The Last of the Closeout

In the Field 2015

Susi and Eric headed straight back to Fairbanks, while Chinzorig and I flew to Anchorage on the 22nd. Despite the number of rainy days limiting our work, overall this was a very successful expedition. For the first time ever, we now have diverse records of fossil animals and fossil soils in this remote part of Alaska.

This winter promises to find us studying our data, and, when taken together, these discoveries will provide us important new information about one of the earliest ancient Arctic terrestrial ecosystems. And that is particularly interesting because this window of time is one of the warmest in geologic history.

Thanks to the support of the Explorers Club and the Mamont Foundation, I think we have hit the tip of an exciting paleontological ‘iceberg,’ so one of the obvious questions is how the next phase will be funded. To that end, I spent some of the time in Anchorage with people like Linda Stromquist of the National Park Service to brainstorm about future funding to keep the momentum for another field season. Hopefully, Perot Museum in the Field 2016 will be built upon the results of this expedition.

Susi and Eric headed straight back to Fairbanks, while Chinzorig and I flew to Anchorage on the 22nd. Despite the number of rainy days limiting our work, overall this was a very successful expedition. For the first time ever, we now have diverse records of fossil animals and fossil soils in this remote part of […]

Closing Out

In the Field 2015

Now that we are clean, we have to move on to the rest of our close out. Everything we brought with us now has to be packed up and sent to various destinations. Specimens, gear and any left-over food need to be boxed up and sent. The time we spent at the U.S. Post Office in Kotzebue stretched into hours.

Because some of the specimens are heading to the University of Alaska for laboratory analyses, I learned that in-state postal rates are different that out-of-state rates. The former rate is much cheaper than the latter.

With everything now on its way to where it should go, we relax during our last evening in Kotzebue.

 

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One last look at Kotzebue Sound before heading to Anchorage in the morning.

Now that we are clean, we have to move on to the rest of our close out. Everything we brought with us now has to be packed up and sent to various destinations. Specimens, gear and any left-over food need to be boxed up and sent. The time we spent at the U.S. Post Office […]

Time to Head towards Home

In the Field 2015

The rain eventually stopped last night shortly after midnight. But I awoke about 6 a.m. in the morning to the sound of a light rain hitting my tent fly. It didn’t last, and by 7 a.m. it was spotty rain.

I called Bering Air around 8 a.m. with our local weather report – almost no breeze and the base of the clouds about 1,500 feet above us. But to our south was a thin fog that I hoped would burn off.

I was told that Bering Air had grounded our aircraft because of weather conditions at their location and that I should check back in an hour.

The hour benefited the weather in both places. Ours improved, and when I called the operator told me the helicopter had just left.

The helicopter arrived early afternoon. With my earlier reports of changes in river level, on the way out he flew over our original landing strip and confirmed that half of the river bar was now under water. The Cessnas could not land there. The back up plan was to use an old oil field exploration landing strip. Originally a couple of thousand feet long, decay since the days of oil exploration in this area decades earlier had reduced the usable part of the landing strip. While a big plane couldn’t land there any more, the western end of the air strip was still usable to a Cessna-sized aircraft.

We began the process of extraction. Three flights later we, and all of our gear, arrived on the air strip. While we waited for our Cessnas to arrive, we watched a grizzly bear a few hundred yards away picking berries. A few caribou were way off in another direction on a ridgeline.

The Cessnas arrived late in the afternoon, and it took us about an hour and half to fly back to Kotzebue. Once we got back to town, showers and washing clothes seemed to be everyone’s top priorities.

 

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The yellow of a fall willow.

 

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A view to the south from our back up landing strip.

 

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The helicopter bringing the other three people to the landing strip.

 

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And now our gear has arrived.

 

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Our flights to town have arrived, the Cessnas land.

 

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One last view of the lower part of the Noatak River before getting to Kotzebue.

 

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My companions in the other Cessna flying home.

The rain eventually stopped last night shortly after midnight. But I awoke about 6 a.m. in the morning to the sound of a light rain hitting my tent fly. It didn’t last, and by 7 a.m. it was spotty rain. I called Bering Air around 8 a.m. with our local weather report – almost no […]

And the Rain Returns

In the Field 2015

The rain started again around 5 a.m . It is steady, and the visibility is very poor. So my original plan for the day was to hike out to some spot a few miles away and then work back to camp using a pack raft. In this weather that seems like a flat-out dumb idea. So we all remain in camp and hope for better weather later in the day. Chilly temperatures.

Noon. Still raining and cold.

3 p.m. No change.

The evening has come, and we did not end with a glorious discovery on our last expedition day. I checked the stick by the river and the water level has come up another two inches. So in the last few days, the river level is now at least seven inches higher, which I suspect is sufficient to put a good deal of our original landing strip under water.

The rain started again around 5 a.m . It is steady, and the visibility is very poor. So my original plan for the day was to hike out to some spot a few miles away and then work back to camp using a pack raft. In this weather that seems like a flat-out dumb idea. […]