Edge of the Arctic Shelf
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Daily Update

Dispatch 31 - October 10, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Overcast skies, 20 kt winds, 1-2 ft seas, air temperature 34°F

Dawn Patrol
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!

Take off Binox
Ready for takeoff. Lisa scans the horizon for whales.
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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.

Polar bear Polar bear
A cautious sniff. Coming in for a closer look.
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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.

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