Travel Diaries: Arctic Adventure 3
I’ve done two Travel Diaries like this before–here and here–and after dreaming of my research last night, I thought I’d pull out my old Arctic journal…
See, back in 2008, I went to the Arctic for my Masters research. I wrote in a journal everyday, and some of the journal entries are…well…surreal for me to look back on.
Like, WHAT? I did WWHHHAAAAT?? I camped out on sea ice and didn’t bathe for…how long? O_O
And I thought after surviving the HELL THAT WAS BOOK 2, I’d share another hardcore life experience with you. 🙂
April 5, 2008
My pen is frozen, so I’m writing in pencil. Bailey made fun of me for bringing #2 pencils, but at least the graphite doesn’t freeze!
We caught 2 sharks today. Both males. The absence of females is perplexing…One of them was a monster and we had to use the snowmobile to get him out.
Both of the sharks took a long time to die. Watching them react to the knife as we opened them up and cut out their vertebrae was…Well, it was hard. Their eyes roll around and then lock on you, and it’s as if they’re accusing you–you did this to me! But, then Bailey cuts out their eyes.
Bailey and I have decided that from now on, we’ll sever their brains first to make sure they can’t feel pain before we sample them.
I feel horrible inside about it. I don’t mind cutting up the halibut, but for some reason, the sharks get to me. Maybe because it’s 4 meters long and at least moderately intelligent?
Oops. The snow on my sleeves has melted on the opposite page. But, since I’m writing in pencil, it’s okay!
Everything is so surreal here. We are very caught in the Now. Cutting open sharks, baiting hooks with squid, tying knots in the rope, shoveling snow, lighting a heater, pissing in a bucket, savoring turbot stew, or enjoying a warm sleeping bag. I don’t know what will come next, and I don’t think about it. It’s a wonderful feeling. Stress-free.
I am also amazed at how grateful I am for little things. I am so thankful for my bowl of instant oatmeal and my cup of instant coffee. I am so thankful for the turbot we catch each day and eat every night. And the bucket–I am so thankful I can sh** in that old, white bucket. I don’t want to go outside like the guys do…
But, I know when I’m back in the real world, I’ll go back to needing all the unnecessary “vitals”. Ah, I’m babbling.
We ate caribou last night. My stomach didn’t do so well with it. It’s funny because I walked into Jesse & Ju’s hut, and there was this frozen caribou leg lying on the floor. Apparently they eat it (and seal meat) raw as a snack. Yeah, well, seeing how the cooked version reacted in my stomach, I’m not sure I’ll be tasting the raw one anytime soon.
Oh, crap. My chapstick is frozen.
You tell me: what’s the most “hardcore” thing you’ve ever experienced?
December 14, 2011 @ 11:39 am
…if that’s the definition of hardcore, I don’t have a single story to tell. wow.
December 14, 2011 @ 11:52 am
Pshaw. I’m sure you have hardcore stories. Admittedly, mine is kinda (or really) extreme. Like I said, I make this face when I think about it O_O
And yet I still think that writing that d***ed book 2 was harder than roughing it in the Arctic. Ha.
December 14, 2011 @ 11:57 am
probably because of the stress, right? you mentioned in your journey that life was relatively stress-free, even as extremely hardcore as it was. writing a sequel? I don’t even want to begin imagining HOW MUCH STRESS and pressure that is. so I can see how it’d be harder!
December 14, 2011 @ 4:24 pm
Oh my gosh. My poor, delicate, little animal-loving ears can’t hear that about killing the shark. They just can’t. *sticks fingers in ears* LALALALALALALALALALA.
Seriously, no way I could have watched that. You are definitely more hardcore than I am. I would have collapsed into a pile of tears and snot that would have then freeze dried to my face and probably would still be there.
December 15, 2011 @ 2:25 pm
Um, trust me. It was HARD. I’m a pretty insane animal-lover myself (vegetarian, PETA-Mom, remember), so…yeah. The only reason I could handle it was because they were going to die anyway, and at least we were giving their death a purpose…
Also, yes. Snot froze constantly on my gator. IT WAS GROSS. I would take it off and it would be hard as a rock around the nose area.
December 14, 2011 @ 4:30 pm
Wow. What a great experience.
December 15, 2011 @ 2:26 pm
Yeah, it was wild. Feels like a different life, a different person. 🙂
December 14, 2011 @ 4:46 pm
Yep. Definition hard core there. I’m really not sure I’ve got anything like that. In high school I did some mission work in South America. And while that was eye opening, I don’t think it was hard core (I did have functioning toilets, after all 🙂 ). But this was a cool glimpse into your past life. What was the focus of your research?
