Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Pyramid Peak trail...

on Unalaska Island carried us into the high tundra, where mass wasting on steep slopes is occurring:
This isn't too surprising, as the soils are mostly composed of tephras from countless volcanic eruptions as this exposed profile reveals:
Here's a shot of Alaska cotton grass on the verdant tundra:

Bald eagles are a dime a dozen...

in Alaska. These two were perched along a trail, about 60 ft from my vantage point for this image.

Arriving at Unalaska Island...

as viewed from the bridge of the Clipper Odyssey:
Here's a shot of the ship's captain (left) and the harbor pilot as they bring the ship alongside the dock:

The port of Dutch Harbor is now famous, largely due to a popular television show "The Deadliest Catch."

However, historians will tell you that this outpost community was bombed by the Japanese in early June 1942 as this archival image shows:

The so-called Baby Islands...

are a cluster of volcanic cinder cones that are emergent from the sea, and now being rapidly eroded by high energy waves and tidal currents. They host a variety of shorebirds, and here some tufted puffins take to the wing as our Zodiac approaches:
I caught this oyster catcher feeding in the intertidal zone:
Here are a couple of glaucous-winged gulls, and a pelagic cormorant, enjoying a perch on the volcanic breccia:
A couple of harbor seals, a mom and her pup, showed slight curiosity as we drifted by:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Unga village was established...

by a group of Norwegians as a cod fishing community in the 1890s, and the misty conditions set an appropriate mood for the now abandoned site. We explored the remaining structures that were abandoned in the 1950s:

A majestic metasequoia fossil forest...

was visited on Unga spit this afternoon, preserved in a lahar (volcanic debris flow) that is now being eroded by the energetic coastal processes. This large log measured more than 60 feet in length and about 9 feet in diameter:
Many large stumps remain in growth position in the Miocene-age deposit. Note the size of the rock that was also transported in the lahar:
The state of preservation is amazing:
The silicified wood appeared in various colors:

In all, this is a world-class fossil locality.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An interesting walkabout...

from Chignik Bay was undertaken this afternoon, following an aging water pipe from an alpine lake to a cannery, attracting the most intrepid hikers in group:
We rapidly ascended poorly maintained ladders, many with rotten rungs and missing nails:
The view of the village was fleeting, as we were hidden in the alders along the primitive route:
Consequently, we made a lot of noise during our trek, and for good reason:

Yes, a grizzly bear had been sighted just days before, but fortunately we returned to the ship with the same number of passengers that we left with.

Sea stacks on Aghiyuk Island...

provided a backdrop for our early morning landing, and reminded me of the Oregon Coast (click to enlarge):
This alien-looking moon jellyfish washed ashore:
And here's a shot of coastal paintbrush:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bears, bears, and more bears...

were observed this morning in Geographic Harbor in Katmai National Park. The Zodiacs were in the water promptly at 8 am and off we went in search of the Alaskan brown bear (also known as a grizzly bear in the interior (Ursus arctus):
The tide was falling which provided optimal conditions for bear encounters, as they wandered from the wooded slopes and out onto the tidal flats in search of clams and mussels.
We were able to approach within 20 to 50 feet of the shore, which yielded tremendous opportunities for photography:
Here's a mother and two cubs:
This mom and her cub were startled by another bear emerging from the forest, and could have cared less about us speaking in hushed voices out in our boats:
They search for clams by smell, and once located begin digging furiously:
They'll even sit down when the digging gets tough:

This cub is finding it difficult to open the clam, and seems to solicit its mother's help:
After about three hours we head back to the ship for lunch, then plan to repeat the experience with additional explorations of Geographic Harbor later this afternoon:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The first full day at sea...

commenced with an early exploration of The Triplets, a series of three small islands, by Zodiac. Here you can see passengers leaving the Clipper Odyssey for their several hour long adventure:
In addition to a plethora of puffins, five fledgling bald eagles, countless cormorants and sea otters, I attempted to make the uplifted sea floor sandstones seem somewhat interesting:
Later in the afternoon we visited the town of Kodiak, and visited the oldest structure in Alaska, built more than 200 years ago. This is a historic image of the building that now houses the Baranov Museum, dusted by tephra from the 1912 explosion of Novarupta volcano on Katmai:
And here's the structure as it stands today during our visit:
Just a short distance out of town is Fort Abercrombie, a World War II outpost, where the 8-inch guns and turrets stand as a memorial to battles that were never fought:
Lastly, the "touch tank" at the Fisheries Research Center was a hit with the passengers, where they were able to handle live crabs, anemones, urchins, star fish, sea cucumbers among various marine critters:

We are now underway to Geographic Harbor at Katmai National Park. I won't reveal what's planned for tomorrow, as that would spoil the surprise.

Typical Alaskan atmospherics...

were in play on the first day of overland travel from Anchorage to Seward. This concrete Beluga whale was spotted surfacing from the pavement at a viewpoint along Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, but I suspect I'll see a lot more of the real deal in the days ahead (click to enlarge):
We later visited the toe of the Exit Glacier (an arm of the Harding Icefield) in Kenai Fjords National Park for a short walkabout, and striations etched into the recently exposed slate bedrock can be seen in the foreground:

The highlight of the day for most of the staff and passengers was the visit to the Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward, and I was captivated by this enormous live male sea lion, with a couple of staff members along side for scale:

Along the way I spoke briefly about the Good Friday earthquake that struck the region in 1964, killing 131 people, and there are constant reminders that coastal Alaska lays in a tsunami hazard zone:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sailing from Seward to Sapporo...

for the next month as a geology lecturer/guide with Zegrahm Expeditions. Here are a couple of maps to indicate our general route along the northern Ring of Fire:

I will blog as often as I can, posting images and tales of our adventure, so keep tuning in for the latest.

Okay, gotta go and catch the flight to Anchorage.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Perfection in the Pintler Range...

can best describe my recent dash to Montana. Forest roads from Moose Lake provided access to a trailhead into the wilderness that allowed for an extended loop hike into the high country. Here's a shot of a typical alpine scene at Phyllis Lake (click to enlarge):
I was surprised to find the quartzites polished by glacial erosion still contained well preserved sedimentary structures, and here's an excellent set of tabular-tangential crossbeds:
And some nice ripplemarks:
Here's my author/professor/ultrarunner gal pal RT casting her gaze across Johnson Lake toward a recent burn in the lodgepole pine forest:

After the ~14 mile (2,200 ft elevation gain/loss) exploration we returned to Rancho Valeo near Missoula to engage in various chores, including repairing a broken bailer (successful!), moving irrigation pipe, and tending to the needs of nine horses. Here's RT being mobbed by several of them:
All for now. Gotta pack for my next adventure to the Bering Sea. A rolling geologist gathers no moss.