Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
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Alaska’s Wrangell
The WHOI crew is treated to an excellent view of Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains on their flight from Boston.
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Daily Update

Dispatch 01 - July 15, 2002
By C.A. Linder

Weather conditions: overcast skies, light and variable winds, calm seas, air temperature 53° F

Heading North
Greetings from the cold gray waters of the Bering Sea! We are steaming north at roughly 17.5 knots (almost 20 mph) on the world’s most powerful non-nuclear icebreaker. In a few days, we will begin our science mission in the Chukchi Sea, just north of the Bering Strait.

It has already been quite an adventure for the science party. For the East Coast members of the cruise, the fun started on July 11th when we boarded our flight to Anchorage, Alaska. The following day we met the science teams from the University of Alaska - Fairbanks and the University of Washington,then caught a flight to the port of Dutch Harbor, in the Aleutian archipelago. Due to the blustery Bering Sea weather, flights to Dutch Harbor are often canceled. But we were extremely lucky... we not only landed on the island but enjoyed a sunny summer day as well.

Dutch Harbor
A trip to Dutch Harbor is memorable for the flight alone, as the small jets dodge volcanic peaks to land on a postage stamp sized runway.
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While waiting for our icebreaker to arrive, we spent several days exploring the island and getting ready for a month at sea. The Aleutian Islands are volcanic in origin, and the terrain is hilly and carpeted with spongy green tundra. Rolling, tussocky hills rise dramatically out of the deep blue ocean, ending in jagged peaks fringed with patches of snow. Red foxes bound through the tundra grasses chasing ground squirrels, and enormous bald eagles soar overhead.

Frozen surimi slides by at the Westward Seafoods fish processing plant. Several science crew members got a personal tour of the plant while awaiting the Polar Star. Dutch Harbor is one of the biggest fishing ports in the world.
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Despite the small size of the town, we found a number of activities to keep us busy. John Kemp and Dan Torres decided that they just couldn’t wait to get out to sea, and took a charter fishing trip for halibut. Other science party members toured one of the island’s massive fish processing plants. Dutch Harbor--the only natural deep-water port in the Aleutian Islands, --leads the nation in the volume and value of seafood caught and processed (over 800 million pounds annually). The rest of us felt the call of the hills, and disappeared into the wildflower-strewn arctic highlands.

Sarah Zimmermann and Sarah Thornton take to the hills surrounding the beautiful “Summer Bay.”
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Bob Pickart and Sarah Zimmermann, in a moment of insanity, competed in a road race to the top of nearby Mount Ballyhoo (1680 feet). Bob is now limping around the ship, and describes the condition of his leg muscles as “jellylike.”

The original plan called for us to meet the ship on Sunday, July 14th, but like many science expeditions of this size, things are bound to go wrong. In this case, the ship was delayed in Seattle, so our departure date was rescheduled for Tuesday the 16th. By Sunday night, we got yet another call - the ship is here, so pack your bags and get ready to leave tomorrow. Monday morning greeted us with clear skies, a seemingly perfect day to set out for the far North... except for the fog drifting in from the Bering Sea.

US Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter
Aaron Morello looks on as one group of scientists prepares to take off for the ship.
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Monday afternoon found us sitting on the dusty tarmac with our pile of crates, boxes, and duffel bags. The sun was shining bright on the runway, but just offshore we could see an ominous bank of Bering Sea fog, engulfing the fishing boats and our vessel. At the appointed time, we heard a strange humming through the fog. Within seconds, a US Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter burst out of the fog, circled Mt. Ballyhoo, and set down on the runway in front of us. We donned our exposure suits and helmets and began loading the helicopter. It took several flights to get everyone to the ship, but within a few hours we were all safely aboard our gigantic floating home.

US Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphin helicopter
Sarah Zimmermann and Chris Linder catch a helicopter ride out to the Polar Star.
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Now the hard labor begins. We are racing to unpack and test our science gear as the ship speeds to northern waters. Our first task will be to deploy the University of Alaska / University of Washington mooring in the Chukchi Sea central channel. In the days ahead, we will take you inside a major oceanography expedition via stories and photos. If you have any questions about the science or shipboard life, send an email to arcticedge@whoi.edu and we will try to find the answers.

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