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Friday, March 11, 2011

Some questions

i wonder why it's so lumpy, how far you can walk out on it, what happens to the tides, how thick is the ice there, are there waves crashing against sea ice somewhere out on the edge of it, how far away the island is, how tall is that pressure ridge...?

It's lumpy because of the tidal effect and the movement caused by recent strong winds.

Sledge Island is about 21 nautical miles from the camera and about 4 miles out from the shore to the west of Nome. If you google earth Nome, AK and zoom out you can see it all, but in summer dress. I was messing around about 200 metres beyond the outer harbour mouth and the big pressure ridge surrounds the end of the western causeway.

You can walk out as far as it seems safe to do so - if it's moving or there are big cracks, beware. Snow shoes or skis are safer than just the boots I had, and I did not have a pole as a probe so I was very cautious. The ice is at least 4 feet thick, from the evidence of the big slabs in the pressure ridges but the thickness is not constant. I'll know more tomorrow when I go out to visit the gold diver. There are certainly waves out there somewhere - how far out depends on the season and the extent of the ice. We saw them in the distance in 2008 up near Wainwright.

This ice chart of the west Bering Sea shows roughly how far it goes at the moment.

Difficult to interpret but Nome is under the lower right corner of the box containing the number 89 top right of the chart. So the ice extends 340 miles SW of Nome, out past the Pribilof Islands. You can look at it in conjunction with google earth.

The big pressure ridge is about 25 ft tall at a guess - very difficult to judge.

Hoping to see the aurora tonight...

Running on ice

Or why I've always wanted YakTrax but was afraid to ask. They are weird to run on and energy sapping but very effective on packed snow. Not so good on smooth ice. And I'm learning about the different noises snow makes and even a bit about what it means - language, grammar and syntax, just like in a boat. Especially necessary to learn this language out on the sea ice. There's a sort of hollow empty-bottle nasal graunch that means things are not necessarily all they seem to be and you're on the point of going through the surface crust. Safe enough most of the time and you only go in up to the knee - but there are places out there where the snow has covered big cracks and you get no warning. Soft cruush and you're in. So I'm trying to find surface signs as well. Those of my friends who go out to play on Everest and who might be reading this may sigh at this naive foolishness but one has to learn sometime.

Today was so still that sound carried for miles - and, as I was wearing a balaclava the Yakkie crunch climbed all the way up my spine and rattled my empty and echoing skull. Out on the ice later, I could see a bulldozer at the base of Anvil Mountain so at least 4 miles away and maybe 5 but it sounded as if it was out there with me.

More photos in the Alaska2011/2 and Sledge albums and a new one playing with skip and mirage.