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> July 6 & 7 - 2005
Betty_Carvellas
post Jul 11 2005, 04:32 PM
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July 6 and 7, 2005

Since I didn't leave Vermont until 2 PM on the 6th, I spent the majority of the day either packing or flying. The good news about arriving in Kodiak at 11:15 PM was that it was still light; the bad news was that it was 3:15 AM at home. It takes time to get to Alaska from Vermont. While flying out of Burlington, I could see the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains, by the time I left Anchorage, I was over spectacular snow covered Alaskan mountains that were considerably higher! Ari Balsom and Rebecca Pirtle-Levy, two young women who will also be working with Dr. Jackie Grebmeier, met me at the airport and we drove approximately 35 miles to Chiniak, an unincorporated village of about 100 people.

On the 7th, we woke up to a beautiful, clear morning. After breakfast, the owner of the small B+B where we were staying came in to tell us he had caught several halibut. Having seen halibut on Cape Cod, I was completely unprepared for the size of these Alaskan fish, the largest, nearly 100 pounds and more than 3 feet long, is evidently nothing in comparison to some that grow to 400 pounds and 8-9 feet in length.

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These fish are beautifully camouflaged for their life at the bottom; their ventral surface (belly side) is white and their dorsal (back) side is a mottled brown. If they move off the bottom, anything looking up at them will have a tough time seeing their white underside against the light ocean surface just as anything looking down on them wouldn't see them easily against the ocean bottom. Another fascinating adaptation is their eyes which are both on the same side of the head, an obvious advantage for a fish that lives on the bottom. What's even more interesting is that, when the fish are very young, they swim "normally," and the eyes are on either side of the head. As they mature and move to the bottom, the eyes migrate until both are on the same side!

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After lunch we had a chance to drive and enjoy the beautiful scenery of Kodiak. With its proximity to the Japanese current and the shifting jet stream, Kodiak enjoys a relatively mild climate compared to much of Alaska, and I was interested to find out that their winters are usually milder than what we experience in Vermont. In addition, the winters have been less severe in recent years. Our B+B host told us he has lived here for 22 years and, in recent years, he's experienced much less snow and fewer days that even get to zero degrees. In the early 1900's, ice harvested from the island's lakes was an important island export; for the past several years, the lakes have not frozen. Based on this anecdotal evidence, the climate seems to be changing in Kodiak. While it could simply be natural fluctuations in weather patterns, evidence of climate change is abundant throughout Alaska, and scientists want to know why. That's one of the reasons the scientists on this and other cruises (and on land) are collecting and analyzing data year round.
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