Sunday, August 29, 2010

Glacier Bay National Park

Back from the wilds of the backcountry in Glacier Bay National Park, a wonderful 7 days of kayaking where we saw, no one else for an entire week (unless you count two sets of kayaks seen from a distance), it was bliss. We saw humpbacks, (maybe) orcas, sealions, seals, otters and more birds than you can shake a stick at. No bears or moose, which is a little sad, I was hoping, but nothing but bear and moose poop to show for it.

Each campsite was amazing in it's own right, the first on an unnamed island in the Beardsleys left us with humpacks feeding at night and playing in the morning, alongside seals and otters playing in the kelp. The second and third night were out at Leland Island, beautiful views of the beartrack mountains and a crazy creature roaring into the night, the forth night was on Sturgess Island, stunning little bay with a perfect beach fire and campsite tucked into the trees. The fifth night was in Beartrack cove where we were met with bear and wolf tracks and scat, and the sixth and final night was on Kidney Island, where we saw the first signs of moose, but none of the elusive creatures up close.

Unfortunately upon returning to civilization, I had my camera stolen from the lodge. I should clarify, not my camera, the departments fancy SLR camera I had been loaned to run the work blogs with. Ug. I stupidly left it under the table at dinner, didn't realise until after the $15 cab back home, but assured it had been handed in decided we'd just go and pick it up in the AM when going down there anyway, by which time it had "disappeared". Many convoluted and changing stories from the lodge staff (the final one being that the guy behind the desk gave it to someone who said it was theirs), the nicest park service police, and yet no camera returned. I feel stupid for leaving it, but angry that it seems like someone from the lodge has pocketed it, even more so that it sounds like this isn't the first time things have disappeared from that lodge and that it happens rather regularly. I'm also responsible for it, so that's going to be a big chunk of change I don't have.

Most of all, i'm sad because I lost all my photos from that week. I had some great ones too, I took one of each campsite we had, some beautiful bird, otter and seal shots, and some of the great vistas of Glacier Bay National Park I was going to use here and on the work blog. Stian luckily had a camera too, but as I was snapping away, he didn't take so many. Humanity just makes me sad a lot of the time, maybe before I leave someone will do the right thing and the camera might reappear. Then again I could also grow another head between now and then too.

Here are some of Stian's photos - thanks Stian for letting me use them!

You couldn't go far without a little nose sticking up to watch you - this is a sealion, but seals and otters did this too. They were our little friends throughout the kayak trip.

Humpack fluking as we pack the kayak from our first nights campsite. 

The preferred mode of transport, certainly in my world.

Three little oystercatchers sitting on a wall...

We counted over a dozen bald eagles one day, it was fabulous! 

The perfect view in my opinion, looking up the bay towards the West Arm. I loved the views in the rain and the shine, and we saw both! We couldn't have asked for better weather in reality, we're in the wet month and only got rained out on one day, and got sun burned on two! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'm off!

It's 11pm and i'm up at 4am to get on a plane - yay! Everything is packed away and even in the car, as it's way too early in the AM to be lugging two giant bags down the stairs. I should do that more often, stops me last minute re-arranging....:0)

So i'm off to do two of my favorite things - camping and science - and even combine those two for a few days. I'm really excited, relieved, and happy the time has finally got here. Glacier Bay National Park here I come! Don't forget to tune into my science blog (link on the right), that's where i'll be posting photos (look under Glacier Bay National Park Corals link), i'll try and check in here sometimes too, internet is going to be pretty sporadic, so no promises until I get back!

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Well, I didn't get my run in today, but I did do a whole bunch of unpacking, tidying and repacking. So despite there being a period in the day when my little Grodnick did look tidy, it now looks like a storage locker, again. Ah well. 

Packing for 3 trips is proving hard (don't panic Stian, not all of this is coming with us in the kayak!), especially as there is a really tight weight limit on the planes. As far as Juneau i'm okay (2 bags, 50lbs each - i'll have a bag ~45lbs and a box ~40lbs to leave in Juneau). From Juneau to Glacier Bay National Park i'm going to end up paying extra (50lbs total limit - and i'm picking up equipment in Juneau to take over), which I knew anyway, but I was hoping I might be able to pare it down to a little less. The plane is a small 6 person passenger plane, so there are strict weight limits - and I think when my computer and hand luggage is taken into account i'm going to be at that 50lbs, and then have to pay extra for the equipment i'm picking up, which will probably be another 40lbs, and might not come on the same plane.

