Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Last night we went to a special museum tour. It is in a man's house. He has collected artifacts throughout his life. Some of the artifacts in there are 5,000 years old. He also has a big elk, polar bear, grizzly bear, fox and muskox stuffed in there. He said that Coca-Cola used to use his polar bear. It was a really unique place and is visitable by appointment only. We also tried to find a polar bear (from the safety of a car - don't fear). We would really like to see one before we leave! But we still have one last night...
We went to the Barrow High School graduation this weekend. Unfortunately it was really long and we able to stay for the diploma part. However, I thought it was really interesting to see how it was done. Since it is a small school, it is much different than my graduation at the Target Center. They had it in their gym and got to pick someone to walk in with. Like the other graduations and ceremonies we have attended, they had the baleen held above them as they entered to the sound of drums. Then, they had a rose ceremony for graduates to thank all of those that have helped them and they also had lots of scholarships that the graduates received.
In their freshman year, this class had about 100 students. ON this day, 52 graduated. This fact kept me thinking. This made the fact that the graduation rate here is 50% very obvious to me. I had forgotten that this place had those statistics. It had seemed so normal. I did see a lot of students "disappear" for vacation 2 weeks at a time and there still remains students in my classes that I have never met. But, these students made it to school most of the year before this I assumed. However, they now have almost no chance of passing and may be the first steps to their dropout. I taught 2 freshman classes here. It is very likely that by the time they are seniors, one whole class will no longer be here in school.
This morning we were very lucky and got hooked up with one of the scientists Kim, who let us go out with another scientist Bryan out on the ice. They got us snowmachines and a guide named Nok and all drove out on the Arctic Ocean to the wonder that is the pressure ridge. I had never been on a snowmachine before so I was excited. It was a cold, cold day and we were all bundled head to toe and did as much as we could to stay warm. I could never imagine the January weather here! As we rode out it suddenly became another world. It felt like we were passing through a forest of trees with hills and mountains all around us. There was so much to see! However, it was all ice and snow that made this beautiful landscape. This was the pressure ridge. Mounds of snow and ice built up from the pressure of ice slamming and pushing into other ice piles.
The lead (the open water between landfast ice and floating ice pieces) was closed still as it has been much of this whaling season. It has prevented the 56 whaling crews in Barrow from getting a whale this year :(. So we didn't get to see open water, but we set up a tent and drilled some holes in the ice to begin fishing. We drilled a big hole for collecting copepods for the toxicology study that we learned about when we first got here. They are testing the effects of oil dispersion on these organisms to see how it would effect the ecosystem. We caught some jellyfish and krill (shrimp) in the plankton net, but did not catch many copepods. I might add that I was the only one who caught a copepod.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
It has been fifteen long years since Old Major has passed away. The rebellions have since been forgotten. Snowball has not been seen in the area for quite some time and Squealer has been keeping very busy turning black into white. The windmill is working and Pilkington has been keeping his nose out of our business. Boxer is gone and there has been much controversy in regards to my decision to send him to the hospital. The other comrades thought I was sending him to the knackers, but in truth, I did so diligently send him to the hospital in order for him to be fixed. Consequently and sadly, he did not make it out of surgery.
Back to the basics and main point of this post. I am writing to inform all of you, comrades, that I shall step down from my throne here on the Manor Farm, for I have accepted a new job position somewhere you are all unfamiliar with. That place is the northern most city in the country of the USA. The place, comrades, is Barrow, Alaska. I feel that this is the right position for me. The other comrades here agree whole heartily with me. The past is behind, the present is a gift, and the future is yet to begin. Will we ever reach the future? I do not know, good comrades. That is up for you to decide. Remember the commandment, comrades..."All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."
Friday, May 15, 2009
On this weekend we had some really fun adventures. The Jo(h)ns were still here to enjoy it with us too. On Friday after school we all went to the local heritage center. At the center they had a whaling exhibit and others that detail the local culture of the North Slope. That night, Sam and Jenny went to bed really early and got up at 2 a.m. and took a taxi into town. They volunteered at an all-night lock-in at the high school. The lock in was a fundraiser for the Barrow cheerleaders and the sophomore class.
After watching elementary and middle school children go crazy from too much sugar and pass out from no sleep, they wandered around the town in the morning stopping at landmarks, hotels, the airport and napped. Soon enough it was time for the local rummage sale! The whole group met up at the rummage sale and we searched for some good buys. We were all pretty successful at finding some souvenirs at a reasonable price.
That evening we learned the local card game Snerts from our friends at the college. Some say its for old people, but we caught on quick and really got into it. Later that evening we also made a big fort / indoor igloo. Ahh! To be a kid again...
That night, the sky was clear and the midnight sun was shining very brightly. The Jo(h)ns left the next day, we miss them!
A very nice man by the name of Geoff Carol was kind enough to take us all dog sledding with him! He could only take 2 at a time, so we took our turns and had a blast. It was the coolest thing I have ever experienced. He is the only person in Barrow who still does dog mushing. All of the dog teams have been replaced by snowmachines. They are more efficient and easier to take care of. So, the tradition of dog mushing is no longer practical. Geoff got into dog mushing from a couple of Minnesotans who were planning an expedition to the north pole. He joined them and went to the north pole with them in 1987. They started in Greenland and it took him 56 days to get there.
The dogs that he has were so, so, friendly and cute. They are Greenland huskies, which are not the same type as they use for the racing, like the Iditarod. The ones that they use in the Iditarod are used for speed and the Greenland huskies are slower, but have a thicker coat and are more suited for survival. The average lifespan is like 8 years. I loved the dogs they were quite adorable and soft, and beautiful and friendly.
When Sam and I went it was colder, so Geoff made us put on big parkas to stay warm. He wanted to make sure that we enjoyed ourselves and did not freeze to death. Some of us got to help harness up the doges. They were barking like crazy because they were so excited to go. They are chained up in a pen, each with their own little house (box), but live to go on mushing Riding was so fun. It was so beautiful to watch the dogs running and pulling us along. We used the words “Ha” for right, “Ge” for left, “Kitta” for go (inupiat) and “whoa” for stop. We each got to drive the sled and stand on the rutters on the back. Geoff took us across the lagoon, the tundra behind Ilisagvik and across the the arctic ocean. On the way back one time, he wrapped a rope around his waist and skiied back to his house as we drove the sled! After we returned, we unharnessed the dogs and got to feed each dog 2 fish and a blubber chunk. It was a really unforgettable experience.