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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Kodiak and back (in time for the final!)

We are back in Anchorage after a wet sojourn to Kodiak!  We did have some great weather while we were there and were able to accomplish more than any other year!  Some great tree-coring, beach exploring, temperate rainforest hiking, cape tromping and fault mapping.  We are currently settled into the University of Alaska, Anchorage rooms and common hall for the final exam and wireless.  Here are photos from the past week as well as final thoughts from the students composed last night on the ferry.
Colleen Kennedy - Whew! It has been quite the journey these past few weeks, but I have to say I’m glad to have spent the end of it on the island of Kodiak. Although every time we get to a new place on this adventure, I say it is my favorite thus far- I think Kodiak is definitely up there. Although the weather was not too kind to us as we left, it was gorgeous nonetheless. It is crazy to think that we drove over nearly all the roads on the island! I really enjoyed the mapping project of Isthmus Bay. On the walk out to the isthmus itself (which is the connection between the coast and another smaller piece of land, or in this case rock), erosion had caused all sorts of caves and interesting geological features. The layers of rock, also known as mélange (in this case sandstone and shale), are characteristic of accretionary complexes. Since becoming a geology major, I have studied accretionary complexes for several classes and seen examples in many books- so being able to climb all over evidence of one was an awesome experience and one I’m sure I won’t forget.  Another part of Kodiak that was especially interesting was the hike around Narrow Cape. Like the accretionary complex, faults have been a focus of my geology studies and this trip. To actually jump (yes- I jumped… and fell) into the middle of a fault was possibly a once in a lifetime chance. Besides all the rocks, I will be missing Tent Eclogite (The Igloo) and the smores. Although I won’t be living on the edge anymore, I can’t wait to continue on to Denali next week before leaving The Great Land!

Kyra Burnett So during our last week in Alaska we visited the beautiful Kodiak Island and luckily we were able to receive clear, sunny weather for the first two days we were here. On the last two days however the weather was kind of miserable aka constant down pour 24/7, but that didn’t stop our awesome group! My favorite part of this trip was when we visited Isthmus Bay. Not only being a detective for the day was exciting, but when we actually came up with a testable hypothesis of why the distribution of sediments were the way they were presented to us, I felt like a real scientist!! Finding the evidence of the spruce trees which died in place (they looked like ghost trees) in a particular area.  In addition we found that the side of the river bank which was located more towards the ocean had a thicker layer of berm than the side of the bank which was farther way (almost by one meter) was a highlight on this part of the course. Thanks to the super friendly camp-ground host, I was able to enjoy delicious red salmon for the first time. There have been so many great times throughout this trip, and learning how to survive without things like pillows, indoor heating, and my own cd collection (not that I haven’t warmed up to country) became a valuable life lesson for me. Overall this has been such a wonderful opportunity and I would like to thank Jackie and Garver because without them this experience would never be possible.      

Sasha Rothenberg - We’ve spent the last week of the trip on the beautiful Kodiak Island, home to the famous Kodiak brown bear (which we never saw). The wet coastal climate makes for some pretty scenic bright green mountains and Kodiak’s location in terms of the subduction zone plate boundary makes it very interesting geologically. Our last hike of the trip was on Narrow Cape where we tried to interpret the different faults there and we learned first hand practice of scientific method: process of making hypothesis based on observations and then looking for evidence to support the hypothesis. On our hike we saw wild horses, a buffalo, and many fields of arctic lupine and other wildflowers. Towards the end of the day we found ourselves digging and hammering into rocks where we could find tons of mussel, snail, and oyster fossils from the Miocene era (over 15 million years old!). Hard to believe the trip is basically over, but at the same time we’ve packed a lot into the past three weeks and it has definitely been a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Mike DeLuca - The last few days on Kodiak Island have been amazing; when we arrived it was warm and sunny.  We did a mapping project in Isthmus Bay to study beach deposits and evidence of tsunamis.  By using the 1912 Katmai ash as a base point, we could see a post-1912 layer of tsunami sediment that was washed in by the power of the wave.  There were several other factors surrounding the area that indicated tsunami activity since 1912, including tree scarring and fields of dead trees due to saltwater deposits that were poorly drained.  We also got to see the Ghost Rock formation, which is a meta-sedimentary formation that has gone deep below the ground, been pushed together and then pushed back to the surface.  We also had a chance to see Surfer’s Beach and its faults, and the launch complex that was situated right on top of one!  It was amazing how subtle these major geologic forces were, often being a slight crack in a formation.  We have also been fishing after dinner for red (sockeye) salmon and Dolly Varden (a sea-run trout).  Being an avid fly-fisherman this was an unbelievable opportunity, and I was lucky enough to catch some of both.  Fishing is a huge part of the Alaskan heritage here, and it was a cultural experience being on the river alongside the natives.  They call it “combat fishing” here, standing side-by-side and yelling orders to each other as to where the fish are moving.  I found it amazing how they were so skilled at catching these salmon, a major food staple, and how they were so eager to help an obvious tourist like myself.  It has been an amazing past few weeks, and I am extremely thankful to my parents for this trip and the Professors’ guidance and vast knowledge in the area.
Gozzie Onyiuke - Hey hey from Kodiak! So this is the last blog…super weird. Time flies when you’re researching faults and evidence of uplift and subsidence eh? Anyway, this last week at Pasagshak was really awesome! First of all, the campground greeted us with a happy ray of sunshine and no annoying bugs! Can you say, BALLIN?! We were right on Pasagshak Bay and you can watch all the fisherman throw their lines out for fish…and then throw it back. Super entertaining. At Isthmus Bay, we did one of my favorite things to do as an up and coming environmental scientist. TREE CORING! We did a mapping project of the evidence that was in the soil, trees, and surrounding environment that pointed to the 1964 earthquake and tsunami. It is so cool that you can find out so many things about an area just by looking at the stuff around you. Trees can be so informative. After that we had a relaxing walk down the bay and we looked at the awesome “ghost rocks”. The G-Man got really excited about them but why wouldn’t he? They are some really cool rocks (about 55 million years old!) Only sad thing is that it started to rain and we had to eat at another campsite (the fire was roaring though!) After that, we went to Surfer’s Beach and we made our own stratographic column of the beach material there. It was so cool. The layers were so intact and each of them had a story of how they got there and why they were important. We got a little dirty that day but its part of the job right? Finally, we headed down to Narrow Cape where we did yet another mapping project but it was a little different this time. We mapped the active fault areas of the Kodiak Launch area. You are probably asking why the government built an incredibly expensive and high tech launch pad on active faults right? Shocking. Luckily active means that it has moved in the last 10,000 years so maybe they think they have time…Interesting…Anyway, we are on the ferry back to Homer and then to Anchorage for the (DUN DUN DUNNNN) exam! I can’t believe 3 weeks have come and gone. I will never forget the amazing times we’ve had and the stories we’ve shared. Anywho, I’m going to miss the great frontier and “mom and dad”. Thanks Jackie and the G Man for this amazing opportunity. Over and out people! PEACE!

