August 25, 2005
We put out to sea at 8:30 am during a light rain. By 9:30 we had instruments in the water and were beating against a medium sea hoping it would ease up. As we towed the ADCP and the Acrobat I sat up on the bridge and looked for birds. We were now east of Point Barrow in the Beaufort Sea and very soon I began to see plenty of birds. Red-necked Phalaropes flitted by and rested on the sea by the dozens, some pecking at inert jellyfish. Overhead, flocks of Arctic Terns raced the boat and dove into the chilly water for small fish. Slowly the rain let up and the seas lessened. We began to see Ringed seals (the smallest and most abundant of pinnipeds). They would pop up in front of the boat, sometimes with half their bodies above the water to see us better and then dive over sideways with a splash of flippers as a goodbye.
Off in the distance I spotted a tall spout! I strained to see through my binoculars, but could only see a tall set of flukes disappearing under the water. I thought maybe it was a Gray Whale.
In a few hours we had reached the end of our transect, within view of my first sea ice. I really wished we could get closer to see some detail. Instead, we set about casting the CTD Rosette, the VPR and the Bongo nets. The weather was getting better and better.
We began retracing our line, stopping to do more casts, recording sightings of birds and mammals and having a great halibut dinner. After a spell on the back deck I headed up to the bridge and Bill and Carin were discussing a dark object on the horizon. Soon we were all guessing: a building in Barrow, a helicopter, a dirty piece of ice? As we got closer and closer we realized they were walrus hauled out on the ice! Everyone was like a little kid at the zoo, running to the front of the boat, cameras at the ready. They were lying in a pile, when they heard the engine they looked up for a moment and then slid into the water in a hurry. They were Awesome!
Soon after, the sun came out for my first real sunset in the Arctic. We finished a few more casts in a beautiful light.
During the course of the day The ADCP stopped working (from banging the side of the boat the day before?), The CTD Rosette would not trigger the Niskin bottles and we scraped the bottom a few times with the Bongo, scooping up mud and brittle stars instead of plankton.
We were back in port by Midnight.