18 July, 2004
What a great couple of days! After working through the night (with 1-2 hour breaks for quick naps), we finished our last station on this line after lunch on the 17th. Even though I was tired, I was not nearly as exhausted as Jackie, Rebecca and Ari who have much more work to do before, during and after each station than I do. After lunch I reported to the captain who had "purchased" me during the tadpole auction. It seems that 16 of us, members of both the crew and the science teams, have never crossed the Arctic Circle by boat. (Actually, I have, but there was no official "crossing ceremony" when I was on the USCGC Healy.) In addition to cleaning the gym (the captain works out regularly and wanted it spotless), my other job was to drive the ship. Despite the pea soup fog, there was really no concern (other than mine) as we were in open water and there were lots of people around to help me stay on course. I even managed to make a 20 degree correction in each direction without overshooting by more than a degree or two. All in all, not a bad way to serve my four hours of purchased time.
After dinner, we all had a chance to go on shore to visit the settlement on Little Diomede Island. We took a small boat in and were greeted by several of the children who were catching jellyfish and waiting for each new boat load of people arriving from the ship. The entire settlement of less than 200 people lives right on the edge of the island. The children happily showed us around, and stayed with us until we left to go back to the ship. While we were on the island the fog lifted and we saw the sun and blue sky for the first time since leaving Kodiak nine days ago. We not only got to see the top of Little Diomede, but we could look across the water and to the Russian island of Big Diomede. The US/Russian border runs down the middle of the Bering Strait. While we were on the island, four men from Diomede came for dinner on the Laurier.
All of what I've just described actually happened yesterday and, as of right now, I'm no longer a tadpole. Once our three mud stations were done, the tadpoles were called to parcticipate in the crossing "ceremony," I have my official certificate signed by the captain, the "Humble Servant of His Omnipotent Magnificence Neptunus Rex." While the ceremony itself must remain a secret, all of the tadpoles felt that we had more than earned our certificate and everyone enjoyed the barbeque on the aft deck that followed the afternoon's events. Now I need to get some sleep because our last four mud stations start at midnight.
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