Sam O'Connell - Howdy everybody! LOTE is coming to a close, and I must say that the trip has been a valuable experience that I won’t forget. Our last week in Alaska has been all about researching the evidence left behind from the Good Friday Earthquake of 1964. Kodiak experienced a large tsunami as a result of the earthquake, and Isthmus Bay was a great place to see the deposits left by the tsunami. Seeing the dead spruce forest deep into the Bay was very exciting, as we saw exactly what kind of effect the saltwater had on the Sitka Spruce populations. Narrow Cape was also very exciting; I have never seen fault lines exaggerated like that! Debates on mapping the faults were intense, and the hike was spectacular. Because Alaska is so seismically active, it’s a great place to look at geologic processes that we learn about back at Union. We’ve experienced sunny, great weather until today, as the rain has been pouring non-stop. As we prepare to head home, I’ve realized how valuable of an experience camping in Alaska really is, and have grown because of it. A quick side note-Alaskan salmon is good eats!! Adios and sadly back to the lower 48 in a few days!

Nicole Reeger - Greetings everyone! I cannot believe this trip is almost over! We have spent the last week in Kodiak, Alaska. Before arriving in Kodiak we were warned that it rains most of the time but we lucked out with a few dry days, and on the rainy days we got cookies and muffins! Luckily no one had any encounters with the Kodiak grizzly bear but we had a great view of flying bald eagles from the picnic bench at our campsite. Our third mapping project at Isthmus Bay was pretty cool. We cored a lot of trees, which is always good for enhancing my upper body strength. We were surprised to see evidence of the 1964 earthquake from analyzing the tree rings in the area. Counting back from the bark of the tree, right after 1964 we was significant increase in the size of the tree rings, which may have indicated “release from suppression”. Yesterday’s final hike at Narrow Cape was a great way to end this trip. By the end of the day the weather cleared up and we all marched together through the Arctic Lupine. I have done so much in these past three weeks that I have never done before and I am so happy I had the opportunity to come on this trip!

Sarah Logan - Last report here from the Great White North! Cannot believe this trip is almost over! Although cliché I definitely think the best was saved for last! Arriving in Kodiak we were greeted with weather that was the farthest from normal here on the island. It was sunny and the skies were clear. Typically here it rains every day and the sun makes its rare but welcomed appearance according to the locals. Camp was beautiful located right next to the Pacific Ocean where a river ran straight behind our camp, the perfect place to fish as salmon made their spawning run. Day 2 brought even more beautiful weather and a trip to Isthmus Bay where we mapped the storm berm’s and cored trees to see if there was any evidence of the 1964 earthquake and resulting tsunami. Definitely one of my favorite spots of the trip! After a day 3 rain day, day 4 brought beautiful weather again! So off to Narrow Cape! We looked at the faults and tried to decide if there were listric faults or normal faults present. Scenery was amazing and what made it even more incredible was when a pair of wild horses emerged from the trees and ate the grass in a field of lupine. On the ferry back to Homer now and then a drive back to Anchorage for our last night in the state. So bittersweet to be leaving! Don’t want to go home quite yet but I would like some warm weather for the first time in a month! See all of you soo soon! XOXO Sarah

