Barrow Alaska Project

In June of 2009 I left for an adventure to Barrow, Alaska.  Barrow is on the “North Slope” of Alaska, and is the northern-most settlement on the North American mainland and in the United States.  Less than 4,000 people live in the area.

I went to Barrow to install a high-availability XenServer cluster that ran virtual servers which have been collecting weather data wirelessly from weather stations in the area.  The servers collect the data and then transmit it via a satellite link to servers at the University of Cincinnati.  The project was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a grant to the University of Cincinnati.  The project was directed by Dr. Richard Beck.  My brother Andrew Rettig organized the project.  The goal of the project was to improve the collection of weather data in remote locations.  Previously, scientists had to visit expensive isolated weather stations on a regular basis to collect weather data.  Here are some scientists collecting data the old-fasioned way:


This project utilizes off the shelf hardware and software to allow near real-time data collection, while at the same time reducing the cost of a weather station from $40k to under $2k.  The stations communicate on a localized 700Mhz wireless network back to the Barrow Alaska Research Center (BARC).  Here are the communications towers on the BARC and the wireless network coverage:


This trip was an adventure for me because not only did I get to setup the servers at the Barrow Alaska Research Center (BARC), but I was also able to assist with setting up some of the weather stations out on the tundra.  Luckily we did this work in July, so the temperatures during the day were above freezing.  Also, the sun is out 24 hours a day, so the nighttime temperatures aren’t all that different from the daytime.

You can find other posts with pictures, video and commentary from my trip here: If you want a preview of the types of things I encountered on my trip, check out my post about the liability release I had to sign:

5 thoughts on “Barrow Alaska Project

  1. thomasfox

    Tim, this is an awesome opportunity, and a fantastic story – I hope you’re going to feature this in your client newsletter, with lots of cool photos!

  2. Hi Tim. I spent a year on Baffin Island at Cape Dyer, one of the DEW line stations. I was at DYE Main and you’ll be at or near BAR Main when you’re in Barrow. I went home from Cape Dyer late summer of ’69 got married and Cheryl and i moved to Goose bay Labrador for 3-4 years. You’ll enjoy the trip!


  3. jayrettig

    I’ll be displaying your blog today when we have 28 family members at our house for July 4. Have a great 4th. Look forward to your safe return.

  4. jayrettig

    Hey, Tim. I’m one of the 28 family members enjoying your Dad’s hospitality and your Mom’s hard work. What a tremendous opportunity-something to tell the grandchildren some day.

    Look forward to your return and hear first hand from you and Andrew regarding your adventure.

    Uncle Will.

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