A sunset over Norton Sound
as seen from the village of Stebbins.
Photo by Ned Rozell.

This column is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Ned Rozell is a science writer at the institute.

STEBBINS — ”There’s no permafrost here, like there was none in Emmonak,” Kenji Yoshikawa said earlier today, when he was in the village of Kotlik. “Isn’t that interesting?”

The adventuring permafrost scientist was in that small Yupik village near the mouth of the Yukon River, drilling a hole in the soil on the treeless tundra near the school. Though the top layer of soil was frozen, a few feet down it was as gooey as cold pudding.

Yoshikawa, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, was on a spring snowmachine traverse of western Alaska, from Emmonak at the mouth of the Yukon River to Native villages on Norton Sound and up to Kotzebue, tracing the nose of the Seward Peninsula. He and his helpers and traveling companions — Tohru Saito of the International Arctic Research Center and me — will try to drill 15 permafrost-monitoring holes in two weeks.

After starting in Emmonak a few days ago, we’ll make our way by snowmachine to Kotzebue, putting more than 800 miles on them.

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