18 March, 2001
Tidbit of History
The Pribilof Islands are named after another master in the Imperial Russian Navy, G.G. Pribilov. He discovered the fur seals' breeding place in these islands in 1786. The south island, St. George, was named after Pribilov's ship. The Russian fur hunters left on St. Lawrence named the North Island, St. Paul, for the apostle. St. Paul is the site of a CG Loran station, truly remote duty. Also on the island is a gravesite from the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, believed to be some early coasties from the Cutter Concord who were buried there around 1834.
Dr. Lovvorn presented an interesting talk on his research on spectacled eiders. There has been a 50-75% reduction in the Pacific populations of king, common, and spectacled eider ducks. The spectacled eider nests on the Yukon Delta, the north slope of Alaska, and the coast of Siberia. Beginning in 1993, Satellite transmitters were placed on these ducks in order for them to be tracked. The transmitters were thought to have failed but suddenly one began to work again. As a result, 350-400,000 spectacled eider ducks were located on their wintering area in the Bering Sea. This is the only place in the world where they can be found during winter. These ducks can be found living on a "polynya" which is an area in the pack ice kept open by winds. In this case, the north winds in winter are keeping the area open. There are several questions that Dr. Lovvorn is researching. How has the decline in clams affected the eiders' breeding success and life expectancy? What is happening to the clam population? What is the health of the eider duck? What is happening with climate change? Dr. Lovvorn will continue to collect data as he researches these questions.
My day began a little before midnight. We were within and hour of our station. This was my first opportunity to experience the van Veen and the HAPS Core. The van Veen is a machine that is placed over the side of the ship. It is lowered down to the bottom of the continental shelf were it collects sediment. After it is raised, it is dumped onto a screen and placed in a small wooden screened box and rinsed. The samples are then placed in small-labeled containers. The HAPS Core is an apparatus that is also lowered over the side of the ship. Three collections of sediment are collected off the bottom at each station. Two collections are used for oxygen and respiration experiments. The third is used for vertical profiling (or downcore). Once it is raised, the Plexiglas liner is removed from its stainless steel housing and the extra water on the top is drained. The collections are used for different tests. The experiment involves placing a ring on the top of the sample and using a Plexiglas plate to cut cross sections into the sediment. Portions are 1-2 centimeters in thickness. Once these cross sections are collected, small amounts are placed in metal canning containers. They are placed on the canner and the top is vacuum-sealed. We completed two complete stations on my time on duty. The second station of the day placed us right on the National Date Line.
The rest of the day was spent reading chlorophyll on water samples and sediment samples and getting the equipment ready for the next station. It is very cold out and large snowflakes have been falling. The ice has changed since yesterday. We hit the ice about 3:00 p.m. yesterday and it was soft and about 6 inches thick. As we continued to move north the ice thickened to about 18 inches and it was much more closely packed. The ship had to work a little harder to cut through the ice. I saw seals and walrus on the ice yesterday and again today. I wore my mustang suit and mukluks today to stay warm. It worked. I was warm and toasty.
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