Sikuliaq, Underway

It was technically after dawn when we slipped away from the pier yesterday morning. The mountains of the Kenai rise on Resurrection Sound like some after-credit scene from Waterworld: craggy Himalayan peaks somehow inundated halfway up their shining white flanks. We’re outbound, into the open sea.

We’re clearly out of season here – the drive down from Anchorage was empty save for a half dozen caution-taped cars by roadside, some on their side, some fully upside down. Apparently the road was a bit slick the day before. And downtown Seward was deserted – you could have napped undisturbed on the centerline of what passes for Main Street. Most shops were closed for the winter, and those with lights on seemed wistful at best. The Hotel Seward, as quirky as any I’ve seen, did its best to make us feel comfortable.

But that’s all behind us now. We’re making 11 knots southbound on flat seas to an undersea ridge in the Gulf of Alaska. Our chief scientist has a mooring there that needs to be pulled up, and some other things put back in. We’re underway almost a day early because the forecast shows a clot of what sailors refer to as "snotty weather" coming our way. Most of the science onboard can be done regardless of the sea state, but you don’t want to be trying to grapple and pull a five-ton piece of machinery out of the ocean amid 20-foot waves.

The Sikuliaq’s a good ship. She’s substantially smaller than the NBP – the only ship I have for comparison – and rolls differently, but feels very new. Food’s great, and captain and crew are friendly. Science team, headed by Eric D’Asaro of Univ Washington’s Applied Physics Lab, is a diverse and friendly group, too.

I guess I don’t have much more to add right now – I’m dosing myself with motion-sickness drugs (Mmmm, Promethazine!) and scrambling to build new configuration files built for the code I’m installing before things get a little too bouncy on board.

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