Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kaktovik (aka The Top of the World)

Or at least the top of the US...

The airplane ride here on Monday was on a tiny little propeller plane, that could seat maybe 20 people.

You could even see the cockpit the whole time! They didn't have a curtain or nothin'. But that actually made me feel better about the whole thing. I think half the reason that I'm a nervous flier is that with every bump I always imagine the pilots up in the front freaking out and pushing buttons or strapping on a parachute. Since I could really see that my pilots were happy as clams, even with all the bumps, I felt far more secure.

Here is the view before we took off. I got the seat with the perfect view of the propeller thing. I also got the seat with the heater for the whole plane apparently. So, while the plane itself was quite cold and all the other passengers kept their coats and mittens on tight, by the end of the flight I had removed my boots, hat, jacket and anything else I could get to and they were all staring at me like I was crazy.

I flew here with Hans and one of his engineers, Jim. Hans is awesome and he is also a professor at University of Alaska Fairbanks. He brought a huge high speed imager and all-sky camera to photograph the aurora as the rocket flies overhead. I brought a little Dartmouth UNH camera to do the same, but with a medium field of view. His cameras are wide fov and narrow fov. When we landed at Kaktovik, we were (in Hans' words) "uncerimoniously dumped out on the ice." We left the plane onto a big sheet of freezing white and some army guy in a truck was there to collect us and the bags the pilots had thrown off before taking off again. I guess the plane ices over if they sit too long, so they have to get out and back up into the higher atmosphere.

Here it is: the town of Kaktovik in all its glory. Mostly it is just a collection of old rusted train cars patched together in ways to form homes with narrow hallways and weird layouts. More pictures of Kaktovik later since I went on a mini-tour with the visiting army guys the other day... Now it's 5pm Alaskan time and that means dinner. At least in the army world.


  1. Are you staying on the base its self or else where?

    These photos are exiting as its where I was born, they totally make me want to head out there and check it out.

    - B -

  2. wait, in which part of alaska were you born? it's a big state, i've learned - about 1/5 the size of the whole lower 48 states!

  3. Ask Hans if he ever came to Laramie, WY. I know two fairbanks professors came to sit on WIRO for month, and I think one of them may have been Hans! In which case he's my observing buddy!

  4. You are so true that it is a huge state. I think that it was Anchorage .. but now that you ask im not 100% (for some reasion Fairbanks sticks in my mind)..