May 10, 2013
Inspired by Alaska
Something puzzled me as I drove my rented all-terrain vehicle through Barrow, Alaska. Why did so many homes have trampolines in their yards? In a place where it’s cold and dark most of the year, trampolines seemed out of place.
I had always wanted to visit the high north, but I never imagined I'd make it to Barrow, Alaska -- 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I was traveling with NASA scientists who wanted to compare the polar regions on Earth with the icy moons in our solar system. My job, as a NASA educator, was to meet with the science teachers at the local schools.
The hut where I stayed was a few minutes' walk from the Arctic Ocean. I wore my winter coat, hat, gloves, scarf, and boots, even though it was mid-August. The temperature was 38 degrees F, with a wind chill below freezing. I heard stories of winter temperatures reaching minus 120 F, and I couldn't imagine anywhere being that cold.
I visited an ice cellar, where families store their frozen salmon, seal, and whale. Since the ground is permafrost, people can dig a deep hole in the ground and carve out a cave 20 feet below the surface. The cave stays 18 degrees F all year, so food stays frozen. I got to taste muktuk -- whale skin and blubber -- a treat for the people who live there.
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