Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crashing Waves

Another day, another storm.  The Bering Sea is relentless!  We managed to sneak in three stations yesterday afternoon and early this morning but then the weather deteriorated and our sampling operations were shut down again.  This time we were out in the open, far from the safe shelter of the sea ice or even an island.  The pitching and rolling began while many of us were still sleeping, turning a normally comfortable sleep into a fight to remain in position on the bed.  As the day dawned, conditions worsened.  Healy is a wonderful ship in a storm, she rides well and moves with a ponderousness that I find comfortable.  However, we had waves breaking on the bow and then, in the afternoon, waves washing onto the fantail.  No small feat considering that the edge of the fantail is about 18’ above the water line!  The afternoon was no picnic for the ship drivers and Captain, as waves crashed on board at both ends of the ship, spreading foamy seawater in swirls across the decks.  We were safe on board but no one would venture out lightly!

A wave breaks over the fantail and then spreads across the deck.  This is particularly impressive because the deck at the stern usually is about 18 ft. above the water line. Note the height of the wave behind the A-frame.  The winch on deck in front of the towing bit (the yellow structure in the front of the photo) is about 5' tall.
View from the aft conning station during a roll of the ship. Note the horizon relative to the deck of the ship.  The aft conning station is from where the winches are operated and has wonderful window views.
We are running out of time here in the Bering Sea.  We are due in Dutch Harbor on Saturday at 1400.  The weather is not looking promising for doing more stations.  After this storm passes by, we may have a lull during which time we will sample.  But there is another, even more menacing storm building to the south that will no doubt shut us down again.   Now we start to strategically plan our exit.  We know that we won’t use the fluorometer again, so we can start to pack it up.  We know that we won’t use the Multinet again, so it is packed.  All part of a campaign to clean, list, and pack.  The amount of stuff we have brought is monumental and now it must all go back into the packing crates again.
The windows on the bridge need frequent washing from all of the sea spray.
LTJG Evan Steckle on the bridge of Healy.  Evan was the OOD (Officer of the Deck) yesterday afternoon. This photo was taken on a more relaxed day.  The controls of the ship are behind Evan.   In addition to his duties on the bridge, Evan is the Marine Science Officer.
Chantelle on the bridge, readying her "helmet cam" (a video camera on her helmet) to go out and film the storm. I am not sure why she was so excited, it was nasty outside!
Yesterday morning the moon shone brightly over a calm expanse of frazzle ice (young ice in very small pieces) as we transited to the south to where we wanted to work.  A stark contrast to the angry Bering Sea of today.  

Moon over a sea of frazzle ice, morning of Dec. 12 near Nunivak Island.  

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