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From Author

Daniel Glick

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photograph by Jillian Lloyd


GeoSigns On Assignment Author GeoSigns On Assignment Author

Field Notes From Author
Daniel Glick

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    After a few minutes conversing with Inupiat elder Kenneth Toovak, I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon listening to his stories about Eskimo life. Sometimes it's hard to grasp just how fast the world can change in a single human lifetime, and talking to him about his boyhood spent hunting caribou and dogsledding across the frozen tundra really brought that home. Toovak, a born storyteller, had just finished reeling off a list of problems he had personally witnessed as a result of climate change during his seven-plus decades on the planet. Whaling captains especially, he told me, could no longer trust their knowledge of ice conditions because freeze-up was happening later and melt-off earlier. Then he acknowledged that the changes weren't all bad. "Way back in years," he told me, the winters would regularly hit minus 40°F (minus 40°C), and consistently stayed at minus 30°F (minus 34°C).  But winters are milder these days, which was just fine with him. "When it gets up to 25 below (minus 32°C), heck, that's nice," he said, grinning. It was hard to argue.

    The 115-foot (35-meter) oceanographic research vessel Weatherbird II is famous, or infamous, for two things: Its role in conducting the world's longest continuous deep-ocean science monitoring program, and its propensity to make even veteran mariners seasick. When I cast off from the Bermuda Biological Station for Research on an autumn day, I joined the ship's crew on the program's thousandth cruise to a location in the Bermuda Triangle. The first afternoon I was feeling pretty seaworthy, although Weatherbird II pitched erratically in the six-foot (two-meter) swells. The crew eyed me with amusement as I headed to the galley for lunch, and I sensed them all watching when I started to eat. Before I could get the fork to my mouth, I handed my plate to the cook and said, "I can't do this." I spent the afternoon in a most undignified way.

    While camping in a research hut high in Glacier National Park, I had been told to be careful going to the bathroom in the middle of the night since the mountain goats could be fairly aggressive. Sure enough at 2 a.m. I stumbled out of my sleeping bag and wandered a respectful distance from our camp. As I began to take care of business, I was startled by a noise and turned to see a gigantic set of curved horns attached to an equally large moon-white goat. I made the mistake of stomping my foot to try to scare it away, but the goat merely lowered his head and began to approach menacingly. I backed away slowly and decided to wait until morning to try again.


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