Sunday, July 29, 2012

Midnight Marathon, Point Barrow, Icebergs

5K Participation Medal 
Top of the World Midnight Marathon/5K

Last weekend was overwhelmingly exciting. It began with a 5K on Friday night, then turned into a weekend of wildlife rescue as we helped capture and treat a stranded baby walrus, but you've already read about that....

So lets get back to Friday night when I participated in the first ever "Top of the World Midnight Marathon." There were 3 different races for this event, a marathon (26.2 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles), and a 5K (3.1 miles). While it would have been really fun to say I ran a marathon or even a half-marathon, I really don't like running that much, so I decided to run the 5K. Originally, the 5K was supposed to start at midnight, and the marthon & half marathoners were supposed to be finishing up their race a little after midnight so that all runners would be on the course right at midnight. This is possible up here since there are still 24 hours of daylight. Unfortunately, they decided to change the time of the 5K to begin at 11pm. I was  definitely disappointed because I was looking forward to running part of the race at midnight, but I guess I didn't really have a choice. It was pretty chilly that evening, and foggy too. The 5K trail was basically a loop around town on the streets (you can check out the race maps at the website below). They didn't have the streets blocked off at all, so there was an occasional 4 wheeler or vehicle that would drive by and kick up a ton of dirt into the air. I ended up finishing with a time of 30 minutes and 3 seconds. Not a bad time for someone who doesn't even like running that much!

Top of the World, Midnight Marathon Website:

Point Barrow

Saturday and Sunday were spent rescuing the baby walrus (read my previous blog for that). On Sunday after the walrus boarded his flight to Anchorage, everyone involved in the walrus rescue went out for a celebratory lunch at Brower's. It was a gorgeous day, so of course my roommate and I took the opportunity to get yet another picture in front of the famous whalebone arches.

While at dinner, I mentioned that I had not yet gone out to "the Point," aka "Point Barrow" or "Nuvuk". The point, is the northernmost point of all the territory of the USA. It is 1291 miles from the north pole and marks the limit between to of the Arctic Seas, the Chuckchi and the Beaufort. Since it is 9 miles north of Barrow and access to the point requires 4 wheel drive, I had not yet had the opportunity to visit the point. The wildlife people insisted that I join their interns the following day to visit the point and check the polar bear snares.

A sign and some Whale Bones close to the Ilisagvik College Campus
On Monday, I took them up on their offer. I took a taxi out to the Ilisagvik College campus, a couple miles north of Barrow and met them in the wildlife research wing of the college. They explained that there is a large pile of whale carcasses located at the point. This pile is used to basically keep polar bears at the point and away from town. After whaling hunts, the unwanted parts of the whales are often taken to the point to be discarded. A barbed wire fence is set up around the entire carcass pile about 3 feet off the ground. This wire pulls pieces of hair from the polar bears as they climb over it to reach the pile of rotting whale meat. The researches then do DNA testing on the hair samples to study trends of which polar bears are visiting the point, if they return each years, etc.

After learning all this, the two interns and I used each took a North Slope Borough 4 wheeler and a gun  and headed to the point to check the snares. We drove up the road a couple miles, then went onto the sandy trail to the point. We had to stop a good distance from the point and use binoculars to make sure no polar bears were nearby. I haven't seen a polar bear yet, so I was hoping one would be there, but I had no such luck. The coast was clear and we continued up the path until we reached the carcass pile. The pile was huge, consisted of whale/caribou/seal pieces and smelled wretched. There were lots of polar bear hair samples on the snares and the interns proceeded with collecting the samples and placing them in little containers to bring back to the lab. There must have been plenty of polar bears visiting the point during that week.
Carcass Pile & Polar Bear Hair Snare at Point Barrow
I'm not exactly sure what this is, but it is at the Point
Birthday & Icebergs

Monday also happened to be my roommates birthday. A group of us went out to Brower's Cafe for dinner to celebrate. It was a calm and relatively warm evening, so after dinner we decided to go to the beach and hop on some icebergs. Luckily, the icebergs were really close to shore and we were able to stay dry in our rain boots as we waded out to one of them.

Dinner at Browers

Iceberg Hopping :)

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