Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flight to Alexandra Fjord


Today is the first chance I’ve had since leaving Sask
atoon to work on my computer, so of course the first thing I did was start writing this blog post. Barring something very unexpected happening, this won’t get published until I return to the South in August, at the earliest. But I want to record my field season.

I have spent a great deal of time over the last 3 days flying. Two days ago I flew from Saskatoon to Ottawa, changing planes in Toronto. The FTIR was packaged in a very large Pelican case, which exceeded the weight limits for Air Canada’s checked luggage. Fortunately, the Air Canada gate agent I spoke with was very friendly and helpful, and I was able to arrange same-day air cargo of the FTIR to Ottawa. We would be able to pick it up after 6:00am the next morning in Ottawa, and First Air’s checked luggage allowance is more generous (for weight, at least), so we were able to check it as “oversized” luggage in Ottawa. Yesterday I flew from Ottawa to Resolute, with a 3-hour layover in Iqaluit. We went looking for a M.Sc. student in our lab who was working in Iqaluit, but it was the middle of the day and we couldn’t find him. Today, for the third day in a row, I boarded a plane.

Sea-ice against the shore of Baffin Island.

We were originally scheduled to spend 2 nights in Resolute, but flight schedules in the Far North being what they are, we jumped at the chance to get moving a day early – the weather can change any time, and we knew a charter full of other researchers was supposed to arrive Saturday – many of those people would be wanting to head out to their own field sites, so competition for aircraft would be fierce. Not to mention the crowding at Resolute.

Katherine’s entire checked luggage was shed a various stages of her flight to Resolute. First, Air Canada lost one piece somewhere between Vancouver and Ottawa, then First Air failed to load her other bag in Iqaluit. Here she is holding most of her remaining possessions at Resolute Bay airport.

It was a bit ironic that Katherine’s 2 pieces didn’t make it, considering the mass of other gear we were taking to Alexandra Fjord. As of bedtime on June 24, these 3 pallets hold all of the gear I, Katherine, Steve, and Fred were planning to fly to the fjord.

Our flight to Alexandra Fjord took a surprisingly short 2:40, and we landed in beautiful weather next to the ice-covered fjord, after flying over some very impressive glacier-covered mountains. A Twin Otter is a noisy, slow airplane, but our flight was pretty comfortable, and the views out the windows were stunning. Unfortunately, we were overweight with all of our cargo, and had to leave many boxes behind, ranked by priority for when PCSP might be able to get them to us on later flights.

Resolute from the Twin Otter.

Katherine took this picture from the port side of the Twin Otter. I think this is the north coast of Devon Island.
Sea-ice in a north Devon Island fjord.

Southern Ellesmere Island.

What I think is the second-largest terrestrial ice cap in North America; it doesn’t have a name on any map I’ve seen, only the glaciers it spawns have names.

The same ice cap. I said it was big, didn’t I?

Glaciers and mountains on Ellesmere Island.

I’m sure this glacier has a name, but I don’t know what it is. It's just west of the Alexandra Fjord lowlands. That’s sea-ice on Alexandra Fjord at the bottom of the picture.

We landed around noon, and Steve and I immediately set about getting the FTIR organized to run some trials. Much equipment-moving and organizing later, we set out with Fred to the “Cassiope” site, and set up the FTIR.

There were a couple of people at Alexandra Fjord when we arrived; they left on the plane that brought us. I guess they left in a hurry, because there was half-eaten food on the table inside the camp kitchen building.

Probably due to the rigors of travel, the multiplexer of the FTIR, what I refer to sometimes as the “Avensys hardware”, was not working. I suspect the non-functional 3-way solenoid valve that controls the flow of air from the sampling chamber has had its wired pulled on or they are loose, so I will attempt to repair it tomorrow morning. I have already reconfigured the FTIR for “manual mode”, in which the multiplexer is excluded from the air flow circuit, and only one chamber at a time can be measured. I’m pretty tired, so I think I’ll go unpack my personal gear into my tent and head for bed soon.

The Twin Otter departs.

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