Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not a Warm Weather Guy

It is so nice to be back in Seattle, despite the fact that I am only here for a two nights before I take off to visit Molly in Fairbanks! The 55 to 70 degree temperatures in Seattle today have reminded me that this is a nearly perfect climate. Working in Lexington Park, Maryland was a bit brutal for someone who grew up in Alaska. Temperatures there were often in the 90s in the afternoon and finding shade when you are working on the water is not always an option. Many times it was over 100 degrees inside of the survey boat due to the solar effect of the windows and all the computers and monitors contained in such a small space. At one point I saw 115 degrees on the thermometer! At the same time though Molly’s recent praise about life in Fairbanks has got me thinking about what it was like to live there for 7 years. I really can’t say I miss those -20 to -40 cold snaps. In the end I understand that everyone has reasons for living where they live and climate doesn’t necessarily rate high on everyone’s priority list. I guess should just appreciate Seattle while we are here because it might not last forever. The photo is of me trying to get some shade while conducting an electromagnetic survey in the surf zone last week. You will have to take my word that it was not nearly as pleasant experience as it looks, and no there is no cold beer in the cooler.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Living the Fairbanks Life

I am in Fairbanks now working for Northern Land Use Research until September 10. I haven’t been to Fairbanks in two years so I was definitely ready for a visit. When I’m here I always feel a little bit torn. I love Seattle, but when I’m in Fairbanks I feel like I belong here too. I love the pleasant summer weather, the birch trees, and the friendly people. I have been lucky enough to have some very generous friends too. This work stint would not have been possible without a place to live and a vehicle. My very good friend Natasha (a fellow UW student) who is working in Fairbanks for the summer, rented a 10 x 18 ft cabin with no running water, and is willing to share it with me for two weeks! Sharing the teeny little cabin with an outhouse is an experience to be sure. The middle photo is of Natasha in our cabin. We have to fold the chairs up at night so that there is room to roll out my bed. It has a kitchen too and there is actually a shower – but we are too lazy to haul water for the shower. It’s just easier to shower in town. Sleeping on a linoleum floor is not the most comfortable arrangement, but it is cheap, temporary, and it makes a good Fairbanks story!

One of my co-workers also very generously loaned me a car. Unfortunately when I got into Fairbanks on Sunday, the battery was completely dead. You’d be surprised how many people in Fairbanks do not have jumper cables in their cars! Luckily Natasha was with a friend who had a car and he gave us a ride to the cabin. Natasha, however, doesn’t have a car, she bikes to work. So there the two of us were, 4 1/2 miles from town with only one bike for transportation. Later on Sunday night I rode Natasha’s bike into town, met up with another group of archaeologists – one of which had a car and jumper cables and got my borrowed car started. The car also has a bit of a problem getting stuck in “park” when it’s hot outside – usually not a problem in Alaska, but I left in parked in the sun for too long. There is a bit of a trick to getting it out of park, let’s just hope it keeps working! It’s hard to complain about a free car though – just another good Fairbanks experience.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Old Harbor

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I’ve been in Old Harbor since Wednesday working on an survey. I am very excited to be in Old Harbor for the first time. We have been lucky enough to have three warm, sunny days and a beautiful area to survey. There are quite a few bears around town, but we have yet to see one. There was plenty of fresh bear scat on the trails yesterday though. This morning someone stopped us and told us there was a bear swimming in a pond just a few hundred yards behind us. We had just walked by there a few minutes earlier! He also had seen a sow and two cubs earlier that morning on the road near where we were working. I think we heard a bear in the bushes when we were surveying today, but we made plenty of noise and it probably took off in the other direction.
I am still amazed at the streak of nice weather Kodiak has had. Despite having our flight cancelled on Tuesday due to high winds, it was a beautiful day. Our flight on Wednesday was perfect and it has been 60 degrees and sunny ever since. I love the scenery in Old Harbor, it is very picturesque and different from Chiniak since there are no spruce trees.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flowers on the Alaska Peninsula

