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.

Tracklines of the United States Coast Guard Cutter Healy on our 2010 International Continental Shelf cruise. Not shown is our initial leg through the Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor. The combined tracklines exceed 5000 nautical miles traveled in the last 5 weeks.

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.

Red Phalarope in Barrow, AK
A Red Phalarope swimming in a lagoon on the outskirts of Barrow, Alaska. Phalaropes are unusual in the bird world with the females much brightly colored than males. This is a male that is molting into its non-breeding plumage. Thanks to Brian Gibbons for an ID assist!

Pacific Loon in Barrow, AK
A curious Pacific Loon came over to see what I was doing on the shore of the lagoon in Barrow, Alaska. I find their silvery nape and fine patterns of contrasting lines to be amazingly beautiful for a bird with no color other than the reddish eye.

Cruise Ship Hanseatic anchored north of Barrow, AK
After transiting the Northwest Passage the cruise ship Hanseatic pays a visit to Barrow, Alaska.

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!!

Bill Schmoker in Arctic Ocean
To celebrate the completion of a successful expedition, Helen Gibbons and I waded into the Arctic Ocean at Barrow, Alaska. Yes, the water was foot-numbingly cold!! Note USCGC healy in the background. Photo by Helen Gibbons.

That's all for now! Best from Barrow- Bill

Barrow, Alaska
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