Dispatch 31 - October 10, 2003
By C. A. Linder
Weather conditions: Overcast skies, 20 kt winds, 1-2 ft seas,
air temperature 34°F
Red lights illuminated the flight deck
this morning. The scraping of a snow shovel broke the silence. 8AM,
and all was dark. Only a hint of light broke the horizon. John Kemp,
Ryan Schrawder, Marshall Swartz, and Carin Ashjian had already eaten
breakfast and were saying their farewells in the hangar. As the
first rays of sunlight started to illuminate the clouds, the HH-65A
helicopter took off with a whoosh of rotor blades. We waved goodbye
from our vantage point above the flight deck as the helicopter faded
to a dot on the horizon, then disappeared.
Carin sent us an email a few hours later from Barrow - "Hope
you are all having fun! I miss the cocoon of the ship. It is a little
confusing here, too much stimulation. Can you imagine what it is
going to be like further south?" If the tiny village of Barrow
is too much stimulation, Logan airport is definately going to send
us all into shock!
Lisa Munger had an exciting day today... She spotted gray whales frequently
through the early afternoon. They spouted and occasionally showed
their flukes. Although she deployed a sonobuoy, she unfortunately
didn't hear any vocalizations.
This afternoon I wandered out on deck to photograph a CTD cast. I
was focused on the water - it was a lot greener than the dark blue
waters of the Beaufort Sea. Lots of chlorophyll and sediment, since
we were near the coast, Dean Stockwell had told me earlier. Suddenly,
Seaman Trevor Hughes started pointing out into the waves. What was
it? Too small to be a whale... Then he yelled "polar bear!"
I couldn't believe my eyes. There we were, 20 miles from land and
over a hundred miles from the ice edge, and swimming directly towards
the ship was a polar bear. The lean bear paddled calmly towards the
ship, and swam several laps around the fantail, obviously looking
for a way to climb aboard. Lucky for us, he didn't find any ladders
dangling down within reach. After a few minutes the CTD cast was complete
and we gently edged away from him and steamed on to the next station,
leaving him behind paddling in the waves.
It's not unusual to see polar bears swimming miles away from land. Some biologists actually classify polar bears as marine mammals, just like seals or whales. They live on the ice edge, sometimes swimming miles and miles before reaching land or another floe. During the autumn, when food is scarce, bears can go four months without eating!
This question comes from Mrs. Cadwell's 5th grade class at
Varnum Brook Elementary School.
Question from Courtney: How much film do you use
or how many pictures do you take each day?
Answer: Hi Courtney, great question (I love any question
about photography!) I am shooting primarily with a digital camera.
That way, I can share the pictures with you almost instantly via this
website. So far I have taken close to 9,000 photos. That amounts to
roughly 300 photos per day, or about 10 rolls of 36-exposure film.
I probably wouldn't shoot this much if I was shooting film since the
processing expense would be huge! Digital photography allows me the
freedom to experiment, since each shot is only consuming hard disk
space on my computer. I can easily delete the unsuccessful experiments.
So, if I'm only posting eight photos to the image gallery per day,
then what about the other 292? Well, sometimes it takes more than
one shot to get a "keeper." Humans are particularly difficult
critters to photograph. They blink, change expressions, and move pretty
quickly. To capture that perfect moment in time, it may take a hundred
or more images, all of which are very similar. For example, the light
on the tail of the HH-65A is actually blinking
- it took 46 shots to catch it when it was on! And catching Dan Schuller's
broken egg before it fell? 33 shots.
Tonight Dan Schuller, Rob Palomares, and Lisa Munger took a break
from science and spent some time making desserts in the galley. Tomorrow
night it's the science team's turn to cook for the weekly "morale
night" dinner. Be sure to check tomorrow's dispatch to see what's
on the menu.