Alina-Maria Crasnianec’s Diary


Wednesday, March 1, 2006 Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006 Friday, July 21, 2006
Saturday, July 22, 2006 Sunday, July 23, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006 Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Wednesday, July 26, 2006 Thursday, July 27, 2006
Friday, July 28, 2006 Sunday, July 30, 2006
Tuesday, August 1, 2006  

Wednesday, March 1, 2006 Hello to all Earthwatch diary readers. My name is Alina Crasnianec. I was a teacher for three years, and I joined Alcoa in 2003 as an environmental coordinator at the AFL Caransebeş location in Romania.
 
Last year, I applied for the first time to the Alcoa Earthwatch program, but I was not selected. I was not upset at all, because I know that nothing in this world can be obtained easily. I was very happy that somebody from our location was selected and had the opportunity to take part in one of the Earthwatch expeditions.
 
Since the idea to participate in this program still sounded exciting, I applied again this year. To be honest, I thought I had no chance to win, knowing that last year somebody from our location was selected.
 
On January 31, I had just come back from a meeting, and it was almost time for us to go home. I was checking my emails and noticed one with the Earthwatch title. Of course, it was the first email that I opened. From the first two lines, I just read “2006 Alcoa Earthwatch,” “Iceland,” and “July 21 and July 28, 2006.” I was not sure that I was selected, and I whispered to my colleague who has the desk in front of me that I think I may have been chosen to participate in the Earthwatch program. To convince myself that my brain received the right information, I forwarded the email to some colleagues to give me the good news. It was indeed what I was hoping, and we all started to feel happy. During that afternoon and the next ones, I called all my friends to tell them the big news.
 
To learn more about this expedition, I started to read the 2004 diaries and the expedition briefing. The only thing that scares me a little is the humidity there, since it may not allow clothes to dry if they get wet from the rain. Otherwise, I am very excited to participate in this expedition, as glaciers and volcanoes were always an attraction for me.
 
I am sure it will be very interesting to be near real researchers and real geographers—people who discover the history of our planet and predict its future.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 The day after tomorrow is the departure date….
 
The expedition briefing arrived. I read it and took in all the necessary information, including some useful links. I also don’t need a visa—this is very good.
 
I bought a travel book on Iceland, which helped a lot in finding a hotel in Reykjavik. I chose a hotel near the bus station, which is where I’ll take the bus to Skaftafell the next morning.
 
After lots of adventures, I finally received my Earthwatch T-shirt. I had to retrieve it from a city near me, and only I could pick it up.
 
Alison from Earthwatch sent me the names and address of the other volunteers. Two will be from the United Kingdom, and three will be from the U.S. I tried to contact them, but only two answered me. It seems they chose to stay in a place in the opposite part of the city. We will just meet the next day in the bus station.
 
I got my plane tickets from the airport and made copies as was instructed in the expedition briefing.
 
When I first saw the expedition packing checklist, it seemed that it was so huge and that I wouldn’t have or need everything on it. I even contacted Maryann, another Alcoa employee who was in Iceland two years ago, and she confirmed that I’ll need everything on the list. I have a friend who is an alpinist and travels a lot around the world. After I talked with him, I realized that the list is not so long. It’s actually short. After three months of searching for these items between my other daily work, I can now check each one from the list. This means I am prepared to go, no?
 
I like that all my friends and work colleagues are very excited about my going. All of them ask me every week when I will go, if I need something, if they can help me with something. I am proud that I can say I have special friends and special colleagues.
 
I am excited, too. I am sure I’ll have a good time there. However, I now have another fear. Since I will be changing planes three times, will my luggage arrive at the destination?

Thursday, July 20, 2006 Departure day. I had to fly on three planes to get to Reykjavik. In all three airports, I checked to see if my luggage had been transferred to the next plane. In Copenhagen, I asked twice, and it was not transferred yet. My heart started to beat fast. I felt better when I heard the plane’s captain announce that our takeoff would be delayed because of some luggage. When I saw my luggage in Reykjavik, I checked it twice to make sure it was mine.
 
In the airport, I changed some money. I didn’t change too much, because I thought the exchange rate was lower there, and I was right.
 
The Reykjavik bus was waiting in front of the airport, and I bought a ticket inside the bus. The driver told me that since I was staying at a guest house and not at a hotel, he could not drop me off directly in front of it. That was okay with me, because I had chosen to stay in a guesthouse near the main bus station.
 