December 15, 2011 @ 2:28 pm
I was researching the turbot (Greenland halibut, is the correct common name). Specifically, I was trying to evaluate the impact of the Inuit fishery on the fish populations and ecosystem. There’d been a big decline in #s of fish caught per year as well as the size of the fish (which is usually a sign that the fishery is overfishing). So yeah…I did what’s called “ecological modeling” with the data I collected. Oh, and I researched the food chain, trying to figure out what turbot ate and where they fit into the Baffin Bay food web.
December 14, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
I can’t believe you had these crazy experiences. Once I get my degree (in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), I have every intention of doing some field research of my own, though mine will most likely be in the tropics… not the Arctic. I bet my version of roughing it won’t even come close to yours. 🙂
December 15, 2011 @ 2:30 pm
Oh, wow, evolutionary biology is so amazing. My grad office was shared with two evolutionary bio students (one getting her MSc, the other his PhD), and they had SO MANY cool insights. Evo bio was my favorite class in undergrad too–I ALMOST switched over to that line of study, in fact. I bet if I had, though, I wouldn’t have ended up being a writer. 😉
Yay for tropical research! I did some work in Belize and Fiji. TWAS BEAUTIFUL.
Laura Ae Hughes
December 14, 2011 @ 10:18 pm
Man oh man, writing a proposal for the animal ethics committee must have been so hard for sharks!!! It’s hard enough for mice and rats!! I love love love hearing travel stories. I think my most hardcore travel experience was a couple of years ago in Laos. You wouldn’t think the Laotian jungle would be high risk for getting one’s credit card stolen. But ya, just our luck. In trying to escape all that drama and get back to the capital, Vientienne, our non-air conditioned bus ran off a mountain road. Nobody was hurt, thank goodness, but we were trapped inside (110+degrees) for like, 10 hours. At the time, my friend and I were all, ‘We’ll tell this story at each other’s wedding and laugh about it.’ But at the time, I just remember wanting to die. Seriously the most horrendous 24 hours of my life. And this came after spending 3 days sitting on a wooden boat to get to the jungle! I really must blog about it sometime, haha (<– see! I can laugh about it now!!)
December 15, 2011 @ 2:33 pm
Laura, that sounds PRETTY HARDCORE. You can laugh now, but I believe you that it was AWFUL at the time. I mean, I remember having to drive the snowmobiles four hours over the ice…during a blizzard where you couldn’t see or hear ANYTHING…and you’re freezing. It was the same as you–at the time, I just wanted to DIE. I thought my hand would be permanently deformed into a “squeezing the gas” shape. But now, hahahaha, I can laugh. 🙂
Honestly, though, I don’t htink I’ve ever been in 110 degree weather. And then trapped in a bus? Dude, that’s like a claustrophobic’s WORST NIGHTMARE. I cannot handle getting stuffy in a car…much less at crowded bus in the middle of a jungle. (Gosh, my characters are so much tougher than me…)
December 15, 2011 @ 3:54 pm
Your research sounds so cool! How long were you guys there? Do sharks really smell when you try to extract their nerves? (sorry for that last one, I was just curious because my sister said they did when she took one home to dissect XD)
The most hardcore thing I’ve ever done was probably when I had my Aussie rappel practicals XD
December 19, 2011 @ 4:17 pm
Honestly, it doesn’t smell that much when you’re on the ice. It’s all so cold…but when we got back to civilization and would step into a heated building in the same suits we’d been wearing for fourteen days straight with no showers, THEN WE STANK. Like, gag yourself STANK.
And um, Aussie rappel practicals? That sounds WAY more hardcore. That requires you to be all brave and thrill-seekerish–none of which I am. 🙂
December 15, 2011 @ 4:43 pm
Wow, this kind of blows away my research stories– draining ponds and sampling fish, reptiles and amphibians in the Francis Marion National Forest. Our biggest struggle was avoiding heat stroke. But for me, I’d rather be in the heat than in the cold ANY DAY. I was raised in a swamp. Cold is just not my thing. I get cold in Connecticut!
Most hardcore thing I’ve done (more so than gator-infested swamp research), has to be childbirth– I think mainly because everyone shares (unwanted) horror stories with you for nine straight months. And, well, it’s the unknown. The unknown is such a mental hurdle.
December 19, 2011 @ 4:19 pm
I agree. Heat I can handle (having grown up in Georgia and Florida). Most of my research projects were in hot places, so I definitely wasn’t prepared for that first bite of -40 degree weather!
And YES, childbirth definitely wins. When I (hopefully) one day embark on that wild adventure, it will definitely trump the Arctic. 😉
December 16, 2011 @ 2:27 am
This is possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever read of someone’s experience in my life. Maybe it’s that photo of the GAPING SHARK JAW as its being DRAGGED OUT OF THE ICE. 0_0
December 19, 2011 @ 4:20 pm
Hahaha, yes the gaping shark jaw is pretty intense. They were some big ol’ sharks. 🙂