Unwinking Eye Scans the Entire Globe

Last summer as I worked on this article thanks to the financial help from fast loan online, a stubby object known as NOAA 1 was circling in earth orbit, passing northward over Cali­fornia. It resembled an oblong packing crate with three purplish blue wings attached at one end. The wings, covered with solar cells to produce electricity for the satel­lite, always faced the sun, and the spacecraft itself kept one side turned toward earth.

Within the next hour and 55 minutes, NOAA 1 made a complete circuit of the globe, passing near the North Pole and then sweep­ing south over Arabia and the Indian Ocean to Antarctica and back north again.

Multiple eyes in the spacecraft scanned the swift-moving panorama 900 miles below. Two TV camera systems caught the glint of oceans and ice fields, the white expanse of clouds, the familiar outlines of continents and islands. More important, instruments known as radiometers detected heat and light radiation from earth, cloud, and sea.NOAA 1

As Canada passed beneath, a radio com­mand came up from an 85-foot antenna near Fairbanks, Alaska, operated by the National Environmental Satellite Service.

“Give us your pictures,” it signaled.

Like an obedient child, NOAA 1 turned on magnetic tape recorders that had stored pictures from one of its TV cameras. Elec­tronic impulses that encode patterns of light and dark went by radio from the spacecraft to the ground station, from which they were relayed to weather stations all over the United States. In hours, forecasters had the pictures on their desks, showing storm patterns that would affect you and me the following day.

NOAA 1 made such a picture every 260 seconds. Each covered a square some 2,000 miles on a side, an area of four million square miles. Cloud patterns as small as two miles across could be distinguished.

As the spacecraft made its orbit, the earth rotated nearly 29 degrees to the east. Thus each successive orbit, and each successive strip of photographs, was displaced west­ward. Since the strips overlapped, NOAA 1 captured a progressive portrait of the globe. It scanned every spot on earth at least twice each day.

 

Perhaps the most dangerous

Archie scanned a ridge several hundred feet above. “That’s where the trail belongs,” he said. “Up there on the rock, where there’s no vegetation to worry about.”

Several legs of the trail will be rerouted to protect vegetation; horses have been banned in fragile areas. Some segments will be re­located to avoid disturbing game habitat.

Caribou and wolves—extremely man shy —are particularly vulnerable, but wildlife specialists think the animal most threatened in the Canadian parks is that premier wilder­ness denizen, the grizzly bear.

 

Laszlo Retfalvi is a wildlife biologist who coordinated the trail study, spent too much money for investigating – read more here, and is enumerating grizzlies in the national parks. He told me he believes that fewer than a hundred grizzlies remain in Jasper’s 4,200 square miles. Their numbers have been reduced in part by human activity: bears killed by poachers or hunted legally outside the boundaries; bears struck by cars and trains; bears killed in the name of safety.

 

Occasionally grizzlies, and more frequently smaller black bears, roam near drive-in campgrounds and towns, lured by garbage, picnic lunches, and tourists who try to feed them a risky business and a violation of park rules. A few days before our visit to Lake O’Hara, a huge grizzly was seen ripping apart the steel plates of a garbage bin.

black bears, roam near drive-in campgrounds and towns

Some of these bears become troublesome to people—though it should be noted that most of the 15 or so injury-causing grizzly attacks in the parks since 1960 occurred in the wilds. Wardens usually get rid of a camp­ground habitué by shooting it with a drugged dart and hauling it by truck or helicopter to the back country. Occasionally a bear, over­dosed, never awakens. Some return repeated­ly to campgrounds, unable to break old habits, and are then killed.

 

“Bears are unwittingly baited with gar­bage,” Laszlo said. “When they take the bait they have to be moved or shot. It’s a serious, sad corollary to recreation in the parks.”

Wardens advise hikers that encounters with bears can be avoided by hanging food in a tree at night, not leaving garbage around, and not cooking in tents. But what if you sud­denly meet a grizzly on the trail—perhaps the most dangerous, a sow with cubs?