Friday, July 18, 2008

Part II, Day 8: 080704

An eventful day today, with industrial chemicals, a new province, and of course lots and lots of driving. Winnipeg is by far the largest city I’ve driven directly into on surface streets this summer. Matt and I avoided Jacksonville and the other large cities of Florida, visiting Orlando only via the even-less-accessible-than-an-interstate Florida Highway 91 (“Next exit 52 miles”), and generally not entering many big municipalities. In Winnipeg, my supplier of liquid nitrogen is located right in downtown, only a few blocks from city hall and the other major buildings at the center of the city. Praxair inc.’s local retailer of liquid nitrogen is Welders Supplies, a company that also supplies equipment and consumables for medical gasses such as oxygen.

They asked me if I wanted medical- or industrial-grade liquid nitrogen, but I didn’t care because I just need it to be really, really cold – the minor chemical impurities more commonly found in industrial-grade do not bother me in the slightest. I was also able to arrange to have a pair of my dry shippers filled later, and shipped to Thompson to meet me before I fly North towards Resolute – Welders Supplies also has an office in Thompson, though it is not so conveniently located just down the street from the facility where liquid nitrogen is produced.

Then we fought Friday-afternoon rush-hour traffic out of downtown Winnipeg (one-way streets ahoy!) to escape to Bird Hill provincial park on the North-East outskirts of the city. The RV had wisely elected not to accompany us into downtown Winnipeg, and we were able to rendezvous at our campsite without much difficulty.

We set out some light traps and collected a few moths and other light-attracted critters, but there isn’t much in the way of aquatic habitat here, and I didn’t feel like risking the wrath of the parks staff (we have no official permits for Manitoba provincial parks) during daylight hours.

Some of my companions picking moths off of a large white sheet illuminated by a UV-bulb. Some nights are better than others; this night we were lucky with the moths, and they flocked to the trap for collection in great numbers as soon as we erected the sheet and light. This picture is edge-on to the sheet, with the hanging UV-tube on the left and the trailing floor of the sheet visible on the ground. The bright light on the right is a flashlight held by one of my companions, used to illuminate likely collection targets.

Tomorrow we part ways with the RV. Our plan is to drive North along Manitoba highway 6, which runs between the great lakes Winnipeg and Manitoba, and separate from the RV near the North end of Lake Manitoba. The RV will continue West to Riding Mountain national park, while five of us will drive North towards Thompson with a sixth person accompanying who will drive the van to Riding Mountain after dropping us off. We don’t have to be in Thompson until the evening of July 6, so we won’t need to rush off super early tomorrow.


King Aardvark said...

For some reason, when you're discussing your filling of your containers with liquid nitrogen, I get an image in my head of Nedry in Jurassic Park and his secret agent shaving cream sample cooler. Is your work anything like that? No? Yes?

Btw, I had a small benign growth on my hand burned off by liquid nitrogen just the other week. The frozen spot developed into a big blood blister that was quite gross-looking.

TheBrummell said...

I'd forgotten about that scene in Jurassic Park. Such a small container would be near-useless for liquid nitrogen - you need serious insulation to keep it cold for longer than a couple of hours. Just one more silly scientific error in that movie...

I guess my work is very slightly like that, in that yes, there are clouds of vapour pouring out of the cryoshipper whenever I open the lid to drop in some specimens. And my specimens go in little white plastic tubes with screw caps.

It's unlike Jurassic Park in that I have yet to be spat upon by an extinct tetrapod. Nor am I on an island with a silly psuedo-Spanish name.

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