Sea Surface Temperature: 47 F

    Sea State: 2 foot seas

    Meet the Birds

    Many birds have flown by us as we have crisscrossed the seas. This is a real treat for a bird nerd such as myself. I thought I would take some time to introduce some of the birds we have seen.

    flock of short-tailed shearwaters
    Yesterday I was amazed to see a flock of hundreds of short-tailed shearwater flying to the southwest. (Photo taken by Kali)

    Short-tailed Shearwater

    We often see short-tailed shearwaters gliding low over the waves by themselves or in small groups, and yesteday a flock of several hundred short-tailed shearwaters flew by. These birds are migration champions - they fly all the way to southern Australia to breed. At their breeding grounds they lay one egg per year. Each day the parents fly out to sea to forage and return at night to regurgitate their food for the chick to eat. As the chick grows, the parents feed it less and less frequently before abandoning it altogether. When the chick is about 80 days old it fledges and flies out to sea.

    Short tailed shearwaters in flight
    Short-tailed shearwaters have flown around the boat every day. They migrate up to Alaska from their breeding grounds in Auastralia.

    Northern Fulmar

    Northern fulmars look like gulls but are more closely related to shearwaters and petrels. In Alaska they only nest on remote islands in the Bering Sea such as the Pribilofs. They come ashore only to breed and spend the rest of their lives on the open ocean hunting for fish, squid, zooplankton, and even jellyfish. They can live for 60 years! They mate for life and return to the exact same nest site every year. They defend their nest sites by spraying liquid from their stomaches at intruders.

    Short-tailed shearwater and northern fulmar
    A short-tailed shearwater (left) and northern fulmar (right) in the Chukchi Sea. (Photo taken by Kali)

    Common Murre

    Common murres are one of my favorite birds. We have seen them flying past alone and in small groups, flapping their wings frantically. They lay their eggs on tiny ledges on cliffs. They can dive to incredible depths, as deep as 590 feet!

    Common Murre
    Common murres are related to puffins and auklets.

    Who's Who on the Norseman II


    James first came to Alaska 20 years ago to work on a charter fishing boat. Since then he has had many interesting careers, including owning a commercial fishing boat in Hawaii with his best friend. He says that you miss the ocean once you leave it, and so after several years on land, he is back in Alaska, working for the captain of the charter boat he crewed so many years ago.

    James’s job as deckhand seems to mean that he does a little of everything. His shift is from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (on the boat you would say 0800-2000 hours). During this time, he operates a winch, helps with the CTDA research tool that is submerged in the water to measure conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth., keeps the boat in good shape by cleaning and vacuuming, keeps everyone’s spirits in good shape by helping with meals, and does deck checks to make sure everything is fastened and stowed.

    James on the deck
    James helping to deploy the CTD. You can see that he is wearing a safety tether so that he does not fall overboard while the doors are open.


    When not he is not busy winning onboard cribbage tournaments, Jim is hard at work as the bosun, the officer in charge of the equipment and the crew. His is responsible for keeping the boat systems working, consulting with the head scientist to help the research get done, making sure that we don’t pollute the ocean, and deploying equipment safely. Jim is a highly qualified individual. After graduating high school, he worked on fishing boats for 25 years, fishing for king crab, snow crab, halibut, and black cod. As he worked, he picked up the skills he uses today. He has also worked on tug boats, ferries, and other research boats. One way that he helped himself get hired on different boats was by getting his ordinary seaman license, followed by able bodied seaman, engineering 100-ton mate, and 100-ton master. Each of these licenses made him more hirable. He has enjoyed doing his trainings in different places, such as doing his firefighting training in Florida.

    Grab Crew waiting for the winch
    The grab crew. From left to right: Nate, Kali, Jim, and Kit. Jim operated the winch to lower the grab to the seafloor. Kit, Nate, and Kali then stowed the winch on deck.


    Round-bodied and equipped with a suction cup on their stomach, Lumpfish are important for aquaculture because they will eat parasites off of farm-raised salmon. No one onboard this vessel knows more about them than Nate, and no-one onboard has done more to share this delightful fish with the world.

    Nate’s dad was a commercial fisherman who told many stories and took his son on fishing trips, kindling Nate’s interest in what’s beneath the water’s surface. In his senior year of high school, Nate decided to become a marine biologist. This path took him to the University of New Hampshire to study marine science. After graduating from college, he signed on as a lab technician at a lab studying lumpfish aquaculture. As he tended the fish tanks, he grew so interested in the project that he decided to study lumpfish even more by doing a master’s degree. It was then that he started sharing videos of lumpfish and other creatures in his lab on TikTok. The videos went viral!

    When not sharing content with his 1.7 million TikTok followers, Nate works as a research assistant at Woods Hole. There, he designs experiments, analyzes samples, and cares for lab cultures of different species of plankton. These skills help him out on the Norseman II, where he helps with sediment grabs and makes oxygen measurements for the cyst incubation experiments.

    Nate processing invertebrates
    Nate processes invertebrates during the noon-midnight shift. He works with Kali and others to sift them from the mud, identify them, label them, and put them in bags for storage.
    I got the bird information from

    Chukchi Sea
    Weather Summary
    47 F
    Wind Speed
    15 Knots


    Bill Schmoker

    Loving all of your posts but really happy to see you are grooving on the seabirds!!

    You are probably all over this but keep an eye out on those murres- there could be Thick-billed as well that far north. Hope you'll keep us updated if you get any on-board visiting birds or new seabirds etc.

    Here's to continued smooth sailing!!

    -Bill Schmoker
    PolarTREC 2010 & 2015