Look at that sunshine!
In Adak we have tried to help with the Bunkhouse Chats. A bunkhouse chat is an informal chance for locals and visitors to talk with researchers, scientists, and other wayward souls. As an outpost of western conveniences, Adak hosts many scientists and researchers on their way farther afield. Others hunker down and conduct their research right on the island. The US Fish & Wildlife Service has a bunkhouse where they can stay (boy does it have a NICE kitchen!) that has a big living room that is perfect for hosting a chat. Carrie makes treats, usually with some local ingredients (like petrushki crackers or nagoonberry pound cake). Sometime in summer 2016 while Witty was attending summer camp on Adak Island, she got to go to a bunkhouse chat.
Witty liked the pictures of birds on the walls.After the chat, Witty taught the other cats what she learned. These researchers were trying to learn about seals. They were concerned that numbers of seals had dropped. For several years, they had been attaching tags to seals’ heads and flippers. The tags can be tracked and thus build maps of where and how far seals travel. The cats were all very interested in the seal tagging project but are not sure they like the idea of the tags. They worry they might bother the seals.
First, a couple of pictures of boats in King Cove for the maritime geeks:
Next, you may remember recently reading about Carrie’s trip on a fishing boat from Cold Bay to King Cove one day when the planes weren’t flying. These are some pictures of the view out the kitchen window on the Island Trader.
And finally, some lovely footage of the beautiful maritime and mountain scenes as we sailed into King Cove in February 2016.
While flying around the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutians for her short-lived regional job, Carrie spent some time in Cold Bay.
Everyone who lives or works in this region spends time in Cold Bay, whether they want to or not.
This is the community center, run by the City of Cold Bay. During this visit, in summer 2016, the running wild strawberry plants were fruited all alongside the roads. Thrilled, Carrie tried eating them, but realized that even though Cold Bay has a smaller official population than Adak, they are more big-city in some ways. The strawberries were filthy: covered with road grime. There was a lot more traffic in Cold Bay and the roads are gravel. So Carrie’s strawberry-picking adventure was short-lived. But she nevertheless made the most of her unplanned evening in Cold Bay. She walked all over town, visited the grocery store (with their walk-in cooler!), and met the staff at the clinic.
These pictures are assorted buildings around town from a February 2016 trip through Cold Bay. Carrie had landed in Cold Bay with PenAir and found that none of the airlines were flying over to King Cove, her destination. The PenAir staff offered to drive stranded passengers down to the dock to hop onto a fishing boat. Carrie blindly followed the fishermen/processors.
It wasn’t until the driver started driving over the water to the dock that Carrie remembered that Cold Bay’s dock is way out in the water. When we sailed on the ferry many years ago the ferry docked here for three hours while we got to quickly explore the tippiest tiniest edge of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Meanwhile, our tent got ripped to shreds on the upper deck, courtesy of Cold Bay’s winds. That’s the little fishing boat Carrie would sail on from Cold Bay to King Cove. The Island Trader wasn’t very big at all.
Why does everyone love bouys? Bouys in yards, bouys in boats, bouys in abandoned building, even deflated bouys in luggage. Who knows, but Carrie has taken a lot of pictures of bouys around Alaska. But we don’t have any in our yard. Alain thinks they are tacky. And everyone agrees they are targets for dog pee.
Anyway, back to Carrie’s adventure in Cold Bay. This is a view out the back of the fishing boat Island Trader.This is the door to enter the Island Trader. A view from the deck of Island Trader. The water got much choppier than this–consider this dead calm.
Island Trader‘s kitchen. They used bungee cords to keep food and soap from sliding around and flying. The fisherman were watching a James Bond movie in the kitchen. Carrie considered it a cultural experience, when she wasn’t enjoying the wind, rain, and waves on the tiny deck.
Many thanks to the captain and crew of Island Trader for the free ride from Cold Bay to King Cove.
When Carrie wasn’t sailing upon the seas, she flew on Eider Air, Grant Aviation, or Kenai Floatplane Service (yes there is an airline in the region with that improbably name…plane didn’t have floats though). Here is some footage aboard Eider Air in November 2015:
In February 2016, Carrie’s couchsurfing host tried to take her on this hike:
Along the way, we picked up some hitchhikers. They were young folks who were “observers” aka entry-level biologists who ride around on fishing boats counting fish, watching procedures, and observing. You can recognize them in the airport because they all have the same ‘luggage’ of rolling carts stacked together. You can recognize them on the street because they wear xtra-tuffs but look a little too arty and clean to be fishermen. Certainly, they do many other things. Carrie later met one who taught fishermen to be gentler with their fish.
At the trailhead we ran into Susi Golodoff who wrote the book Wildflowers of Unalaska Island. We tried the hike but didn’t get very far once the observers fell into snow up to their thighs. We drove to a different area that was brown and yellow tundra and wandered there instead.
