This morning, National Geographic Resolution continued cruising in the Chukchi Sea en route to Nome. What is the difference between an ocean and a sea you wonder? Seas are found on the margins of the ocean and are partially enclosed by land.
After breakfast, we were off the coast of Utqiagvik, formerly known as Barrow. Utqiagvik has around 5000 residents and is Alaska’s northernmost community at 71 degrees north latitude. With low-relief land in sight, we spotted a herd of walruses in the water. These animals are a part of the Pacific walrus population and are larger than the ones we saw of the Atlantic population in the Canadian Arctic. Few people can boast that they have seen animals from both populations in the span of a few weeks! The most incredible sighting of the day was three walruses hauled out on ice not far from the Point Lay haulout. Point Lay is a bit of a recent phenomenon. Over the past decade, sea ice in the Chukchi Sea is retreating north beyond shallow continental shelf waters in late summer, and walruses are utilizing coastal areas (termed haulouts) as a base for resting and foraging. As of 2007, walruses have been hauling out on a barrier island near Point Lay with as many as 40,000 documented at this site. One of the threats faced by walruses in large congregations like this one is death by stampeding.
Throughout the day, we had fabulous presentations from the expedition staff, tours of the galley, and a special empanada teatime. After dinner, we put on our party shoes and had a fun evening in the Ice Lounge as we enjoyed the amazing talents of our dedicated crew at the famous Crew Show.