And the Bering Sea Roars

By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011

I didn’t quite expect the Bering Sea to be quite this nasty in December.  Bad yes, but perhaps a few hours to sneak in a few samples before roaring in again with another storm.  No such luck, the storms are just rolling in like freight trains.  We had the worst yet last night, with winds of 50-60 knots.  The “house” of the ship (the tall structure in the front where the living quarters and the bridge are located) was almost shaking.  Even inside, I could feel the tension as the winds buffeted the ship.  We sailed into the wind.  Most of the time we pitched fairly gently but occasionally we would come down on a wave with a thud and crash and the spray would rise from the bow, plastering the front of the ship.  Once again, we took water on the fantail.   This time we were not so lucky as before, the aft staging area door took a bad hit, breaking in the bottom 4 or so feet and flooding the compartment with water.  We were very lucky, we did not lose any science gear.  The red toolbox that amazingly washed off the top of a 4’ metal cabinet was found on the deck, intact.  The front arm on the frame on our VPR, which was tied in and sustained the torrent of water, was bent 90 degrees and had to be sawed off in order to pack the instrument back into the shipping crate (the VPR itself is fine).   All in all, a dramatic reminder of the strength of the sea.

Wind records from four amenometers. Depending on the orientation of the ship, the four sensors may or may not agree. For most of this record, the red one seems to be showing lower winds than the others.
(L) The broken door in aft staging. Note the watertight door to the right that is about the size of a regular door. (R) Phil saws off the bent piece of the VPR frame while Joel braces the frame.

We are nearing Dutch Harbor, our final destination.  We are in a packing frenzy in the labs, washing everything, organizing, finding crates.  In addition to packing, we have to clean the labs and our living spaces. We plan to sample again tomorrow morning to catch more of the elusive copepods, a final fishing before we take apart the last net.   Although our sampling in the Bering Sea has been difficult, we still hope to collect some animals from the southern part of the Sea.

Bob and Kristina on deck in their cold weather gear.
Chad shining his boots. As a member of the Navy, Chad wears his uniform every day and keeping his boots in good shape is important. / Steve relaxes after his shift in the science lounge/library. In addition to a beanbag chair, we also have comfortable chairs and a flat screen TV with DVD, limited cable, and movies that the ship shows every night. We also have many paperback books and three large tables on which to work.


Senior Chief Frank Donze fixing the winch controls. Thanks Frank!


Joel takes a turn at picking krill from a recent sample. The krill are in the beaker to the right, note the “sesame seed” eyeballs.



By Carin Ashjian for The Arctic Winter Cruise 2011, WHOIExpeditions Friday December 16th, 2011

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