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The Bering Sea Survey, C&GS
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Camp Parties

On an open coast such as Unimak Island there is no substitute for a camp as a base from which to work. This is because of the very few days on which landings can be made. Even in a moderate wind the seas break so sharply on the steep sand beaches that a whaleboat even with only a light load can rarely land. On two occasions the steepness of this beach was the cause of some surprise to two members of the crew who, on a smooth day, decided to step ashore from amidships, and, in doing so, promptly disappeared from view. The water temperature at the surface is about 38 degrees in the spring and 46 in the fall so that most of the landing parties wear hip boots and everyone avoids in so far as possible a dip in the surf.

In the spring, camping is rather cold and windy. At the first camp of the season a windstorm, which blew all day long, finally capsized four tents during the night, in spite of the fact that they had been reinforced the previous day. The members of the camp party were equipped with bedrolls and three blankets apiece and still complained of the cold. In the autumn, after a summer's conditioning, the camp parties are better able to withstand the cold, but by this time (September 1st) the northers begin to blow. In these shallow waters an ugly sea arises quickly under a fresh breeze and moving camp by the ship, and landing food and supplies from it, becomes very uncertain. On two occasions we were able to pick up the party but not land them again the same day, because it got too rough in the meantime, and three days elapsed before another landing could be effected.

A camping party has too much gear for it to be moved by horses unless the number of horses available were doubled, which would not be economical. An alternative has been considered to avoid delays in moving. This would necessitate sufficient equipment to establish and supply an advance camp. Then the camp party would need to move only its instrumental equipment, cots and bedding, which could probably be accomplished with five horses in two trips in one day. By this plan no time would be lost in waiting for weather suitable for moving. The quantity of material needed for a camp for nine men and four horses is considerable in itself, as the party is stocked for three weeks, which is calculated to be the average stop between moves. This includes food, coal or gasoline, oats (and hay before July 1st), lumber for signals, cement, lime, and other supplies and equipment such as cookstoves and heaters. There is practically no driftwood available on the beach, but occasionally there are a few large logs. The latter are even found in the creek beds a half mile from the beach and in one case an estimated thirty feet above high water and one half mile inshore. These are presumably carried inland by the severe winter storms.

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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