Barrow

Attack of the Arctic Mosquitoes

Today was our last day in Barrow.  Our final task was to go back to the research hut and improve the weather station mount.  The day before the weather was about 40 degrees with a sustained 20MPH wind.  Today it was almost 50 degrees and it was very calm, so we thought we were going to have it easy.  Unfortunately, that is perfect weather for mosquitoes.  The mosquitoes in Alaska aren’t your typical mosquitoes, either.  They are gigantic and swarm around you.  It is very unnerving.  To ward them off, we wore netting and raw deet.

Giant mosquito
Giant mosquito

Out on the tundra, there was a 5MPH wind.  If I stood in one place I created a wind block so the mosquitoes would gather in that draft behind me.  After about 20 seconds I could literally hear the bzzzzzzz of the gathering swarm of mosquitoes in the draft.  I was actually wishing for the return of the cold and wind from the day before so I didn’t have to deal with the mosquitoes.  Yuck!

After our work was done on the tundra and we showered to remove all of the deet, we took one last tour of the town before our flight.  We got to see the northern most football field in the US.  The field is Astroturf and is located along the beach.  It is a weird sight to see this bright blue field among the drab brown surrounding area.  The field is for the high school football team to play teams from some of the surrounding villages.  The football season is in the summer, of course.  It is also open for general recreation.  While we were there some kids were playing a game of touch football.

We drove out to the gravel pit and got to see them making asphalt.  None of the roads or parking lots anywhere in Barrow are paved.  The only thing paved is the landing strip.  Due to the freezing and thawing of the ground, it is constantly cracking so it has to be repaved frequently.  I don’t know if the plant is permanent, or if it is brought in only when needed.  The gravel pit is also used for gravel for the roads and soil.  The soil is transported to the dump on the other side of town.  The soil is used as a layer on top of the trash.

After the final site seeing tour, we threw our luggage into the back of the truck and headed to the airport.  After a long business trip I am usually looking forward to going home.  But in this case, I was beside myself with excitement to get the heck out of here!  I don’t know what I disliked the most – the cold, the mosquitoes, the drab surroundings, being constantly covered in dirt and dust, the complete lack of anything fun to do, or the feeling of isolation from the rest of the world – whatever it was, I was glad to be leaving it all behind!  I can’t wait to be back home!  

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