Saturday, June 22, 2013

Welcome to Dutch Harbor, it's a warm 20 degrees today!

Alaska thus far has been a complete shock. I had no idea places got this cold. Waking up with icicles surrounding your windows, black ice coating the streets. All I can say is we have it easy in Southern California. I arrived in Dutch harbor on a particularly small plane. Not quite as small as the planes I took in the Bahamas, but small enough to make me squirm at the first sign of turbulence. Leading up to my arrival in Dutch, I had been told that if the weather wasn't absolutely perfect, the plane would be diverted to another Aleutian island with a bigger runway, or you would be sent back to anchorage. You see, the runway in Dutch Harbor is one of the smallest, most difficult runways to land on in the United States. It is positioned in between what can only be described as, Lord of the Rings esk mountains, in the middle of the Bering Sea. A sight you have to see to believe.

If everything is perfect on the approach in, meaning there is absolutely no snow, wind or clouds the specially trained pilots will land in a faraway land. Otherwise you will be continually sent somewhere else until conditions improve. On my particular flight there were numerous individuals who were on the third flight attempt into Dutch, they had been diverted 2 times previously. As luck would have it we managed to land our small flying machine with no problem at all. I fear now that I have arrived with no difficulties, getting off this island could be a struggle. And thus I first laid eyes on the famous fishing port, Dutch Harbor.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Look out for the Loose Livestock

Kodiak has been full of many surprises. I have been staying in downtown Kodiak for my training the last two weeks. Downtown consists of a fairly large harbor, 1 coffee shop, 1 movie theater, a subway, a bank and a few miscellaneous shops. There are however, an uncountable amount of bars and a charming brewery at the end of the road. Beer in Alaska is EXCELLENT! For the last two weeks I have had my head down in work. Learning the ropes and trying to follow all safety procedures in order to keep from freezing in the Bering Sea! After a non stop schedule I was able to sneak away for a day and go explore a little bit. 2 new friends, an Oregon duck and a Canadian Goose, hired a car with me for the day and we set off on the only road out of town. The road extends along the coast North and South. When you get to the downtown intersection you go right or left to find 2 stoplights on an entire stretch of 110 miles. It is extremely hard to get lost on the road. We had been driving about an hour before we saw any other humans.

There is this space in between town and a place called 'Surfers beach' which is desolate, with only the occasional eagle in the trees. We were just about to the end of the road when we saw a sign which read 'Loose Livestock.' I got a bit of a chuckle out of this, but had didn't actually think we would find any livestock on our path. I was never more wrong. We got to a stop sign at the end of the road and what did I see?? A herd of Bovine taking a stroll down the middle of the road. Not a human insight, just a large group of cows proceeding in an orderly fashion. I was dumb-founded and amazed and broke into hysterical laughter. Such a sight to see.

After navigating through the Bovine we found ourselves in the most beautiful places. The beautiful hills of Kodiak above the ocean, frozen lakes and black stone beaches. Along with the bovine, we encountered buffalo, eagles and wild horses. The locals tel me you wont find any bears unless you happen to run into the dumb ones who aren't hibernating. These are the ones who would be likely to eat you. So lucky for us, we escaped without any fatal attacks!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Welcome to Palin Country, you Socialist Liberal!

Oh Alaska. The final frontier, God's country and the home of Sarah Palin; these references and many more were the way my plane neighbors introduced me to Alaska. Enroute from Seattle to Alaska I was seated next to two older individuals, a husband and wife. They looked normal enough, and like most of the people on board they were headed home. At this point I had been traveling the last 8 hours and was feeling the cold that I had been trying to suppress with meds all day. I plugged headphones in my ears and settled in for another 4 hour flight. Around 2.5 hours into the flight I woke up to a screaming baby, two rows ahead. The man next to me took this opportunity to strike up some conversation.

"You aren't from Alaska, are you?" This was a statement more than a question. I claimed Californian after seeing half the plane decked out in Camoflage, i figured my pink Volcolm sweater was one of the many clues that tipped him off. He got to asking where I was from and what I did as a job. After finding out I was a marine biologist from SoCal his tone changed. I couldn't have anticipated the rant that was coming my way. His opening statement to the newly acquired information, "You're a socialist, liberal hippie, everyone in California is nuts! Don't think you are going to bring your liberal ideas up to our conservative state." I wasn't sure if he was kidding or not and let out a nervous laugh. He did not seem so amused. He then began to explain that all science was a lie. Everything I have ever been told is wrong. Climate change does not exist and the polar bears, yes the damn bears, are multiplying like crazy and we should start shooting them to control their populations.

