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Arctic Diary – Week Five

April 27 – May 5, 2002

The strong winds this week have made outside work more difficult. The wind has changed the snowdrifts around our tents and almost buried some of our equipment stored outside.
A day-old boot print creates a mini snow bank after the wind blew away all the loose snow around it. The hard-packed snow makes a squeaky sound when we walk on it.
Some scientists from Environment Canada have joined us on this trip. They have come to the Arctic to study how much mercury is in the air and in the snow.
Mercury is a pollutant that is easily transported in the atmosphere to remote regions such as the Arctic. Air samples were collected in specially coated tubes in order to determine how much mercury is in the air over the frozen Arctic Ocean.
Freshly-fallen snow is collected from a Teflon-covered table set up outside the air pollution monitoring station at Alert.
The scientists collect snow samples in bottles from different layers within deep snow banks. They will bring back these snow samples to Toronto in a cooler packed with snow to keep the samples from melting before they can be tested in the lab.
We set up an experiment that will help us to interpret satellite radar images of Arctic shorelines. Big aluminum 3-D corners that we set up on the shoreline will reflect radar brightly, and will act as reference points in images from RADARSAT, Canada's Earth observation satellite.

When we returned a week later to check the corner reflectors, we discovered that several had been knocked out of position. There were teeth marks in the corner of one, and polar bear tracks all around it.
By the end of the week, our experiments have been completed, and we must start packing all our equipment into bunyans, large shipping containers which will be sent home by Hercules aircraft.
Back at Alert, preparations are being made for our departure. Since the runway at Alert is a gravel base topped with hard packed snow, Canadian Forces personnel fix a rut in the runway by dumping snow into it, and then smooth it out.
Some of us are staying behind to pack up equipment, but many of us leave this week to go home. We have grown accustomed to living in the Arctic environment, and it will be a shock to come home to warm temperatures and dark nights. We have worked hard over the last month and are anxious to see our families, but sorry to leave the friends we have made at Alert.

Week Four / Arctic Diary/ Summer at CFS Alert - July 2002