APLIS POSTCARD #17
28 March 2007
Greetings from APLIS, adrift in the Arctic Ocean.
Knew from the start that today would be a great day. The winds had died down and we were greeted by a beautiful clear sky. And a real rarity here in the Arctic - not one but TWO RAINBOWS!! You can barely make them out on either side of the sun in the picture below.
Everything went very smoothly today. The big event of the day was a surfacing by ALEXANDRIA which the Stargate people wanted to film. We set things up on the ice as usual and had their cameras in place. ALEX took a little extra time to get it right and surfaced right through the center of the X. With that accomplished, the Stargate crew went on to film the final scenes they needed and will depart tomorrow. ALEX has dived and only has a few more test runs to finish before she too departs - probably tomorrow as well. The students from Naval Postgraduate School have wrapped up their research and departed this afternoon as did the NUWC engineer conducting the communications testing.
After two and a half weeks here on the ice, it seems like the end snuck up on us suddenly. There are several things I still wanted to talk about that I haven’t. Here’s one - how have these postcards gotten from our little village in the middle of nowhere onto the internet? The answer is “not easily”. After writing the postcards, I’ve burned them, one at a time, onto CDs. These get tossed onto the next airplane headed to Deadhorse. There, our Prudhoe Bay Coordinator, Mike Hacking, would send them to the Submarine Force Public Affairs Office using dial-up internet. I really would have liked to have sent more pictures but that would have tied up Mike’s computer for hours.
I have thankfully had little to say about polar bears since we’re a little too early in the season to have had any wander by. Although a treat to see in the wild, they are also a deadly threat. When man encounters polar bears here in the Arctic, we become the endangered species.
Many of us will be heading back to shore tomorrow with most of the rest following on Friday. Our stalwarts from APL University of Washington will be staying, of course, to maintain the camp for the National Science Foundation through the middle of April.
We had a really unique group of people come together here. It was said that everyone here is really good at doing something but, if need be, could do anything. Some of us have worked together for decades, others we just met a couple weeks ago. For three of our crew at Arctic Submarine Laboratory, retirement later this year means that this has been their final ice camp. Randy Ray, mentioned so often in these postcards for his adventures in the field, will be leaving us. I’ve lost count of the number of times we’ve been to the Arctic together. Doug Anderson, Randy’s right-hand man for much of the camp, will also be leaving as will Marshall Mosher who played a key behind-the-scenes role in Prudhoe Bay. We will miss them all.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two crewmen killed aboard HMS TIRELESS. Here in the Arctic, we have seen some of the outpouring of sympathy from around the world for their loss. So close to where the tragedy occurred, our shock and sadness have not yet diminished. We take some consolation in the fact that we played a part in the evacuation of the third crewman to Anchorage. We’ve heard that he is now recovering in the UK.
We’ve accomplished what we set out to do. Our navies have gained a greater understanding of how our submarines operate under the ice and two crews have gained valuable Arctic experience. To achieve this we’ve endured bitter cold, incessant winds, isolation, separation, bad jokes, leaky shacks, and a near-total loss of the comforts that we take for granted at home. To offset these, we have lived an adventure in one of the world’s most unique places, enjoyed fantastic food, and made lifelong friendships. One thing that the Stargate team has constantly reminded us of over the last week is just how lucky we are to have had this experience. I hope I’ve been able to convey some of that to you through these postcards.
Tomorrow, some final thoughts then HOME!
Arctic Submarine Laboratory