At this point I realize this man isn't kidding and he is deathly serious. This is when his wife, wanting to add her opinion as well, chimed in. "Obama is an idiot, how in the world does he think we can run our country without gas and guns. You can't live without gas powered cars, there is no other way to make energy." It was at this statement I had to inform them, that yes indeed you can live green with clean energy and renewable resources. I explained that I lived in a place, The Cape Eleuthera Institute for a year and had clean, renewable energy. This information seemed to only set them off further. "You have ruined California by trying to make wind energy. Just look at those windmills their disgusting! We are going to fly over Fire Island and I'll show you. You can see that they are ruining the land with those disgusting windmills."

I can only take so much, and I am not willing to waste my breath any further with these two geriatrics. They have insulted my very being and I am done talking. I am so enraged, I can feel my pulse racing in my fingertips. As a closing I thanked them for their opinions and told them that I would take my chance as a scientist and use my observations to lead me to conclusions. This only furthered their need to convert my though, at every silence they interjected with some form of 'proof'' that everything I know is wrong. Perhaps my favorite example was their beloved Sarah Palin.

"Sarah Palin is a good woman and the media and liberals brought her down. She can see Russia from her backyard. Russia is Alaska!" He then pulls out the inflight magazine to show me a map of Alaska, which he edited by drawing in Russia. I sarcastically thanked him for such VALUABLE insight and I would be sure to reconsider my thoughts on Sarah Palin. His wife, in the meantime, was muttering to herself every few minutes that the damn youth was ruining this country. I can only imagine she was speaking of me :). In parting the last thing they told me was to find a man to take care of me and take me around town, and to make sure he is packing! Packing a 44 caliber at the very least, because this is Alaska and any other size gun is unacceptable!

At any rate. I made it to Anchorage. It's beautiful, dangerous and cold! I hear there are moose down the hill from my apartment, so I am off to investigate!

Found my big strong man, with his gun!

Icicles on the house!

Mountains everywhere

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Buy the Ticket and Take the Ride

It has been a year of discovery here in Southern California, coming home to my roots and adventuring in my back yard. While I had a blast, it's time to get on the road again! I have been searching the web the last few months in search of a new contract marine bio job. A few conditions I had, it had to be in a place I have never been and something I have never done. I also want to get my hands dirty, since my specialty is field work. Lucky for me an opportunity in Alaska came up and I jumped at it. For the next 4-5 months I will be working on the Crab boats in Alaska! Not as a fisher woman but as a concerned marine biologist, monitoring the crab populations and all that is associated! So, next adventure Alaska! As a wise man once told me, buy the ticket and take the ride. I am doing just that and am anxious for the adventure in the Bering Sea! Stay tuned for all the pictures, ice, snow and waves coming this way! Much love and light and happy holidays friends!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

There's a snake in my hut!

Leleuvia is a place filled with more beauty than one can imagine. However, beauty comes at a price. I suppose growing up in Southern California, and having just spent the last 3.5 years in Sydney really couldn't have prepared me for what lay ahead. The mosquitoes where the most noticeable within the first day. My sweet, unfamiliar blood was like the alluring nectar of an exotic flower for a bee. I had every mosquito within a 1 mile yearning for my untainted B negative cocktail. I had previously been to Fiji and knew this would be a problem, so I made sure to pack an extra stash of repulsive deet. Putting the cancer warnings aside, I generously lathered my body multiple times a day. The scars are still a reminder of the ineffectiveness! After about 6 weeks the mosquito reactions seemed to lesson and it is my firm belief that my blood is no longer as attracting as it was upon my arrival.

