Friday, January 23, 2015

Fantasizing about scuba diving in the Arctic Ocean


From the bush plane the January Arctic Ocean looks inhospitable, dark and dangerous. It’s hard to imagine that this freezing and unforgiven waterworld is home of amazing animals like walruses, ribbon seals, beluga and bowhead whales. I bet that the few who scuba dive in such a harsh environment do it during the summer. 


The photo shows the water when the plane started to descend for landing at Point Hope. When it reached the coastline the amount of water free of ice increased considerably.
The locals told me that the ice has changed. It’s thinner than it used to be. 




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© E. Betty Bastai

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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Alaska 2015: Four days left until the beginning of my third trip

The Three-Month Daily Planner that I designed with Microsoft Publisher in two days is done! I  specifically created this custom-made planner with my own drawings and photographs to use while working in the North Slope! It's now printed and bound and I have just started writing in it. Its frosty cover and simple design look great!






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Memories of my first trip to the North Slope keep surfacing. My co-worker Eric shot these images while we were in one of the villages in 2010. The building behind me was our accommodation. I felt I was like one of those scientists working in Antarctica! One night the fire alarm went off and its piercing shriek was unbearable! I was supposed to evacuate the building but outside the wind was blowing lowering the temperature to -50° F (-45.5° C). I could not see or smell any smoke. I covered my ears as best as I could and waited in front of the main door. The cook got up and checked the kitchen and other rooms in the building, thank goodness there wasn't a fire. He turned the fire alarm off and we all went back to bed a bit shaken but thankful that we didn't have to leave the building. 


Photos by Eric Struck ©2010

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© Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai

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Monday, January 5, 2015

Scuba GoPro Hero 4 Black test 1

During my first 2015 dive I took the opportunity to test my new GoPro Hero 4 Black. I used a head strap mount to secure the camera on my head to leave my hands free to take photographs with my Olympus camera. I also attached a magenta filter to the port. The visibility below 20 ft was disappointing, so the camera struggled to get some decent images. The filter was useful at depths above 20 ft so the white balance was all over the map depending on the depth and the light coming from the focus light attached to my Olympus housing. The string that secured the filter to the housing got stuck right in front of the port. Despite all these hurdles it was fun finding out how this camera performed in this challenging cold marine environment. I wish that GoPro would make a model that is specifically designed for cold water low light diving by adding a larger sensor and drop some of the features that are designed for environmental conditions on land. Well, maybe one of these days! I shot the clips in this video in HD, next time I'll try 4K.




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©2015  Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai

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Friday, January 2, 2015

First 2015 Dive!

January 1st was a wonderful chilly and sunny day at Keystone Underwater Park. The current was favorable and the parking lot was buzzing with divers.  We didn't make it there on time to dive with Janna Nichols and her husband Claude, but we did have a nice after-dive chat before they took off to catch the ferry to Port Townsend. Janna is the outreach Coordinator for the REEF Environmental Education Foundation Pacific Office in Vancouver, WA. I met her seven years ago at a REEF fish and invertebrates identification class.  She was the humorous instructor that made learning how to identify Pacific Northwest fishes and invertebrates a lot of fun. Since then I have been participating in the REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project and submitting fish surveys online after diving.




One thing that struck all of us while diving at Keystone was noticing that the sunflower stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides) had been wiped out by the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome and that the number of green sea urchins (Strongylocentrotus droebachiensis) had increased significantly. I wonder how this population explosion of green sea urchin will affect the growth of the kelp at this dive site next spring.



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© Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Alaska 2015: Third journey to the North Slope

Next month I will embark on my third journey above the Arctic Circle.
I cannot wait to learn from the residents of the North Slope whether the environmental conditions have changed since my last visit in 2012 or not and in particular how the sea ice is doing.  While writing my first lists and leafing through old documents memories of my first 2010 trip emerged. The airplanes progressively got smaller the further north I ventured.


North Slope, Alaska, travel, airplane, Seattle, Anchorage, Kotzebue, bush plane, Point Hope
North Slope 2010 

North Slope, lists, Alaska, travel
First North Slope  2015: first things-to-do-list
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©2014 Elisabetta (Betty) Bastai

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Scuba Diving 2014: Diving into Mukilteo Fish Eyes

Mukilteo T-Dock is a popular dive site whose main feature is a dome shaped structure made of plastic pipes. They may not be the best material for building an artificial reef but the marine creatures are so resourceful in turning whatever man-made objects they find into homes that the "dome” is teeming with life. Juvenile wolf eels live inside the pipes; the space around them is populated with copper and quillback rockfishes while the sandy bottom is covered with inquisitive flounders.


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© E. Betty Bastai

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Scuba Diving 2014: Cove 2 West Seattle October 12

First dive after a two month break. 

When the Seattle lights are glowing in the dark and  create colorful lines over the cold water of Puget Sound a giant pacific octopus (Octopus dofleini)


 is fast asleep and a rockfish (copper? brown?) is swallowing  a freshly caught tubesnot (Aulorhynchus flavidus).





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© E. Betty Bastai

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