Saturday, 9 April 2011

Not your typical Saturday afternoon

After yesterday’s rather gentle foray onto the ice in nice weather to lay out our two practice ground targets ( we returned to find out exactly where we had been thanks to our GPS readings. Google map confirmed that we had indeed been ‘walking on water’ when walking between the two sites. Of course the scene now is rather different, apart from the icebergs which are still trapped solidly within the ice.

Before embarking on our second day trip out, and after some lengthy discussion, we decided that it would be useful to be able to see one site from the other, not so easy given the terrain and various bits of trapped bergs in the way. Justin had a 3m pole we could use but what to put at the top that could be seen from 1km away? Just after breakfast Justin emerged with what else but a Canadian flag for our target.

After a two minute pause for Justin to sing the Canadian national anthem (whilst we all stood at a safe distance) it was time to hop back on our snowmobiles to head to the other site to see if we could see the flag (the lack of wind being good for us but not so good for the flag!).

By the way did I say that in one day I have in one day become an expert (ha!) at skidoo driving (in the front my mean machine and behind the girls go for a quick recce). Seriously it’s very easy to pick up, the only danger being rolling the machine, which I have done once, and which being in snow usually results in laughter, rather than injury.

On reaching camp orange the big question was whether the flag at the other site would be visible. I was still digging some binoculars out of my bag when the other announced triumphantly that in fact it was visible with the naked eye. Next comes the business of how to line everything up. Sitting near our nice orange marker I first line up @polarosie (in the red) with the wooden stake at the centre of our site and the flag in the far distance (left a bit, right a bit – thanks to Bob Monkhouse and “The Golden Shot” for all that training during my formative years). Then it’s @polarosie’s turn to line up @katgiles (in black behind her and ably assisted by Justin on the left) whilst she puts flags in the direction of the other site.

After another long discussion (the whole point of this preparatory exercise) the perpendicular to the line between the two sites is made, taking care not to trample on our precious survey area. After a short lunch break, during which the the juice froze solid in the straw I was using, the grid was complete and ready to conduct the snow survey.

So after a long tiring day we head back and one of our team spots something moving amongst the rough ice. Not yellow like a polar bear but more dark and shifting, perhaps an Arctic wolf out on the first sortie of the night looking for some prey. Hard to discern but in possession of a long lens (mine) they catch a few snaps as their skidoo races home. Anxious to see what sort of elusive creature they have photographed the pictures are downloaded as soon they return and when zoomed  revealed what is in fact quite a common sight in these oil barrel!

Now all that is left is packing up for (hopefully) the flight to Alert tomorrow.

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