Packing for this kind of trip is hard, you don't want to carry too much, but you don't want to take too little. It could be pretty wet and cold (today it's 53F and raining), so having dry and warmer clothes is going to make the difference between happy and miserable. It could also be super warm (in the week it was 74F and sunny), so you also want shorts and sleeveless. I also have paddling clothes that are comfortable, so i'd always rather take those rather than risk renting something not as comfortable. And it's also my vacation, and the first ten days off i've had in over a year and a half (since I visited the UK when Lucy was born). So I want those couple of bottles of wine (we'll get those there), and the chocolate, and my travel pillow.  

And a sad realization. This might be my last trip for my Keens, they are really showing their wear and tear (treads are flat, the webbing has rough spots). I don't know if i'm just having an emotional day or what, but this has me really quite sad. It could be because they're not cheap to replace, but it could also be that these Keens have taken me places. They are 6 years old, have done too many hikes around New Hampshire and Maine to count, Yellowstone, Isle Royale, Yosemite, the Alta Via 1 in Italy, New Zealand, the 19 mile hike around the giant with Carney, Kim and kids in packs, all over Hawaii (the red mud there is from the SEA cruise, hiking through the lava fields) and thats not even counting the daily wear they had in MA and occasionally here.

So they've certainly been worth the $90 (as with most things I doodled over getting them for a good few months because of the cost, and they were not that common then either), they've certainly put in the miles to be worth replacing. Or maybe they'll last one more trip after this.......

Fruits of my labor....

Looks like my first crop of papayas (the rest have all blown off in the wind!) are all going to be ready right around the time I fly to Alaska...typical...! 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Happy Weekend!

Another busy one for me this weekend, but i'm hoping to get mostly packed and ready for the off on Thursday!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Great article in the New York Times today about being happier with less possessions. Strikes a chord in my little 300sq ft apartment. Hopefully i'll take habits i've learnt here with me to Maine...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Updating Online Expeditions

I've been updating my lab blogs - they're finally going live! Getting ready for the two projects i'm heading out on in 10 days! Yikes that came around quickly....

Glacier Bay National Park - 28th Aug - 2nd Sept - Stian and I head to Glacier Bay National Park to use a drop camera and CTD (Conductivity (for salinity of the water), Temperature & Depth sensor) to investigate a few areas for cold water corals. This expedition is really a taster, checking out the park, meeting the Park Service people and working out logistics for hopefully more expeditions to come in the future.

Alaskan Fjord Coral Reproduction - 3rd Sept - 11th Sept -  I head out with folks from NOAA Juneau on a expedition to tag 30 Red Tree Corals by SCUBA to look at their reproduction throughout the year. This is the first of 5 cruises, and likely the only one that I will actually go on.

And of course, before any of that, a hopefully glorious and much needed break, kayaking around Glacier Bay National Park, camping on the shores of the Beardslee Islands, watching the whales and bears and sea otters go by. Who knows, maybe i'll even get to read a book.

I'll try and update here as much as possible, once back from kayaking the lab blog will be my priority, as those go to program officers to look at and hopefully give me money to keep doing what i'm doing....:0) So this is just a heads up, it'll be a bit sporadic from here, but hopefully some spectacular pictures to come. I leave next week. Better keep writing the proposal i'm doodling over.......

Friday, August 6, 2010

Some Stats

82.08 hours running
12lbs of fat burned
Ran 0.02% around the world
1062 TVs powered
227.90 donuts burned

Thursday, August 5, 2010

One year

Wow, it's been one year since I started logging my miles using my Nike +. I think this little $50 device has been the biggest confidence booster for me. It's instant gratification. I come back from my run, plug it into my computer, see how i've done and share how i've done. And it keeps a track so I can say things like - i've run 397 miles in a year, awesome! In reality, as I know there are a few non-logged miles, I have really run over 400 miles in a year, really really awesome. Considering I hadn't run 1 mile a year just 1.5 years ago.

