I woke this morning to what may be the last true darkness I see in quite some time.  Our campaign will take place at Oliktok Point, Alaska, at 70.5 degrees north, and at this time of year, the sun only “sets” for around two and a half hours per night.  Those two and a half hours never get truly dark, however, as twilight sticks around.  Amazingly, over the two weeks that we will be at Oliktok, we lose nearly three and a half hours of daylight, and by the time we head home on August 16, there will be a much more reasonable six hours per day where the sun sits below the horizon.

Before I get into much more detail about the site itself, I feel as though I need to give some insight into the day before the trip…  This is always a bit of a stressful day, both in terms of making sure that everything is ready to go and packed for the trip itself, but also to ensure that everything is set at home.  Two weeks away is not easy on family life, particularly with young kids.  So, yesterday, after a morning family hike, I basically ran around town for the rest of the day trying to wrap up loose ends and pack my stuff.  Unfortunately, there was a bit of extra stress involved, as I was rear-ended in the middle of it all.  Car damage aside, everything is ok — but I could have done without that…

car

My rear bumper after being rear-ended yesterday afternoon.

Ok — back to the site.  Oliktok Point is home to a US Air Force Long Range Radar Station (LRRS).  This facility will act as our home away from home during the campaign.  As some may remember from my trip up here last fall, the LRRS is a perfectly comfortable place to stay.  The guys up there do a fantastic job of making us feel welcome, prepare meals for us, and generally help us to keep things running as smoothly as possible.  Beyond the LRRS, the other major activity in this part of the world is energy exploration.  Major oil companies from across the globe are hard at work up here trying to ensure that the world has the energy needs to meet its current consumption rates.  I’m actually a bit curious to see whether things are different than last fall, given the current oversupply in world oil reserves, and extended depressed pricing of this commodity.

Where we are going...

Where we are going…

The Arctic  environment is unique to be sure, and to the right eyes, quite stunning.  Tundra stretches as far as the eye can see, with the Oliktok site situated right on the shore of the Beaufort Sea.  This is my first trip up here in summer, so I’m excited to see what wildlife awaits us.  Last fall, we saw limited birds, some Arctic foxes and caribou.  Unfortunately, we did not see any bears (both brown and polar bears are known to visit the area), although I suppose that not seeing bears is far better than seeing them up close.  The other “wildlife” that we’ll likely encounter is mosquitoes — I have heard rumors of their size, but will need to see it myself to believe some of what I have heard!  We have nets and repellent with us — better yet would be a few cold nights to reduce their numbers.

A satellite map of central northern Alaska.  The Deadhorse airport can be seen in the lower right hand portion of the image, and Oliktok Point is indicated by the red point.

A satellite map of central northern Alaska. The Deadhorse airport can be seen in the lower right hand portion of the image, and Oliktok Point is indicated by the red point.

Tonight, the team assembles in Anchorage — and tomorrow morning, we continue on to Deadhorse.  More on the journey up and on what we’re looking to accomplish (and why) soon…

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