Bird’s eye view: First day of ice on The Pond. The beaver’s trail can be seen to the left.
For this season, we had the first 24 hour period over the weekend where the temperature did not get above freezing. It came 11 days later than on average.
The Pond received its first full coat of ice by Sunday morning. Thin as it is, one could see where the beaver swam under the ice.
The fire in the wood stove is still not going full time, however. One every other night has been enough to keep the chill out of the cabin. Anything more would drive me out of the building from the heat. As it is, an evening fire requires at least one open window at these temps.
Voting for the Fattest Bear of Katmai continues over at the Katmai National Park & Preserve Facebook page.
In round one, fan fave Otis went down to Lefty, in an upset. Divot, Grazer and #909 also moved into the second round. There is some large competition waiting for them, as Wide-Body #747, Holly, Chunk and #503 had first round byes, and could continue hoarding calories, as they watched their fellow bears compete.
It’s early August and people were starting to think “white stuff”. I had three jobs lined up, everyone desperate for me to start, yet not one of them was ready for me. What to do with the day off?
As luck would have it, Poker Flat Research Range had one of their summer walking tours that day, so I drove the 25 miles out to Chatanika.
“The Blockhouse” or bunker
PFRR is the world’s largest land-based rocket range. The facility is owned by the University of Alaska – Fairbanks. They launch sounding rockets from the range, in order to study the Earth’s atmosphere and the interaction between the atmosphere and the space environment.
Space junk returned to Earth
Study ranges from the Earth’s magnetic field to the aurora. NASA is prominent at the range, but researchers come from all over the world. All of the rockets launched from PFRR return to the Earth’s surface, and the range collects the spent payloads every summer. There is a reward paid out to anyone finding material from Poker Flat.
Poker Flat Launch Pad
The building above is open on the far end. The interior of the building, and the actual launch pad, was off limits to photography. It’s a NASA rule that doesn’t thrill UAF apparently, but we all honored the rule. The sounding rocket is brought in on what is basically an open trailer. The rocket is loaded onto the launcher, which looks like a giant erector set with a large pivot. The building itself is sitting on a pair of tracks. When ready to begin countdown, the building is pulled back away from the pad, and the rocket is spun vertical with the large erector set pivot.
The control center was surprisingly manual in operation. Scientists are extremely fussy about launch conditions, and they often pull the plug with one second to go. An automatic system does not give the flexibility that is needed, so there is still a “launch button”.
That doesn’t mean there is a shortage of cable, wires, or connectors.
The touring rocket
PFRR does a good job with the tour. It’s pretty relaxed, and a nice way to spend some time outdoors, for the most part, in an Interior Alaska summer. After the tour, don’t forget to stop by the Chatanika Lodge, which is just down the highway.