Somethings on this island can not be tamed with lotions and creams. One such creature is the Banded Sea Krait, also known as a sea snake. The docile snakes are around 5-6 feet at full length and just so happen to breed on this island. Needless to say it is my worst nightmare. To fully grasp my snake phobia you must understand that my first interaction, as a 3 year old was influenced heavily by a frantic and hysterical mother. The first time I saw a snake was in my garden at the age of three. The snake, trying to find a cool place to hide from the sun began to slither his way into the garage. It was at this point the family matriarch closed the garage decapitating the snake. She then continued carrying on until a neighbor came and retrieved the corpse. So, as you can see I have been wired to react with absolute terror.

Sea snakes can be found at every turn on the island. Under the brush, among the coral and sometimes in unexpected places. I had been living in my hut for around 2 weeks when I got my first of many visitors. I awoke to bright sunlight and the sweet island noises. As I sat up and began to crawl my way out of the layers of protective mosquito net and swung my legs over my bed I noticed the floor begin to move. Not one, but two sea snakes had managed to slither their way up into my hut. This is a great feat considering sea snakes aren't vertical climbers and must find a slight, gradual incline to go upwards.

My initial reaction was one of horror and my legs instantly snapped back up on to my bed! I began to frantically search for exits. There was only one door, however there was a perfectly good window right over my bed. I decided I would shimmy my way out the window to freedom. Luckily the lack of food on the island assisted in my narrow escape. Once I reached the sandy beaches I managed to find Buca or Jim as I called him, who managed to coax the little black and white striped squatters out of my bure!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Long awaited return to the blog!

After more than a year of no posts I have decided to recount my travels over the last year and a half. There have been multiple moves and a few jobs along the way. So, I will do my best to bring the most memorable and fun stories of adventure and excitement! Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Welcome to Leleuvia

Arrival to Leleuvia: September  13th, 2010

The trip from Suva to Leleuvia was quite the experience. I was still dealing with obtaining my health insurance in Suva, which was not going so well. So, after wondering back and forth around the Suva marketplace we  headed off to a little town called Nassouri. Nassouri was essentially the last developed area we would see before leaving Viti Levu. We met up with our Co-worker Tai once we got to a popular petrol station in town. The cap driver promptly put Karla, myself and all of our luggage out in the middle of a busy petrol garage. Imagine a 3rd world country, with old cars spitting fumes of exhaust into the atmosphere and old men trying to sell peanuts and cashews to you in dogdy little baggies, all the while being the only white people for kilometres in any direction. Two blondes with tons of Luggage in the middle of nowhere waiting for someone we had never met. And so we waited in the hot, humid garage for what seemed forever, until finally our Tai showed up.  Tai is a very tall, strong looking man in his 30s. He has a pleasant face and is missing his front 2 teeth. He showed up with 11  petrol canisters for us to  fill. $550 later we negotiated our ride to Boa landing, where we would meet up with Howard and head off. The mini-bus we had talked our way into was loaded to the brim with 11 canisters of petrol, all our lagguage and a surf board to top it off.

So we sped off down the road in what any developed country would consider a dangerous load. Going over pot-holes and dirt, passing beautiful lush bushland. The most beautiful trees and greenery lay on the outskirts of the dirty developed towns. Boa landing was in the middle of nowhere, with nothing around. School children are picked up by boat there each day and taken to there school on Boa. From the landing they must walk a good 6kms if not more down an empty road to the nearest house. We waited for Howard here and after a good hour he arrived with a truck and a pallet full of dive gear.

We spent the next 1.5 hours unloading the pallet and trying to workout boat transfer as there was enough gear for 2 boats and only 1 boat there. The locals agreed to take Howard and the gear in their boat for $40 and a cannister of petrol, then we were off.  Leleuvia is about 45 minutes Northeast of Boa landing. On a calm sea, which we were lucky enough to have, it goes by quickly without any difficulties. The sun was setting behind us as we finally saw the first sight of Leleuvia. It was more beautiful than you can imagine. We were 5 minutes from shore when we heard a loud bang. We looked at captain Tai, who had a look of uncertainty on his face. We had hit something in the water, be it coral, rock or animal, we still aren't 100% sure.

We assessed the damage, a broken prop, and continued on to our Leleuvia, we were home. It didn't take long for the stir-crazy to set in, after 2 days we were aching for the luxuries of the mainland, like hot showers, working water and air-conditioning.Not to mention protein. They pack us full of bread and rice in substitute of protein. Cans of Tuna have never looked so good. This is not a place for the faint of heart.