NOAA Ship Fairweather: “We made it!”

by Ensign Hadley Owen, NOAA, Junior Officer, NOAA Ship Fairweather (S-220)

1200 hours, Saturday, August 18, 2012:  69°41.4’N  141°03.3’W, at anchor, 1.5 nautical miles west of Demarcation Point, on the United States/Canadian border

We made it!

Zacharias Demarcation Point
Photo by Caryn Zacharias, LT/NOAA

I must admit, I had my doubts a week ago. But we made it safely through relatively ice-free seas to the northern border between Alaska and Canada’s Yukon Territory.

We were able to collect multibeam echo sounder data along the entire route. The area continues to be relatively shallow (8 to 25 meters) and relatively flat (1 to 1.5 meters of relief). However, dramatic ice scours and scars on the seafloor are easily visible in the data collected.

This “pseudo-side-scan” image – which looks at only a preliminary selection of the initial acoustic data recorded – was obtained in real time.

Image by Chief Survey Tech Tami Beduhn, NOAA Ship Fairweather

We are now surveying from both the Fairweather and from one of her launches (during the day, at least). By using both platforms, we are able to obtain even more soundings on our return track to Barrow and send the launch into shallower, near-shore areas.

But this update cannot be complete, I feel, without a personal first. Thanks to the eagle eyes from the Bridge, we had the first of two polar bear sightings from the Fairweather – this one a mother and her two cubs.

A mother polar bear and her two cubs
Photo by Casey Marwine, ENS/NOAA

And now we are heading west.

4 Replies to “NOAA Ship Fairweather: “We made it!””

  1. Thanks for writing this blog. I stop by to check on the UCD GES facebook group to find interesting news like yours. That polar bear shot was amazing. Keep up the good work.

    ~Russ

  2. Thank you for the report Ensign Owen. Fairweather’s working grounds and modern survey missions have changed since we did launch-based hydro in the 1980s.. The Arctic, wow! Bless you, ship and crew, it makes me proud to see her doing Alaska hydro in the 21st Century.

  3. I was an officer on Fairweather 1970-1972 and am tickled to see her back in commission! During those years we worked out of Cordova and Ketchikan, AK and then a short stint in Hawaii (boo hoo). At that time home port was Lake Union, WA.

    Dave McLean

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