gwiles June 14th, 2010
guest blogger: Stephanie
It’s been a full week! On Monday, Justin (the captain) and Tom (captain of another boat who Justin was training for the Capelin) took all of us around to climate stations Dan maintains throughout the park to offload data and repair any snow/bear damage. We went up the West Arm and saw several beautiful glaciers. We stayed that night at the Russell Cove raft, a raft for researchers (not all of us fit…so we got to sleep on the island!). Greg found a new toy.
Tuesday the Capelin’s unidentified mechanical problems seemed to worsen, so the day was called off and Greg and I were dropped off at Sandy Cove. As we drove in, we scared a moose off the coast, and not long after a black bear came rolling long grazing on the grass. We got a late start (and subsequently a very late finish…) up Mount Wright. After about 4-5 hours of nothing in view but thorny brambles and devil’s club (which I am still picking out of my hands), we finally made it to the top of one of the ridges to find a beautiful landscape of karren limestone outcrops, snow, and mountain hemlocks. We made a quick side trip to the nearest top (~3000 ft) just for fun, looked down on a goat (always a good sign), and then got to work. It was 8 or 9 before we finished sampling, so we took an express route down and had a nice walk in the almost dark along the coast (every boulder looked like a bear…). Along the way we came across an awesome tufa waterfall, where the water was coming out through the limestone and precipitating (like in a cave). Unfortunately, it was too dark to get a good picture.
The next day we walked along the river looking for interstadial wood (trees that were run over by glaciers and then buried). We didn’t find any, but we did find a good lunch spot, where we could ponder over the delta sediments the stream was cutting through and later piece it with the lake sediments farther up. The glacier, when it came down to the mouth of this valley, had blocked it off and formed a lake here.
Meanwhile, Deb, Dan, and Justin were trying to get our boat situation worked out. The Capelin was pronounced ok, but quickly showed it wasn’t, and they were able to negotiate using a different one. The Petrel was much speedier than the Capelin, but required a ladder to get in and out on shore and didn’t like rough water very much. They met up with us at Sandy Cove on Wednesday and joined us in the ranger raft that was there (much like the researchers’ raft, without the star wars sheets…).
Thursday was another, very buggy, climate station, and then Gieke Inlet, where they had some radiocarbon dates on interstadial wood going back 3000 yrs. The particular outwash we were in had, according to Dan, been formed in a couple days of rain in November of 2005, so it was pretty rich with wood being weathered out.
We came back to Gustavus Thursday night (showers!!!), and went out with Tom on Friday, again looking for interstadial wood. We went to Willoughby Island, where we found some really cool layers of peaty organics under gray silt/clay under gravely glacial sediments. Bad weather rolling in made it an early day, and that night we went to open mic night at the pizza place, where I realized just how much talent could be squeezed into a little town like Gustavus.
Dan left Saturday morning, and more bad weather resulted in the calling off of our plans to go to Pleasant Island to look at Cedars stripped by the natives (the Tlingit). Instead, we went kayaking in the Beardlees and got hammered by some rain and hard wind. Much fun! The night was topped off by our housemates, sea otter researches with USGS, bringing back a huge king salmon they had caught (they forced me to try some…). Yesterday we made the trek up Excursion Ridge, where we got to see the new hydroelectric dam that is now powering Gustavus and do some slip and sliding on the steep snow patches. Got lots of good samples, and came back to find out the otter folks had caught another king salmon. They happily shared again
This morning, it’s back to Juneau. Mendenhall glacier is in the plans, as is a look around town. It’s back to Wooster on Wednesday.