June 30 - July 2, 2008
I left JFK International Airport on June 30 at 4:25 p.m. and arrived in Anchorage at around midnight Pacific Time. That is about 12 hours of travel time. The amazing part was that it was still light out. When I woke at 3:30 a.m. and saw that was still light out, I knew I was in for an adventure.
On July 1 I left Anchorage at 9:45 a.m. and flew to the now famous Dutch Harbor, Unalaska. We cruised at about 15,000 feet and the view of the Aleutian chain was spectacular. I had never seen mountains like that before in my life and I found myself pinching a nerve in my neck to make up for it.
Flying into Dutch Harbor, I felt like I was in the movie Jurassic Park in the scene where Dr. Harding and Dr. Malcolm, among others, are flying to the island for the first time. Sheer mountains covered by green foliage surround the tiny airport. When I exited the airplane the most unbelievable, fresh, pungent, oceanic smell filled my nostrils. It is not like the sulfur smell of low tide on the east coast in New York or the pleasant hint of salt spray. This was the best smell of marine life to be observed.
For the rest of the day in Dutch Harbor, Pat Kelly, the science technician working for Dr. Brad Moran from the University of Rhode Island who is my "PI;" Jillian Warssam from PolarTrec, and I drove 23 of the 38 miles of Dutch Harbor road observing sea otters, bald eagles, seals and an arctic fox. It was a good day by any standards.
July 2 was a day of preparation. All of the about 50 scientists onboard worked like mad to prepare their equipment. It became obvious that there is going to be some serious research going on in the next four weeks. One team is collecting krill to ultimately find out what they are eating. Moorings are being set to collect data for months at a time. Sediment cores are being collected. Pat and I are deploying a sediment trap to collect water samples. One of our studies is to measure the amount of radium in the water to see how long ago it was at the bottom. At this time, those descriptions are basic; however, they will become more scientific as we get under way! We set sail tomorrow.