By Nick Korzen
When I came to Juneau, Alaska in January of 2007, I never thought I would get such a great opportunity. Thanks to UAS professors Matt Heavner and Eran Hood who took me on the SEAMONSTER (South East Alaska Monitoring Network for Science, Telecommunications, Education, and Research) team.
Within the first couple weeks of work, I was building weather stations and solar panel mounts, which were then deployed in the surrounding Juneau area. Since these areas are somewhat remote, I was able to take many helicopter trips to various places like Cairn Peak, Lemon Glacier, and the Lemon creek watershed. I learned about networking and what the instruments can tell us about certain aspects of what we are measuring. I even got the opportunity to take a float plane trip up to Lituya Bay to help out a well known glaciologist with GPS and isostatic rebound.
I helped install a water probe instrument in Lemon Creek that determines glacial melt and signs of climate warming. The Lemon Glacier feeds into Lemon Creek. The water probe measures creek temperature and turbidity. Another instrument used was a pressure transducer which was put in a glacial lake at the top of the Lemon Glacier. Sometime during the summer the glacial lake will drain. With the pressure transducer in the lake, we’re able to take the data and match it up with the data from the water probe and derive an exact date when the drain occurred.
I canoed across Mendenhall Lake to work on the network camera and even made a few time lapse movies. While working on the weather station out at Mendenhall Glacier I was able to witness many glacier calvings which was pretty extraordinary. I would be working on the station when all of a sudden I would here this loud cracking and splash, the glacier just calved while we were only working a few hundred feet from it! I was able to explore ice caves, and learned self-arrest and glacier crevice rescue techniques.
Some days were gorgeous and other days were blowing snow with winds to 40 mph. Not the most opportune working conditions, but it's all about the experience. One time up on Cairn Peak right after the heli dropped us off, the weather turned sour, and we ended up walking out, which was something like a 10 hour hike through the rain, down pretty steep snowy slopes. Man I wish I had my skis!
I also spent many days in the lab building battery packs, soldering, and wiring up harnesses for Motes (mini robots). I even got a chance to learn a little about networking. With some help, I'm able to set up local area networks, and I have a basic understanding of the language. I'm also able to diagram power, connectivity, and the local area network of a weather station.
Spending a week in Lituya Bay on Cenotaph Island I was able to experience the pure beauty and remoteness of Alaska. I took part in helping out a well known glaciologist named Roman Motyka with carrying batteries and setting up GPS units which measured uplift. I learned that only a few centuries ago the entire bay was covered with ice which was truly amazing, to think that this 14 mile long by 3.5 mile wide island was completely covered with ice! This trip also provided great wildlife viewing. Flying to the bay we saw brown bears on the beach feeding on salmon which were swimming up river.
Working with SEAMONSTER is like nothing I could have asked for or even imagined, with great experiences and wonderful people. Alaska is a land of opportunity. I experienced this first hand. I plan to continue to stay on the SEAMONSTER project and learn as much as I possibly can while I'm here.