Edge of the Arctic Shelf
Daily Update
Images and Maps

Daily Update

Dispatch 39 - October 18, 2003
By C. A. Linder

Weather conditions: Clear skies, 25 kt winds, 1-2 ft seas, air temperature 32°F

Home at Last
Stars weren't the only lights I saw when I ventured outside on the morning of the 18th of October... On the horizon was a string of lights - city lights! Thanks to following winds and seas, we made it to Nome in record time. Only a few miles away was LAND. The low mountains of Alaska's Seward Peninsula were bathed in snow and alpenglow. We hadn't seen land or civilization since September 11th. It was strange to think that in a matter of hours we would be like tiny fish swimming in a sea of humanity in busy airports.

Land! The snow-capped mountains of Alaska's Seward Peninsula.

One of the ship's helicopters ferried our science party in groups of three to the Nome airstrip, where we first put our feet on dry land. Even though we didn't experience that much motion on the ship, there was always some very slight movement -- a movement which stays in your brain in the form of "land sickness." For some people it can take a few days for the world to stop shifting unexpectedly! Our first stop was the Alaska Airlines terminal, where some of us arranged flights for that evening, and others made plans to fly out the next day.

After checking in, we explored the small town of Nome. Nome reminded me of an old wild west movie set. Clapboard shops line the wide, dusty streets and the pace of life is relaxed. Instead of horses, though, pickup trucks were parked outside of the saloons. At the end of the 19th century, Nome was a thriving gold-rush town of over 20,000 people. It's now known primarily as the end of the Iditarod, the famous sled dog race that starts in Anchorage, over 1,150 miles away! It was strange wandering the streets and catching an occasional glimpse of the Healy bobbing on the waves only a few miles away.

We then returned to the airport and began the first leg of what (for us New Englanders) was to be a very very long and tiring journey. First stop, Anchorage. Next stop, Seattle. Next stop, Boston. Next stop, Cape Cod. Some of our group were lucky - they were home when the plane stopped in Fairbanks, Alaska, or Seattle, Washington. Others were less lucky, like Dan Schuller, who was flying all the way to Trinidad for another cruise!

Takeoff Walking
The first flight to Nome takes off. Jeremy Kasper (left) and Dan Torres (right) set their feet on dry land for the first time in 5 1/2 weeks.
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Some very special people made this project a real delight for me this year. Thanks especially to Mrs. Cadwell's, Mrs. Rollo's, and Mr. Jarvi's classes at Varnum Brook Elementary School, Mrs. Werner's and Mrs. Rodgers' classes at the Morse Pond School, and Mrs. Lyons' class at Mt. Alvernia Academy. Everyone in the science party enjoyed answering your questions. You helped us see the Arctic from a new perspective.

Thanks to our sponsors at the Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation for providing funding for this field project. Thanks to Bob Pickart for once again inviting me to come along as a “field correspondent.” Thanks to WHOI Media Relations for the generous use of photo equipment. Thanks to Dina Pandya and Danielle Fino for their outstanding work on the website design.Thanks to my family and friends who sent me so many encouraging emails. Thanks to Gratia Montgomery for her love and support of oceanography. Thanks to Captain Oliver and the crew of the Healy for their tireless efforts to support our science and keep us safe. Thanks to Dennis Conlon, program manager at the Office of Naval Research, who funded the moorings.

I'll close this chapter with a final question from Mrs. Lyons' 5th grade class at Mt. Alvernia Academy, Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

Question from Matt and Olivia: Do you like it up there? Do you plan to go back again?
Answer: Hi Matt and Olivia, thanks for the question. The Arctic Ocean is an amazing place that very few people on this earth have ever experienced. There is no way to convey how incredible it is to see polar bears and walruses in their natural habitat, fogbows arcing over the ship, or a vast field of ice at sunset. Last year my best descriptive word for the Arctic was "surreal," since it was unlike anything I have ever seen. Although I am exhausted from this trip and missed my family and friends, I am planning to return next year. I hope you can join us "virtually" as well!

Healy Me
A view of the Healy from the beach in Nome. Our intrepid dispatch writer puts the finishing touches on Dispatch 39.
Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

Before I forget - for anyone who is still wondering what that worm was that we found on one of the moorings... Carin Ashjian tells me that the CT scan revealed that the critter had no bones at all. So far she thinks that the worm is a marine leech. They are parisitic, surviving by feeding off of fish. If I find out anything else, I'll add it to this dispatch.

In the next few weeks, be sure to revisit the image gallery - I will be selecting my "best of the best" photos and writing small essays about why each one has meaning for me. I plan to finish by the end of November.

And next year? In September 2004 we anticipate meeting the Healy in Dutch Harbor, where we began our journey in 2002. Join us as we pick up the moorings for the last time. Hopefully they will bring us another year's worth of data from the Arctic shelf edge. See you then!

  Previous Dispatch

Back to Calendar