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October 1: Flying to Dutch Harbor


Flying to Dutch Harbor is always an adventure.  I have only flown out of Dutch once before so I kind of knew what I was getting into.  A few things to worry about when flying into Dutch, the number one being getting your baggage and the next the sketchy landing with a cliff on one side and water on the other; apparently a vast improvement from what it was before.  To address the first issue, when I got to the airport in Anchorage, I begged and pleaded with the woman at the counter to make sure my bags got on the plane.  My two duffels were filled with everything I could need to work and live for the next 4 weeks aboard the Healy and without them, it was going to be a long month.  I also knew that I was on the last flight in for the day, so this was my shot to get my gear before setting sail.  Finally when I told them I was getting onto a ship, they put big “Must Ride” stickers on my bags…so I wasn’t crazy for worrying as they were well aware of the problem of bumped baggage.  I was already carrying about 40 lbs of gear on me between my pelican case with cameras, hard drives and a backpack with cameras, my computer, etc…Being at sea is unlike anything else because if you don’t have something with you, well you won’t have it until you get back home.  It makes keeping the weight of your gear down difficult.

After negotiating the ticket counter and my bags, telling them my weight and having my carry-ons weighed, it was time to anxiously wait for the flight with nervous anticipation of my bags making the flight.  I was not buying the “Must Ride” sticker.   The plane to Dutch is a small prop plane and they cram the seats in…the plane is old and rickety and uncomfortable, but I am on my way to Dutch.  The captain comes on and informs us that all of the bags are on the plane, that’s a relief, but because we took all of the bags, we have to make some fuel stops, first in King Salmon and then in Cold Bay.  Knowing that my bags are on the plane is a relief as now I know I have all of my gear, and I am always into seeing new places…although the idea of not taking enough fuel is not the best feeling in the world.

So with a brief fuel stop in King Salmon, the pilots decide we don’t need to stop in Cold Bay and we land safely in Dutch.  The view from the plane is beautiful.  Dutch Harbor is beautiful, a large harbor surrounded by green mountains.  We got very lucky with the weather as it was a beautiful day whereas the day before, the wind was howling and it was miserable.  Sure enough my bags made it on the plane as did everyone else’s including all of the science party’s bags from the earlier flight.  Step Two down, all of my gear and I made it to Dutch!