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23 March, 2001

Tidbit of History

The USRC BEAR continues with its reindeer mission. In 1897 the early arrival of winter trapped an entire whaling fleet in heavy ice near Pt. Barrow. When the owners of the whalers expressed concern over the fate of those on board, the Revenue Cutter Service launched the Overland Relief Expedition, to bring food to the sailors. Three officers from the Cutter BEAR drove a herd of reindeer 1500 miles in the dead of Arctic winter to ensure a food source that would last until the winter breakup of the ice. Three gold medals were awarded by congress.

Science Observations

Benthic means "bottom dwelling". The Bering Sea is the largest fishery in the region. The cold temperatures keep the bottom fish from eating benthic animals, thus allowing population of walrus, gray whales and bearded seals to feed. The study area contains a winter polynya, and opens south of St. Lawrence Island.

There are approximately 400,000 Spectacled Eiders in the Northern Bering Sea. The National Field Guide to the Birds of North America defines the Spectacled Eider,Somateria fischeri . The male has a green head with white, black-bordered eye patches and orange bill. In flight, black breast separates the adult male spectacled eider from the common eider. The female has a much fainter spectacle pattern. Her bill is gray-blue; feathering extends far down the upper mandible. The birds winter over in this area due to it being the largest area of benthic biomass in the entire Arctic region. The dominant bivalve communities have been described for the region. Over the past fifty years there has been a decrease in size and weight of these dominant bivalves. The scientists are studying the seasonal and yearly differences.

HAPS core sampling measures carbon deposition/flux to the sediment. Sediment carbon content varies over the study region. Along with carbon, nutrients, oxygen, and plant algae (chlorophyll) are also measured. The animals will keep eating what they find in order to survive throughout the winter.

Sediment grain size is related to animal habitat. Some animals, such as bivalves, favor fine silt and clay sediment. Sandy, course sediment is the choice for other animals, such as amphipods which gray whales prefer. Sandy sediment is an indication of faster currents. Through the HAPS core sampling, patterns of current speed can easily be observed.

Animals prefer different varieties of food. For example, the Spectacled Eider dives down looking for bivalves and cracks them open with its beak. The walrus takes in a big suck of bivalves and shucks them leaving the shells. The whale turns on its side, takes a big bite in the mud and squishes it through its baleen. The gray whale, using shorter baleen catches anthropods in the side of its mouth. What's interesting is that there has been a 30% decrease in arthropods over the last decade. The question is why.

The scientists are developing long-term records and defining change. It is hopeful that this long-term data study will provide some answers to these pressing questions.

Daily Update

A live audio was conducted this morning with 30 teachers at the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) meeting in St. Louis, MO. The captain, Terry Julich, Dr. Jackie Grebmeier, chief scientist, Dr. Jim Lovvorn, co-principal investigator and I answered questions regarding things such as the scientific research, wave height, and preparation for the excursion.

The afternoon was spent catching up on correspondence.

Two stations were completed on our shift today. Temperatures remaining about the same. We did move to an area of open water and scattered ice.

The van Veen grab produced some wonderful specimens! This is the sieving collection. Look for brittle star, crab, snail shell, 3 kinds of bivalves and ice cream cone worms (pectinariidae). <>

Male spectacled eider. <>

Female Spectacled Eider

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