Mary Cook: From Scammon Bay to Glacier Bay! March 17, 2016


NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Thursday, March 17, 2016


Hello!  My name is Mary Cook and I’m a science teacher in Scammon Bay, Alaska. Scammon Bay is a cozy little Yupik village nestled at the base of the Askinuk Mountains on the edge of the vast frozen tundra where the Kun River meets the Bering Sea. We live in what many people call Bush Alaska. It’s remote. We have no roads connecting our village to other places. Everything comes and goes mostly by small Bush planes. Barges bring supplies in the warmer months. We get around locally by snow-go, 4-wheeler, or boat.

map of ak
Map of Alaska showing Scammon Bay
school entrance
Entrance to Scammon Bay School

The Yupik Eskimo of Scammon Bay are traditionally fishers, bird hunters and trappers. Moose have also become an important food source over the last 20 years or so. Today they continue with this subsistence lifestyle blended with more modern conveniences such as cell phones and running water.

My students, co-workers and I are so excited to be involved with the NOAA Teacher at Sea program! Our school has been abuzz with preparations over the last few weeks.

Congratulations to our 4th graders for making a fantastic banner to take aboard the Research Vessel Norseman II! Also, thanks to many students who submitted names for our eagle mascot.


cook poster
Scammon Bay 4th Graders with Vice Principal Harley Sundown (L), TAS Mary Cook, Principal Melissa Rivers, and 4th Grade Teacher Michele Benisek (R)

Drum roll……His name is Qanuk! (Qanuk means snowflake in the Yupik language.) I anticipate that he will make some mystery appearances around the ship in the coming days.

TAS Mary Cook styrofoam cups
Stryofoam Cups decorated by Scammon Bay students

We have decorated and signed lots of Styrofoam cups to be sent to the bottom of the Bay. We are very curious about what will happen to our cups as they descend into the depths! We also can’t wait to find out more about the secrets of the Red Tree Coral, which is the focus of the research for this voyage into Glacier Bay.

Wednesday, I left my students in Scammon Bay as I boarded the small bush plane headed for Bethel. Then flew from Bethel to Anchorage and from Anchorage on to Juneau. It was a long day of flying and waiting and flying and waiting. But the late night flight into Juneau was worth it when, as we rose above the snow clouds, I peered out the window to see a magnificent aurora glowing in the sky!


Yesterday I had a little bit of time to get out and see the sights of Juneau. My favorite was the Mendenhall Glacier. Wow! So beautiful and powerfully majestic in all its frozen splendor. In addition to the glacier, there are bald eagles perched in treetops all around town.


Last night I met many of the science crew and a few of the ship’s crew. What a positive and exciting group of people. Even they are excited about being part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program!

This is going to be fun—-and educational.

Don’t you just love that combination?
Fun and educational.

Today we load the ship.
Tomorrow we sail away into the Bay.

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