Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I was in Yellowknife for 8 days and when I came back it had stormed enough to shut the school for 2 days. During my absence my colleagues had dug out my porch twice but it still looked like this when I came back. The snow here sinters very tightly and it becomes extremely hard consequently shoveling it involves a fair deal of cutting and a sharp bladed shovel is a coveted item.

The next day I did a bit of skiing by the North Warning site. This was December 8; the last sunrise for 2007 was December 7. There was about 4 hours of twilight to ski in – less now.

A little out of sequence...

This narrative is a bit misplaced but I thought I would put it up anyways. It's about a motnh old now.

Saturday’s trip out to the gulf was slow starting. Friday night was the wrap up show for the hip hop dance / socialization program that was going on in the school all week. The program is meant for 100 students who attend instruction from 9 until 5 every day in lieu of classes. Given our school population of 220 or so this meant that we had 120 students who weren’t too happy to be in classes for the week.

Friday morning the principal asked if we could get some lighting up and running for the ceremonies and show that the group was putting on for the community in the evening. Well we do have a full selection of stage lighting but unfortunately it is sitting in boxes – never having been used. So step one was to secure some sort of light stand. Some digging in the storage room unearthed 2 stands that with some jury rigging could be pressed into service. At 2:30 the electrician was able to start rewiring the lights by patching into a 200 amp beaker box. While he was doing that I was stripping wire and fishing cable into our switch box. With a big effort we actually got it all finished by a little after 5 – and in time for a 7 o’clock curtain call.

The show went on until 10:30 and was very well received by the community and certainly showcased the week’s efforts by the students. The gym was packed with some 400 people attending. After doing some teardown and securing of equipment and cables it was past 11. I ended up getting to bed around 1:30 AM and woke up Saturday at 6 AM.

I was hoping for the weather to be poor but no such luck – a clear day with a full moon. A fair breeze was blowing from the north but I was hoping that it would slacken off. It takes about an hour to get ready for these trips by the time everything is packed, and prepped. Temp -34.

Traveling on the bay is very straight forward with very little loose snow so I stowed the skis on the sled and walked to where I head overland. A short hill leads up the plateau the forms the crest of the peninsula. I got the skis on and started to head south. The wind started to pick but was still blowing from behind me so it was bearable but the blowing snow moving in serpentine patterns along the ground portended of the possible travails of the trip back.

Hee is one part on the trip over the peninsula where the topography plateaus and undulates eough so that you loose sight of any man made bearings. However 2 very diminutive scatterings of boulders on slight rrieses provide a good pointer south. Even so every time it’s easy to stray off course and head for a long prow that looks to be running N-S but in actuality isn’t. A strony veer to the right brings one to the drainage othat empties out into the Gulf. It seems that other have been misled by the same uniformity and several marker stakes have been placed by people on skidoos to guide the way to where the tower can be seen.

They follow a longer path to get back to town since it’s esy to follow the tower lights in but for me I have to keep to a North path to minimize the distance and rough travlelling leg of the day.

Anyways by the time I get to the ocean – which is funny since it the only way to tell your are on it is by crossing the tidal cracking that forms just off shore. The light is lfat so I place a marker flag to at least set the track back. Moving out in to the ice I end up placing 2 more flags on small bergs as they are hard to see. While th flags are an easy marking device they aren’t critcal as I have the GPS with me – flags are just more convieninet than pulling out the GPS unit which has to be well insuldated in my jacket to prevent excessive battery drain.

Dawn comes as a ski oout to a berg that has grounded about 1 km off shore and near a jut of land coming in from the East. The sky is milky with thin cloud and almost a humidity laden layer of dense air by the surface – the sunrise is not what I hoped for picture wise. The moon, of course, doesn’t set now so it was still well up in the NW sky making it’s dalily circumnavigation of the heavens. The berg was plastered in snow and it the wind was biting. It was too cold to contemplate getting to camera ready – it was likely past -50 with the wind chill so using the camera was a noe shot deal.

I skied away from the berg not taking any shots. Of ocurse aftr going about 300m I had second thoughts and headed back , circled around it and re-convinced myself it wasn’t that great of a pic. I headed back towars shore once again – looking for the last flag that I had planted. I ended up heading to the over to another berg just west of the flag. Again I weighed the shot potential and though better of it and again headed towards the track back. Well after thinkig abot all the effort to get out here I skied back and took several shots – about 20 in rapid succession and that was it – battery dead and fingers very cold. Simple tasks take so long in the cold. I was tired anyways and headed back for cetain this time.

I picked pu the flags and started the slog back North. The sky was a cool blue with the sun not strong enough to even produce a hint of a shadow. It was an arduos trip back to the crown on the land. I still had the skis on the sled – as I had removed them to get the shots. I looked left and saw the headlight of a skidoo in the distance.

The owner headed my way, obtensisilby as it turned out ot seei f I needed nay help. After assuring him that I was indeed fine and actually choosing to be out here sans machine he carried on his way to go seal hunting. I continued north along my track over to the west arm of the bay. It was a long day.

Night Sky - all day

It was clear and no wind last Thursday – December 13 so I was able to get some more aurora and comet shots. Comet Holmes is now very prominent in the Cambridge Bay sky and as we are now in the epoch on no sunrise there is plenty of darkness to observe celestial phenomena. Comet Holmes is plainly visible to the naked eye and subtends about .5 of a degree. This shot clearly shows the nucleus and halo –which is not bad considering the shooting conditions / apparatus.