02 Jul The Unexpected Snowfall
While I am familiar with the frustrations and joys of unpredictable, vexing weather patterns, it still took a few days to adjust to this in a field work setting. In previous fieldwork, we worked on a set schedule, going out to do our work regardless of the weather conditions. If this schedule was interrupted, then the data would be inconsistent. This summer, I did the peregrine falcon survey, which I have never done before. The weather came to the forefront as an impediment to a set schedule the morning of our stay in Slaven’s Roadhouse. I had gone to sleep that night listening to my crew chat and playing card games downstairs, happy to be in a cabin that reminded me of my family’s old home in Fort Yukon. When I woke up in the morning and poked my head out of my sleeping bag to look out the window, I saw a world of white. This was both perfectly normal and completely unexpected. Normal, because I’m Alaskan and seven months out of the year I live in a world of white snow and gray skies. Unexpected, because it’s summer and last I remembered the predominant color was green. In a bunk across the room, my supervisor was also looking out the window. Noticing that I was awake, she looked at me and said “We’re not going out in this.” I was perfectly willing, and even expecting, to go out in the snow. But when my more experienced supervisor decided there was no point, I decided to listen to reason and promptly pulled out a book.
So, instead of getting a prompt start in the morning and working until dinner, we instead spent the morning playing cards and snacking next to the woodstove (admittedly not the worst fate), waiting for the snow to stop, because we wouldn’t have been able to see the birds in it anyway. This was not the last time the weather interrupted our schedule. Sometimes we would start by eight, other times not until eleven. For a few days, we had to take a two hour break in the middle, as the rain turned the river into a gray void. That’s not to say we stopped whenever it rained- it was more visibility level that determined whether we could work. We were out there to do a job, and had two weeks to complete that job to the best of our ability. So if we worked five hours one day and twelve hours the next, so be it.
In ten days of rain, I learned, if nothing else, that nature doesn’t adhere to a nine to five day, and this cannot always be overcome. If we can’t work in low visibility, we can’t work in low visibility. Being flexible enough to accommodate this can be difficult, but added an element of unpredictability that I came to enjoy.