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When Ryan met me on at our Penguq dig on the Alaska Peninsula, he brought our digital SLR camera. He had the foresight to invest in a great waterproof case for it too!  While it was a bit of a struggle to keep the camera clean in a camp full of people who work in the dirt, I am very glad Ryan brought it and that we had the chance to take these photos.
Despite being trapped on a mosquito-infested island, there was beauty all around us. By the time we left in July, it was the height of wildflower season. The top two photos are of wild geraniums and the bottom photo is a lupine. We had a great plant identification book – which I had plenty of time to read on rainy days. Something that always strikes me when I read plant identification books is that almost all wild plants have some sort of food or medicinal use. It does make me miss living in Kodiak where you can collect wild plants and berries right in your yard. I learned from the book that nagoonberry blossom petals are edible. There were quite a few of them at Penguq and they taste like candy!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Surveying for MEC’s

Our country and our military have a long history of
disposing of things they don't want in the water.  This has
included unexploded ordinances (UXO), or the newer term for the same
things, Munitions of Concern (MEC).  Through our combination of
applicable skills and navy contracts, the company I work for (Tetra
Tech) has worked its way into the niche of attempting to find these
underwater munitions at and around past and present military
installations.  This might sound more dangerous that it really is.  In
reality it is extremely unlikely that I will ever even see an MEC that
has not been certified as inert.  My job is to use the applicable
geophysical tools to find these munitions.  Our number one tool for this
job is the Marine Gradiometer Array (MGA), or as we like to call it,
"Maggie".  Maggie is a a custom built array of magnetometers designed
to be towed behind our survey vessel on the surface and at depths up
to 120ft.  This system measures perturbations in earth’s magnetic field
to detect iron bearing objects. If you were an easy client, you would
say "Wow that sounds great, how about you come survey at our
facility." If you were a smart client, you would say  "Now wait a
second... so your saying it you can't actually tell the difference
between a crab pot and a bomb, or a anchor and a torpedo?"  It is true
that Maggie has her limitations, but that is what specially trained UXO
divers are for.  At this point being able to tell the difference
between an MEC and a scrap of metal is the holy grail of our work.
From what I can tell so far in this industry, remediation of
underwater munitions is often initiated by having a few of them wash
ashore.  At our current survey location we are adjacent to a public beach
in extremely shallow water, so shallow in fact that we had to flip
Maggie upside down and use surfboard to reduce the draft.  At one
point while surveying there was only about a foot and a half of
water beneath or jet boat.  The photo I have attached shows Maggie
upside down on the surf boards, in-tow behind the jet boat.  The tall
mast above the MGA holds the GPS so we can accurately position the


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Nearing the end of our excavation

Tomorrow is our last day digging at Mikt’sqaaq Angayuk for this season. We have been lucky to find lots of fauna for my dissertation research. On the other hand, we still have not found many diagnostic artifacts to tell us what time period each midden is from. Since my last post we have opened up another small hole to look for Koniag midden between 800 and 300 years old. We have found lots of fire cracked slate in that unit which suggests that it is Koniag. Koniag middens are full of fire cracked rock from banyas, or steam baths. The shells are also very well preserved in this unit with lots of whole clams, mussels, and snails. I hope that means it is more recent than the other middens, but that is not necessarily true. Luckily we have found lots of charcoal that we can have radiocarbon dated.
We have now excavated midden in four different places at Mikt’sqaaq Angayuk. It is really interesting to see the differences between the middens. At this point it is difficult to tell how much of the variation is temporal and how much is spatial – but based on what we found last year, some of it is definitely temporal.  Some of the midden layers very shell-rich, while others are full of fish. Some layers have diverse fish assemblages with cod, salmon, halibut, greenlings, and sculpins, while other layers are almost exclusively cod. Other areas are rick in chitons, periwinkles, or whelks. I can’t wait to get some radiocarbon dates and see how old these layers are!
In the top photo I am holding a bone fish hook barb.
The second photo is of a ground slate ulu.
In the bottom photo Emily is digging in a mussel, chiton, and clam-rich shell midden (hopefully between 800 and 300 years old).

