“Low visibility in Dutch Harbor, we are now on a weather hold. Standby for an update in 30 minutes....”
You could hear groans and complaints coming from passengers throughout the gate area as the intercom clicked off.
This summer, my internship with NOAA Auke Bay Labs and the Alaska Native Science and Engineering program has provided the opportunity to travel around Southeast Alaska and to spend time at sea for leg 1 of the Eastern Gulf of Alaska survey, but I was most excited to travel to Dutch Harbor to board the vessel for this Arctic Cruise. I lived in Dutch for four years, from the ages of 7-11, when my father flew some of the last days of the scheduled Grumman Goose flights to neighboring communities.
Unalaska for me was not just a place to work, but it was home, and some of my closest family members still live there. However, since it had been so long since my last visit, memories became idealized fragments of biking through wildflowers on sunny days, picking salmonberries, subsistence crabbing, and hiking trips to see the wild horses of Summers Bay. In my memories, the weather was always nice, and everything was always in season. Not quite the reality of this weekend.
On Sunday, the plan was to fly into Dutch Harbor and arrive around noon to have time to visit friends and family, and enjoy my last two days on land. The fog in Dutch had different plans for me. I spent all day Sunday on a plane, when we went all the way to Dutch, only to attempt landing twice and revert to Sand Point to refuel and wait for the weather to change. The fog never lifted, so we ended up back in Anchorage by 5:30 that evening. On Monday, I woke up at 4:30 am to catch the 6:30 am flight, but again had a weather delay, and I finally arrived in Dutch around mid-afternoon, only to discover that my baggage was bumped. All very harsh realities of life or work in rural Alaska.
No matter, through the obstacles, I was still fortunate enough to visit some of my favorite places. I took a trip down memory lane and captured some photos of land that are enjoyable to view when you're in the world of sea, sky, and metal that is a research cruise.
Today, after some acoustic calibrations and unpacking, we will depart this afternoon on the R/V Ocean Starr, bound for Nome. I’m excited for the surprises, ups and downs along the way, and the lessons learned in retrospect.