Aurora Expedition: From Seward to Anchorage to Fairbanks
Rosaly Lopes is sending us reports from The Planetary Society's member trip to view the Aurora Borealis in Alaska from March 19-25. Lopes is Lead Scientist for Geophysics and Planetary Geosciences at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and an investigation scientist on the Cassini Titan RADAR mapper team. Her main research interests concern volcanoes in the solar system, especially on Earth and Io.
by Rosaly Lopes
March 20, 2009 eward and Portage
Another gorgeous day, not a cloud in the sky. It is cold, only about 12 F. We went by bus from Anchorage to Seaward; our bus driver is also a great local tour guide. Beautiful drive down by the Cook Inlet. We saw Redoubt volcano in the distance; no eruption yet. The mountains are just magnificent. In Seaward, we visited the Sea Life Center that showcases the local marine life, from jellyfish to sea lions. On the way back we visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where wild animals that have been injured (e.g., run over) are housed if they cannot go back into the wild.
There was a very sleepy moose, a very friendly black bear who liked being photographed, many elk and bison. The real treat for me was to see a bald eagle flying over our group only about 20 feet off the ground. It landed on a nearby tree and stayed there for a long time.
We are all getting to know one another and it's a lot of fun. Conversation is always intellectually stimulating, and everyone seems to have done some really interesting things. I'll have to count how many countries are represented in our tour. And many are world travellers.
Tomorrow we get the train to Fairbanks. It's supposed to be an incredible journey, so I am looking forward to it. We are unsure about the weather there. Looks iffy for the aurora, but we have four nights, so let's hope at least one of them is clear.
March 21, 2009
The train journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks was amazing! The Alaska range is totally spectacular and the train was very comfortable. I brought work to do but it was hard to resist looking out of the window.
Bob gave us a great improvised lecture on glacial processes as we saw glacial features out of the windows. The weather could not have been better, not a cloud in the sky...until we got near Fairbanks! So, no aurora viewing tonight, though most of us asked the hotel for aurora "wake up calls" in case it clears up and there is auroral activity during the night. We hope for better luck tomorrow night.