According to my advisor, Dr. Ken Dunton, the three cardinal rules of doing science in the Arctic are as follows…
1. Eat when you can
2. Never get wet
3. Always have a ticket home
These rules apply year round in the Arctic. Foggy weather can delay respply planes or boats and ocean temperatures hover around 35-40*F even in the summer. It can be nearly impossible to warm up again if you get too cold while doing field work, and if you get wet, you’re going to be too cold. Although my fleece collection seems absurd in South Texas, it serves me well here in the Arctic, where I typically wear 4-5 layers on top to keep warm (wool base layer, two fleeces, puffy jacket, and rain coat as needed)!
The importance of having a ticket home is also becoming evident this trip. I love doing fieldwork, especially in Alaska, whose rolling tundra, accessible mountains, and cool temperatures are a welcome change after a year in South Texas. It’s easy to get swept up in the lifestyle and I keep wanting to extend my stay to work on other projects. But I’ll be buried in lab work processing samples for several months as it is!
So far, I’ve been following Rule 1 to a T, and been pretty good about following Rule 2 (except for the obligatory polar bear plunge initiation when I first saw the Arctic Ocean). But Ken has allowed me to hang out in Alaska without a plane ticket home for 3 weeks already! This oversight is mostly because the exact date our Beaufort cruise will conclude is weather dependent and we may have a backlog of samples that will have to processed on land in Alaska. Alaska is stunning and I’m happy to enjoy it while I can.
(Don’t worry Mom– I’ll come home sometime in late August!)