Barrow Adventures–Day 1
We were still on East Coast time, so we all woke up in Fairbanks around 4 am to complete daylight. Not long after, we headed off to one of the most laid back airports ever and boarded a plane to Barrow.
Barrow’s airport, it turns out, is even more laid back than Fairbanks. It was one room, and only contained about 30 people; it was definitely far from Newark or JFK. We took a ride over to UMIAQ, or Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation, an organization that offers scientific support and from which we could rent the 4-wheelers needed to head out to the CODAR site (because of the terrain, regular vehicles are not allowed).
The CODAR site was built by UAF and is located on Point Barrow, the northern-most point of the United States. It was assembled offsite, disassembled, brought out to its location, and then reassembled in 6 days. The total weight of the structure is 6,000 pounds, 3,000 of which are from batteries. It was built on 12 beams that are not actually attached to the ground, but just rest on top of it; the weight of the structure keeps the building in place. The entire unit leaves no footprint; it could easily be taken apart and moved and no one would know anything was ever there. The site is completely green, running on solar power or wind power, but with sufficient backup power for 5 days.
The point of going to the site the first day we were in Barrow was to see the equipment and get a better understanding of how the plan for vessel detection was going to work out, as well as diagnose the source of some noise that was interfering with the HFR system. We got to see the CODAR system, the power supplies, the antenna, and the AIS system. Actually getting to see all the technology that was going to give the results we read about and studied was very interesting.
Hank was with us, and as UAF’s CODAR technician he spent some time working on the noise issue while the rest of us went out to the whale-bone yard. Every year after the annual whale hunt, the Inpuiat natives bring the remaining whale carcasses at the whale-bone yard in hopes of keeping the polar bears away from town. We were then able to stand at the actual Northern-most point in the US, and got to check out the sea ice a little more closely, even spotting some seals!
After a little more work at the CODAR site, we headed back to town and saw another multistatic CODAR system. It had a tuning system, which allowed for clearer and farther data collection, an idea that could be useful at Rutgers.