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Week 5: End of the Road!

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Week 3: 80 Pounds of Butter?

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WEEK 5: AT THE END OF THE ROAD!

 
The Dog Truck Team! – from left: Dan McGinnis, Paul, and Mike Pregont.
Explore downtown Circle City.
Date Posted: 03.13.06
Location: 65°49'N 144°03'W, Circle City, USA
Weather Conditions: Clear -36F / -38C

The Polar Huskies have reached the end of the road! Heading out of the big city of Fairbanks, it took the dog-truck team almost eight hours to drive the last leg of less than 160 miles! Guess that tells you something about the road conditions. Though Fairbanks is a town of more than 70,000 people, it only has three roads coming in and out of it. The Alaskan Highway from the South, Cheena Hot Springs Road heading east about 50 miles into the heart of the wilderness, and going north, the Steese Highway leading to Circle City. Beautifully placed on the banks of the Yukon River, Circle City is a small community of just 107 people with no city water or sewer – but they do have phone and electricity…

Two-legged and four–legged alike were thrilled to finally make it to Circle City- the point where we will load up the sleds, exchanging our mode of transportation to Polar Husky power. The dogs were throwing themselves in the deep snow while the trailer was being unloaded. Paul soon experienced first-hand just how deep the snow is as he set out to dig a snow pit on the edge of town and collect the first samples of snow crystals. Once he scrapes the crystals off the snow pit wall, he freezes the crystals – the small snowflakes – in liquid nitrogen which is extremely cold; minus 320 degrees Fahrenheit to be exact. Lying on a small plate, the crystals were stored in a dewer which was then shipped back to NASA. When he receives them, Eric Baten from USDA will put the snow crystals on his super microscope so he can report, on Thursday, that they indeed made the 4,000 mile journey! Paul digging in his snow pit, scraping snowflakes to send back to NASA.
Watch Paul explain the procedure.
Watch Ed Erbe from USDA transfer the liquid nitrogen filled dewer.
Dipping their heads in the deep snow, the Polar Huskies are having fun on one of their training runs around the community of Circle City. We heard that students from Japan to across the USA have been doing research on snowflakes – growing snowflakes and digging snow pits as well. One of the questions we answered last week in the Q&A section of the website was how deep our snow pits normally are. We can report that from what we are seeing here in Circle City, we are going to be doing a lot of digging! If Paul was starting to get the idea when he dug his snow pit, he fully realized this as he hitched up the Polar Huskies for their first run in Alaska! For the last four days Paul and the Polar Huskies have been tearing up the many trails around town and the Polar Huskies are all learning that if they step off the trail they basically disappear in a flurry of snow over their heads.
Luckily enough there really are lots of trails around town for some fun running. Most of the people living in Circle City are Native Alaskans from the Athabascan tribe of Gwich’in – a people that have lived in this area for thousands of years. Today, as always, hunting and trapping on the land are important parts of living. Salmon, fresh water fish, moose, and bear are the major sources of meat to this community. Most other goods and groceries come here by barge up the river. The Polar Huskies had lots of visitors all week.
Locals in Circle City cooked up a feast for Paul. Besides letting the Polar Huskies stretch their legs and loosen up for the journey ahead, Paul has stayed very busy. On Thursday he had the honor of tasting some wonderful Alaskan cooking when the community arranged a small feast for him. Here Paul had a chance to talk with Elders from Circle City about changes they have experienced in the seasons or while traveling on the land. Mostly the Elders talked about how the seasons of “ice break up” in the spring and “ice freeze up” in the fall seem to come respectively earlier and later, making for a longer period without ice.
This might seem like a pretty nice thing, but to the people living in Circle City it makes it difficult to rely on hunting and trapping as they cannot travel to their cabins for the spring hunt because of the danger of bad ice and open water on the river. Since there are no roads heading north of Circle, the river being frozen functions like a “natural road” on which people can easily travel via their snowmobiles to their hunting cabins on the land and to the other communities further north up the river. Everybody in Circle has been very welcoming and helpful to Paul. He has been spending a lot of time with the Chief of town, Albert Carroll II, who has helped out with advice on the journey ahead as well as by sharing with Paul his own experiences about how the climate has been changing over the years.
Watch Chief Albert Carroll talk about the changes in the seasons.
Watch Albert share his knowledge about the journey ahead.
Girl from Circle City having fun at the feast! During the feast one young woman told Paul how she is concerned about the future of Circle City because it is sitting on the river banks – and communities other places in Alaska are having to move because of thawing permafrost causing the banks on which they sit to erode. What are your thoughts as far as climate change? Make sure to join this week’s chat with meteorologist Dan Dix, from the Weather Channel in Atlanta, Georgia on Thursday at 12:00 Noon.
Thursday most of town actually left, heading south to the capitol of Alaska where the students from the school in Circle City were attending the Alaska State Fair Championship in Science and Engineering! Paul had visited the school the day before to meet with the students, talk about the expedition, and life in Circle. Most of the students had already been spending a lot of time hanging out with the Polar Huskies and talking with Paul by the sled, so Paul took the opportunity to learn some more about all the incredible science projects the students had been working on to get ready for the Championships. Judging is today – we hope they do well! On that note, make sure you submit your climate stuff – images, audio, climate solutions etc. – to the CLIMATE Zone so you can enter into the Polar Husky Zone competitions as well! The postings we have seen so far are phenomenal – and we can’t wait to see more! A cool science project on Snow Bringers – apparently spraying an igloo with water makes it warmer to stay inside of it!
Watch details from a science project on the sun – maybe this is the winner!
This week’s first Polar Husky Superstar is Domino. If the Polar Huskies keep up the pace they have been running on their “fun-runs” around the town of Circle City, once we get going, we should be in the next community of Fort Yukon in no time! Mille is supposed to land in Circle on Tuesday. Then we load up the sleds and off we go. The Polar Huskies are pretty much howling non-stop with the excitement of being in the cold and running in front of the sled again! Along with the old cheerleaders Peto and Timber, this week’s first Polar Husky Superstar, Domino, is one of the first to howl and one that howls the longest. Domino is a very spirited dog who just loves to run. When the sled stops he launches into the air, throwing himself into the harness.
Another Polar Husky that enjoys to throw back his head and howl with all his might is this week’s other Polar Husky Superstar, Kodiak. This will be Kodiak’s first expedition, but he is already getting a real hang of how to work hard like a veteran Polar Husky. Running next to Domino, he has really learned how to pull hard and dig in when it is time to get the sled started. Just like Domino, Kodiak will throw himself into the air to get the rest of the team fired up to go. In a few more days when the sleds are fully loaded that is just what Paul and Mille will be looking for! Kodiak earns the title as this week’s second Polar Husky Superstar.