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The Bering Sea Survey, C&GS
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It is estimated that fifteen years will be required to complete the Bristol Bay area with one survey ship. To complete it in shorter time will require more ships and more modern equipment because weather conditions prevent an extension of the season either in the spring or autumn. One possible method would be to obtain more working days during the working season by permitting an accumulation of leave (on working grounds only), for overtime and holidays worked.(1) This year, between May 15th and September 15th, there were 29-1/2 holidays. By such an arrangement one could, in effect, lengthen the season by one month, during the best working weather. The importance of spending as much time as possible on the working ground is realized when one sees the frequency of interruptions by more or less brief storms, and the need to utilize every available working day or fraction thereof.

The Coast Survey Officer must consider weather from the standpoint of visibility necessary for ship and launch hydrography and of sea conditions not too rough for the successful use of the Fathometer and sonic-radio buoys, for small boat work and the necessary contacts with camp parties ashore. The following should be considered with that in mind.

While one should not condemn this area because of one season, knowing that "One swallow does not make a summer," still there are some outstanding conditions here which are not encountered in other regions and which tend to limit the amount of work which can be accomplished in this locality. It should also be noted that this coast has a bad reputation locally. Arriving at Port Moller on May 25th, we were greeted with the words, "Well, Captain, you have a pretty tough assignment." (This is from the "skipper" of the canning tender STARLING, who has been coming up here for many years.) And, as if to substantiate his claim, two days after we left Port Moller the 675-ton, four-masted fishing schooner SOPHIE CHRISTIANSEN was blown ashore in that very harbor during a sixty-mile gale. The captain of the FERN, a former lighthouse tender but now a trading vessel making monthly freight and mail trips from Seward to the westward and from Dutch Harbor to the head of Bristol Bay, declares that they can expect their worst weather on the run from Cape Sarichef to the head of Bristol Bay.

In spite of all this, weather conditions were ideal for survey work during the latter half of May and the month of June and practically three quarters of our season's work was accomplished during that period. The additional work that was done after the first of July was done literally a day at a time. From July 1st to the end of the season there was only one occasion where we had two full working days in succession. During September we were on the working grounds from the 1st to 19th inclusive, and had only two questionable days for launch work (i.e., it was impossible to survey the inshore lines).

During July there were four storms of force six to ten, and five and one-half days of working weather; in August six storms and five and one-half days of working weather; from September 1st to 26th eight storms and four days suitable for working. In early May and September the prevailing winds are from the north, from which there is no shelter, and these cause seas of sufficient severity to prevent the proper functioning of both Fathometers on account of strays and to make the sono-radio buoys become very noisy. In the autumn, coincident with the formation of the Siberian high, the low pressure areas come along with the regularity of eggs out of a hen; frequently two low pressure areas are on the map at the same time, and the only difference is that it blows harder some days than others.

1. Legislation authorizing such extensive compensating leave would, however, be required. (Editor)

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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