Tomorrow I leave for The North. I'm off for my field season, all of which will be spent in one place this year: Alexandra Fjord, Ellesmere Island, Nunavut Territory, Canada. This can be abbreviated "Alex Fjord" or just "Alex". In any case, it's North. Far North. No, further North than that - think more North. That's about right, now.
Unlike my departure last year (which was aimed South, initially), this year I feel much more relaxed and well-prepared. All of the equipment and supplies I'll need has either already been sent up to Resolute, or is travelling with me. Like last year, I'll be travelling with abundant luggage.
My abundant luggage, 2009. Not pictured: my carry-on. Also not pictured: the 1 tonne of stuff already sent ahead.
I'm travelling with the FTIR, the machine I'll be running in Alex, doing the job I was hired to do. The FTIR is fairly fragile, so it's very well protected in that giant black Pelican case seen in the above picture. The two green Pelicans contain other associated machinery - air pumps and valves and so forth. The big backpack is my personal luggage, plus some other gear that didn't fit in any other container and couldn't go ahead because I was still using it up until very recently. Most of my clothing was sent by air cargo back in April, so my backpack only contains about 3 days worth of clothes. The rest of the bulk is things like a soil temperature/moisture probe, some big steel tubes that we call "soil gas probes" (more on those some other time), a number of books and notebooks, and some camping gear. I'm really, really happy I pre-shipped so much - this is going to be awkward to get checked in at the airport tomorrow morning as is, never mind all the other stuff.
I'll be gone for about 2 months - I'm scheduled to return to Saskatoon on August 20. Tomorrow I fly to Ottawa, changing planes in the ever-lovely Pearson International Airport at Toronto. The next day I fly on to Resolute, changing planes in Iqaluit and stopping briefly (I hope) in Hall Beach - this is the same flight from Iqaluit that I took last year. Coming back is the same flight, too, leaving Resolute at 6:30am, but this time I'm supposed to get into Saskatoon around 7:00pm the same day. We've got a few days padding both sides of our flights to and from Alex Fjord (from Resolute), because, of course, "weather and mechanical permitting" means delays up to several days are not unlikely.
I'm going to be working rather hard over the next 2 months, probably on the order of 10-12 hours of actual work per day, every day. Much of this will be hard physical work - deploying gear out at different sampling sites around Alex (it's about 8 square km, so a fair bit of walking around is anticipated), carrying heavy things, and driving our soil gas probes into the stony ground with a deadblow sledgehammer. I'll post more on that when I've got some pictures - probably of me looking either exhausted or lightly injured (or both). In any case, partly on my own initiative, and (mostly) on Steve's insistence, I have taken the last several days completely off - and I didn't work very long hours any day last week, either. To put it bluntly, I was a useless lump for 48 straight hours. I spent my weekend sleeping, eating, and watching many episodes of Top Gear. Steve is very concerned about the entire field team's mental health, and (quite reasonably) doesn't want anybody coming up to the field with lots of background stress. Outside of work, I have essentially nothing to stress about, as I am that stereotypical creature, the pathetic single man. In Apu's immortal words, "just cash, no cheques, no chitchat". Inside of work, everything that can be done is done. I have exactly one task left to accomplish, which is to get a taxi to take me to the airport tomorrow morning. That's it... well, I should empty the rotten/rottable stuff from my 'fridge, but otherwise I'm good to go. This is a good feeling.