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Is That A Raft Or Parachute?

CBS News producer Chloe Arensberg is traveling with Daniel Sieberg and cameraman Mark LaGanga to the arctic.

DAY TWO – JULY 5, 2007

Rick the helicopter tech is brilliant. He was telling us stories from his Navy days, and seems particular fond of one about a guy who mistook a life raft for a parachute. Given that the guy in question was planning on jumping out of an airplane, the mix-up was a problem.

An electrician named Joe is my neighbor for the trip. He has a flat screen TV and an XBOX. Daniel's pretty excited about this, but I don't want to sound opportunistic.

We're cruising past Newfoundland or "The Rock" right now. One of the Coast Guard guys keeps calling it "the Far East of the Western World," which seems to work. Based on appearances alone, I'm not positive I'd want to live there, but people do - some in a tiny community called Cape Grey.

Today was mostly for travel, more setting up, and more orientations. I've done a bit more exploring and discovered a stuffed fox, with no legs, sitting on the piano in the crew lounge. I'm not entirely sure I'm interested in the back story. But I'm sure I'll get it. The bar in the lounge opens tonight.

There's an Inuit girl on board named Louisa. She's a student at McGill and sort of a liaison between the International Polar Year scientists and the northern, native communities. She was born in Iqaluit and raised mostly in Northern Quebec.

A few months ago the most skilled hunter in her hometown and his wife died when they misjudged some ice and fell through while fishing. The rescue team arrived just a little too late. It was devastating not only for the obvious reasons, but because he was so sharp on the ice, he knew his land so well, that something like this was previously unthinkable. But the ice is getting thinner, the spring is coming earlier, the winter later, and ways of life are adapting. It's like having your entire economy slowly melt. Not at a drastic rate, but quickly enough to really affect ways of life.

And just an aside: Louisa said the weather's become really irrational – she got caught in a huge and completely unexpected blizzard the other day after fishing. She was blinded by the snow and wanted to ditch her snow mobile – said a dog sled would have been much more useful since the dogs know the route by heart, and by scent. I loved that for some reason.

Click here for more about the trip.

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