Lauren Graniero - Last blog until returning back east!  Since the last post, we spent some time wandering through Isthmus Bay, which was absolutely gorgeous.  We did a mapping project where we described different rock facies in the area, pooling our group observations in order to come up with our interpretations of the area.  We also discussed, in depth, the formation of an accretionary complex that results from the compression, or squeezing, of geologic formations.  Additionally, we wondered what would happen if the coastal berm were breached during the 1964 earthquake in Prince William Sound.  At Surfer’s Beach the stratigraphy was especially unique because two entirely different facies were represented within a few feet of each other.  The stratigraphic section we created helped us to create and debate a few different scenarios for what may have happened to account for the angular unconformity of the facies.  And take it from me, this group enjoys debates.  At Narrow Cape, not only was the beach beautiful, but also the multiple faults in the area created a truly awesome landscape full of lakes, swamps and cliffs.  Wandering through Kodiak today was another one of our great escapades in which I chatted with locals, ate at local hot spots, bought/made friendship bracelets, and drank coffee after coffee to keep my momentum going.  Despite the rough weather we had the past few days, I can honestly say I absolutely enjoyed our last days here, and that it is going to feel a little strange not waking up to these fine individuals everyday! Our adventure living on the EDGE in Alaska has exceeded my expectations and it was an opportunity I am glad I took advantage of! Thank you Jackie and John! Peace and love, xx Laur

Mike Sachs - Kodiak Island where the rain never ends.  This is a beautiful island were the mountains rise out of the ocean and the wildlife is plentiful.  The other day we went to the Kodiak Launch complex located on Narrow Cape. This cape is very active with normal faults running through it.  To the east is the Narrow Cape fault that is a dextral strike slip fault.  The launch pad for this site is located right on one of the normal faults.  This could be disastrous if this fault were to move.  We walked around the entire cape and found many cool fossils on Fossil Beach.  That night was our last night fishing on Kodiak and in the Pasagshak River.  After having a couple hook ups with some red salmon I finally landed my first Alaskan Red.  Seeing a Red break Garver’s rod in two places was something else.  Despite the broken rod he still landed the fish.  The trip is nearly over and the fishing done.  This has been a very enjoyable trip and I cannot wait to come back to Alaska.   Go Spain!!!

Zoe Blatt -  We spent our last week in Alaska exploring the impacts of the 1964 earthquake on Isthmus Bay and the subduction zone plate boundaries on the Island of Kodiak. Luckily, we had a couple of unusually beautiful days in Kodiak to make our field studies even more enjoyable! We spent Tuesday morning at Surfer’s Beach before we hiked along the coast of Isthmus Bay. We examined the stratigraphy of Surfer’s Beach and discovered there were major differences in such close proximity due to the movement of the strike-slip fault. Be sure to take a look at the great picture of the group standing above the Narrow Cape fault! As the trip comes to an end, I have been able to reflect on the past three weeks and the adventures we have experienced. I have learned an incredible amount about Alaska and natural geological hazards. It has truly been a pleasure to be a part of this journey with my fellow LOTE members and our phenomenal professors. This trip could not have been such a success without Professors Cockburn and Garver’s plethora of knowledge and sincere dedication.

More photos to come - look for a link in a few days - for now here are some group shots from the last week.
Finding fault with the landscape (they are standing on a fault)

Using our rain gear - this was just a light mist - the wind made it tough

John with a red salmon at Pasagshak

Pasagshak Campsite

Isthmus Bay Mapping

Ghost Rocks - Isthmus Point

Surfer's Beach

Narrow Cape View

Sunrise over Homer Spit from the ferry


  1. Hey everyone - Congratulations on successfully completing the adventure of a lifetime! The pictures are fantastic. Loved seeing some of the fish that you caught on the island. Hard to believe how quickly the time passed and how much ground you covered.Thanks again to John and Jackie for sharing your knowledge and passion for geologic research with the students. Jackie - good luck in Maine next year. I am sure you will be missed at Union. Travel safely and enjoy the rest of your summer. Cheers, Phil

  2. With the cool wet weather doing its best to dampen spirits, it is great to see pictures of all the smiling faces. Way to stick together!
    Safe journey home everyone.
    See you soon Jackie. :)

  3. Excellent student blogs and pictures! Glad to see that you all enjoyed your Alaskan adventure. I hope everyone has a safe trip home! See you Monday morning, Kyra. It will be sunny and in the 80's when we get you at the airport.

  4. Hi all,
    I liked reading all of your interesting, informative, well-written blogs; and the pictures are breathtaking! When you wrote about the calving, I could almost hear it happening. The information about the earthquakes and faults is interesting. It's hard to believe that your three weeks in Alaska is now at an end. Have a safe trip home everyone!
    Kyra, looking forward to seeing "Eclipse" with you when you get home.