All posts by Johan Erikson

Glacial crunch time

ESS at Tuckerman

It’s not all sunshine and awesome natural laboratories, but there certainly are a lot of each!

The first course of the semester, Climate Change and Glacial Geology, is wrapping up right now.  Students just turned in their research papers, which had to be on a climatological or glacial process for which they had seen evidence at some time during the past 3+ weeks.  They are writing on topics as varied as carbon sequestration (as seen in 300 million year old coal deposits) and glacial abrasion (seen in lots of places where glaciers have left their mark on the land).  Now they have to study for the tomorrow’s final exam.

We’ve had some great venues in the past week:  Fundy National Park in New Brunswick for some of the world’s biggest tides, Katahdin Iron Works in northern Maine for acid rock drainage with Dr. Emily Lesher (and some nice canoeing), and most recently the top of Mount Washington for both climate and glacial features.  After tomorrow’s exam, we’ll go to Popham Beach (Maine), where Dr. Teegarden will lead them in Marine Ecology.

– Johan Erikson

Beach Party!!

ESS at Kouchibouguac beach

Our tired group woke this morning to shaking tents at 7:30 a.m. (by Bobby and Dr. Erikson). Breakfast seemed to have a flavour of DEET mixed in because of all the bug spray we put on to deter the swarms of mosquitoes. After that we had a lecture on atmospheric circulation patterns.

Then we went to Kelly’s Beach (here in Kouchibouguac National Park, New Brunswick) just a 2 minute drive away. Except it wasn’t all play and instead much our time was spent measuring the beach profile. We measured the slope of the beach from the crest of the beach berm down about 40 m to the water, and then underwater for another 90 m all the way out to a shallow sand bar. For each part of the profile, we determined variations in sand sizes using a stack of sieves. When we had some down time it was nice to cool off in the ocean (to our surprise a bit warmer than at home) considering how hot the sun was. Unfortuanetly some of us got a bit burnt from the sun’s rays. We had some great finds out at the sand bar, including crabs, hermit crabs, snails (some small and some quite large) and most interesting Andrew caught with his hands an unsuspecting flounder (a strange looking flat fish with both eyes on one side of their head).

Bobby delivered our usual lunch of cold cut sandwiches to the beach, this time treated with oreos. After completing our profile for the afternoon we went back and had a dinner of chili and pasta with cornbread and salad. Dessert was amazing (strawberriy short cake).

Tonight is on our third night of actually camping (10th night total). We’re making it along really well and excited for the many days ahead.

– Matthew Pfannenstiel

Night Skies

We spent the past few days at Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick, looking out on the relatively warm waters of Northumberland Strait (toward Prince Edward Island).  I’ll let students write about our days.  Here, I’ll just comment on our nights.

Stars.  Wow.  I think this part of New Brunswick participates in a dark-night initiative in which they intentionally minimize the amount of nighttime illumination.  That means fewer bright signs, downward-directed lighting, and dimmer lighting in general.  The effects are spectacular.

For several clear nights in a row, we could see not only the big, bright stars, but even the myriad little ones.  I saw constellations that I haven’t seen in years.  Milky Way?  Oh yeah, bright from horizon to horizon.

Satellites? Oh yeah, 2, 3, and sometimes even 4 satellites could be seen simultaneously, some moving in parallel paths, some in criss-crossing paths.  Some brighter and moving fast, others dimmer (farther away) and moving slowly.

And then of course, there were the shooting stars.  August is a good month for shooting stars in general, and we weren’t disappointed.  On two occasions I saw a flash, rather than a streak, which probably was a shooting star coming almost directly toward us, rather than across the sky; sorry, no photos!

The price for the beautiful night sky was collected by the mosquitoes.  But they were really only bad from 2 hours before sunrise and sunset to 2 hours after sunset and sunset (and sometimes in the middle of the day if the wind wasn’t blowing).  The campfires certainly helped, and the skeeters pretty much disappeared by the time we got to dessert and games of Liar’s Dice.

The academic content is getting a bit thicker about now, with a recent labor-intensive beach transect and a lab report on bedrock fracture patterns due tomorrow.  Fortunately, frisbee on the beach and good food soften the discomfort.  Hard to believe, but they have a mid-term exam (for Climate Change and Glacial Geology) on Friday.

– Johan Erikson