The Alaska Start I

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Written by: Director Robert Groves

We made it to Anchorage Saturday afternoon, January 23. First, we went to the local Census office (the only one in Alaska), to gather up heavy coats, snow boots, snow pants, and sleeping bags (all loaned to us by local groups), in preparation for the first enumeration in Noorvik on Monday.

We met with local Census staff, who are busy preparing the various phases of the “remote Alaska” operation and also for the start of enumeration in some other parts of the state where we do direct interviewing of folks. Training is happening at multiple locations.

They were filled with stories that must be unique to Alaska enumeration. We need to prepare for the possibility that our census takers, after having flown into or driven into a village using snow machines, getting stuck in a village for several days after the enumeration is finished, all because of severe weather conditions. Our enumerators depend on the hospitality of the village for lodging; most have no commercial hotels.

In the Aleutian Islands we’ll use boats to access remote villages and weather conditions are critical to our efficiency there.

The logistics of making sure materials are positioned in key hub sites is an awesome task alone. Pallets of forms must be sited so that they’re available to the enumerators. The population is so scattered that transportation is the critical path on many operations.

I’ll have a few interviews this morning with media in Anchorage. Then we’re off to Kotzebue, above the Arctic Circle. There will be a few meetings there, and then we fly on a 10-seat plane into Noorvik. You might want to jump on Google Earth to get a sense of the terrain.

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