Seward Line Oceanography: Summer on the Tiglax Series

Compiled from online sources by: Debra Corbett | Nanutset Heritage

The first scientific expedition of the year for the USFWS M/V Tiglax supports the Seward Line Oceanography project, a long-term observation program begun in 1998-2004 by GLOBEC.  The project continued from 2005-2009 by the North Pacific Research Board (NPRB), and is now funded by NPRB, Alaska Ocean Observation System and Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and managed through UAF’s Institute of Marine Science.  Cruises are conducted twice a year in spring (May) and late summer (early September).

The Gulf of Alaska (GOA) supports a diverse ecosystem that includes several commercially important fishes, as well as culturally and economically important mammals and plants.  Historic observations suggest a connection between the GOA ecosystems and climate variations that range from interannual to interdecadal; the specific mechanisms by which climate variation causes ecosystem changes, however, are poorly understood.  Sampling along the Seward line, from Resurrection Bay south to the outer continental shelf, is producing a multi-year data set that will lead to a better understanding of the seasonal cycle and the variability that occurs from year to year in environmental conditions and biological productivity in the Gulf of Alaska.

Seward Line

During seasonal sampling projects, data about the Seward line are collected about a variety of environmental and biological conditions from salinity and temperature to plankton. The physical environment is assessed using electronic device that measures Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) at high resolution in real-time. Additional sensors measure water clarity, plant pigment in the water, light is available for plant growth, and/or how much oxygen is dissolved in the water (DO).  The biological environment is sampled by capturing zooplankton for analysis.  Krill and other larger and faster zooplankton are captured at night using a sophisticated “Multinet” system which allows separation of the upper 100m of the ocean into 5 layers, each 20m thick.

The Seward Line is the most detailed multi-disciplinary long-term oceanographic sampling program in the northern Gulf of Alaska. The Seward Line work coordinates with other projects that focus on Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay, the Alaska Coastal Current, Prince William Sound, and still more broadly across the Gulf of Alaska. The Seward Line monitoring shows that the GOA shelf undergoes alternating periods of warm and cold springs, each of which lasts for multiple years.

For more information about the Seward Line Oceanography project and results visit:



M/V Tiglax Sails for Science

Authors: Lisa Spitler and Jeff Williams | Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge

Tiglax SketchThe M/V Tiglax (TEKH-lah – Aleut for eagle) is essential to managing the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. The boat is 120 feet long and operates with a crew of 6. Fourteen scientists can live and work aboard. She has wet and dry labs and freezers for storing samples. Tiglax can deploy midwater and bottom trawls for sampling fish and plankton, and hosts bioacoustic transducers and data processors for sampling fish/plankton densities; and a SBE-21 thermosalinograph for diving seabird studies.

In a season, the Tiglax may sail to Forrester and St. Lazaria Islands in Southeast Alaska, or into Bering Sea as far as St. Matthew Island. Her main operations area is, however, the Aleutian Chain. Tiglax typically spends 120-160 days at sea covering as many as 20,000 nautical miles (at a top speed of 10 knots) traveling from the home port of Homer, Alaska out to Attu Island at the extreme west end of the Aleutian chain and back, several times a season.

The main role of the Tiglax is to transport service personnel, equipment, and supplies between work sites throughout the refuge. This year Tiglax departs Homer on May 17 to deploy FWS biologists and biological technicians at field camps in the Semidi Islands, on Aiktak, Buldir, Kiska, and Attu. These scientists focus on studying seabird colonies, but also work on reestablishing endangered habitats, they identify and monitor archaeological and historic sites, they monitor bird populations and human impacts on habitats, they maintain remote field facilities, and they patrol refuge waters.

 Tiglax also serves as a seagoing research platform and living quarters for scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) or other federal or state agencies and universities. This year’s FWS projects include removal of invasive foxes from islands to restore native bird populations, collecting background information on contaminants left over from World War II, and monitoring other contaminant cleanup efforts on Attu and Amchitka, studying Kasatochi Island as she recovers from an eruption in 2008, lichen research on Adak, and visiting remote bird nesting colonies.

Non FWS partners include the National Marine Fisheries Service for sea lion studies, the University of Alaska, Institute of Marine Sciences and School of Fisheries, The Alaska Volcano Observatory, and the US Navy.

Stay with us for the “Summer of the Tiglax” as we report in on monitoring and research activities supported and facilitated by the Tiglax and crew!


Safety first, surviving the research no matter what the discipline.

Author:  Caroline Funk, SUNY University at Buffalo

At a certain point all of we researchers are on the water, even if our focus lies on what’s happening on the island landscapes. The Aleutians are an archipelago after all. Many of the researchers who work in the Aleutians are not from cold water Aleutian home regions and we need to be taught how to survive if the boat gets into trouble. Moments after boarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s M/V Tiglax, we learn to climb into the survival suits. It’s an awkward process. We are assured that it is even stranger when a boat is listing and rocking in a storm. I hope to never learn that for myself.

Dr. Brian Hoffman, an archaeologist from Hamline University in Minnesota, practices his survival suit up in the summer of 2009:

On a rare sunny day in Adak, Deckhand John of the USFWS M/V Tiglax  lectures on the form and function of the survival suit.

On a rare sunny day in Adak, Deckhand John of the USFWS M/V Tiglax lectures on the form and function of the survival suit.

Dr. Brian Hoffman prepares to climb in. Plastic bags on your feet makes it easier.

Dr. Brian Hoffman prepares to climb in. Plastic bags on your feet makes it easier.

Halfway there. It's a struggle on a calm sunny day.

Halfway there. It’s a struggle on a calm sunny day.


Zipping with gumby paws.


Safe, secure, hoping this never comes up as a necessary event.