Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Last days of summer

We are feeling pretty moved in to our house, at least downstairs where we finally hung some photos on the walls. We've done a couple more little projects but mostly we've been busy with work and with my parents visit last weekend. Here are a few pictures from the last week:

Ryan's blueberry cinnamon swirl bread, aka a cinnamon roll with blueberries 

After 40 years in Alaska, my parents finally made it to state fair!
A selection of the giant vegetables, check out the 68 lb rutabaga! (we were there before the pumpkin and cabbage weigh-offs so didn't see the really huge stuff)  

We picked high bush cranberries at the entrance to our street today - this spot has the densest cranberries I've ever seen.

1/2 gallon in 1/2 hour

Today I noticed fresh snow on the mountains in the back of Eagle River Valley. The weather has been so warm I had almost forgotten that fall can start at the end of August in Alaska!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

One day survey in Valdez

I'm not sure there such a thing as a one day survey in marine geophysics but we tried to pull it off in Valdez this week.  The reality was three very long days.  It's over 250 miles from Palmer to Valdez so a good portion of that time was spent driving there and back.

Driving to Valdez is one of the most scenic drives in Alaska but towing 10,000 lbs of boat and trailer doesn't always allow you to take in the views.  Fortunately two of us were able to trade off driving.  Surveying in Valdez would have been equally scenic if we had been able to see past the fog.  Most of our time in the water was spent driving around with virtual no visibility.  We relied heavily on the GPS and electronic charts for navigation.  The up side to the fog was the flat calm water.  We certainly appreciated the lack of wind while towing the side scan sonar.

The sonar was towed nearly 400 ft below us, fairly impressive when working from a 28 foot boat.  We had our fair share of normal equipment problems but in the end we were able to find what we were looking for on the sea floor and position it within about 10 feet.

Now it's onto the next job which will be in St. George in the remote Pribilof Islands!

Truck and boat (Latent Sea) at a rest area west of Glennallen.

Friday, August 16, 2013

More blueberries

I think the blueberry patches on the Mt Magnificent trail are going to become a regular destination for us in August. This are is so close to our house there is really no legitimate reason for us not to go! It did rain earlier today, but it was still worth it to head up there with rain gear to get some berries. We picked for a solid couple of hours and took a break to cook top ramen on in the jet boil.

Even though it was cloudy the views were still stunning. It was neat to watch the fog fill the valley and roll in and out of the saddle we were in.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Canning Season

Now that we're feeling settled in our house and I'm back from the field, I'm feeling the pressure to can as much as I can put up while the produce looks good. I bought a couple moderately late zucchinis at the Saturday Market in Anchorage yesterday, but they are nothing compared to this honker:

The zucchinis are going in zucchini relish (from afternoon. I also made some refrigerator dill pickles ( yesterday and have bread and butter pickles (from are on the schedule for today. 

And here are some serious blueberry cinnamon pancakes from The Joy of Blueberries:

Friday, August 9, 2013

Mt. Magnificent Blueberries

I'm tempted to name all my blog posts from here on out "This is what I missed about Alaska," because, well, this quick little blueberry-picking hike with stunning views that we did last night is what I missed about Alaska. After work we headed up the Mt. Magnificent Trail and after a 10 min drive and 20 min of huffing and puffing up the steep trail, we broke out into the meadow in the saddle above. We only went to the top of the first peak to the right, but another mile would take you to Mt. Magnificent itself.

We picked blueberries on the right side of the saddle (on your way up). They were decent there, not particularly thick, but for our first time out foraging we certainly can't complain. We saw people on the left side picking so we'll probably look there next time.

For a day that was forecasted to rain and blow, it certainly turned out nicely! And if you're planning to hike here, FYI, we did see a black bear so be prepared!

Looking down at our house - we live on the far right side down by the river (where the houses are packed in very tighly!)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Kotzebue to Kodiak: A GPR Survey Tour

While Molly has been in Angoon, I have been doing a bit of fieldwork myself.  First it was back to Kotzebue for another round of ground penetrating radar surveys.  The field work went quite well and it was nice to be going back to the same place to work.  On the first trip to Kotzebue there was a lot of uncertainly in how well the GPR would work and what the site conditions would be like.

With the GPR in state I saw an opportunity to demonstrate its capability at the Alutiiq Museum's community archaeology dig in Kodiak which was just moving into its second week.  I have often volunteered at this dig and Molly has worked there several time.

The effectiveness of GPR can vary widely depending on a number of factors including soil properties, vegetation cover, and the features you are seeking to detect.  This seemed like a great opportunity to test the GPR in Kodiak and demonstrate its effectiveness and limitations to the Alutiiq Museum's archaeologist and the volunteers working at the site.  The rental company Northwest Geophysical donated the equipment use for three additional days.

With the help of my friend John we were able to survey two areas with the GPR, one of which was directly adjacent to the active dig site.  By comparing the GPR data to the adjacent excavation and to multiple soil probes we were able to interpret the features seen in the data.  The GPR seem to be effective at mapping late prehistoric house pits that have been filled with Katmai volcanic ash, but is unable to detect horizons below the ash and above the glacial till.  It also appears that the GPR can detect fire hearths although I did not see one in the second house pit we surveyed so perhaps it was small or we just didn't detect that one.  Hopefully the museum will excavate one of features we surveyed next year allowing us to better ground truth the GPR data.

John packing in much of the GPR to the survey area

Partially excavated house pit can be seen in the side wall of the archaeological excavation

GPR ready to survey adjacent to the excavation
GPR data overlaid on an oblique photograph

GPR radiogram with my interpretation of the stratigraphic horizons.