Laura Rodriguez, May 20, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Rodriguez
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 24 – June 2, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 20, 2010

Dutch Harbor/Unalaska

Bridge to Dutch Harbor
Fuel Pier View of Captain’s bay
Church of The Holy Ascension, Unalaska
Bald Eagles are like Pigeons here
The Oscar Dyson at dock in Dutch Harbor

Thursday morning I left Anchorage for Dutch Harbor. The flight was only 3 hours long, but we stopped to refuel in King Salmon. (Find the route on Google maps.) In Dutch Harbor, I was met by a junior officer of the NOAA corps, Ensign Amber Payne. Amber’s job is on the bridge piloting the ship. She is originally from Michigan, but went to college in Florida studying marine biology. Once on board, Amber gave me a tour of my home for the next 10 days.

After settling in, I took the “Liberty Van” to downtown Unalaska to sightsee a little.  A Liberty Van is simply a van that goes into town every hour to ferry people back and forth to the ship. In Unalaska, I saw the Church of the Holy Ascension, a Russian Orthodox Church built in 1826 by the Russian American Fur Company. I went down to the beach to touch the water; very cold!! The van driver, Kerri, estimated that the temperature is probably around 2°C or just a little above freezing; colder than I want to swim in. I also walked past the 3 schools in Unalaska, the community center and aquatic center. They are all beautiful new buildings. After the Liberty Van brought me back to the ship, I took a walk down the road the other way and saw many bald eagles, oystercatchers, harlequin ducks and black guillemots. I also spotted a bald eagle building a nest. The bald eagles around here are kind of like pigeons. They are everywhere.

When I got back to the ship, the scientists had arrived. We went into Dutch Harbor together to get dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant called Amelia’s. One thing on the menu I found very interesting was a Louisiana sandwich which was made with reindeer sausage. ( I don’t remember any reindeer in New Orleans during my Earthwatch trip.) The scientists all live in the Seattle area and are oceanographers or fisheries biologists. They work at the NOAA headquarters in Seattle.

Friday I woke early and went to the mess for a delicious cheese omelette breakfast. After breakfast, we spent the morning organizing the labs by moving crates and boxes from previous research cruises. We then went into town to do a little last minute shopping. I also got to visit the Museum of the Aleutians. The museum details the prehistory and history of the Aleutian Islands. Very Cool Fact – The Unangun or Aleuts made parkas from the guts and esophagi of any large sea mammal. Second Very Cool fact – The Japanese invaded Dutch Harbor during World War II. To learn more about the Unangans and the history of the Aleutians visit the museums website:

We shoved off from Fuel Pier in Captain’s Bay around 4PM and headed out to sea.

Now, I’ll answer some of your questions. If I don’t answer your question at this time, be patient I’ll try to answer all of them by the end of the cruise.

Kevin M and Kate – There are 27 people on board the ship for this cruise. There are the 4 scientists, me and 22 crew members.

Trisha – The crew all work together on the ship for each cruise. The group of scientists are different each cruise. The three oceanography/fisheries scientists work as a team and do this particular cruise each year. Tiffany, the IT specialist was hired by the team to help with this cruise. They work together in Seattle and seem to know each other well.

Devin and Becca – The sleeping quarters are very nice. I share a room with Amber Payne. We have bunkbeds. I have the lower bed which is usually Sara Duncan’s, but she’s not on board for this trip. We have a small head (bathroom) with a very small shower. (Lots of hot water, though and that’s important!!) Overall the ship is very comfortable. There is a large mess (dining hall) and a lounge area with a large screen TV. They have a collection of movies that you can watch in the lounge or on computer monitors in your room. Last night, Amber was watching Shrek in our room while I was reading through your blog entries. (I have to admit I watched some of it, too)

Bryant  and Lucas McC– The food so far has been delicious. I had an omelette for breakfast yesterday, today I had yogurt and fresh fruit (cantaloupe, papaya and strawberries.) For dinner last night, we had our choice of Cornish hens or spare ribs. I’ll keep you updated on the future cuisine. Yesterday, the last thing brought on board was the food, so we have some very fresh food. The food is kept in the galley, in large refrigerators and pantry areas.

Hannah D. – I asked Amber why she came up here after having lived in Florida where it is much warmer. She said that Florida was actually too warm and they have different, cooler (pun), marine animals up here. She wanted to see whales and sea lions, etc. You don’t get that in warmer waters. She also said that on her last cruise they saw killer whales or Orcas – very cool!

Ben – The water where we are sampling is on the continental shelf and doesn’t go much below 100 meters deep. We will always sample from at least 10 m off the bottom. Further off the islands (south) the bottom drops sharply to a trench. The deepest part of the trench is 7,679 meters (25,194 ft).

Chris – The Oscar Dyson is not an icebreaker, but it can go through ice to a point. On the last cruise they had to go through the ice pack to get a scientist to the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea. The XO, Jeff Shoup told me they could only go so far and then they had to back up. The bow is reinforced for ice, but not the keel which could be damaged if they went too far.

Now it’s your turn – Find out about the types of marine animals that live in the waters of the Aleutian Islands. Then, describe one kind of animal in detail – Include information such as where they are found, what they eat and/or what eats them, their importance to humans and anything else you find interesting.


Please remember to include the website URL of where you got your information. And write in complete sentences including as much detail as you can.

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