Note: This blog entry was written on September 9
…Wait for it. OK go again. Wait for it. OK go again. Wait for it…aaand go again!
My brain tells me to keep the balance, forcing my limbs to take hold of any stable object nearby. It took me a few days to notice that I shift and pause more frequently in everyday things, even as I type this now, during peak and fall of a huge wave. Currently riding 9 to 11 foot waves from 40 mph winds makes the work a little harder to accomplish. Someone could get tossed over the side from a sudden huge wave or lose a hard hat from the high wind gusts; even our most experienced sea voyagers can get roughed up once in a while. Finding a safe haven is critical even though we have been a little behind getting the stations finished in a timely manner.
Our captain set us up in a nice protective cove 15 miles south of Wainwright to protect us from the harsh weather. Chief Scientist Ed Farley has been communicating with the local whaling communities to check the migrating Bowhead locations. It is important that our location of the ship and transects being completed are not in the way of the migratory herd, so I was impressed to hear that the specific timing and stations were planned in light of that information. The migration is early this year as Nuiqsut crews have already begun their whaling season near Cross Island, and soon it will be in Utqiagvik. It is interesting for me to think that I am on a boat so close to the subsistence hunting in which I grew up around. Different boats of the same water, each their own continuing the traditional or scientific knowledge learned. Boats for whaling normally don’t go out past 10-15 miles, so it is phenomenal for me to be living on a boat out past 35 miles or more.
Cozy in my curtained bunk, I relish the new information gained on the R/V Ocean Starr before sleep every night. New Russian words (Spasibo = Thank You); learning that different snail species make different types of shells; titles of books being read; terms of the ship (Port to Left!); and how female snow crabs keep their eggs. Days tend to mesh together with the long hours of achieving progress; depending on distance and time we will do either two or three stations. While the research requires the same procedures to be done, sometimes events happen that do not go the way we would like. The CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth sensors) misfires, the beam trawl or bongo doesn’t deploy correctly, the internet doesn’t work for a few days, or waves cause our machinery to bang around!
Flat horizon 360 degrees surrounding the watercraft, you don’t get a lot of outside world stimulation. In this 160-foot boat you can visit the wheelhouse with the ever-vigilant captain and mates, energetic deck crew, hardworking engineers, amazing cooks and, of course, the quirky scientists. Learning about the lives of nearly everyone on the boat is quality entertainment on this ship. Spending the past two days anchored to the sea floor, we hung out together playing cards and working on 1000-piece puzzles.
Fluctuations are a natural order of life. The rise and fall, instability, seesawing, just make you appreciate steady ground later on. Now, I can function throughout the days quite easily through the swells and remember everything will be ok.