Depending on which resource you use, the Bering Strait is 50-53 miles between Russia and the United States. The first and last pictures on the slide show are of the sunset in the Bering Strait.
We arrived at our test station in the Bering Strait around 11pm and everyone is energized. The slide show (slides 2-5) includes pictures of the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) instrument that was dropped over the side to collect water at different depths. The CTD looks like a round gray cage with gray bottles on its perimeter. Once the CTD was brought back up to the deck, scientists stood in line to get their water samples. It was like they were standing in line for a midnight special at the mall.
Both plankton and a bongo net (two plankton nets in tandem) were dropped. A 20 micron (1000 microns equal 1 millimeter) plankton net is used to collect phytoplankton and the concentrated soup like mixture (smelled like spinach) was then strained through a 128 and 64 micro round sieve to remove the larger zooplankton. Why? The scientists only wanted the tiniest organisms (phytoplankton) between the sizes of 64 to 20 microns for their food web analysis.
The bongo net goes down vertically in the water column, until it reaches the bottom; it is then brought back to the surface at 60 m per minute. Although the deployment went well, we brought up the net slower than usual as the crew made adjustments to the cable and winch. Consequently, although these types of nets are used to collect zooplankton...well this set collected both phytoplankton and zooplankton. In the slide show you will see Dr. Ashjian carrying a large container of brown liquid with all this rich plankton. Fortunately her group was able to sort many copepods from this sample after a concerted effort by marine biologist Philip Alatolo. Tonight's test run was a success. We will occupy our first station in the Chukchi Sea on Friday. Two current drifters were released for NOAA and each drifter was different. One had a black inflatable sphere and the other on had a cardboard house structure to tag along. Each has a section that unfurl (called a drogue) once it is in the water. The drifter measures temperature and salinity, and records location and velocity.
Whales, whales and more whales...
A pod of 30 gray whales were spotted 3 miles from the ship. It reminded me of little waterspouts off in the distance or Norris basin in Yellowstone National Park.