Friday, October 24, 2008

isolation or not

Fishing in the Bering Sea is not like fishing long-line off Hawaii. It isn't the weather that marks the greatest difference; it is the isolation or lack of it. Dutch Harbor itself feels cut off from the world because it is small and the people there are mainly there for one reason: fishing or somehow supporting or profiting off the fishing fleet. And internet access is slow and not so easy to come by and the cell phone service is controlled by a monopoly which wants you to pay through the nose.

But on the water... it almost feels crowded. This is ridiculous, of course, or at least relative. The boats are huge and comfortable and much more connected and modern. This opinion may change later as we venture further out, but two days into fishing and I can still see land! This is a stupid thing to be excited about, but in Hawaii, seeing land was so rare. After three weeks at sea, you would go on deck every few hours on the trip back to see if you could spot land yet and as soon as you could, you would just stare. The solid lines and bulk of it seemed so amazing and almost like a mirage after so long without. We were so far out and sighting anything but birds and fish was so rare that the light of a single fishing boat on the horizon would make you stop and stare and wonder which boat it might be. Even trash floating by became fodder for the imagination. Any little suggestion that there were things in the world beside your little floating prison.

Maybe it is also the contrast of having more people on this boat, it being larger, and the crew all speaking English that makes this feel less isolated, but I still haven't been out of sight of land and other boats are almost always visible. Even when we do leave sight of land, it is unlikely that we will ever be even 200 miles from shore, which is closer than we would start fishing in Hawaii.

This is early, it is still warm. Let's see how I feel about it all as the season wears on.

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