First Impressions of Utqiagvik

Top of the World Hotel

It’s 5:35am in the morning, it is dark, but this is just a construct. Because it is 8:35am in Chicago and “light” is from around 11am to 1am, a twilight I now call day, it really makes no difference. We arrived at noon yesterday and this gave us a fantastic opportunity to become aquatinted with our temporary home and to understand a bit more about the community we are working in and the environment is which they live.

The team in front of the sea ice! Those are whale bones

Honestly, I was bracing myself for it to be much darker that it was! The twilight gives you a very nice pre-sunrise light, plenty to see a lot of detail. There is a constant layer of blowing snow (which plays havoc with ARM instrumentation) which made flash photography very challenging. After checking into our hotel (aptly named Top of The World) and grabbing lunch we kitted up and explored. Utqiagvik (Barrow) sits on Arctic tundra, too cold for trees to survive hear. The tundra has a layer of permafrost, a layer of soil that does not melt over the summer. So buildings are built on short stilts. I still need to get my head around Arctic meteorology (one reason why ARM is here: it is hard!) but we are getting a mix of light snow and blowing snow from some thin liquid layer clouds. Fascinating given the Beaufort Sea is completely frozen over.

Sam And Lee’s for homestyle Chinese.

We walked to the local store and did the very touristy thing of looking at the prices of produce. Things are expensive as everything is flown in. A nice aspect of Utqiagvik is the food, plenty of options. We caught a cab to Sammy and Lee’s for some Chinese food. There were pictures of the family all around the place. Very homely, you can see there is a sense of community in this, the northernmost outpost of the United States of America. Sea to Frozen Sea!

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