The R/V Ocean Starr shoved off the dock from Unalaska with clear skies and calm seas—at least in the harbor. That brief blip in weather gave great opportunity to test gear and deployment procedures for the Bongo net, a net that tows alongside the vessel to collect surface plankton, and the CTD rosette, an instrument that goes down the water column collecting a slew of scientific measurements. Both the vessel crew and science team were in good spirits, excited to venture north to the sampling and mooring stations. As soon as the ship left the safety of Unalaska, however, the visibility started to decrease and so did the weather forecast. The forecast, unfortunately, did mirror our favorable spirits.
A front developed from the south pushing wind and sea state on the Ocean Starr’s stern. The ship has continued to make good time over ground and in all likelihood make it to our first mooring deployment on time—there is a cost, however. The waves have been jostling the ship in the trough for most of the day and most likely into the evening and early morning. “In the trough” simply means that the ship moves in a side to side motion such that the waves are hitting the ship on its side.
For most people, stomachs are just not designed to handle that kind of motion. As a result, seeing the full science crew at once has been sparing except for an all-hands meeting after lunch. Bodies quickly retreat to safety in their respective bunks, hoping, wishing that the motion would stop. Thinking about it makes it worse. Not doing anything makes it worse. The lucky few stay busy and in the off chance try and get some fresh air, and watch the frothy turmoil clash against the steel hull of the Ocean Starr. It’s quite humbling to see a ship, at her maturity, weather seas. Conversely, to see how embroiled the ocean can be with wave and sea state as far as the eye can see makes one appreciate how small, even at 171-ft, a ship can be in the Bering Sea.
Let’s hope to fairer weather tomorrow as we start our science and venture into the Northern Bering Sea.