Monday, June 6, 2011

Up in the air

We are now firmly back in the Fraser floodplain, gearing up for our final sampling sites. Saturday was our longest driving day of the expedition, over 700 km between Valemount and Langley. Along the way paid another visit to the Hell's Gate rapids, which gave us a chance to scope out afternoon lighting in the canyon, an important attribute for our next day's activities...

Yesterday was perhaps our most exciting day. We had the opportunity to take a small plane flight over the lower portion of the Fraser valley. The plane was operated by LightHawk, an organization that provides volunteer pilots for conservation and scientific missions. Our pilot, Hunter Handsfield, met us at the Abbotsford airport, and soon we were up in the air gazing down at the Fraser from hundreds of feet above! The views were absolutely spectacular: gliding upstream, we saw the rugged peaks of the Coast and Cascade mountains surrounding the flat floodplain, then the opening of the canyon as the Fraser curves north, and finally the stunning contrast at the confluence of the Fraser and Thompson Rivers at Lytton. I was especially surprised by how widespread patches of clearcut logging were in every forested area we saw. We then turned south and passed over the delta at Vancouver where we looked down on the mixing of the muddy Fraser River plume with the blue waters of the Strait of Georgia. In a matter of a few hours we had gained a totally new perspective of this area by being able to see the transitions between mountains, canyon, floodplain, and estuary all at once. And our photographer Chris captured some amazing images for his multimedia piece before returning home to Seattle.

Today we are sampling the delta; we plan to collect large volumes of water in a depth profile for filtration to characterize the suspended particulates. We look forward to a long day or two of filtration to follow...

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