Huslia is an Athabascan village of about 300 people on the Koyukuk River. When I arrived the man had fallen through the ice over a week prior. People had come from all around and there were somewhere between 30 and 50 people helping with the search. Within a few hours of arriving I was on the river with a team of assistants. My assistants would lower the side scan sonar through slots in the ice and then tow the sonar along and pull a sled along side while I operated the computer. After a few hours the sun went down and I headed back to the community hall for dinner. I spent the evening reviewing the sonar data.
The second day was similar with temperatures hovering around freezing; we covered a lot of ground. By the end of the second day we had surveyed a section of the river 1400ft long by 400ft wide. That night the temperatures dropped and when I returned to the river the next morning it was 15 degrees below zero. Maybe it was the temperature, maybe it was something else, but that morning the sonar would not power up properly. I spent all day trying to fix it and eventually, after several conversations with a technician at the manufacturer, we determined it was not field fixable. So, after only a day and half of searching it was done, and its not like you can get another highly specialized sonar on Thanksgiving Day in Huslia, or anywhere in Alaska for that matter.
On my last day in Huslia, I trained a few of the local guys to use a recreational grade sonar that can make similar, but lower quality, images of the river bottom. I wish the community the best of luck in their search.
|Looking out over the Koyukuk River|
|Pulling the sonar along slots cut in the river ice|
|A group helping me review the sonar data|
|The Huslia Community Hall|
|Sonar opened up for repair|