Tag Archives: NOAA

On the Hunt for The Bear

The USRC Bear in the ice; Location and date unknown

For over two decades, NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard have been looking for the final resting place of the Revenue Cutter Bear. One of the most storied ships in USCG history, the Bear was launched in 1874, and would see service for the next nine decades.

The historic vessel entered Coast Guard service as a revenue cutter in 1885, spending much of its time working the 20,000 mile Alaska coastline. The Bear was a rescue ship and medical ship; served as transportation for governors, teachers, construction material, mail and reindeer; hunted for poachers, smugglers and illegal traders; and she served as census taker and floating courthouse during her time in Alaskan waters.

The Bear’s masthead

She assisted the 1906 relief efforts after the San Francisco earthquake, as well as assisting Robert Byrd on his Second and Third Antarctic Expeditions. In 1930, the Bear starred in the film version of Jack London’s The Sea Wolf. In 1939, she joined the US Navy on the United States Antarctic Service Expedition. When the United States entered WWII, the Bear returned to Arctic waters joining the Northeast Atlantic Greenland Patrol.

With her service in WWII, the Bear became the oldest Navy ship to be deployed outside the Continental United States. She was also one of the last ships originally equipped with sails to serve in a theater of war. The Bear was one of a select few Navy ships to have served in the Spanish-American War, as well as both World Wars.

The Bear’s final moments, with the Irving Birch looking on

In 1963, while being towed from Nova Scotia to Philadelphia, one of her masts collapsed in a storm, and the venerable Bear went down to the sea bottom.

In 2019, researchers from NOAA caught a break. Two targets were discovered, and one showed major promise. After two years of comparing photos of the wreck at the bottom of the ocean, and photos of the Bear in dry dock and at port, researchers have stated that they are “reasonably certain” that the wreckage is the Bear.

The wreck on the left, with the Bear in dry dock, circa 1924, on the right; Photo credit: NOAA


Trending Brown

Graph credit: ACCAP, UAF, NOAA, NWS

Between 1930 and 2015, Fairbanks had a total of five Halloweens with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Counting this year, we have had five years since 2015 with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Currently, we have a dusting, and with 40F degrees forecast for Halloween Weekend, the odds are in favor of a brown Halloween for 2021.


Welcome to the Freeze

Graph and data credit: ACCAP, UAF, NOAA

Starting on Tuesday, the official average daily high temperature for Fairbanks dropped below the freezing mark. It does not rise above 32F until March 30.


Right Whales in rare Alaska sighting

The population of right whales in Alaska waters is estimated to be around 30. The animals were heavily hunted for decades, and even picked up their name because they were the “right” whale to hunt: Right whales are slow moving and float when killed.

The eastern population of North Pacific Right Whales call Alaska home, but they are rarely seen. In August, however, two groups of two whales each were spotted in the waters around Kodiak. Of the four whales, two were known to researchers, but two were previously unknown. Four right whales in a month may not seem impressive, but those whales amount to over 10% of the entire population.

Video courtesy of NOAA


Orca Rising

A live killer whale is stranded on shore rocks in the vicinity of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Credit: Captain Chance Strickland and Crew of M/V Steadfast

The story of the beached orca near Prince of Wales Island in Alaska caught the attention of many of you. The killer whale, now known to be T146D, was found by locals recently, trapped out of water on some rocks.

Keeping T146D wet

The locals kept it wet, first by pouring water from buckets on the orca, then by spraying water from a yacht that showed up to help out. Eventually, NOAA fisheries experts came along to keep watch over the stranded orca.

A rather unhappy orca

T146D ended up getting some cuts and abrasions from the rocks, but after at least 6 hours of being stranded, the tide came in, and the orca was able to free itself.

T146D is a Biggs Orca, which has a population of approximately 300, and they ply the waters off western North America. T146D is thought to be a female, but that is an educated guess. The killer whale is known to be 13 years old.

