Gone Floatabout

Sailing, Photography, Wilderness


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1300 miles in 19 days: Passage from Point Barrow to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, August 13-31, 2015

Celeste at Point BarrowAfter a great visit to scientist George Divoky and his seabirds, we headed back to Barrow to say goodbye to Craig and Cyd before beginning the return passage to Dutch Harbor. While much of the reason why we’d spent so much time around Barrow was because we’d been having so much fun, another factor was the weather. There simply hadn’t been a favorable window long enough to permit us to head south without getting a complete thrashing. Low pressure system after low pressure system kept sweeping across the Arctic Ocean from Wrangel Island north of Siberia and hammering the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas.

Wrangel Island screenshot

Google map screenshot of Wrangel Island (red pin) across the Chukchi Sea from Barrow

There’d been 24-hour windows between lows, of which we’d taken advantage to visit George and to explore the edge of the polar pack ice. But there’d never been a window long enough to make tracks south. Not only had the systems been frequent, but one thing about very cold air is that it actually makes bigger waves than warmer air. It’s denser and thus exerts more force on the water, so that 20 knots in the Arctic feels a lot worse than 20 knots in the Caribbean. We didn’t realize this on our own – Craig the bowhead whale biologist pointed it out to us. However, as autumn – a notoriously bad season in the Chukchi and Bering Seas – approached, our standards for what constituted ‘good’ weather got lower and lower. Continue reading


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Exploring the Seward Peninsula by bicycle, July 13 – 16, 2015

Our new friends Pat and Sue (who took us fishing in the last post) very kindly lent us bicycles for the remainder of our stay in Nome, so we put them to good use exploring the beautiful mountainous tundra of the Seward Peninsula.

The peninsula is the American shore of the Bering Strait (across the strait is Siberia) and it’s quite wild, filled with migratory and arctic birds as well as musk-oxen, moose, brown (grizzly) bears, and caribou.  Unfortunately we never spotted the latter three, but we saw many birds and musk-oxen! Continue reading


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Critter encounters on our temporary release from Whittier

Whittier

Whittier seen through a rare break in the rain…

We had arrived in Whittier, one of the strangest and wettest places I’ve ever been, on August 7 meaning to wait out a storm and do chores.  Among those chores was renewing our Swiss residency permits pending our return to work in the fall.  It’s not an involved process, but we had to mail some forms to our cantonal (state) office.  So we swung by the Whittier post office.  They don’t sell stamps.  But you’re a post office!  How can you not sell stamps!  The paid employee, who for no apparent expense to the US Government could have sold us postage if she’d had any, informed us that the Postal Service was cutting down on expenses by no longer selling stamps at marginal offices like Whittier. (?!?)  We could buy a stamp online.  Predictably, the US Postal Service website didn’t function—all 20 different times we tried.  So we had to rent a car and drive to Anchorage. Continue reading