Monday, August 8, 2011

Another Walk Around NARL

Last year I had a post about a walk around the NARL campus. There isn't a whole lot to do in the evenings beside work. The stitching program didn't do too good of a job.

Arctic Ocean on a Calm Day

I'm finally feeling better about working here in Barrow this week than I did last Saturday. Not really sure why. Maybe I'm feeling the summer slipping away and I haven't been able to take a motorcycle trip. This evening was sunny and warm (shirt sleeve weather) so I took a walk around the NARL campus. They are in the process of unloading several barges and since there is no deep water dock, the large barges are unloaded onto smaller barges to bring the shipping containers to the beach. Once on the beach, fork lifts stack the containers on the beach.

Here is a shot of my lodging for the week. It is a quonset hut built somewhere in the mid 1940's made of sheet metal and, in this case, there is an extra layer of insulating foam sprayed on the outside and painted. New, vinyl clad casement windows have replaced the original double hung windows and modern natural gas heaters have replace the original drip oil models so they are actually pretty nice inside.
The shape and construction of the huts remind me of the ones used in an old TV show Gomer Pyle only those looked a lot newer than these. Here you can see the original corrugated metal used for the construction and the foam sprayed on to try and add a bit more insulation. The small round thing is the exhaust/intake port for the gas heater. Exhaust in the center of a double wall pipe with intake combustion air on the outer portion. The combustion air gets heated by the exhaust gasses.

Right across from the hut towards the ocean, there is the remains of a playground. And this is also the location of the inaugural high school football game played on the sandy soil with lines literally painted onto the dirt. The novelty of a football game in Barrow was sufficient to attract ESPN and they televised the game. I think that was in 2007 2006. Now, they have a proper field complete with blue artificial turf and an electronic scoreboard. All courtesy of a donor in Florida who saw the television broadcast and felt sorry for the kids.

I'm told that the sunsets these days are spectacular as the sun is actually dipping below the horizon. I'm not sure I want to stay up 'til 2AM to see it though.


  1. This place looks already devastating to me in summer, I can only imagine how it must be in winter. How do people mentally survive in this environment. I would miss greens and trees.

  2. Interesting. I'd love to visit, but I don't think I could handle a life there - just don't have the intestinal fortitude for it - I live in Minnesota, it's bleak enough for long enough.

    Now, a sunset a 2 a.m.? That would be interesting. I might go insane from sleep deprivation, but it's be something.

    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

  3. SonjaM:
    The only trees around here are the fake ones around Christmas. You need to go a long ways south to see live trees and even then, they are pretty small and scraggly. I should take some pictures in town...

    In many ways, it is nice around here in the winter as well. Even though the days are really short (as in none), the snow and ice makes everything look clean and bright.

  4. RichardM

    quonset huts, even the Army didn't make its soldiers live in those...we had delapidated WWII barracks instead! : )


    Redleg's Rides

    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

  5. Thanks for sharing the photos. It is interesting to see life when it isn't penned in by "proper" and "safety" and "out of the way". I don't mean that as derogatory, rather invigorating.

    Unfortunately I didn't make it to the Arctic Circle, but I was darn close to the land of the midnight sun. Greatly enjoyed it! Being outside at 10:30 pm and still completely light out, playing games.

    Do you think the kids up there feel "detached" from the contiguous states? Do any of them remain there when the get older or do they leave? Where do they go? Fairbanks? Anchorage? Hawaii?

  6. Every time you think alaska has got as gnarly as it can, somehow it manages to rack it up a notch.Living in a tin hut with a gas heater and not a blade of grass for miles around just seems unbearable.
    On the other hand you must get paid vast sums of money to work there, so on second thoughts...
    and on another note I really don't want to know how cold it has to get before you strip down to your underwear. I'm guessing barely above freezing.

  7. Dom:
    This facility was originally Navy. They must like quonset huts.

    That is an interesting question. Barrow, specifically, seems to have a larger percentage of the population finishing high school, college and getting advanced degrees than the norm. I think that this may be because this facility, originally the Naval Arctic Research Lab, was established as part of the cold war effort. The community became involved in the research activities and there is broad community interest in science. Much more so than in other parts of the state. I don't know what percentage of the kids choose to stay here but I suspect it is larger than in other areas.

    There is some grass around just no trees. Tomorrow, I'll take some pictures around town...

    As far as vast sums, I wish....

  8. Richard:

    I'm not sure I could exist there, either. I wouldn't miss the bright lights and neon, but the quietness would be deafening, but I would have lots of time to play on my computer

    Riding the Wet Coast

  9. Dear Richard:

    As far as I am concerned, the most miserable time of the year is when the snow melt, leaving streets caked with sand and salt. This whole community looks like it was built on a construction site that was never landscaped.

    Still, I bet there is an espirit des corps among those who live here, as well as local traditions and festivals that must bind the community in times of extreme weather.

    There have to be plenty of days in the winter when there are polar bears walking around.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads