Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Another Day in Utqiaġvik aka Barrow

This is Ukpik-2, the housing provided to research groups here in Barrow. I believe that it was originally constructed to support offshore oil exploration groups but that project got put off. But not before this housing was built. It's pretty nice inside with dormitory style rooms with nice commercial kitchen facilities, laundry and shower rooms down the hall. But at 8 AM, it kind of looks a bit dismal outside. The temperature was about -10°F so most groups are letting their trucks warm up a bit before heading out. I was assigned the NSF Nissan crew cab around the middle of the picture and it is very nice to drive compared to the NSF owned F250 crew cabs that always seem to have problems. Walking around is discouraged as there have been multiple sightings of a polar bear with two cubs around the NARL campus.

I've been asked about what I do when coming up here. On this trip, a big part is cleaning up some of the accumulation of the past years. This is just a portion of the network cables that I removed. We initially had a pile of servers both real and virtual. This was back in the day when we only had a satellite T1 of bandwidth and more stuff needed to be hosted locally. Now with ~3x the bandwidth and terrestrial service, the need isn't there so most of the servers are now shut down and network cables pulled. It was confusing the vendor who is thinking of bidding on IT support for the building. I also removed about half of the VoIP phones as they were no longer used/needed. The native corporation came in and installed their own phones for the logistic support organization and provided actual long distance service. We only provided local and toll-free calling as there wasn't any system for billing.

This is the entry into the building. There are some mammoth tusks on display under the TV information display. I replaced the TV last August when the older one finally died after being turned on continuously since the grand opening of the building which I think was in May 2007. Samsung televisions seem to be pretty reliable. The replacement is the same model that we pulled out of one of the labs. The break room is just behind the wall and they now have an espresso machine in there. I'm taking a break with a cappuccino.

I worked some with a group who set up some equipment out on an island with a radio link back to the BARC. Their site included a webcam. This is just a snapshot of their streaming video but it shows an example of what field work is like here in the Arctic. You can see snow blowing across the field of view. It's not really that bright but the camera is illuminating the scene with infrared LEDs. They are planning to leave this laptop here in the building to collect the data then send it back to their location on the east coast and are using 2.4 GHz Ubiquity radios. They probably went a bit overkill with the antenna size as the bigger the dish the more it needs to be secured from movement due to the wind.

I also talked to another group here from JPL and they are now thinking of trying some 900 MHz radios. The lower frequency should give them a pretty good range. They were here to retrieve a rover that was stuck under the ice. Apparently, there was a lot of ice chipping involved as no one seemed to have a chainsaw. Maybe the lack of trees has something to do with that.

There is a lot of activity in the building today as several groups are trying to wrap up so they can head back home for the holidays. And UIC Science, the logistics support organization, is having their Christmas party with their parent company, UIC, here this afternoon. This is the large conference room where I had set up a lot of audio and video gear. The last photo is during their gift exchange.


  1. Its like being on the moon with atmosphere. Amazes me that people settled here and stayed. Today they use prodigious amounts of energy to keep it all going.

    1. I guess I should have pointed out that it was warmer than Fairbanks. You are right on about why people decided to settle here versus other locations with more moderate weather.