The first leg of the Alaska Longline Survey has finally come to an end, and what an end it was. On our last day of sampling, we ran into some very rough seas. Water sloshed over the side of the boat and our box of otolith (ear bone) vials smashed to the deck. Luckily, all the vials stayed intact and no otoliths were lost. That night, the waves wouldn’t let me sleep and I had my first real run-in with motion sickness. Fortunately, it didn’t last long, as we made it into Dutch Harbor the next day and I was back onto solid ground again!
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the survey. I felt like I had gotten very close to some of my shipmates, especially my fellow science crew – Kari Fenske, Beth DeLong, and Sabrina Cobb. Kari is a stock assessment scientist at Auke Bay Laboratory and Beth and Sabrina are fisheries observers contracted for the duration of the survey. Before the survey started, I wasn’t sure what to expect in the galley but the food and the cook were great and I was never hungry. I got to see some amazing scenery and take lots of photos. All in all, it was a great experience!
Once I waved goodbye to the Alaskan Leader, I said hello to…fog, so much fog. There had been thick fog in Dutch Harbor for a few days before we arrived. That meant that it had been very difficult to get flights in and out of town. My flight out was cancelled and I had to stay an extra night in Dutch but I got off better than Kari. Her replacement was unable to get in on schedule, so Kari had to continue as chief scientist on the survey for four extra days until her replacement finally arrived. Eventually Kari got off the boat and back home, but the regulars tell me “that’s Dutch Harbor for you.”
Now I’m back in Juneau and can start working on my summer project. I’ll be going through electronic archival tags recovered from Pacific spiny dogfish to see if there are patterns in depth use over short and long time periods. Spiny dogfish are a small species of shark that are pulled up in NOAA Fisheries surveys in the Gulf of Alaska. They live long, grow slow, and have been found to undertake massive migrations across the Pacific from Alaskan waters all the way to Japan. I’m hoping to uncover a little more about this key species in the Alaskan ecosystem before I had back to sunny south Florida.