There was some speculation early on, that the orca was caught off guard due to the 8.2 earthquake recently off the coast of Alaska. NOAA has disputed that, saying there is absolutely no evidence of the earthquake having anything to do with the stranding. More than likely, the orca was hunting harbor seals and came too close to the rocks. There have been five live-strandings of Biggs Orcas in the past 20 years. All survived the ordeal and rejoined their pod, according to NOAA. The population of Biggs Orcas are known to hunt harbor seals in shallow waters.


How awkward

Data courtesy of NOAA and the U.S. Navy

The sun rose in parts of eastern Alaska on Sunday morning, before it had set in parts of western Alaska.


Bomb Cyclone

New Year’s Eve storm over the Aleutians; Image credit: CIRA/NOAA

The Aleutian Chain was rocked by an incredible storm over New Years. The wonderfully named Bomb Cyclone, set a record in Alaska for a low pressure system.

High and low-pressure systems form when air mass and temperature differences between the surface of the Earth, and the upper atmosphere, create vertical currents. In a low pressure system, the air currents flow upward, sucking air away from the earth’s surface like a giant Shop*Vac.

Eareckson Air Force Base on Shemya Island recorded the record low pressure at 924.8 millibars.

The record breaking low pressure system; Image credit: Tomer Burg

A sea buoy off of Amchitka Island, registered a wave at 58.1 feet. Winds at Shemya hit gusts of 83 mph. This was an impressive storm that pummeled the outer islands of the Aleutian Chain. From Atka to Adak, the islands were seeing 40-50 foot waves and hurricane force winds.

Graphic credit: National Weather Service – Fairbanks

St Lawrence Island and the Yukon Delta saw high winds and blizzard conditions when the storm hit Alaska’s mainland.

Unlike a hurricane, which extract heat from the ocean, as they grow in power, a maritime cyclone creates energy by drawing together warm and cold air masses. It’s the energy created when the warm air rises and the cold air sinks, that gives rise to the cyclone.

Sources: NOAA, UAF, NWS, NASA


USS Abner Read


USS Abner Read

The U.S. destroyer, Abner Read, struck a Japanese mine off the coast of Kiska Island on the 18 August 1943 during the Battle of Kiska. The explosion tore off the ship’s stern. There were over 300 men on board the Abner Read that day, many were in their bunks in the stern when the mine blew at approximately 1:50am. 71 sailors died, but 20 were hauled out of the frigid Bering Sea waters.


The Abner Read after the explosion off the coast of Kiska

The crew was able to keep the destroyer afloat. The ship was shored up as best they could, the main compartment was kept water tight, and a homemade rudder was attached. Two U.S. Navy ships then towed the Abner Read to port.


The Abner Read in floating dry dock

Within months, the Abner Read had its stern repaired, and the destroyer rejoined the war.

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In July of this year, a research team funded by NOAA, discovered the Abner Read’s stern off the coast of Kiska Island. It’s general location has been known, and the team of scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the University of Delaware used multi beam sonar to locate the wreckage. They then sent a remote operated submersible down to the stern, which was in 290 feet of water.


Photo credit: NOAA

The stern section measures 75 feet long and 18 feet high, and is now covered in marine life.


Gun on Abner Read stern section; Photo credit: NOAA

Daryl Weathers was a 19 year old seaman on the Abner Read. He is the last known survivor from the destroyer on that August day in 1943. Weathers is 94 now, and lives in Seal Beach, California. When told that the stern section had been found, Weathers expressed surprise saying, “That’s the end of the world up there.”

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For its wartime service, the Abner Read received four battle stars from the Pacific Theater. In November of 1944, during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese launched a kamikaze attack. A Japanese dive bomber (VAL) made it through the anti aircraft fire, although it had been hit. The bomber was able to drop one of its bombs down the destroyer’s smokestack, blowing up the engine room. The VAL then crashed across the main deck, setting it in flames. The Abner Read sank within hours.


The Abner Read is struck by a kamikaze attack in November 1944