We left Anchorage early this morning and had an uneventful flight up to Prudhoe Bay. Unfortunately, clouds obscured our views — I had specifically chosen a seat on the left side of the plane in order to try to get a view of Denali, but no such luck… Alaska Airlines operates 737–400 “combi” aircraft, which are half cargo (the front half) and half passengers (the back). No first class on these flights! So, in order to get onto the plane, you use stairs and enter by the door at the back of the plane. Stepping onto the tarmac at -12 F with 30 MPH winds is a quick reminder that you are in fact in the Arctic!
After picking up our truck and loading up our gear, we set out on the drive to Oliktok Point. With the wind, there was pretty significant drifting across the road at points, but all in all, the drive went pretty easily. We got ourselves settled at the ENI Nikaitchuq Operating Center (NOC) — our home for the next couple of weeks, had a quick lunch, and then made our way over the the US Air Force station at Oliktok where Tevis and Phillip were given an introduction to the site and polar bear safety. These introductions are mandatory for all visiting the site for the first time, as there is a real possibility for polar bear encounters up here and everyone needs to be sure to stay alert!
With the training completed, we set out to begin unpacking all of our equipment. Everything appears to have made it in one piece, and with a bit of help from the US Air Force contractors and David Oaks and Josh Remitz (the on site operators here at the ARM Mobile Facility), we got everything into “Jim’s Jail”, where we will base our operations out of. We took good care to make sure we carefully documented how everything was packed in order to ensure that we would be able to re-pack for the journey home!
The winds are expected to stay up around 30 mph tomorrow, but that’s ok for the time being, because we have a lot of plane assembly, instrument testing and planning to complete before we can even think about flying the planes. The forecast looks promising, with temperatures expected to climb into the teens by the end of this week and winds forecast to die down a bit. Looking forward to getting the planes airborne!