Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Top of the World

July 14, 2009 Barrow, Alaska
Here we are at our icy corner where we make a hard starboard and head east and into the heart of the Northwest Passage. But for now some rest and regrouping is going on aboard Ocean Watch. Our young mate Tyler Osberg left this morning and our educator, Zeta Strickland has arrived and is aboard OW to Boston now.

We had plenty of ice coming into Barrow and had to slip in close and take a shore lead through 1-3 tenths ice. Some trying conditions to make it in. We anchored off the downtown boatramp and immediately the current pushing ice like bowling balls our way. Within a couple minutes of dropping the anchor we had a huge ice floe on our anchor chain. Three of us grabbed ice poles and tried to pivot it off. No way. After some back and forth a piece broke off and the imbalance allowed us to spin it off.

We had to move. Around Pt Barrow we went. Found a better anchorage after 1-2 tenths ice and dropped the hook. 0530 July 13th. It had been 12 hours in the ice. We were beat.

Right in the middle of the big ice floe nailing our chain, Dave and Herb saw a "sea monster." A huge jellyfish. So we had science going on also in the midst of the chaos. Off went Michael, Bryan and Tyler for the jellyfish kit. We landed the biggest jelly yet and dissected it for a sample. Jellyfish as we now know are the "canary in the coal mines" of the seas and oceans. They tell us much about the health of our ecosystems so this is a huge part of our work aboard Ocean Watch. Sometimes science just happens at strange moments indeed.

The passage from Nome was eventful. Great sailing, Bering Strait, crossing the Arctic Circle and sailing the Chukchi Sea. The midnight sun was just as ordered on a spectacular evening off Icy Cape northward. Herb and I got some great kayaking in off Cape Lisburne above the Circle on a beautiful evening and we recovered a grounded Arctic research buoy on the way up here. We have been very busy out at sea.

Ice reports look favorable. We will wait a few days before proceeding east and hope a nice lead opens up for a great run to Herschel Island and Tuktoyuktuk. In the meantime, Barrow and an interesting community and some surprises to come...
DT signing off for now.

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