8/13/09

On this day Jemma & Steve released a tracer upstream while Mike and I waited to see if we could hear them pass.

We heard them 5km off, but it took them almost an hour to get to us.

Steve is the dark blob
Steve & Jemma traced them from the injection point and came speeding up join us to the chase, but the tracer got grounded, so we set about trying to find it.
We eventually decided it must be beached on this island to Steve's right - which we could boat to if it weren't for the quicksand, quick current, and raging torrents of death downstream. The tracer is still there days later. We'll have a pickled herring, mustard, cheese, and peanut butter (!) lunch before heading back into town.
I've taught myself (sort of) how to use GIS to combine our growing pile of GPS data with maps and images and got caught up on the map this evening while Mike, Jemma, and Steve pumped up our boat.

I found them sitting outside near some of the ubiquitous rocket engines. In order to get the C-130 transports the U.S. uses to support its polar missions off the run-way, these mini-rockets (one's pictured between Mike & Jemma) are used. They were all made in the 50's and there are only 10,000 left. The replacemen rockets cost $200,000 a pop, so the planes are being retro-fitted with eight-blade propellers that are making rockets obsolete. The spent canisters can be found everywhere in Kangerlussuaq, a throw-back to its days as a U.S. Air Force Base (decommissioned in 01992).
We chucked a tracer in the fjord to see how the tides, current, et cetera there would affect our ability to recover it. Also brought down the boat to see if we'd be able to do the retrieval ourselves. The Scottish divers we've met have told us the tides are completely unpredictable and, as we listened to our tracer recede into the distance at an alarming rate, we knew we wouldn't be using our little boat.

(The boat here is held on with parachute cord bought to hold my bear bags up on the Superior Trail.)
Steve, off to chuck the Tracer in.
Jemma & Mike listening to it fade away.
The Sika Yagi antenna from BioTrack has practically become an extension of Mike's arm.
Somewhere, out here, is the Tracer.
Now what will we do?

8/14/09

We didn't retrieve the Tracer from the fjord the previous night and our visit here since then has been characterised by repeated trips to the headland to listen for it - it's always out there, calling.

Outside the grocery story this morning there were a pair of Greenlanders selling whole parts of a musk ox. We thought about buying a haunch, but noticed some flies. The tourist lady with her video camera (neither pictured here) was more direct, asking repeatedly if they'd sell her the flies as well: she was rather a dirt-bag. You always here about such people, but it's something else to encounter them in reality. I wonder why you'd purposely try to deride the inhabitants of your vacation destination in your home video…
The morning started with Jemma & Steve hiding four Tracers out on the sand flats (I'll try to put a map up soon) and leaving Mike & I alone in the wilderness to try to find them. I was very excited about this as I'd read the sections of "Foxhunting" quite studiously while studying for my HAM license, but never had a chance to put that knowledge to use.

Finding the tracers proved to be a fairly easy task, except for the one Jemma had hid. She put it out in the mud where there may have been quicksand, so we ended up making several different approaches before taking the plunge. Naturally, there was no quicksand. We've been very encouraged by the findability of the tracers and will now commence more realistic testing.

Since Mike & I had extra time after findin the Tracers, we released my sensor package for its first river test. It's very much a prototype at the moment: the code is elegant, many of the sensors are in-place, but the arrangement of the sensors and the exterior packaging has not yet become aesthetic.
Having concluded those tests, Jemma and Mike picked us up and we headed out to the river-crossing to simultaneously inject four Tracers - this is getting very close to being the real thing now. The Scottish divers (out here from Glasgow studying algae) had wanted to see this, so we left a sign pointing the way.
We've kept the tracers split apart to preserve their batteries (and in hopes that airport security wouldn't arrest us) - so injecting them means connecting the batteries and gluing them together. Mike & Steve got on this.

While they were busy with this, a trio of black-clad figures appeared in the distance and I prepared myself to defend the project…




…but they were just the divers, so it wasn't necessary. The science community up here has been fun to interact with - they have the same congeniality so prevelant among wilderness-farers, but the conversation is, I think, more interesting and everyone seems very passionate about what they're doing.

For the past few evenings, the divers have regaled us with tales of meeting sharks under-water, getting swept off by rip tides, trying to avoid the bends, and, generally, surviving in arctic waters. One can see why there are so few divers around. All three of them have wonderful wit to boot, so the tales are doubly enjoyable.

With the tracers prepared, took the rare opportunity of a third party to capture a group photo. Steve and Mike have both stopped shaving for the trip. As a result, Steve's beginning to look a bit like a guerilla commando and I keep expecting him to pull out a hulking cigar. Mike, on the other hand, will still blend in with society. Naturally, I began my preparations in this area long ago.
The Tracer. There's a magnet hiding inside, so we can fish it out (with that trouble-some pole. Interesting, this is what happens when you rub a magnet on the ground here (or drop it in the river). Steve's a little worried that the build-up may cause our otherwise neutrally-bouyant sensors to go sleep with the fishies.
And now it was time to chuck them in the river. I prepared my long arms for the job… (a feat accomplished by making various grimacing expressions with drippingly-beautiful scenery in the background)

TODO: The Toss

And then we waited…
And waited…
But they never came. So we went looking.
And found two, before concluding that the others had slipped by us!
A high-speed car chase caught us up and then, mysteriously, we lost them again.
Steve and I waited, listening, while Mike and Jemma went back to the point of last contact.
But they didn't hear them. We'd lost two tracers without a trace! When they returned, we combined our powers, but, as there were only four of us, it simply wasn't enough.

When we got back to KISS, I discovered my sensor and written all its data to a corrupted SD card. Searching about with linux, I found all the data (this took a while), but how to extract it? I worked till about 2AM and finally had it all pulled off. But, looking at my graphs, I knew something was wrong… something that couldn't be fixed by staying up late.

On my way to bed, I took a peak out the window. Midnight here is about 1:20AM (time is complicated up North). Sunrise here was May 23rd, after which the sun "set" for the first time July 12th. Looking up, one can see the sun make a big circle during the day. Thanks to the mountains, we get a kind of twilight now, rather than constant light. That twilight is what you see here. This is as dark as it gets (and, to the human eye, it's much brighter).



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Mom - Monday, August 24, 2009 at 08:08:55 (PDT)
The last photo reminds me of Iceland in 1970-when U. John & I had a 24 hour layover there on the way to the UK--it never did get dark so we walked the town almost all night.