Perspective Piece: Waiting Out the Stormy Weather

Whelp, it’s 08:25 UTC (almost half past midnight in Alaska) and we are finally back underway to the next OBS deployment site. The navigation monitor shows that the R/V Sikuliaq, the Millie Cruz, Greta, and the Polar Cloud were among the vessels that were awaiting better sailing conditions. It’s black out the window to my left, and the room is beginning to sway again as we enter the Shelikof Strait. I’ve decided to finish out my shift with a blog post to document a few experiences from today.


At 17:37 (UTC), we pulled into Uyak Bay to seek refuge from a regional low-pressure system and the incipient rough sea state. I was off-duty and sleeping when the decision was made, so I was surprised to see land again when I looked out the galley window during my first meal. I recall my momentary confliction between completing the usual morning routine, and hurrying to get out on deck for a look around. We were parked near the coast of Kodiak Island, and I feared I might miss out by taking the time to eat, use the exercise room, shower, and gather belongings before my shift. Little did I know that I would have the next 15 hours (or at least until nightfall) to take in the surrounding scenery.

We were initially meant to remain anchored until midafternoon. Upon reviewing the regional forecast, it came as no surprise that our departure was pushed back further. I suppose the folks in charge thought better than to face the cyclone-shaped vector projection that stepped across our scheduled navigation path.


So, what did we do to wait out the bad weather? There was plenty of work to be done to get ready for the upcoming deployments.


The AACSE science team, alongside the OBS engineers, ran final tests on the outgoing instrumentation and recovery systems. It’s an important step to ensure against equipment malfunction. After all, these things must be ready for continuous operation at the bottom of the ocean for more than a year. We would also like to be able to find the instruments when it finally comes time to retrieve the data.


There were other options to avoid the mist and wind rushing over the deck. As always, there was plenty of bathymetry data to process in the meantime.


Despite the chilly weather, the surrounding views were astounding, even into the twilight.


And as deck and lab activity grew quiet for the evening, many of us took to personal hobbies and pass times in between routine status logging. Some people sat and read quietly. Others attempted to catch up on their emails, though the internet was particularly slow while we were tucked away in the cove. Others took the opportunity to chat with their ship mates, many of whom are still practically strangers after only a few days on the ship.

I am learning that life on a ship provides a unique opportunity for people to connect with each other. For example, I spent part of the evening receiving a generous guitar lesson from the Chief Steward onboard. He’s a skilled blues musician, and he kindly reached out to play alongside me when he noticed me strumming out on deck. I’ve got to say; my experience thus far has been pretty great, despite the spotty weather and fits of acute nausea. More details to come.

-Enrique Chon (graduate student on the AACSE science team)


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