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Midden at Mitk’sqaaq Angayuk

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Over the last few days we have started to excavate in the (hopefully) Kachemak midden at Mitk’sqaaq Angayuk. We have not found any diagnostic artifacts that could tell us what time period the midden dates to, but we are still hopeful it is at least 2000 years old. Yesterday we got into a black layer that was completely full of cod bones. The bottom photo is of a bucket that Patrick wet-screened to look for charcoal for radiocarbon dating. Once we get the date back in a couple of months, we will know for sure how old this layer is. Almost all the bones you see in the photo are cod bones! This winter I will identify the fish bones and shells in my lab at UW, but in addition to cod I have already noticed quite a bit of salmon, halibut, and sculpin in the midden.
The top photo is of me labeling a bag. The middle photo is of volunteers Katie Botz and Leslie Watson digging in the midden

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Zucchini Quiche Recipe

I thought I would share this recipe as it is one of my favorite things to make and a friend on facebook was just looking for zucchini recipes. I made this recently on my mom's birthday and everyone loved it. I usually like to make it on the weekend and freeze the slices for my lunches. It's pretty quick to mix up and that is what I like!

- saute 3 large zucchinis and 1 onion (both thinly sliced) in butter
- in a mixing bowl, whisk together two eggs and the following spices: 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp parsley, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp garlic powder, salt and pepper
- add 1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese to the eggs and spices (I buy the pre-grated "Italian" cheese)
- mix zucchini and onion into the eggs and cheese
- pour into a pie crust
- bake for 35-40 min until knife in center comes out clean

Monday, August 2, 2010

Busting sods at Mitk’sqaaq Angayuk

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Today I started work with the Alutiiq Museum at Mitk’sqaaq Angayuk (Little Friend in Alutiiq) at Cliff Point on Kodiak. We opened a 2x8 meter excavation in search of shell midden for my dissertation research. I would like to find midden (ancient food refuse) between 2000 and 4000 years old. Last year the Alutiiq Museum dug in another part of this site and collected midden from 1000 years ago as well as midden from the 19th century, or Russian period in Kodiak. If we can find older midden, I will have a nice array of fauna from different ages at this location and I will be able to compare what people ate and what season they used the site through time.
Usually the most physically demanding parts of the excavation are the first day (busting sods) and the last day (backfilling). Today we were very happy to have the help of my friends John and Katelyn all day and my parents and our guests from New Hampshire in the afternoon. John and Katelyn helped us bust sods, shovel off the Katmai ash from 1912, and then dig in the afternoon. In the afternoon our friend Jon from New Hampshire also got to dig (you can see him holding a ground slate ulu fragment in the bottom photo) while his dad, Hal, and my dad carried our buckets up to the screen for us. My mom took all the photos you see here. It was awesome to have so much help! It went so fast that we started finding artifacts right after lunch. We like our volunteers to find things so that they think archaeology is cool! In the top photo you can see our excavation with Patrick screening in the background. In the middle John is examining a bone and Katelyn is digging. In the bottom right I am holding a netsinker or line weight. Based on these artifacts we think this level is at least 1000 years old and there should be older stuff below!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Hershey’s “Especially Dark Chocolate Cake” Recipe

This is the cake I made to celebrate my dad’s birthday (today) and my mom’s birthday which was last week. I’ve gotten into cake decorating and baking cakes over the last year and the Hershey’s Especially Dark Chocolate cake recipe is by far my favorite. The recipe is on the back of the Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate can of cocoa. It’s a fairly easy and quick recipe and everyone I’ve served it to has loved it. Unfortunately this cake didn’t quite come out of the pan the way I had planned, but I’ve learned from cake decorating that almost anything can be fixed by covering it with frosting! I don’t have any of my decorating tools here in Kodiak, so this will be a plain cake, but I’m sure it will be tasty anyway.