Tucked Away in Their Dens

2/24/2011 11:26:17 AM

Tucked Away in Their Dens

The more we make our way through the halls of Kuparuk the more we like the place and the people. They're all drinking the same Koolaid here: helpful and happy. I'm going to bottle that up and take it home to Utah when I leave .... I also have a list of people to send it to but we'll skip that for now; they know who they are. We've benefited from many persons' help and can't believe how generous with time, talents, and materials people are here. BJ Kirschhoffer of PBI—who has worked with me on the project for three years now—looks at me as if to say, "We've found a new home!" and I agree.

Young twin cubs

We prepare gear for three days but as we do the weather degenerates: first high winds, then heavy snows, then more winds... and warmth. Today (the 24th) the temperature rose to 32 degrees F.... something I've never seen in February, though not unheard of.

BJ has installed a direct vent heater in our Snow Coach, a towable shelter we take with us everywhere. I've renamed it the Snow Toaster and it promises to usher in the dawn of a new day of arctic research - towable shelter and warmth. We can't wait to try it out when we head out to the den sites.

Today Dan the thermographics man treated us to a tour of his highly sophisticated electronic toys, including the FLIR camera we'll be using to detect polar bear families denning under the snow—it's a FLIR P660, a great imaging device. Like a lot of the Kuparuk (Conoco-Phillips) personnel Dan is no exception: he's helpful, friendly, and very supportive.

The winds are picking up... it's supposed to blow 50 mph tonight and with all of the fresh snow we all expect huge drifts to build. We haven't been out yet and likely won't get out tomorrow. So it's standby mode for now. The bears should still be warmly tucked away but we're getting antsy to get underway.

Photo ©Mike Lockhart.

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