Friday, January 25, 2008

More Aurora

It was clear and relatively calm a while ago on a moonless night, so I was able to get these aurora shots. The aurora in Cambridge Bay seems to form mainly as highly active curtains that tend to fold in on themselves. They can exhibit hints of red but, of course, are mainly green. They don’t last long and form generally in the NW quadrant of the sky – in the direction of the magnetic pole – which at one point not too long ago was east of here, on King William Island, and probably transited Victoria Island on its way out of Canadian territory.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Sunday the 20th – tried to ski out on the bay with my 3 pin set up but a stiff north wind had the temp down to about -58 again. So had to retreat to the house add some layers and change to my alpine touring rig with neoprene overboots. Since the wind was blowing from the NW I had no choice but to head in that direction – at least if one is skiing into the wind you always know that you can get home – wind will be at your back. Went out past the “Dew Live road and then veered back along it until the travel became too difficult – due mainly to the snow scallops. Anyways very cold day and I was pleased to note that the new dual battery system kept the camera working. Had to stay completely covered so looking through the viewfinder was a bit problematic though.

Saturday's Ski

Went skiing on the weekend towards Mount Pelly via the bay. I was passing by the graveyard on the way up the creek and took these shots of the sunrise. Coincidentally the moon is still doing a nice circle in the sky and was low in the Northern sky as the sun was rising – about 11 AM.

Effects of the Blizzard

Here are some images of the blizzard’s aftermath. The Dodge truck was almost buried as was the house– it’s just down the block from my place. Several streets on the north side of the hamlet were completely blocked with 2 -3 m drifts - those are the shots of the single pass of the Cat track down the centre of the image - before they could start to clear the road.

Blizzard, again.

Friday January 18, 2008

The skies finally cleared and Cambridge Bay was finally aglow with the noontime sun for the first time since we had a brief glimpse of a refracted sun last Friday. The sun is now fully clearing the horizon and is a welcome sight – especially after the last several days that had the community weathering blizzard conditions. Temps were around-35 with gusts up to 80 kph.

Yesterdays the gusts were strong enough that they woke mw up. The bed, quality furniture that it is, was oscillating like an inertial balance as the base vibrated with the housing unit as it moved in response to the wind blasts. Well I suppose it shows that the space frame that supports the whole structure is flexible. The heavy snow and wind cancelled school and all town services.

The drifts that built up on the road during the storm are / were impressive. The hamlet workers needed to use a D7 cat to plough through them and even then the cat was actually supported by some of the drifts and unable to dig down to the road bed – but that could be operator induced as well.

Went for a nice hike on the tundra in the evening - during the height of the storm. The moon was shiny thinly through the cloud and blowing snow and gave a unique illumination to the landscape. Gusts would drive a snow band that would obscure everything for a brief period of time and the light from the town would disappear and you’d be alone on the tundra. Not a big deal – I was dressed for it – but that included making sure that there was no exposed skin whatsoever as the -59 wind-chill would find even the smallest opening. So down suit, sorrels, balaclava, face mask, toque, goggles, liner gloves and caribou mitts were the attire. Interestingly enough the wind pressure was enough to actually feel through my lighter sorrels - no discomfort but you could feel it cool off during the heavier gusts.

Here’s some pix from during the storm – mostly for something to do but they convey a little of the conditions.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Return of the Sun!

Thursday, January 10 heralded the emergence of the sun to some extent. At noon a predawn light filtered through the southern sky giving a glorious red sky and possibly just a hint of the umbral edge of the sun visible just above the horizon. This bathed the landscape in a red glow for about 25 minutes. A thin layer of clouds added to the colors and highlighted the sky’s colours. Ice crystals in the air also gave rise to a sun pillar. The warm collars of the predawn light contrasted with the cool blue and white tones of the snow. In any event it was good harbringer of the return to sunlight that is to be soon upon the land

Friday, January 11 brought an actual amount of sunlight from noon to about 1230. While only a sliver of the sun was visible it produced enough light to cast shadows and glint off of the metal roofs of some of the buildings. We shouldn’t have seen the sun today but refractive effects of the cold air mass and a clear southern horizon allowed this peak at Sol a day early from the official return of light to Cambridge Bay. Tomorrow, the astronomical alamanac calculateds 37 minutes of actual daylight. So Saturday we will have a sunrise and sunset for the first time in about 5 weeks. Astronomical twilight is defined when the sun is within 15 degrees of the horizon so we’ll have a nice chunk of the day lit – and it only gets longer from here.

Saturday, January 12 -the day the sun returns. I’ll probably go for a ski out towards the NW passage and catch the dawn out on the ocean. Today’s glimpse is like a bonus that has shortened the winter.

It’s strange – we are now in the home stretch – while winter is still official until solstice on March 21 – it really feels like winter is now over with the return of the sun. I don’t really care about the temp or the snow – its over and it wasn’t anywhere near as odious as people made it out to be. I was able to get out everyday and ski if I wanted as there is a 3 to 4 hour window of light that allows one to navigate sans headlamp.

People narrowing in on trivialities of life and personal problems sometimes tend to forget the bigger picture. Most people will view the coming of the sun as a momentary distraction and not think about the fact that the light is traveling 147 million kilometers before impacting on the ground and in their eyes. It takes light about eight minutes or so to travel that distance and signifies the nature of celestial mechanics that govern the seasons on our planet – id est where we are on the path of the ellipse that the earth scribes out on its orbit of the sun. A classic crescent moon rose today about 2 PM and with it you can tell the position of the sun below the horizon – just draw a mental line from the cups of the crescent and trace a perpendicular bisector away from the concavity of the lunar form – it will point directly to the sun.