At the guesthouse, I paid cash because it was cheaper than with a credit card. After five minutes, I was walking in the town with the Reykjavik map in my hand and my passport in my trousers’ back pocket. When I returned to my guesthouse, I realized that my passport was not in my pocket anymore. I retraced my tour route to see if I could find it, but, unfortunately, I didn’t. At the Tourist Information Center, I asked what I had to do in this kind of situation. The person was very kind to me but said he could not notify the police yet because it was too soon. I gave him my cell phone number and the guesthouse name.
 
When I arrived back at the guesthouse, an employee told me that they had received a phone call. My passport was found and was at the police station. I felt relieved, and I went to get it.
 
In the evening, I met two colleagues from the expedition group, and we talked a little bit. (One of them had left me a note at the guesthouse with a time and place for us to get together).

Friday, July 21, 2006 At 8 a.m., I was in the bus station looking for Earthwatch T-shirts. After I found the group, we started to get to know each other. I discovered there was another Romanian in the group, and we decided to stay together during the bus trip.
 
On the right side of the road, the landscape was very cold—a huge, barren plain. The left side was very hospitable, with green mountains that had at least three waterfalls each. If you go on this trip, choose to stay on the left side of the bus (I didn’t).
 
It was raining when we arrived at the Skaftafell Visitor Center. Two Earthwatch members were waiting for us with two Land Rovers. We put our luggage in the back and went to our “one-week home.” This home was a hut with a kitchen in the middle, one room and a bathroom in the right part, and one room and a bathroom on the left side. Because there were too many volunteers (four men and nine women), three of the women had to sleep in tents.
 
After we had tea, coffee, and biscuits, we introduced ourselves. The project team included Andy R. (a university professor from the United Kingdom who was very open and always smiling and in a good mood), Palmer (an adjunct professor at an Alaskan college and Indiana University in the United States), Andy G. (Ph.D.), David (Ph.D.), Matt (Ph.D.) and Kay (responsible for logistical things and very communicative and always in a good mood).
 
Andy R. gave a presentation on the emergency plan, fieldwork risk assessment, and health and safety code of practice. Kay organized everybody, including two university professors that were arriving in the following days, into four teams for kitchen duty. The teams had to cook breakfast and dinner and wash the dishes in the morning and evening.
 
In the evening, we watched a movie about the last jokulhlaup (catastrophic glacial lake outburst flood) with Palmer and Andy R. at the visitor center. We were informed that our fieldwork would be done in the place where this outburst flood took place.
 
I wasn’t yet adjusted to the time change, so I was the first one to go to sleep.

Saturday, July 22, 2006 The wakeup hour was 7 a.m., the first departure time was 8 a.m., and the second departure time was 9 a.m. Each person had to make his or her own sandwiches for lunch.
 
Each evening, Andy R. established the teams and the work that would be performed the following day. Today, I was in the survey team headed by Andy R. that departed at 9 a.m.
 
From the place where we left the Land Rover, we walked about 30 minutes among stones, boulders, and sand. Before arriving at the worksite, we had to cross a river with a pneumatic boat (thanks to Palmer’s efforts from the previous day). We crossed the river two-by-two, with the others pulling a rope to help us cross quickly. After we climbed four hills of sediment (stones and sand), we arrived at our designated place for this day.
 
Anita and Vlad were the other members of our team. I worked with a theodolite (an instrument for measuring both horizontal and vertical angles). Anita wrote the data I read off the theodolite in a notebook, and Andy and Vlad held two poles on a ridge on the other side of the valley. Andy’s goal was to collect geographical coordinates of the lake edge near the glacier in order to develop a map. He hopes to make a map every year to study the evolution of the sediment landscape in that area.
 
After four hours on top of the hill in the wind, even with all the protective clothing, my bones felt like they were freezing inside me. In the evening, I needed two hours to recover and feel my bones again. I fell asleep early again.

Sunday, July 23, 2006 I was on the same team today.

It’s a sunny day. After the cold from yesterday, I didn’t know how to dress anymore. I took with me light clothes but also warm ones. I was afraid that even if it was warm, the wind on the top of the hill could be there again.

We went to the same place, installed the theodolite, and waited for Andy and Vlad to arrive on the other side of the lake. To get there, they had to cross a part of the glacier. Because of the sunshine, the ice had started to melt, and a lot of small rivers formed on the glacier. It was a little hard for them to find the safest part of the glacier, but they did it.

