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June 9, 2010

So much has happened in the last 24 hours. I feel like I’ve hit my stride – I’ve figured out the ship enough that I don’t feel horribly lost anymore. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people on board, both scientists and Coasties, and can feel myself coming out of the shell I always create in new situations. It always takes me a little while to get used to a new place and a new group of people.

Last night, the science lecture was on the ADCP and how the software behind it works (or at least, what it looks like when there is an error and what that means). Afterwards, I stayed up with a couple people to watch The Fourth Kind – a movie about alien abductions in Nome, AK. Since everyone here is all about the Arctic, a lot of them have lived in Alaska at some point in their lives. So they all laughed as soon as the movie started and we got our first view of Nome:

“What? That’s not Nome! There aren’t any trees in Nome!”

It really killed the credibility of the movie, which was supposed to be based on a true story. In any case, at least it was a decent scary movie. At about 9:45pm, I head back to my stateroom with the intention of getting ready for bed (after all, I have to wake up at 5:30am for my 6am watch) and am shocked to find that there is still light shining through my porthole! Confused, I look at my watch again. I can’t believe we’re losing another hour on Thursday. I’m not exactly sure when the sun rises, but I always get waken up by the light before my alarm. It’s one thing to hear about long days and quite another to experience them! I can understand why people in Alaska get less sleep in the summer. I ended up staying up later reading just because I felt like I shouldn’t go to bed before the sun set on principle.

This morning, everything broke during my watch. The multibeam receiver boards crapped out and there were a couple power failures in one of the instrument rooms. Luckily, we were only hours away from getting new receiver boards. However, the power problems have been continuing. That UPS is seriously failing at life. On the plus side, we crossed the Aleutian Trench.

This afternoon, we finally approached the Aleutian Islands. They’re gorgeous! Striking, volcanic glacial landscapes. Barren mountains with snow still on top – the peaks hidden behind clouds and fog. Absolutely gorgeous. We approached Dutch Harbor through this relatively narrow 1.5 mile wide passage.

While we sent the little boat off to Dutch Harbor, we had a Fish Call on board the icebreaker. Everyone was really excited – immediately the fishing gear starting coming out of nooks and crannies all over the ship. Ultimately, we only caught one fish … by accident. Everyone was pulling in their lines to move the ship onto the continental shelf for better fishing when someone realized there was a fish on their line! It was a small, flat fish with two eyes on one side of it’s head. We presumed it was halibut or flounder or something and threw it back into the water. Unfortunately, we ran out of time for fishing soon after that as the small boat returned and we got back underway.

Meanwhile, I checked my email and was pleased to see I had finally got the sailing orders for my next cruise. I opened the attachment and my eyes went wide:

“[radengineer] will be the lead marine technician on this cruise […]”

My immediate response: “What?!?!?!”

I immediately told my shipmates, who of course had been teasing me that this would happen for the last week. The university had sent out an email to all the marine techs in the UNOLS fleet with two openings for this upcoming cruise about a week ago. They had joked that maybe they wouldn’t be able to find anyone and it would be all up to me. Luckily there are other techs on this upcoming cruise – but I’ll be the only official university employee which I guess makes me the de facto “lead tech”.

As one of my shipmates said, “No matter what happens, it will look great on your resume!”

I still can’t believe that I – this kid who just graduated from college and has never even seen this ship yet – will be the lead marine tech on my first cruise. I feel like I can’t count the current one because it’s too chill and I have no responsibilities. So far the main advice I have received is along the lines of “Spend some time by yourself in Dutch – you’ll miss it. Also, get lots of sleep now while you can.” This really has turned into quite the adventure!

I can’t believe that I’ll be ashore by the end of this week! I feel like I just barely started learning about sonars. Plus, now I’m extra motivated to keep up with my self-guided Linux lessons now.

I need to figure out what extra gear I need to buy in Dutch. As one of my shipmates described it:

“Dutch is one of those towns where a sailor could arrive naked and find everything they needed for bad weather in the Bering Sea.”

I think I’ll buy some rubber gloves and another coat and maybe a pair of lined work pants. I may have been too hasty in declining to take the extra coat that my mom wanted me to bring. She was probably also right about me bringing too many t-shirts, but I just hate wearing the exact same thing everyday. At least when I change my t-shirt I can feel like I changed my outfit … even if it’s buried under three sweaters. I’m also vaguely considering getting rubber boots. We’re going to be doing lots of CTDs on this cruise – which means being outside. It might depend on how much money I decide to spend. On the way here, I was very worried about having too much stuff because I would have to carry it through the airport. But since I’m going to be on the ship all the way back to Seattle, I’m not nearly as concerned about it anymore. I’ll just call someone to pick me up so I don’t have to lug all my stuff across town on public transportation.

As a special bonus, I’m including a photo from entering the Aleutian Islands. We seem to have plenty of bandwidth so it shouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, I don’t have any editing software on my laptop that allows me to decrease the photo size so I don’t want to over-do the photos. Sorry about the spot in the middle – I didn’t notice it until I put my photos on my computer!

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