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Andrew Alden

A Week at Sea off Alaska

By April 24, 2013

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unalaska graveBack when I was in the U.S. Geological Survey, I had the good fortune to take part in the occasional research cruise aboard the USGS fleet. (Old-timers may now give a rueful laugh, as the agency's long budget starvation put an end to its ocean-going capacity decades ago.) The last of those opportunities was in 1982: a short cruise in the Gulf of Alaska during which we towed a kilometer-long string of hydrophones to do a seismic-reflection survey of the ocean crust near the Aleutian Islands subduction zone. I was a gofer, doing the necessary data logging and basic documentation on which all subsequent science relies. Here is a selection of photos from the cruise, along with some excerpts from my letters written during the trip. It wasn't something glorious like an Ocean Drilling Program leg, but I think that participating in a research cruise of any kind is a rite of passage for geoscientists of all kinds.
From the Unalaska graveyard — Geology Guide photo

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