We started to collect data. It was still sunny, but the wind was also still there. I had to keep on all the warm clothes. Unfortunately, after two hours, the theodolite battery discharged, and we had to stop collecting data. We packed the theodolite and decided to wait for the men in the valley, far away from the wind.

In the evening, Palmer gave a presentation on Alaskan glaciers. Andy R. switched the volunteers around, so I was going to be in Kay and Dave’s global positioning system (GPS) team with Sophie.

Monday, July 24, 2006 After we made our sandwiches for lunch, we left around 9 a.m. Before leaving, Dave told us what his expectations were for the day. His wish was to find four references points that were on a 10-year-old map. The reference points, to be found by satellites, would help the other teams establish the right coordinates for the points measured with the theodolite, and their map would be very precise because of this. If we found one of these points, Dave had to install the GPS equipment and wait for three hours until it collected data from the satellites.
 
Dave was afraid it would be a very boring day for us since we had to wait three hours at each point, so he took a few books to read. He also had a fax with the right coordinates, some explanation of where each point could be found, and the GPS detector.
 
Since Dave was driving, Kay checked the coordinate reference points. Based on the description, the first point was located somewhere in a huge green plain. We didn’t know what to look for, because we didn’t know what the other researcher used to mark these points. After one hour, we decided to look for the other one and come back to this one later.
 
The next was supposed to be located near a waterfall. The landscape and the waterfall were gorgeous. We went up and down and up and down again, but we were not able to find the right coordinates that were mentioned for there. Dave decided to go back to the hut and check in his computer again for the field coordinates. We ate lunch while there and then continued our search for the third reference point.
 
We were very close to the right description, but we discovered that we actually should be on the other side of the river on a private farm. After the owner gave his permission to enter onto his property, we found what we were looking for in three minutes. It was not at all what we were expecting.
 
Dave was very happy that he finally could take satellite data from the point that was marked on the existing map. He installed the GPS equipment and let it work for three hours. Because nobody was there, we decided to leave the equipment and try to find the other points. The fourth one was supposed to be located under sediment, and we tried to at least find the place. This time, we found it very easily with the geographical coordinates. The place was indeed covered by sand and marked with some boulders.
 
After Dave took a picture of the supposed point with Kay in a funny position, we came back again to the first point that we could not find in the morning. This time we found it in 10 minutes. It seemed to be a lucky afternoon, no?
 
The reference point looked totally different than the other one. After we did our best to install the theodolite tripod in a perfect vertical position, Dave installed the GPS detector. We talked a little bit, trying to get to know each other better. They decided to take Sophie and me back to the hut since it was almost the end of working day. They returned to pack up the two pieces of equipment after the three hours had passed.
 
I was part of the cooking team. Jude and I tried to prepare spaghetti with meat sauce and another batch with vegetables for the vegetarian volunteers. Before dinner, we went to a place with a warm swimming pool and two hot tubs. From the swimming pool, you could see a gorgeous green landscape with a small waterfall in the middle. I learned that the warm water is provided by the local waste incinerator.
 
This was the first evening in which I didn’t need to go to sleep early. It seems that my body was starting to adapt to the local hour…after three evenings.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 I was again on the GPS survey team, with a departure time of 9 a.m. It was a foggy, damp day.
 
This time we had other task. Dave wanted to survey a specific area with all the ridges and objects that could be seen on satellites images. He would use the coordinates we gathered to make a map to compare to the satellites images.
 
Because of the fog, it was hard to find the hill where the tripod was installed. Dave used the GPS detector to find the hill’s coordinates, and we went there to connect the GPS detectors with the satellites. After he assembled the GPS detectors on the poles, we went down the hill very carefully with the poles so we wouldn’t lose the satellites. On the detector, we could see that there were between eight and 10 active satellites. We had to take care that the error rate was not more than 2.1 to 2.4. The more satellites that are connected, the lower the error rate of the data.
 
Our first task was to take the coordinates of a terraced ridge. Because we had two poles, we split into two teams. We had to keep a bubble in the middle of a circle—like a carpenter’s level—so the poles had to stay in a vertical position on the ground. We had to push one button, wait for 20 minutes, take 20 steps, and do the same task until the end of the ridge.
 
