Living on the Icefield
During the summer research season, members of the Juneau Icefield Research Program live and work full-time on the Icefield. There are no days off and no trips to the outside world. Surrounded by thousands of square miles of snow, ice, and rock, the only outside contact we have is an occasional supply helicopter and daily radio contacts with Juneau. Like researchers in other remote areas such as Greenland and Antarctica, we learn to depend on each other and work together as a team. This series of photos shows some of the various aspects of living and working "on ice".



The calm after a storm

Frequent storms and whiteouts can keep us camp-bound for days at a time. During those times we keep busy with lectures, reading, data analysis, and camp repairs. When the storm breaks we're often presented with spectacular views such as this one at Camp 10.


The view from Camp 9

Speaking of storms and whiteouts -- I once spent 5 days stormed in with 3 others at this little camp. Measuring only 8' x 10' and with only one small window for light, it was a welcome relief when the storm abated. Several years ago this building was completely buried by snow for two years before it melted out and we were able to find it again.


Enjoying a spectacular day at Camp 17 after a 5-day storm

Here, one of the members of the Program is taking advantage of a spectacular day to get in some academic reading at Camp 17. Because this camp is located on a high ridge near Juneau, it often is storm-bound with visibility less than 100 meters. Many members of JIRP consider Camp 17 to be one of the worst on the Icefield, due to the persistently bad weather. But it's hard to believe that on days like the one in this photo.


Camp 18 and the Gilkey Trench

This camp is located on a nunatak nearly half a mile above the Gilkey Glacier. This is one of five main camps scattered across the Icefield from Juneau to Atlin.


Camp 18 and the Gilkey Trench

Maintenance of the camps is a never-ending process. Here's a photo of the same camp shown in the previous photo, but taken several years later. Compare the two buildings on the right-hand side with the same buildings in the previous photo. After weathering many years of severe storms and snowfall, the roofs had to be replaced.


The plan of the day

At every camp, there's always a written plan of the day to keep everyone informed of the day's activities. The daily plan usually includes academic lectures, field research, data analysis, and other scholarly pursuits. Once in a while however, a little levity finds its way into the plan of the day.


Making necessary repairs

Our daily routine begins with breakfast followed by a work detail in which everyone pitches in to help keep the camps in good repair. Here, members of the program apply siding and patch the roof of one of the buildings.


Relaxing with a cup of tea

Here's a typical interior view of one of the buildings. Notice the unfinished character -- of the building that is (not the fellow on the left). While the buildings won't win any Better Homes & Gardens awards, they do provide a safe haven from the severe storms which often rage over the Icefield.


Hold on to your hat. It's windy out there!

Speaking of storms, the wind speed indicator shown here registers 82 mph (133 km/h)! And this was in the summer when the storms aren't as severe as they are in the winter. This photo was taken at the same camp as that shown in the previous photo.


Crunching survey data

After the daily work details are completed and lectures have been attended, it's time to crunch the survey data and calculate glacier movement.


Enjoying a bit of solitude overlooking the Gilkey Glacier

Of course, it's not all work and no play. When field work, lectures, and other chores are done, there's time for relaxation and contemplation. And there's no better place to take in the sights than high above the Gilkey Trench and Glacier.




Another fantastic sunset on the Icefield

The period just before or after a storm sometimes provides spectacular photo opportunities. Here, low maritime clouds are advancing up the Gilkey Glacier from the coast just before sunset.


There's nothing like a good book read by lantern light!

Speaking of relaxation and contemplation, what better way to experience the spirit of the North than with a recitation of Robert Service by lantern light. Here, Dr. Miller entertains us with a lively reading of "The Cremation of Sam McGee".


Inside the cookshack at Camp 17

Here's the inside of the dining hall at one of the main camps. It's a far cry from luxurious, but there's always plenty of peanut butter and pilot bread on the table! The cooks in the background are busy fixing lunch for the crowd that will soon fill the cookshack from wall to wall.


Is there a doctor in the house?

With up to 50 people in the field for two months, accidents are sometimes bound to happen. When this student cut her hand on the metal edges of her skis, our resident doctors sprang to action. Here, they prepare to stitch up the wound in an impromptu operating room -- the cookshack.


Enjoying a rare sunny day on the Juneau Icefield

Sunny days on the Juneau Icefield are relatively rare, so when the clouds depart field work goes full bore. On this particular day, we climbed a peak to install and survey a summit benchmark. Hermann, always looking for an opportunity to paint, is here taking advantage of a cloudless day to express his artistic side.


Here's a tasty treat!

What do we eat on the Icefield? Here's a sample. Notice the "best when purchased by" date. This particular box was purchased in 1978 and consumed in July, 1989. How'd it taste? Like the cardboard box!


Enlarging the refrigerator is an almost daily chore

While canned, boxed, and other types of prepared foods make up the bulk of our diet, we do occasionally get fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products flown in by helicopter. Since we don't have refrigerators to keep the food from spoiling, we take advantage of the natural refrigerator just outside the cookshack. Here, one of the students digs out a cave in the snow to house our "freshies".


Here's one that didn't get away!

With all the scrumptious food we have on the Icefield, it's no wonder that we have rats. Believe it or not, but mice and rats do pose a hazard to our food supplies at even the most remote camps. Someone must have thought that this rat voodoo doll would scare the little critters away. Not a chance!


The Icefield cast of characters

Scientists aren't always bent over their microscopes and calculators. Some possess quite a bit of artistic talent as well.


I pledge alliegance, to the flag...

After playing one too many pranks on others, this unfortunate fellow found himself on the receiving end -- and duct taped to the flag pole!