“This isn’t the end of the world, but you can see it from here” is supposedly written on a sign at the lonely US Coast Guard outpost on Attu. This island of extremes is the furthest west chunk of land you can go in North America; apparently we crossed the international dateline shortly after we steamed west from Amchitka.
Attu saw pretty severe fighting between the US and entrenched Japanese soldiers during the second World War, but you’d never know it by the vistas afforded to us from our anchorage in Holtz. Most of us, at least from San Diego, were secretly eagerly awaiting our deployment to Attu. What would it be like all the way west? Would the wind be constantly howling across the Near Straight? Would the water be unbearably cold? What would the rocky reef communities look like?
Our benthic experiments did their job without causing us any grief, affording us time to work on other projects. By the end of this year’s cruise our labs will have enough data to tell some very interesting stories, so be sure to stay tuned for that. In the meantime, we enjoyed the sites Attu had to offer with breathless amazement. We were even afforded shore-leave. Exploring the island on foot for a brief few hours did little to satisfy our curiosity.
But, all too soon we had to pack up our experiments, stow the small boats on the Oceanus’s deck and begin our steam back east. For the rest of the trip we’ll be stopping at several more islands as we make our way eastward to Dutch Harbor on Unalaska, and our departure from the Aleutians.
Stay tuned, we’re making our run to the Semichi Islands; Shemya, Nitsky and Allied.
Until next time,
-Baron von Urchin
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary