopes that in 4-6h Remi will return having filtered 300-500L of water, depending on the program. As Remi was in the borehole, I had water going through the Acropak filter from a different borehole. I totaled 550L on the Acropak filter and I like the sense of KNOWING that water is filtering through. The 550L did mean 55 times of bending down on your knees to pour the water out and I had to constantly monitor the pressure and purge the air. Remi is a powerhouse and superior to other methods, when deployed at a certain depth (and Amanda did tell me this). If we had more time we would have deployed Remi again with different filters or maybe for a longer amount of time. All in all, maybe Remi and I can be friends.
Tolerant no more!
We have no specific order in walking to and from camp. I would say 98% of the time, Brent is last. Today as we returned to camp, Erin led the way, followed by myself, Brent and John. We came in site of camp and a bear crossed about 30ft in front of us. Erin was the 1st to see him. We readied our bear spray and Brent readied the shotgun. When there was enough distance between us and him we continued approaching camp. A few others at camp saw the bear and were already making noise. We joined them in making noise once we reached the perimeter of the fence. A lot of noise is very effective in scaring bears away, because they too are scared and truthfully don’t want to interact with you. We kept the bear in sight and someone jokingly said, he’s (the bear) is probably creating a diversion, and two of us (8 total) looked in the opposite direction…and there was another bear. They both appeared to be not cubs, yet not fully grown. Both were black bears. They have tolerated us long enough and are now ready to freely roam .
Simply AMAZING! LSU is the last science team remaining. We came across a few glitches regarding our sampling strategy, but we adjusted with a filter (AcroPak) which can hold up to 1000L. Recall one of our goals is to sample as much glacial melt as possible AND on one filter for as many filters that we can.