The darkest part of the night…

by Guest Blogger

July 6, 2006

The following posting is from oceans campaigner John, who is onboard in the Bering Sea… 

In the middle of the darkest part of last night, we relied on the charts to get us through a particularly shallow channel.  According to the charts, there was a narrow pass where it looked like it would be just deep enough to accommodate our boat’s 11 foot draft.  Willie and I were on the bridge sweating it out with Captain Bob as we all stared at the depth sounder, which reads the amount of water below the boat’s keel. 

We started out in plenty of water, and then watched it drop off steadily all the way down to zero.  Bob didn’t flinch, and after a few minutes of nail-biting the depth started to climb back up again. And then we continued on our way to Dutch Harbor, with the knowledge that we had a skipper who could make an awful lot out of a little luck.

After a few days of smooth sailing, today the odds caught up with us.  Cold, fog, swells…  It was probably not the roughest weather we’ll face on this expedition, but it was our first test so far and everybody came through in good shape.  In the past three days, I think we only saw one other boat, and only a couple more were even close enough to register on radar. 

For our team, coming from cities like Washington D.C., Austin, Tacoma, and Sidney, this was a kind of isolation few of us had ever experienced.  As we bounced around in the open ocean waves, we passed creatures who felt right at home – puffins bobbing in the waves, shearwaters swooping gracefully by, and humpback whales occasionally surfacing near the boat.  My favorite sighting of the day was a sleeping Steller sea lion, calmly floating on her back in the middle of the swells.

Now we’re finally arriving in Dutch Harbor, where we’ll pick up Craig and Dave and begin the first research leg of the tour: killer whale population ecology.

Wish us luck!

John H

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