Paradise Cove

August 4, 2021


[Note from the present. It's February 25, 2022. We're in Petersburg, Alaska, getting the boat ready for the coming season -- engine and generators serviced, fuel tank interiors inspected, anchor chain reversed, upgrades to the accommodations. We'll be leaving here on March 8th for Sitka, where we're helping the Alaska Whale Foundation monitor humpback whales just back from Hawaii, bubble feeding on herring in Sitka Sound. Then it's a quick jog down to Wrangell to pick up the crew for our search for the wreck of the Star of Bengal. Both expeditions are on our site. Check out the mission profiles. Sponsors get to participate in live events from the Endeavour. Now, back to the past....]

This is 4 of 11 log posts covering The Glaciers of Kenai Fjords expedition.

Paradise Cove - Three-Hole Point, Aialik Bay, Holgate Arm – Pedersen Entrance - Slate Island

Seracs are jagged pinnacles of ice formed as a glacier flows downslope. (Photo: Kim Angeli)


Slow Morning


In the morning when I came up to the salon – basically the boat’s living room with the open galley on the forward end – Patsy already had breakfast going and Bruce was on a second cup of coffee. The weather was the same as yesterday with low clouds and fog. Looking out across the bay toward Three-Hole Point, I couldn’t even see the far side of the bay. Not good for photos. We were in no hurry to get underway. Shawn came up from below and joined us. Chris and Kim were still in their bunks.


I continued with my questions:


———


Bill: Let’s assume these photographs convince everyone that global warming is real. Won’t a lot of people say it’s natural and not man-made at all?


Bruce: Climate change is natural. It’s always taking place, with volcanoes and other factors influencing it. But it’s always taken place at a rate that is usually far slower than what we’re seeing happening now. We’re seeing very, very rapid changes in Earth temperatures, change in periods of decades rather than centuries.


Bill: So the evidence that it is human activity is the rate of change?


Bruce: Yes, and the measurable increase in greenhouse gases that we know reflect energy back to the Earth’s surface.


Shawn: Yes, and its correlation with the industrial revolution.


Bruce: Most of it is happening in the 20th and 21st century. There was a change starting at the end of the 18th century, corresponding to the start of the Industrial Revolution, but we couldn’t quantify it then because we didn’t have the technology. But yes, there is a major change due to industrialization.


The other thing to keep in mind that is really important is that the population of the Earth today includes more individuals than have lived in the entire history of humans. Putting that in perspective, each person has requirements that cause the production of greenhouse gases, everybody cooks their food, everyone wants to be warmer or colder. All those produce the byproducts of combustion, including methane and carbon dioxide.


Shawn: When you chop down a tree you do two things: you eliminate something that can sequester the gasses in the wood, then you burn the wood (or rot the wood) and release what was trapped into the atmosphere.


Bruce: There has been a tremendous loss of the Earth’s ability to breathe through natural absorption of carbon dioxide and production of oxygen by trees. I read an article recently that suggests the amount of carbon dioxide released from the loss of vegetation in the Amazon rainforests is almost the same as from incidental loss due to urbanization around the world.


Bill: Is the rate of temperature increase slowing?


Bruce: No.


Shawn: So if you look at a curve of the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – it’s well-documented – it’s pretty steep. The problem is that more methane is being released from the seabed and melting permafrost by the higher temperatures. It’s a vicious cycle.


Bruce: Heat triggers things that make it hotter. The melting tundra is releasing a lot of methane. The amount of methane in the seabed is big but it’s being released more slowly because the change in water temperature is slower than on land. The deeper you go the colder the water gets.


Shawn: It’s a mind-blowing problem. There is a lot of sequestered carbon – methane − in tundra. The more it melts, the more it releases methane, the more it melts. And the same with seabed methane. And methane is 15 to 16 times worse than carbon dioxide, in terms of its reflectivity. There are lakes in the melting permafrost that are bubbling methane. Literally bubbling methane.


———


By now the clouds had lifted considerably and it was time to get moving.


I went down to the engine room to do the startup procedure. Bella followed me. She watches us and remembers patterns, and when a pattern starts that she likes – like getting underway – she gets excited.


The number two generator was already running and the main water intake was already open. I glanced into the bilge. It was dry. I opened the fuel cocks on the main engine and the number one generator, then opened the compressed air line which feeds the throttle and the horn. Then I checked the oil in the main engine and number one generator. Both were fine. Finally, I started the main, waiting for the oil gauge to reach the green.


I left the engine room with Bella at my heels and closed the watertight hatch behind me, then went up on deck, up to the bow, where I screwed the capstan down on the windlass and started bringing up the anchor. Bella was running around the deck, sticking her head out of one chock then another, barking at seagulls.


- William Urschel