Thursday, September 26, 2013

St. George, Alaska

I have been overdue to write a few words about working in St. George.  With the winds gusting up to 50 mph today and the rain coming down sideways I hardly have a reason to leave the hotel and thus will say a little about my new home away from home.  After three weeks here on St. George in the Pribilof Islands I am starting to feel like a local.  I probably have met half the town by now and I know at least 15 or 20 people by their first names.  Last names are harder, mostly because they are Russian and difficult for me to pronounce, although on the upside there are only a handful of last names in the whole village.
As I expected the Island of St. George has remarkable natural beauty, it is the of beauty that you find in the Aleutians.  A rugged, treeless, untamed natural landscape teaming with wildlife and beckoning to be explored.  St. George is an oasis for birds and sea mammals alike.  We are fortunate to be here while the fur seal pups are on the beaches and around the harbor.   I’m not much of a birder, but I certainly have enjoyed watching the fur seals.  The pups are very cute and I find myself smiling and laughing when I stop to watch.  There are literally hundreds if not thousands of seals in and around the harbor.  Some days we watch them surfing in the waves and other days they are hauled out high on the rocks. 
The village of St. George is as you might expect.  A bit battered from the harsh marine climate but otherwise pleasant with a nice old hotel and a classic Russian Orthodox Church.  The hotel has 10 rooms and was originally built for government employees.  It is quite a bit nicer than I expected and really and excellent place to stay.  We share a very large kitchen with the other guest, it’s a social place where guests spend time chatting with one another in the kitchen and the nicely appointed library.  Most rooms have a good view and there is plenty of space to dry our wet rain gear.
At this point we have only a few days of work remaining although the final duration will depend largely on the weather.  We have successfully mapped the harbor bathymetry and deployed acoustic devices on the seafloor that will measure the currents and waves over the next few months.  At some point in couple months from now I will return to St. George to recover our equipment.

Puffins (photo courtesy of Karl Woods)

Fur Seals (photo courtesy of Karl Woods)

View from the hotel including Russian Orthodox Church

Village of St. George

Collecting Sediment Samples

Waves breaking into the harbor

Looking for survey monuments

Fur Seals

Library in the hotel

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