It is with mixed feelings that I report being back on dry land. This morning I caught a helicopter ride off Healy to Barrow, Alaska. I'm very excited to get back home, see my family, and begin to get caught up at school three weeks into the semester. But I'm also a little sad that the cruise is over. I'll miss the amazing sights, great camaraderie, and fantastic science that went on every day I was aboard the Healy. We covered a lot of the Arctic Ocean on our cruise. I traced the major legs of our trip using Healy's map server and found we covered over 5000 nautical miles in our travels since leaving Dutch Harbor on 2 August. That breaks down to an average distance of about 142 nm a day and a speed average of about 6 kts.
I'm writing from Barrow, checked in at the airport but with some time to wait before catching flights to Fairbanks, Anchorage, Seattle, and Denver overnight. I already had a great walking tour of the town, visiting the heritage center museum, wading in the Arctic Ocean (BRRRR!!!), and looking for birds. I was pretty happy with finding another life bird when a small flock of Spectacled Eiders flew by. That rounds me off to 14 new birds on this trip. I had fantastic photo opportunities this afternoon with a very cooperative Red-necked Phalarope and Pacific Loon. There was also a cruise ship anchored offshore, with inflatable boats carrying passengers to the town and back (there's no port in Barrow, just the beach.) The cruise ship sailed here via the infamous Northwest Passage, a route that blocked ships for centuries due to permanent ice. It has been opening up most recent summers as global climate change warms the Arctic at about double the rate of the rest of the planet. I think that having a european cruise ship anchored off Barrow is a sign of the times, and changes to come in the Arctic.
I'd like to acknowledge everyone who helped me out on this trip of a lifetime. On the PolarTREC side I would like to thank everyone involved behind the scenes and especially recognize Kristin Timm, Janet Warburton, Ronnie Owens, and Zeb Polly for their personal support. I'd also like to thank everyone on the science team for their patience with my questions and photography and for giving me the opportunity to get involved in so many areas. In particular I tip my hat to Brian Edwards, chief scientist, and to Helen Gibbons, outreach specialist. Next, I'd like to thank the United States Coast guard for feeding, housing, and transporting me for 5 weeks. The Healy is a special boat with a great crew! I think every time I thought of something I wanted to see or do aboard the ship the answer I got was yes. On the home front I want to thank everyone at Centennial Middle School for supporting me before & during the trip. In particular I'd like to thank Cheryl Scott and Chris Meyer our Principal and Assistant Principal. Big thanks go to Marco Cornacchione and Sharon Posthumus for keeping my substitute (and friend) Lee Altheimer supplied with lesson plans. And thanks, Lee, for holding down the fort for me over the first three weeks of school!!
That's all for now! Best from Barrow- Bill