So a quick update while i'm blogging here. It's been hectic, still is hectic and i'm sick. It's always when I can least afford it that I get sick, so i'm going all out there and saying 'Ass'. Some stomach & snot monster combo going on, I actually stayed home on tuesday. Some things that have happened in the last week -

- In terms of proposal submissions, I am now at the University of Maine, all transferred over, and man they have a WAY easier system to deal with than Hawaii
- One proposal is 75% there, one is 50% there
- I have another short proposal to write before I go, to try and get some postdoc funding for a grad student here
- Due to the s**t Hawaii system I still have not been paid back for my travel to Iceland, so am just about at the end of my tether. It took everything for me not to shout at our awful secretary this morning. My displeasure was noted however
- I did get my Advanced Open Water card today, yay
- Since monday i've received 379 emails, written 128, probably spent an entire day on work related phone or skype calls
- My grad student moved over to another faculty in Hawaii (she hasn't arrived here yet, she starts this fall semester), she didn't want to come to Maine, and at this point I didn't really want her to come to Maine, so it's worked out well for all. I'm deciding whether to move that money over to a postdoc or hire a grad student.
- One paper accepted, another sneaking closer to review.....closer....
- Worked out my finances and if I take 75% salary (for contrast i'm on 66% right now) I have just over a year of time in Maine. This makes me feel good, i've been worried.
- It looks like I might have a fight on my hands for some of my equipment. I'm getting ready.

So some ups and downs. 2 weeks today until I head to Alaska. Still a ton to do.....

Hope you've all had a good week!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Advanced Open Water - Check!

Yesterday I finished my Advanced Open Water diving certificate, the last bit of paper I need to be able to dive in Alaska - woo hoo! I'm going to admit though, I do NOT recommend the outfit I did it with (Island Divers). They weren't the cheapest so I had in my head that maybe that would mean they were good, they were certainly nice, but yesterdays dives were somewhat of a farce. This really sums up my thoughts that you really learn to dive by diving, and don't worry Dad, i'm only diving with people who are waaaaay more experienced than me for a long while to come. 

To get your advanced open water you have to do a series of 5 dives that each have new skills to learn and practice. You do a written knowledge review that is marked and gone through with you too. The dives I did last week were just like that, the instructor was awesome and thorough, and she made me work for those two dives, which I really appreciated - I learnt stuff! Those two dives were bouyancy control and navigation, and i'm so glad I did those two with her. Yesterdays were deep, wreck and drift dives, and the "instructor" not only did not do ANY skills with us, but didn't really dive with us (3 of us) either, he was off in his own world taking photos and at one point knelt on an urchin and ended up with a good handful of spines in his knee that I helped him pull out. Not only that but he wasn't interested in the written part either and actually told one girl (who he'd had for her two other dives too) that she didn't need to do them. I had done mine, gave them to him, and hope they end up in my folder from last week. 

It was really bad. The dives themselves were awesome, and I learnt through coming back and talking to two very experienced diver friends here last night, but the "teaching" was non existent. I'm really considering writing to PADI and making a complaint, I at least have the common sense to know i'm not going to drop down to 100ft next week without an experienced person with me, but not everyone will be. It's just dangerous. Not only that too, but the club doesn't seem to have good policy on not touching the wildlife. The outfit I did my open water with (which I wasn't that impressed with either, but on hindsight were so much better than Island Divers!) at least had a strict look but don't touch policy, yesterday I saw both one of the other instructors juggling three sea stars, but also one of the other divers (on a paid dive) pulling the tail of an eel. I was willing that eel to come around and bite him, but unfortunately he moved his hand too quick. Again, it was really bad all around. Maybe I will write that letter. 

The one up, the dives, they were awesome, and one of the other divers (on a paid dive) sent me his photos (thanks Art!). We went to two wrecks and did a drift dive along a beautiful reef. Saw tons of giant turtles, lots of coral (including black corals) and even saw my first sharks - two white tip reef sharks. Pretty cool. And I learnt in a big way to look out for myself down there. Getting a dive computer has zoomed up in my level of importance, as now I know I really can't be trusting other people with computers to stick around and keep me safe, even if thats what i've paid them to do. 

4ft white tip reef shark. Not a great picture, but we saw 2 of these - one much smaller (~2ft).

White mouth moray eel, cute!

A bit like hiking, i've decided diving with a zillion people is not much for me. too much of a crowd on the wire up, I actually had my masked kicked off at on the first dive. From then on I went to the back of the line - thats me facing the camera.

A Honu. So cute! We saw so many of these, and some GIANT ones too!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A week with the puppies

This week i'm looking after my buddies Barkley and Goofey, so am staying at Jenny and Dougs while they're off on the mainland visiting family. I'll post a picture of the kitchen soon, it's not finished, but man it looks awesome. And i'm at this very moment sitting at the kitchen counter and it's so comfortable!

This week is still a busy one for me, but I still need something to get my brain to sleep at night. So my crochet has come with me (in this awesome bag Kate B. made for me!). One of the women here is having a baby likely while i'm away, so i've made a small snuggle blanket and am just finishing up a teddy. Can't decide whether to make another teddy for her older daughter too (2yrs)? It'll probably come down to time.