Port Call in Kodiak, Alaska
July 5, 2002
NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration
The slow approach to the Port of Kodiak, Alaska, on July 3 was surreal. Seas were calm and glassy, skies were clear, and steep, green peaked cliffs came into view as we made our way towards Kodiak Island. We watched as a thin layer of fog moved its way through the snowy valleys of Barometer and Pyramid Mountains, knowing full-well that this spectacular weather was a rare gift in a region that is typically blanketed in fog. Puffins buzzed the bow of the ship, and as we neared the Port, we could see Bald Eagles circling overhead. The scene was picture perfecta Kodiak moment, as it was referred to by Sue Doenges.
We arrived in the Port of Kodiak at about 10:00 am, and immediately began to set up for invitational tours of the R/V Atlantis and deep-sea submersible Alvin that were scheduled to begin at 11:00 am. Flags, banners and posters were hung around the labs and the deck of the ship, space was cleared around the live crab tank, and the Alvin was brought out onto the fantail. The tours included six school groups, various fishing industry groups, several departments from the University of Alaska, three US Coast Guard groups, the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, several members of the Kodiak School Board, a group of children and employees from the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, the Kodiak Audubon Society, Kodiak NMFS, and various other groups from the community. We were even fortunate enough to have a large group tour the ship with the Kodiak City Mayor, Carolyn Floyd, as well as the Kodiak Island Borough Mayor, Gabrielle Ledoux.
The tours began with an animated introduction to the NOAA-sponsored cruise by Expedition Coordinator Catalina Martinez, and Sue Doenges, who is an educator from Illinois. Tour groups were led to the main science laboratory where visitors interacted with expedition scientists Tom Guilderson, Randy Keller, Amy Baco-Taylor, and Naomi Ward to discuss specific details of work that was done on the four seamounts explored on the first leg of the cruise. Graduate student Mike Rowe discussed seamount geology with the crowd, and also explained the complex variables associated with rock collection during the Alvin dives. Graduate students Brendan Roark and Julie Nielson assisted with tours, and also discussed their work. Coral and rock samples were on display, and a video ran continuously on monitors in the main lab showing best-of Alvin footage from the dives. This allowed visitors to experience the amazing world that exists on and around the seamounts in their Gulf waters.
Greg Morgan and Pete Risse from the Fishery Observer Training Program in Anchorage, were on hand to explain some of the weird and wonderful critters that appeared on the video monitors. Tours then went through the computer lab where WHOI Engineering Assistant Dave Simms discussed the technical capacity of the Atlantis with visitors. Seabeam map images of the seamounts were on display, and John Dyke, also of WHOI, was on hand to share technical information with the crowd. A few groups made their way to the bridge, where Captain George Silva explained the top lab, which is the point of communication and navigation for the Alvin. Captain Silva then discussed modern navigation as well as the details associated with launching and recovering the Alvin. From there, tour groups moved through the ship and onto the fantail where they visited the live crab tank to learn about deep-sea crabs from expedition scientists Tom Shirley and Brad Stevens, as well as graduate student Zac Hoyt. Last but certainly not least, all were able to learn about the Alvin submersible from Alvin pilots, Patrick Hickey and Bruce Strickrott. All in all, the day was a huge success, and approximately 200 members of the Kodiak community toured the ship.
A seafood reception, sponsored by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, was held at the Kodiak Fisheries Research Lab at the Near Island Facility for all on board the Atlantis after the tours were over. Many members of the community also attended, and tours of the research facility were provided. It was a festive gathering, as many community members in attendance had toured the ship during the course of the day.
As part of the annual Fourth of July celebration in Kodiak, fireworks were set off at midnight and many of the Atlantis crew and scientists watched the spectacle from the ship. This was a fitting grand finale to our highly eventful one-day port stop in Kodiak, Alaska.
Tours of the R/V Atlantis were made possible by all of the hard work put into the event by the Atlantis crew, the Alvin crew, and the expedition scientists and graduate students who make up the amazing team on this exciting expedition. Thanks also to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for allowing us to share the excitement of deep-sea exploration with the Kodiak community.
Special thanks also go to Wayne Stevens, Director of the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce, for hosting the seafood reception for the expedition crew at the lovely Near Island Research Facility.
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