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April 18: Exploring St Paul

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Once settled into the hotel, we piled into our borrowed truck and headed into town to check out the store and the crab processing plant where we were going to be eating our meals for the next two days.  Town was three miles from the airport down a dirt road with snow-covered fields on either side.  Once in town, I was struck by the weather beaten houses and starkness of the landscape.  There were crab pots piled alongside the road and in town, there were boats of all sizes on land waiting for spring so they could be put back into the water.  We pulled up to a large warehouse which was the crab plant and explored the area.  I got my first up close look at the Bering Sea and felt the frigid sea spray while standing along the shore.  The water was green and the swells were large as they broke along the rocky shore.  It was cold and windy with occasional rain and snowflakes falling.  While we were standing on the rocks, we looked over and all of  sudden an arctic fox popped up and looked at us inquisitively.  He was nestled into the rocks and we had clearly woken him up. He scurried off but not in a particular hurry.

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After looking around some more outside, I had the opportunity to go into the crab plant and check out some opelia crab (snow crab) being processed.  I was super excited to see the crabs that many of us watch being caught in Deadliest Catch up close and to see the operation at work.  It was pretty amazing the speed which everything happened, from picking the crabs, to cooking them, to packaging them for freezing.  It was quite an operation.  Outside, crab boats were being unloaded with heaping baskets filled with crabs getting taken out of the hold.  Usually the crab season has ended by this time of year but the winter has been one of the worst in forty years according to the locals and the ice came further south than normal so the season has dragged on and crab are still coming in.  This gave us the opportunity to see the crab, but the processors and fishermen are ready to have the season be over with as it is already a month longer than usual. 

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That was enough of an adventure for the day and we are all getting acquainted with one another.  It sounds like this group of scientists is planning some interesting work so I am looking forward to hearing more about and sharing it with you.