An Arctic Adventure

New Market Native Journeys To Alaska For Spring Break

Posted: March 28, 2014

This year, New Market local Corey Roadcap, as senior at Radford University, spent his spring break in Barrow, Alaska. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
Over spring break, Radford University senior Corey Roadcap, a New Market local, journeyed to Barrow, Alaska, as part of an 18-person research team. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)

Like many of his fellow undergraduates, Radford University senior Corey Roadcap spent his spring break at the beach. However, the New Market local wasn’t visiting the sandy, sunshine-soaked shores of Florida — instead he opted for Barrow, Alaska, a small town surrounded by the Arctic Ocean on three sides.


“[It’s a] frozen desert beach,” he explained, laughing.


Roadcap, a physics and computer science major, traveled to Barrow as part of an 18-person team from RU. The expedition was part of a class, Arctic Geophysics 450, in which students study the basic structure and dynamics of polar sea ice.


Roadcap says he was interested in the project because it gave him the opportunity to participate in hands-on research related to his field of study.


“It [was also] just a unique opportunity to travel to the Arctic Circle,” he added.


From the moment the plane arrived in Barrow, Roadcap knew he was in for an adventure. Recounting how Barrow’s airport is essentially “just ice,” he said the landing was “a little nerve-wracking.”


“It was wild, it was pretty rough,” he recalled, adding that all the passengers held tightly to their arm rests.


The team stayed at the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory, and spent hours each day collecting data on the Chukchi Sea ice. According to Roadcap, their research was aimed at finding a “possible correlation” between the surface temperature of sea ice and its thickness. While he says “it’s looking pretty hopeful” that they’ve found a connection, he adds that the team needs more time to analyze the data.


Overall, Roadcap says he was surprised by the depth of the ice he encountered.


“It was a little thinner than I expected,” he explained, adding that locals confirmed the sea ice has been melting at a rapid rate throughout the last decade.


While working, Roadcap had a few encounters with Alaska’s wildlife.


“We saw some caribou, they were out about every day [and] we saw some polar bear footprints,” he recalled.


However, with the winter temperatures ranging from 0 to -50 degrees, most of Barrow’s wildlife wasn’t especially active.


Between collecting data, the students explored the town, which has a population of 4,212.


“The people up there were amazing; they were just genuinely kind,” he remarked.


One evening, the team attended a community potluck, which was thrown to honor local residents who had completed the Iron Dog — Alaska’s notoriously tough snowmobile race.


New Market local Patti Roadcap, Corey’s mother, says she was thrilled her son had the opportunity to travel north of the Arctic Circle.


“There aren’t many people from this area who get to go do something like this,” she said. “I was probably as excited as he was!”


Patti’s also impressed by her son’s ambition and adventurous spirit.


“He’s had such an experience, such a learning experience. … I’m very proud.”

Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or kking@dnronline.com.