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> May 6, 2006 - Keeping an Eye Out, The Healy’s Arrival
post May 9 2006, 04:25 PM
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May 6, 2006 – Unalaska, Alaska

Today is the big day: The Healy is due to dock at 1600 military time, or 4:00 PM. With a few hours on our hands, some of the science party decides to tour Unalaska again. We drive the van down a dirt road full of potholes, bumping up and down during the entire ride. The narrow road follows the coastline, so we have a great view of the harbor where the Healy will dock. After a few miles of twists and turns, we pull up to Summer Bay, one of the most spectacular beaches I have ever seen. We get out of the car and bundle up—the wind is whipping around and I am freezing! Even so, I take off one of my windproof gloves and dip my hand into the water. Yikes! It’s cold!

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The sea’s turquoise hue looks as inviting as water that’s found in the tropics. But looks can be deceiving: This trip to the beach requires a fleece scarf and a down jacket—and I am still cold!

As we drive along the coastline back to town, we notice a tiny red speck on the sea’s horizon. It’s the Healy!

Several more hours pass before the ship actually pulls into port, but when it does it takes my breath away. At roughly 420 feet long and several stories high, the ship looms like a giant – dwarfing everything around it.

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If you look at the ship’s deck, you can see how tiny the people onboard look. Now imagine how big the Healy must be to make them look that small!

After securing the ship to the dock with massive ropes, a huge yellow crane slowly lowers the brow, or the plank that we’ll be walking up to get onto the Healy. Today we only tour the ship; tomorrow we will actually board with all of our gear. But before we get on, we all stand on the dock and take our photo in front of the ship.

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Jackie Grebmeier (left), Lee Cooper (right), and their daughter, Ruth Cooper (center), are all smiles as they pose in front of the Healy.

Jackie Grebmeier and Lee Cooper, both scientists at the University of Tennessee, are hosting me on this expedition. I will be working with them as they study how Earth’s rising temperatures are affecting the Bering Sea’s benthic community (animals and plants at the bottom of the sea) and the entire food web that relies on that benthic community. The Healy’s captain has invited Jackie and Lee’s daughter, Ruth, to sail aboard the ship for the entire trip. She is also going to post on the TREC website, so be sure to read her journals too.

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Here I am standing in front of the Healy with Ruth. I am sure that she will appear in many of my journals, so be sure to remember her.
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