Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A rough journey for scientists off the coast of Southeast Alaska

A Rough Journey For Scientists Off The Coast Of Southeast Alaska

Over the North Pacific Ocean — For the woman wearing earbuds and sitting next to me in seat 7E:

I’m sorry; I didn’t get to take a shower before boarding the plane after 12 days with four scientists in the hills north of Litua Bay. I will try to lean towards the window with my arms by my side.

It’s probably not good enough, but it’s only an hour and a half from Juno to Anchorage. There you will be free from the smell of the wild.

If you were available to talk, I would explain. Our expedition leader, Quaternary geologist Dan Mann, has guided just a dozen people to the spongy terraces north of Litua Bay over the past 45 years. Part of the reason why few people have visited is because the high benches are very difficult to reach.

We just flew over those plateaus, the 737 passed them in 10 seconds. On the ground, it took a long time.

If you pull out those earbuds, ma’am, I’ll tell you something I found remarkable about this trip: Over the years, I’ve been drenched with scientists on the island of Attu, on the far reaches of the Aleutians, which is covered with snow. Has happened. The vast snow-capped lake called Teshekapook, and 10,000 smoke crossed the valley, as small, wind-blown rocks dashed our rangier.

And the last 11 days beat them all ruthlessly.

At this point, if you weren’t listening to the music, your eyes would be rolling over to the gray hair from under my baseball cap. Without saying it, you’ll think, “Yeah, man, it was hard because you’re old.”

good observation. There is a lot of mileage on the chassis. But I will offer a slight rebuttal.

A Rough Journey For Scientists Off The Coast Of Southeast Alaska

The first creek we crossed on this trip filled my Xtratufs with clean water. The second creek forced a scientist to head back to the shore after plunging into his chest hair. To cross that waterway, Plan B required a 6-foot jump from a rough-hewn spruce that we used as a bridge. Be careful not to grab the devil’s club along the way.

The trip required a wilderness trip to a country where so much rain nourishes so many plants that it’s often impossible to see a moss-covered bowling ball under your next bootstep.

That was the break. In the quiet woods that dampened the roar of the nearby ocean on the Lost Coast, we walked along long steps over the grizzly-footprint oval, buried in moss; The bear trails were clean and unnecessary at the same time. There my job was to shovel trees and rocks.

A Rough Journey For Scientists Off The Coast Of Southeast Alaska

Did I mention we carried backpacks loaded with 12 days’ worth of food? My part was in a spare bag that hung from my pack like a chimpanzee. That appendage sported a piece of tape written 24#, because that’s what the seaplane company Scales said.

Our load was lightened, leaving the moss and bryophyte specialist hooked up to collect 250 samples along the way. As the days went by, we ate our food, and hung a few bags in the trees to cache it as we changed camps. We pitched our tents six different times during the trip to hit the spots the scientists wanted to investigate.

science? I’m glad you asked, because I was there to record it. But you will have to wait for some stories ahead. I’m thinking more now of the grind behind the science, the slow pace of movement in rubberized shoes that has made the hourglass tip too heavy in favor of walking, compared to the data collected.

A Rough Journey For Scientists Off The Coast Of Southeast Alaska

I’m not going to joke with you: Some nights, after eating my bag of dinnerware, I was too nervous to get out my notebook and recorder. I just wanted to crawl into my tent on that slimy moss. But it turns out that there are a lot of minutes in 12 days. I think I filled enough in the Rite in the Rain notebook to receive the goods.

One last thing: I called my 15-year-old daughter from Juno to Fairbanks. I told him how I and a scientist returning to Fairbanks had not had time to shower, and how sorry I felt for the person who would soon be sitting on my elbow.

I told my daughter that we were going to have dinner after a dozen nights of dehydrated food. I went on to describe what I just told you – if you were listening. Her answer showed how much she knew her father.

“And you loved it, didn’t you?”

A Rough Journey For Scientists Off The Coast Of Southeast Alaska

Nation World News Desk
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