We’re waiting for a scientific researcher, Mack, who’s been doing a science project in the area for the past 40 years. We’re dropping off half the team to work with him today- collecting insects in the boonies outside of town. We’ll be working with him every Friday.
I ask what the fences out here are about– lining the horizon. Laura tells me they are snow fences for the outskirts of town– they stop the wind flow of snow from entering town. Building a fence is cheaper than hiring snowplows to do the job.
The native college has loaned us a van for the next two months, and we’ve got the radio turned up. The only radio station in range, called “Top of the World.” They’re playing some sort of funk rock jazz soul music. It’s pretty great. Grungy and crunchy and perfect for driving though a snowstorm.
Two attractive young scientists get out of the car with Mack, the older scientist. They look like just the people you imagine who would put their life on hold, run up to the Arctic, study bugs and birds and numbers and never come back home again. They are loving it, you can see it in their calm, balanced, logical faces. That little twitch of adventure shows up in the corner of their mouths, and in their eyes when they talk. Super quiet and sweet– they are from North Dakota and Minnesota.
I learn from Laura and Mack about the bug project– we are working with Mack and his scientists to collect larva from the melt ponds. Because the liquid from the melted ice cannot penetrate the frozen ground, it lays on top of the ground, creating these ponds and this unique environment during the summer months. Over time, the water erodes the ground, and the melt ponds become bigger and deeper with each year of snowfall. Bugs lay their larva in these marshy-like puddles in the frozen landscape. Melt ponds are seasonal in the Arctic– begin in June and go to mid July.
And then, in a few weeks, mid June, all the birds from the entire North Pacific flyway come up north and feast on the larva and bugs for a few weeks. Bird watchers from all over the world come to Barrow, and pay $500 dollars a night to stay and visit Barrow’s dump– which is where the highest bird population congregates.
“It doesn’t look like it, it looks like the face of the moon. But it’s teeming with life,” Laura explained in regard to the melt ponds haunting the barren landscape.
Following the bird migration, all of the larva will hatch, and the bird sized mosquitoes that Alaska is famous for will come out and become a part of our lives.
We’re getting face nets issued to us for work.
Carinne and I are collaborating on a zine that we’re going to produce about this year by the end of July.
It’s going to be a few pages on each month together. Our travels, who we’ve met, what we’ve learned, and where it’s taking us.
I’m going to pore over my blog entries from the year and pull out pieces to paste to pages. And she’s going to interpret with visual art, collage and drawings on the pages.
Then we’re going to make lots of copies and hand them out to people everytime they ask us what the fuck we did with this year of our lives.
And maybe even to people who don’t ask.
We’re going to make a publication together.