Ancient Bones

Prudhoe Bay smells of tobacco and plaid shirts. Flying in is dropping through layers of fog above pan-flat tundra, brown and riddled with giant pools, black, reflective, and immovable. Today a jet can land on instruments, three hours late. Tomorrow, the airport will be buttoned-up like a wind-breaker.

Yesterday the river was glass. Today the water laps against the north bank leaving a muddy foam the color of ancient bones.

In the morning the sun is golden, comfort in shirt sleeves. When the clouds roll over, we add layers, each new article a concession. Each morning, the wind from the south grows cooler. In two weeks, the season will end, and the air taxi will stop ferrying scientists and hunters to the river and the flats. Snow is always a possibility. The cranes circle across the river, and a hawk pinwheels above the bluff and the paleontologists as if there is food nearby. Too late for a nest. South soon. The bones we uncover from the cretaceous silt are now more useful to science than evolution.

—Thanks to 70 North, Alaska Arctic Air Logistics; UA Museum of the North, Earth Sciences Collection (2014)

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