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MOSQUITO ATTACK We had heard rumors about how bad the mosquitos were on the North Slope. But nothing prepared us for this!
We boarded the twin-engine Navajo Chieftain for the two and a-half hour flight to Umiat. Just before landing, our pilot reached behind his seat, fumbled around in his flight bag, and grabbed his Deep Woods OFF. He began to apply his “bug stuff” liberally. I thought this was premature until we landed in Umiat on the gravel runway at 10:30 A.M. We were shocked at the swarms of mosquitos outside the plane. Had we made the right decision about coming this far and being left behind with so many mosquitos? From our vantage point inside the plane, they sounded like the angry hives of bees that my pony had kicked over when I was a boy [“Peanuts” died from this]—and they were waiting for us to come out so the feeding could begin.
We had prepared physically for the mosquitos with 100% DEET (most bug stuff only contains a few percent DEET), mosquito head nets, and bug net shirts, but we were not prepared mentally for them. We didn’t know there would be this many.
I have never seen a pilot work so fast. He had the plane unloaded and was up in the air again within five minutes. He didn’t even stick around to say good-bye or let us have a second look in the plane to make sure we had gotten everything. He probably took off so fast to make sure we wouldn’t change our minds, and go back with him. After the pilot left, we sat around in shock sitting on top of our gear wondering what we were doing in such a desolate place. The DEET kept the mosquitos from landing on our exposed skin, but we could do nothing about the swarms that constantly enveloped us. Had we made the right decision? Would we ever make it home alive and sane?
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