August 13, 2008
Much of this day fell under the heading of "hurry up and wait." The primary objective is to get all the members of the team, plus the mountains of luggage and scientific gear, out to the Healy. Since Barrow does not have a deep-water port, this requires much shuttling of people and gear to a "staging area" where it is moved from there by helicopter to the Healy five miles or so off shore. After a breakfast of bacon and eggs and pancakes, we packed up our personal gear and loaded it onto a pickup truck to be shuttled to the helicopter. Then, it was a matter of waiting for our turn to get the ride out. Being in the last group to go, a few of us spent some time visiting the Barrow Inupiat Heritage Center, a fine museum with historical artifacts and contemporary displays on subsistence whaling, cultural traditions, art, and nature. With a little more time to kill, we took in a lunch at Pepe's Mexican restaurant, the last stop for a good burrito heading north without looping all the way around the globe again!
As the day wore on, our restlessness to get on a helicopter and out to the Healy grew. Finally, we got our chance. We donned a survival suit and helmet, and dashed out to the helicopter for the quick five-minute shuttle out to the ship. Being on the helicopter was a blast! I got a lot of good video of the approach to the Healy and aerial shots of Barrow, and it was a thrill to come down on the "helo-deck" of the Healy. Once on board, we were given our room assignments and pagers and allowed a bit of time to settle in. My roommate, David Skillicorn, is a documentary photographer who is on-board to film the seafloor mapping expedition for NOAA (I'm hoping to get access to his footage with their permission). I spent a little bit of time exploring the ship and getting lost; the Healy is a very large icebreaker and every hallway and bulkhead door looks the same! But I'm told that getting lost is the best way to learn my way around.
After dinner, we had our first briefing with the Commanding Officer Capt. Fred Sommer, Executive Officer Dale Bateman, and a number of other officers and crew members who filled us in on ship-board procedures and safety concerns. Larry Mayer, the Chief Scientist, gave us our "watch" assignments. My watch is from midnight to 8am starting tomorrow, so I know I better get a good night's sleep! I'm going to get up at 4am tomorrow to watch a team of scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography retrieve a high-frequency acoustic recording package (or "HARP"), which is essentially a buoy, which has been recording background acoustic noise in the region for the past year. Should be an exciting day tomorrow, and I look forward to getting a better grasp of the research projects and ship-board routines.