Day 42

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Unalaska, AK
53 54′50″ N, 166 32′00″ W

Global Time: 08:59 GMT | 7.19.2009 : Sunday
Local Time: 23:59 GMT-9 | 7.18.2009 : Saturday

Though Stacey and Andrew would not leave until Monday, Kristen and Mike’s plane left on Saturday. They left at 13:00.

At 17:00 Andrew returned to speak with the woman who managed the Ba’hai center. The faith was facinating, though not revolutionary. That seemed to actually be the point. It focused on a return to central principles of unity and love espoused through out most practiced religions. The outline was something he could have found online, though, so Andrew asked about the history of the local center and of the woman herself. Neither was brief or mundane. However, the woman who managed the center asked for little to be said about her or the center on a blog. She was quite willing to share any information, however she would have to insist on doing so face-to-face. This request would be honored.

Not much occured after Andrew returned. Dinner was eaten at a run-of-the-mill Chinese food restaurant and the rest of the night was passed on the ship.

New photos in Observations: Life on the Oshoro Maru and Unalaska, Between Legs 2 & 3.

Unalaska, AK
53 54′50″ N, 166 32′00″ W

Global Time: 11:18 GMT | 7.17.2009 : Friday
Local Time: 02:18 GMT-9 | 7.17.2009 : Friday

After eating, Dr. D’sa, Stacey, and Andrew packed. First they retrieved their packing containers from the Alaska Maritime Agency. Andrew asked if they were holding any mail for him. They gave him two post cards from a friend in Erie. Dr. D’sa, Stacey, and Andrew loaded their empty containers into the bed of a rented pickup truck and brought all of them back to the ship in two trips. Then, they transfered every sample and piece of equipment in their laboratory into boxes. By 1600 they had everything just about finished. Andrew asked for a ride into town. He had finally arranged a meeting with the woman who ran the Ba’hai center.

While Stacey and Dr. D’sa ate lunch, Andrew went to speak with the woman who’s home housed the center. He had asked the others to order him a burger before he went to speak with her. In truth, he had very little to ask, however a sense of resolution was needed. He had exchanged a few emails and would have been disappointed if he never followed up. He assumed twenty minutes would satisfy his sense of determination. By the end of the twenty minutes, however, Andrew asked if she might be available the next day. He explained that while he had no interest in accepting Ba’hai personally, it was fascinating to hear about, and he would like to continue without such tight time constraints. She warmly agreed to meet the next day.

After some souvenir shopping and a failed attempt to connect to the internet at the hotel, Andrew returned to the ship for dinner. He found Kristen and Mike were heading to the bar. When he finished he joined them.

What followed was uproarious. Kristen had been responsible for her own research, and had never drank on the ship. Now that she was finally finished and going home it was time to celebrate. She took it upon herself to expose the Japanese students who had come along to a myriad of American cocktails: The margarita. The Bahama mama. The Irish car bomb. Andrew was thrilled any time he was able to employ his broken Japanese. When the waitress brought the beer and shot glasses for the Irish car bombs, one girl looked at them in curiosity. “Kah…bom?” Andrew used the word for “chemistry”, and then pantomimed the act of dropping one into the other. The girl smiled and nodded in recognition. “Mix.” She said. Andrew nodded.

They left before eleven to meet a curfew at 2300. It applied only to the Japanese students, however the others honored it anyway. Back on the ship, celebration continued until two. Kristen stayed up the longest, conversing not only with the students fluent in English, but with crew members who spoke none. Through the use of an interpreter, she made it known how much she appreciated all of them. Andrew was amazed at his ability to connect. It was thin, but tangible. Andrew and a crew member with a ridiculous perm managed a few broken exchanges. As Kristen would make her next declaration, he would catch a bit of what one of the Japanese said to another. Sometimes he would contribute what he could. “Kano hetowa, henna desune!?” “She’s crazy, right!?” It was a good night.

Day 41

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Unalaska, AK
53 54′50″ N, 166 32′00″ W

Global Time: 18:30 GMT | 7.17.2009 : Friday
Local Time: 09:30 GMT-9 | 7.17.2009 : Friday

Andrew awoke at an unknown hour. He could hear a deep rumbling further forward in the ship: the bow thrusters were engaged. They were used for precise lateral movement. That meant the Oshoro maru was docking. He checked his alarm. It was 0930, just as scheduled. On his way to the bathroom to brush his teeth he glanced out a bulkhead door which opened onto the deck. He could see the harbor sliding along side the ship.

