Dr. Dunscomb Lecture in Bering Sea
Department of History Professor Lectures in Middle of the Bering Sea
Department of History Professor Paul Dunscomb was invited to give a series of talks on the Windstar Line cruise ship Star Breeze. The ship was on a relocation cruise from Tokyo, departing May 26, to Seward, arriving June 9. It’s the fourth time Prof. Dunscomb has been invited to join such a cruise but, due to Covid, only the second time he’s been able to make the trip. He did a similar cruise back in May of 2019.
After making a stop in Hakodate, Hokkaido, Japan, the Star Breeze sailed along the Kuril Island chain and up the Kamchatka peninsula. It entered the Bering Sea about sixty miles northwest of Attu, farthest of the Aleutian Islands, and pulled into Dutch Harbor on June 5. During the eight days of steaming (which included two June 1sts) Prof. Dunscomb gave presentations every day on the history of Japan, the Russian Far East, and Alaska.
“A cruise like this allows me to take advantage of the full range of my research over the course of my career at UAA,” Prof. Dunscomb said. “As we leave Japan I talk about the crisis in Japanese professional baseball of 2004 and what’s been happening in Japan these last thirty-five years,” which is the subject of his latest book coming out this winter. “As we’re cruising up the Kurils I can talk about Japan’s Siberian Intervention,” the subject of his first book, “and as we pass by Attu [just days after the eightieth anniversary of its reconquest from Japan by U.S. forces] I can talk about World War Two and how it shaped the destiny of peoples all along the North Pacific Rim,” which is the subject of his next book.
Although a full week of giving talks can be grueling, it’s actually having to move the clock ahead an hour each day for seven days in a row that’s the most difficult part of the trip. Fortunately he missed the truly terrible weather in the Bering Sea the week before he passed through.
The passengers are very different from his normal students. They tend to be rather older and while the bulk of them are Americans there’s a strong scattering of Australians, British and Canadians as well. “They ask lots of questions, which is nice, but they were also alive for things like the Cold War; they remember the Soviet Union and when Japan seemed to be the economic threat that China is now. It’s helpful not having to provide the kind of background information my regular students generally require.”
The ship made stops in Kodiak and Homer before stopping in Seward. It continued on to Vancouver to start its cruise season but two weeks at sea was enough for Prof. Dunscomb.
Although many more opportunities exist for trips of this kind, because of his teaching schedule this is the only one he can manage. “No question, it’s a great gig,” he said, “but it’ll be a while before I can take full advantage of these trips.”