One afternoon in April 2016 when Carrie was out in “The Valley” aka a sprawling residential area with homemade small and sprawling suburban-style homes, Carrie noticed what a beautiful day it was.
Downtown Unalaska. This may seem like a small town to you all, but to Adakians, this is the big city. Or nearly so. They have big-city recreational facilities. $5 high-quality yoga classes. High-tech gyms. After-school programs for kids. Swimming pool. Daily toddler activities. Library. Paved sidewalks. Parks, playgrounds, ball fields, museums, memorials. But Adak has much better air service. Can’t beat that. No When Air for us! The blue complex is part of Unisea, a major seafood processor. Many of the buildings are housing for their employees who hail from all over the world.
The long building with the red roof in the background is the Grand Aleutian Hotel, the more expensive of the only two housing options.
While on a work trip to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in February 2016, Carrie had some time to walk around. That Saturday was one of those lucky days when Carrie’s phone automatically made a slideshow while she slept:
One of several boat harbors.
Path leading to Expedition Park on Expedition Island.
Although now connected by land and no longer an island, Expedition Island used to be the red light district.
Now, it’s a lovely place to picnic or BBQ if one is brave enough to face Unalaska’s famous eagles.
One of many teetering houses around town.
One of many big mountains of shipping containers around town. It is often said that the Port of Dutch Harbor processes more fish than anywhere else in the USA. The vast majority of the fish goes in shipping containers, unlike in Adak where the seafood flies by 747 jet.
This is a WWII-era hospital.
In 2011 when we planned a summer trip to Adak Island, we flew from Fairbanks down to Anchorage. In Anchorage, our flight cancelled due to a problem with runway equipment. AlaskaAir was nice enough to fly us back up to Fairbanks and also refunded our miles. We had a week off work and wondered, “What are the chances that this is the week the ferry sails out the Aleutians?” We looked it up and indeed it was! We flew on RAVN points down to Homer, walked to the spit, camped, and then walked to the ferry. We sailed on to Kodiak, Chignik, False Pass, Cold Bay, Sand Point, King Cove, Akutan, and Unalaska. Once in Unalaska we’d budgeted for one night in the fisherman’s bunkhouse motel when our outbound flight on When Air (PenAir) cancelled for mechanical reasons. We spent several more nights there, walking to and from the airport, hoping for seats on flights every few hours. Despite that typical Dutch Harbor hiccup, Kitty never lets us live this down: we did not take Kitty on this trip. Our excuse: Kitty was just a baby (two months old) and we did not want Kitty to get W-E-T or L-O-S-T. Clearly, this was before Kitty started doing everything with us. (Alain will also not let Carrie live down that she broke our camera in our first port, Kodiak, by putting the supposedly waterproof device in a few inches of water in a marine life touch tank). Anyway, during the one year that Carrie flew around on the awful, horrible, horrendous, uncomfortable When Air planes, Kitty kept hoping for a visit to Unalaska.
In April 2016, Carrie took Kitty to Unalaska. Kitty found this pot of Bonsai in the Airport Bar & Restaurant.
Kitty fell in love with many friends in the home of our most amazing couchsurfing host.
Kitty found a tree to climb inside her home. This was Carrie’s third time surfing with the same wonderful host, who was the best part of Carrie’s job.
Speaking of the wonderful couchsurfing host…during a February work trip, Carrie arranged to spend the weekend in Unalaska. (On a 2-3 week work trip, one has to spend the weekend somewhere…). Sometimes on Carrie’s work trips around the Aleutians she had a little trouble drumming up work to do. In this case, it worked out because the wonderful host introduced Carrie to a whole new side of Unalaska: the creative. The couchsurfing host took Carrie to an invitation-only electronic music record release party in an artsy warehouse in a part of town Carrie had never been to previously.
Who knew? Thank you to our wonderful host. Enjoy your travels, may they be long and merry!
Witty the cat lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with Carrie’s sister. Said sister has often talked about coming to visit Adak Island, but logistics hadn’t worked out. We came up with an alternate solution: Witty came to visit! Witty went to a very wonderful summer camp on Adak Island. She got mailed in a box of fresh vegetables. She returned with a four page list of all the activities she participated in at camp, from a list of cooking classes to riding on 4 wheelers and even kayaking. Unfortunately, her camp counselors did not do the best job of taking pictures at camp.
Witty must have gone on a trip somewhere because this picture is at the Anchorage airport.
Witty enjoyed riding on the Honda with uncle Alain. He took her on many adventures but always kept her very, very safe.
Adak’s historic & contemporary Pet Cemetery is located next to the Adak National Forest. Witty visited both on one of her first trips out. Andre the baby chick is the only bird with a gravestone. (Carrie later asked a young person why only one of the dead chickens has a grave. The “duh” answer was: no bodies, they got ATE! [by other animals])
Witty also had plenty of time to frolic with the other cats, including Kitty.