August 26, 2006
It was in the upper 90's and muggy as I flew out of San Antonio, Texas bound for the United States' northern most town.
I'm Kirk Beckendorf and am on my way to Barrow, Alaska to join Carin Ashjian, from Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute, and the group of scientists who are working with her. Carin's group is studying the food web of the massive bowhead whale, a baleen whale that feeds on zooplankton.
This diverse group of oceanographers is collecting data in hopes of determining what causes the bowheads to congregate near Barrow during their annual fall migration from their summer feeding grounds in the Canadian arctic to the Bering Sea. The team is trying to determine what oceanographic factors are affecting the whale's food supply, what impacts climate change will have on this food chain and the impacts these changes will have on the Inupiat people who depend on the whales for cultural and nutritional sustenance.
The first day saw me traveling for about 20 hours, sitting on a plane for about 12 of those hours. The good news was that I had three layovers; the bad news was that the first one found me in Memphis, TN. Seemed rather odd to go 1000 miles east before I go 4000 miles northwest.
After the second layover, which was sensibly in Seattle we followed the Canadian and then SE Alaskan coastline. Seemingly endless snowcapped mountains disappeared into the distance. Glistening glaciers and deep valleys slid from the peaks interspersed with meandering ocean filled inlets. Soon, clouds covered the mountains and I stopped staring out the window and got some sleep. As we approached Fairbanks I looked back out the window, the clouds had thinned. Between the breaks in the clouds, I could see the sparsely forested fall tinted taiga below.
We bounced to the ground at the small airport in Fairbanks. The good news was, this is my final layover; the bad news is that it was overnight.
Question of the day: About how many miles did I travel yesterday?