Wednesday and Thursday were long days. After getting ready to leave around 8 a.m. on Wednesday we saw that the valley below, where all of our plots are, was blanketed by fog. This was no weather for flying, as number one, the pilot has to be able to see the ground to land. Then we tried to drive in with the red dog truck to still get some work in, but come to find out that the road was in “yellow” meaning no vehicles other than the concentrate trucks (ore trucks) are allowed on the road due to low visibility. We were grounded! No work possible. The fog did not let up until around 1 p.m. at which point we rushed to get in a full days work. Other than getting up early, working late is no problem in the arctic—the sun never goes down! We worked until about 10:30 p.m. getting back to camp at 11:30 p.m. I think I can say we were all dead tired. Thursday was a bit better, the fog let us start around 10 a.m., only getting to camp around 9 p.m. And finally the last couple days we have had early start times providing earlier returns.
Over the last week we have gotten helicopter travel down. This includes all cotton clothes (high melting point), a fire proof flight suit (nomex), a park service inflatable life vest equipped with survival gear including a personal locator beacon and finally a flight helmet to be able to hear and talk during flight.
Our time to finish a plot is getting shorter and shorter, from better plot gear organization as well as “hot loading” meaning loading into the helicopter when the blades are running.
I am finally getting the hang of and remembering to call Denali dispatch with the satellite phone each time we depart and land in the helicopter. And now avoid accidentally calling Bering Air—the helicopter company instead of dispatch…woops.
Tomorrow off to the reference or control plots in southern Krusenstern National Monument for 2 days then we’re done with all the helicopter sampling!!!