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April 19: St Paul

Because of the unpredictable weather in St Paul, we had to leave an extra day to ensure our arrival in St Paul on time to meet the ship on Sunday so we have today to explore the island.  St Paul is a birders mecca in the summer when there are nesting birds and fur seals covering the shore, but late winter/ early spring here is a different story.  It is snowing this morning and is a bit blustery so hopefully the weather will break a little so we can do some exploring. 

At noon, we head to the crab plant for lunch.  We eat in a cafeteria where the workers from the plant eat and some of the fishermen who just brought their crab in are eating.  The TV is blaring CNN during the meal.  It is cafeteria type food and is served with a smile.  Everyone on St Paul is very nice and helpful.  After eating, I check out the crab being off-loaded from one of the boats.  In the office we find out that the boat brought in 117,000 pounds of crab.  The offloading will take hours.  Like inside the plant, the offloading is done methodically. 

 stpaul_0641stpaul_0083The Crab Processing Plant

We then set off on our quest to see the island.  Many of the roads are too snow filled to pass but we wind our way up to a bluff where the vistas of the Bering Sea are spectacular.  It is freezing, raining, hailing and super windy but we trudge on up a path to the highest point.  There are birds soaring by the cliffs where the waves are crashing below onto snow-covered banks.  We walk down onto one beach and I put my hand into the Bering Sea for the first time.  The water is frigid and stings to touch.  The sand is dark and volcanic.  It is quite beautiful.  On our journey back to the hotel, we spot some reindeer on a ridge and go up a road to check them out.  Apparently reindeer were introduced to the island in the early 1900s and their populations have fluctuated since but they still roam the hills.   I was thrilled to see them grazing up on the ridge while I was climbing through snow banks to get a closer look. 

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Back at the hotel, it is time to head back to the crab plant for dinner.  Tomorrow the Healy will come in close to shore and we will do the personnel transfer and get aboard the ship for the duration of the research cruise.  We are scheduled to leave at 0900 via helicopter so it should be an adventure to get to the ship.  I am anxious to get on board and head into the ice.