Sleep Deprivation, Sled Dogs, and Bear Spray: Adventures North of the Arctic Circle

Yesterday, Beth, Kali and I departed OSU to begin field work in Kotzebue, Alaska. Kali and I were envious of Beth’s ability to fall asleep in both cars and airplanes. We were fortunate to have window seating on both of our flights, and saw the Alaska Range filled with countless cirque glaciers.

We were greeted by Peter Neitlich at the small airport in Kotzubue, aka “Kots”, where he showed us the uniqueness of the town. We took a stroll along the water and had a nice, hot dinner. We continued walking after dinner and went to the Kotzubue High School where we watched Qatnut. Qatnut is a trade fair and a gathering of Inupiat dancers from the surrounding Arctic villages. It was great to get to see some of the local culture! They were quite the dancers and drummers.

We were told about how the full 24 hours of sunlight would be difficult to adapt to—and how correct that was! We all woke up to the sled dogs across the street howling, and were surprised to find out that it was 2 in the morning, despite the sun shining through the cracks in our window. After a night of restless sleep, we woke up and got right to work, after coffee—of course. We began by going to the cache to gather the gear for the project. We packed and labeled the gear, and got to “play” with the equipment that we will be using in the field. We also got to pick up our helicopter flight equipment! This was definitely a high-point for some of us.

Midday, we realized that it was time for us to make sure that we were best prepared for bear protection. We selected a spot to practice using bear spray. Peter led the way in showing us how to be experts. After each of us got our turn to spray, we realized that each of us had some capsasin residue that got onto our persons! Kali started sneezing, and I jumped in the shower. We washed our clothing from that experience… hopefully we got it all, and won’t need to use our new-found bear spraying skills in the field. We just ate dinner and are finalizing the plans for tomorrow morning. We fly to the mine at 8 a.m.

Elisa (w/ Beth & Kali)

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