Onboard the R/V Sikuliaq with us, we are fortunate to have Opik Ahkinga from the native village of Diomede. Opik has a unique blend of traditional and scientific knowledge, and a deep desire to protect her community’s long-term future.

Two days ago, two boaters from Diomede went missing. A man and a boy on the verge of becoming a man.

Since humans started going out to sea, all seafarers have come to the help of all those in distress. This is the Good Samaritan Doctrine, the unwritten Law of the Sea (and written, in some cases). It doesn’t matter who those in distress are, or how they came to be in distress. What matters is their lives.

When we heard of the missing boaters, we immediately dropped our research ops and ran to the site of distress to assist the Coast Guard in their search and rescue mission.

Their wreck was found just north of Wales early this morning.

This is a loss that deeply hurts Diomede, Wales, all Alaska Native communities, and the maritime community. Opik’s presence aboard and her relationship with the two men magnifies our own pain.

This pain is also what brings us together. I lost a friend at sea several years ago, and while I cannot fully understand the pain brought about by this particular loss, I do understand how losses at sea over the millennia have led mariners to become fiercely protective of the lives of their own.

The sea is beautiful, she is ferocious, she is generous, she is violent. And today, she has taken two of ours.

 Little Diomede (left) and Big Diomede (right) islands under the midnight sun as we searched for the two lost men. Photo credit: Catherine Pham

Little Diomede (left) and Big Diomede (right) islands under the midnight sun as we searched for the two lost men. Photo credit: Catherine Pham