After washing up he met Kristen, Stacey, and Michael to disembark for brunch.

Day 40

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The Bering Sea
54 17′86″ N, 166 30′25″ W

Global Time: 12:15 GMT | 7.17.2009 : Friday
Local Time: 03:15 GMT-9 | 7.17.2009 : Friday

For several days, life aboard the Oshoro Maru had been consistently dull. The night of the July 16th was a pleasant break from that boredom.

While playing a game of cards, Stacey, Andrew, and professor Seito heard the phone in the mess hall ring. The ship had phones connecting all the major rooms, but Andrew had never heard any of them used before. Professor Seito answered.

“Darae deshtaka?” asked Andrew. The call came from the bridge. A whale had been spotted. Everyone in the mess hall dropped what they were doing and headed above. When Andrew arrived he wondered if he would be able to spot the whale. Suddenly, it showed itself in an unmistakable display. It breached.

Emerging from the water in its full form, the hump back whale displayed its body for those who could not see beneath the waves. It emerged like a missile from a submarine. The water parted as a massive form broke through. The whale was both enormous and beautiful. It then fell, crashing upon the waves. Andrew wondered what the experience was like for a creature that lived 99.999999% of its life underwater.

For the next several minutes it repeatedly slapped the water with its massive fin, producing gigantic splashes. Soon, however, a quick fog shrouded the whale and the sea, leaving only the sunset.

Afterwards, all returned to the mess hall for drinks. Andrew and Stacey had all the students and professors sign t-shirts they had made. A good time was had by all. At three Andrew returned to his cabin to sleep. He would sleep soundly in the knowledge that in a few hours, he would be subject to the laws of the United States of America.

Day 38

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The Bering Sea
62 28′99″ N, 173 58′65″ W

Global Time: 23:56 GMT | 7.14.2009 : Tuesday
Local Time: 14:56 GMT-9 | 7.14.2009 : Tuesday

All through Monday they worked, while the weather worsened. By the next day Andrew had seen his wish fulfilled. There was no rain, and though the waves were not severe by a fisherman’s standards, they were enough to cancel another station and make Kristen ill. Andrew felt bad. He also felt like he was on a ride at Pittsburgh’s Kennywood amusement park called “Noah’s Ark”. He resumed his Japanese study intent on completing all of its forty lessons before the end of the trip. He was currently on lesson thirty four.

Day 37

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The Bering Sea
62 54′10″ N, 172 04′03″ W

Global Time: 17:31 GMT | 7.13.2009 : Monday
Local Time: 08:31 GMT-9 | 7.13.2009 : Monday

After getting in bed at 0300 and expecting to be woken in two hours for the next station, Andrew was surprised when he woke himself after 0800. He dressed and headed up to the CTD room to see if there were any clues to what had happened. It seemed most likely that the six o’clock station had been scrubbed, probably due to bad weather.

It was not unusual for him to be uninformed when plans were changing minute by minute. Himself and the other American’s excluded, the rest of the researchers did not need to be informed ahead of time. They each had specific duties, like operating the CTD or plankton nets. They all worked on twelve hour shifts. They knew when they had to be on duty and when they did not, and if they were on duty and a station arrived, they would set to work. Stacey, Andrew, Dr. D’sa, Kristen, and Mike had their own affairs, and merely paid for space on the ship. Unlike the others, they worked opportunistically.

In the CTD room Andrew found Dr. D’sa who said that he had woken at seven. While that was still after the 0630 station, the schedule had it listed as taking an estimated two hours. Dr. D’sa added that he had heard the waves we were evading were supposed to be swelling as high as four meters, over thirteen feet high. If that was the case it would definitely explain their justification for skipping that station.

According to the computers, their next destination was at 63 N 172 W, but they were currently trawling. Already they could see crew preparing to pull in the net via close circuit cameras on display in the CTD room.

Day36

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The Bering Sea
62 23′35″ N, 172 00′23″ W

Global Time: 08:22 GMT | 7.13.2009 : Monday
Local Time: 23:22 GMT-9 | 7.12.2009 : Sunday

In the mess hall Andrew had found a great time. He talked with Abe, the third officer, and some others about diving. Abe shared incredible underwater pictures which he had taken. Andrew presented his own less impressive but still interesting photos from when he got open-water certified in May. More than anything else it brought back memories of Dahab. Dahab was a small paradise town on the edge of the Red Sea which Andrew had spent one of the most relaxing weekends of his entire life. His pictures reminded him fondly of people he missed. After they finished talking Andrew went up to the observation deck to get some night air before he went to sleep.

