Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
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god beams
The sun shines through dark clouds over the Chukchi Sea.
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Daily Update

Dispatch 26 - August 9, 2002
By C.A. Linder

Weather conditions: mostly cloudy skies, winds 10 knots from the NW, 2-3 ft. seas, air temperature 50° F.

Ten Miles From Russia
Every morning I take a walk around the ship’s weather decks. Normally, as I open the watertight door leading outside, I am blasted by a fierce, cold wind that takes my breath away. Today was different. The wind was there, but it was... strangely warm! How odd it feels to wear only a sweatshirt and jeans on deck, instead of 3-4 layers of polypropylene and fleece. The sun was peeking in and out among dark storm clouds, casting sunbeams on the dark surface of the Chukchi Sea. A half-arc of a rainbow hovered in the mist of a distant thunderstorm. Gone was the eerie stillness of the Arctic waters. The ocean was moving! The ship created mighty bow waves and the sea roiled and hissed as we passed. Even a few small whitecaps graced the tops of the small waves around us.

checking the ship's course
Operations Officer Matt Walker checks the ship’s course on the bridge.
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I vividly recall my feelings when we first entered the Arctic ice; what a different world it seemed. Those feelings have returned as we leave this surreal world of ice. I feel like an astronaut again, a traveler returning from unknown lands. Early Arctic explorers must have felt this so much more keenly, having suffered so many perils in their quests.

Today we passed through the narrow stretch of water separating the United States and Russia known as the Bering Strait. Through the 50 mile wide opening pass the waters of the Pacific Ocean, driven into the Arctic Ocean by a difference in atmospheric pressure. As we enter the waters of the Bering Sea, I would like to share an image Dr. Glenn Cota from Old Dominion University sent us. It is a NASA SeaWiFS satellite image showing ocean color. This color can be related to the concentration of phytoplankton, since these tiny marine plants have the same color-giving chlorophyll as terrestrial plants. Since phytoplankton form the base of the oceanic food chain, a measure of their abundance gives us an estimate of how much “life” is in a particular body of water. Orange and red colors indicate large amounts of phytoplankton. Black colored areas are land, clouds, or ice.

SeaWiFs image
SeaWiFS image showing ocean color in Bering Strait.
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This image shows how the Anadyr water (see the Objectives page for diagram showing the currents) carries the nutrient-rich Bering Sea water onto the Chukchi shelf. In the spring and summer, the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas bloom with life as the constant daylight feeds a phytoplankton population explosion. The SeaWiFS image clearly shows the phytoplankton bloom in the Chukchi Sea, carried there by the Anadyr current. This is one example of how biological and physical oceanographers can work together to understand the “big picture” in the Arctic.

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