After we finished with that area, we drove to a new position. While in the vehicle, we had to take care to not lose the satellites. Because Sophie lost her satellites, she had to return to the last check point. I stayed at the new position with Kay, and we started to collect data for the big boulders from that area. After the others returned, we continued to collect data on the ridges and boulders that could be seen on the satellite images. There were so many satellites that during the night, I dreamed of them and the reference points that we were looking for a day before.
 
When we returned to the hut, Sophie and I decided to go to the visitor center and the nearby glacier. Maybe we could touch the glacier—who knows? The landscape on the way to the glacier was nice, and you could see the decrease in the glacier’s size in the last 100 years. Unfortunately, in front of the glacier was a lake with small icebergs, so we could not touch the glacier.
 
After dinner, we had cake to celebrate one of the volunteer’s birthdays. John, the other university professor, gave a presentation on Antarctica. I chose to join Dave in searching for the missing second reference point from the previous day. This time we found the exact coordinate, but we didn’t find any sign that could be a reference point. So, we decided to see a nice waterfall that was a 10-minute walk from where we were.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006 Today, I was in the ground penetrating radar (GPR) team with Matt, the two university professors that came in the day after we arrived (Meredith and John), and Jude, the other volunteer with whom I cooked. It was very cloudy outside and would probably rain.
 
The worksite was the same as the first two days, only the task was different. We again crossed the “stone desert” and the river (going two-by-two by boat) before we started to do our job.
 
The GPR, which is used to detect existing soil layers and their depth, consisted of a transmitter and a receptor tool. We had to mark, with a measuring tape, the ground we wanted to monitor, and then we put the receptor one meter (3.3 feet) away from the transmitter. When we heard the beep, we had to move the two tools forward by 10 centimeters (four inches). At the end of the marked section, we were able to see a partial result on the screen.
 
After the lunch hour, a very fine rain started that transformed into an intense storm within half an hour. Because my team could not use the radar equipment in the rain, we chose to mark a hill with colored ropes to help with the next week’s research stage. Because this hill was right near the glacier, I had the opportunity to finally step on it. It was almost completely covered with volcanic tuff, which is fragmented rock material formed through volcanic activity. Because of the rain, a lot of small rivers started to form.
 
When I arrived at the hut, I realized that my waterproof trousers were not actually 100% waterproof. I was wet in the areas near the zipper.

Thursday, July 27, 2006 Because the forecast seemed to deteriorate and rain was announced, Andy formed two special teams (computer data entry and boat retrieval) and kept two existing ones. Because it was our last day, he let us choose the team we wanted to work on.
 
I very much wanted to see what Andy R. was doing. I understood that they crossed the rivers with waders and did some diggings to see the soil layers. After getting wet yesterday, I was afraid that it would happen again today, so I chose the data entry team. We entered the data that the teams collected during this week in the field, and we finished a little bit after lunch.
 
Before the final dinner, we went back to the hot tubs. Dinner started after a short briefing on what we had done during the last week. The project team thanked us for our support and explained how important our presence was there.
 
The dinner was very special, as the project team prepared grilled lamb and other tasty dishes. We had soda, juice, wine, and beer. Because the rain was not cold, we ate outside and talked a lot.

Friday, July 28, 2006 We exchanged mailing addresses with the project team, cleaned our rooms, and packed our luggage. Around 11 a.m., we were waiting for the bus at Skaftafell Visitor Center with all the team members except for Dave and John, who were already in the field. Everybody had smiles on their faces.
 
We really had a good time here. We had the opportunity to enter into the research world, help make the researchers’ time here shorter, improve the understanding of the dynamic system that operates here, and provide results to the world in a shorter time. I realized that being a scientist is not easy at all. You have to be armed with a lot of patience. At the end when the puzzle is complete, the satisfaction is at its greatest.

Sunday, July 30, 2006 I didn’t have a flight connection on Saturday, so I spent one afternoon in Copenhagen. It was a good opportunity to visit the city.
 
Around 4 p.m., I arrived in Romania. It was good to breath Romanian air again.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006 I already gave a presentation on my Earthwatch experience at the two Alcoa locations in my area. At the request of my colleagues, I put my photographs on the local server so they can better see the photos whenever they want. I think I increased their interest in participating in this kind of experience.
 
In addition, two geography teachers have asked me to make a presentation to their classes about my experience in Iceland.

Photo Gallery


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Icelandic Glaciers


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