Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Morning Edition

It's almost 4:30 as I write, and it seems as though the night has passed quickly.  If you haven't yet noticed it, the post just below this one contains some awesome photographs of last night's display of the Northern Lights.  One of my co-workers, stationed near the Dalton Highway bridge across the Yukon River, is an accomplished photographer who always carries an excellent (and probably expensive) camera while he is out and about.  I saw the same display, but of course I'm to cheap to carry the type of equipment necessary to capture such good images of the Lights.

Out on the Iditarod trail, our true frontrunners are back on the trail and heading toward the ghost town of Iditarod.  Though there are a handful to teams up ahead of them, those folks haven't yet taken their mandatory 24 hour layover, so for our purposes they can be considered to be a full day behind.  Leading the charge out of Takotna was Martin Buser, and it looks like the day of rest has really energized his team.  The Iditarod Insider Live Tracking system shows he is soon going to be passing one of those teams that is a day behind. 

Hugh Neff appears to be gaining ground on Buser.  Hugh left Takotna more than an hour and a half behind Martin, but now appears to be only about 12 miles behind, taking advantage of the leader's trail-breaking.  Lance Mackey and Sebastian Schnuelle are running together about four mile behind Hugh.  They are followed closely by Mike Williams and John Baker. Currently shown in 10th place, Hans Gatt leads a pack that includes Robert Buntzen, Sonny Lindner, Ray Redington Jr. and Dallas Seavey.

The trail between Ophir and Iditarod is roughly 80 miles, and I would think that any of these leading teams can manage that in a single run.  Given the intensity of the competition, I would be rather surprised if any of these mushers decided to camp out on the trail. 

WAY back toward the other end of the pack, a story posted overnight indicates that G.B. Jones got his bell rung pretty hard while crossing a patch of aufice called the Glacier.  About 11 miles after teams leave Rohn; there is a piece of the trail the is a side of a hill over which water seeps out through nearly all of the winter.  As the water seeps and flows downhill it freezes, building up a steep and very slippery wall of ice.  Some refer to such places as "side-hill overflow" and others refer to such places as "glaciers", but the formal term is aufice. 

This particular bit of aufice is uphill and covers a couple of acres of ground, with about 100 yards of Iditarod trail running over it.   G.B. got an upclose and very personal view of the trail when his leaders balked, almost up to the top.  The team started to turn around and G. B.slipped when he tried to grab the lines on his leaders and smacked the right side of his face on the ice, cutting him above the eye and swelling the eye to the point where it shut tight as a clam a day later.

G. B. said when he finally regained his his senses he was about 10 miles farther along the trail, with his team moving along just fine with him on the runners of the sled.  He has no idea how he got his team past the glacier and no idea if anyone helped him.  G. B. isn't the most handsome of guys on a good day, and banging his head on the ice didn't do much to help his aesthetic appearance. 

Photo from Iditarod website
That's it for now.  I need to clean up the guard shack, brew a cuppa for my relief, and get ready to inspect my eyelids for light-leaks.  I'm sure that by the time I rejoin the world there will be more to report.

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