The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' --Isaac Asimov
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Barrow Sea Ice Workshop: Day 1

May 8th, 2013 by eric


10 years, last week. That’s when I first came to Barrow. Besides the fact that I was 10 years younger (10 years smarter?), a lot of things were different then — SARS was on our breath, Jean Charest had just come to power in Quebec, the iTunes store had just sold its first song, that guy in Utah who cut his own arm off was cutting off his own arm, and George W. Bush was just days from declaring ‘Mission Accomplished’ after a short-lived invasion of Iraq.


So what was I doing at ‘The Top of the World’? [or the USA, at least]. I had just started graduate school at the University of Washington, training to be an Astrobiologist. And so I was thrilled to be taking part in the NASA Astrobiology Institute’s Europa Focus Group workshop, and to visit the Arctic for the very first time.


The workshop was amazing and really cemented in my mind my interest for Arctic research and its application to the search for life elsewhere in the Universe. [a fellow student kept a journal here: parts 1 2 3 4].


Unfortunately, time passes for everyone. Since 2003, two elders have passed away — one scientific and one local to the Barrow community. Ron Greeley and Arnold Brower, Sr. were both highly respected members of their communities — one a planetary geologist and the other a whaling captain and community leader. I met them both for the first time during the workshop and both were inspiring for their dedication and long years of work doing what they loved — in each case, telling stories — just from different perspectives.


Today, several instructors made a brief foray onto the ice to scope it out and plan the sampling scheme for the rest of the course. We’re planning on sampling a variety of ice types — thick ice with thick snow, rough ice, thick ice with no snow, and sediment-laden ice. Each will give students the opportunity to investigate ice formation processes and the relationships of biology to those processes.

Most of the students arrive tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to an amazing course. See you on the ice!

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