Though it was not Dahab, the next day was certainly the most relaxing in weeks. He woke at 1100 hours for lunch, then went back to bed until three in the afternoon. When he woke up he did a few light exercises and then showered. Andrew spent some time in the ofuro, a Japanese hot water bath, then rinsed, and caught up on some hygiene. He flossed, trimmed his nails, and possessed by the impulse, shaved off his beard. He liked the face which looked back.

By the time he had finished dinner was being served. It was breaded chicken, and while the Japanese breaded their chicken very differently, it was still excellent. When he finished Andrew filtered his iron enriched samples. He decided to do a size fractionation of the sample which had not had the zooplankton removed although it was not necessary. For more on why, see “Notes > The influence of grazers”.

Later, after a few hands of poker with Stacey, Mike, and Kristen, they completed their sixteenth station. There would be another shortly after, but beyond that Andrew knew little. A storm was coming, and in an effort to evade it the schedule might undergo substantial revisions.

Day 35

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The Bering Sea
56 59′92″ N, 167 48′71″ W

Global Time: 12:00 GMT | 7.11.2009 : Saturday
Local Time: 03:00 GMT-9 | 7.11.2009 : Saturday

On Friday, at two hours past midnight Andrew woke from three hours of sleep only to learn that the station had, unsurprisingly, come early. This time, however, it had been so early that Stacey and he had missed the CTD run completely. Andrew returned to bed, but after an hour he woke, unsure. Had Stacey come in, telling him it was time once more? He had the feeling that she had, and he had assured her he would follow shortly, then fallen back asleep. Or perhaps he was imagining things. He compromised by dressing and then getting back in bed. If she did return, demanding an explanation, he would admit to his confusion but at least seem prepared.

When Stacey did wake him an hour more had passed, and he found himself trying to explain why he had been sleeping dressed. While they collected water, Andrew pulled himself away to watch the rest of the students cleaning up after a bottom trawl. The net which had been dragged across the sea bed all night contained a dazing array of bizarre fish. He may have enjoyed new experiences, but he had already had his fill of the gill nets and did not envy the others.

By the time that station was finished, it was breakfast time. Andrew remembered that it was his day to assist with prep and cleanup. He feared his hectic schedule might conflict, so when the bell signifying five minutes before a meal was rung out, he made sure to be the first there so he could carry the rice and soup from the galley to the mess hall.

Andrew did not have the presence of mind to do the mental math, but he figured he was actually getting a livable amount of sleep. He estimated something like five-and-a-half hours a night, averaged out, just not in the consecutive fashion he had been raised with. By the time breakfast ended, things were going well. He found time to steal a shower before he set about monitoring the iron experiments. It took him two hours to complete. It was a relief that it was the last day for the first half of the experiment. He had made it over the hump, and the work would get marginally lighter.

The day was the longest yet. Another early station meant that he was denied the two hours of sleep he had been promised, though Dr. D’sa had agreed to forgo a station at 0500 the next morning. This was wise. In one day, Andrew had filled seven pages of his lab notebook. He had not only completed “This Side of Paradise” before breakfast, he had finished Saul Bellow’s “The Victim” before he finally closed his eyes for the night at three o’clock in the morning.

The Bering Sea
56 10’54” N, 169 37’84” W

Global Time: 08:00 GMT | 7.10.2009 : Friday
Local Time: 23:00 GMT-9 | 7.9.2009 : Thursday

Andrew had been wrong. He had woken on his own, having dreamt of a bizarre comedy/nightmare about legions of hapless undead in which Andrew had not actually been a part of. Seconds later, Stacey entered to wake him. They would reach the next station in ten minutes, she said. Andrew wondered how long he had slept. The clock said it was eight in the evening. Andrew had been asleep for two and a half hours.

His hike only a few hours earlier had left him feeling like a G.I. Joe action figure, but not in the good way. If he were to move his limbs more than a few degrees he was certain his tendons would snap like cheap rubber bands. He stretched a bit and wondered where all his clean clothes had gone, then realized that they had been in the dryer for three days. This put him in a good mood for some reason. Although on one hand it appeared he was beginning to suffer from dementia, on the other his jeans and his nice fleece were finally dry. And the jeans fit him again, too.

More work, more F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Andrew returned to his bed at eleven hours past noon.