May 22, 2017
Midnight Beach Party
- as seen by -Trevor Haynes @ArcticWCS@arcticwcsjmaher
Famed Yukon and Alaska Poet Robert Service marveled at the “strange things done in the midnight sun”, and for him, it was a particular “night on the marge of Lake Lebarge.” However, for me, it was on the marge of the Chukchi Sea where capelin spawned in that special light of the midnight sun.
While working late at a lagoon on the Southern Chukchi Coast, our field crew excitedly witnessed thousands of capelin hurdling themselves into the wave break to land themselves on the beach. Silver streaks squirmed along the gravel while more dark schools of capelin lurked in shallow water waiting for their turn to go up onto the rocky spot and spawn. Each wave washed the wriggling, spawned-out fish back into the ocean. The subsequent wave brought a new batch of eager recruits to spawn and then return to the sea.
Capelin are part of a group of fish which spawn on beaches. Although beach spawning is rare, capelin are even more unique, being one of only two marine fish in the world known to fully emerge from the water to spawn – the other being the better known grunion in California.
As the capelin spawned that night, they provided a smorgasbord for the predators. Terns, jaegers, and gulls dove from above, while bearded seals and predatory fish stalked capelin at the edge of the schools.
When it comes to midnight beach parties, capelin know how to throw them.