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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wild life and wild nights on the Copper River Delta

Hi All - Happy July 4th!
We are in Homer this afternoon to get groceries and get ready for the overnight ferry to Kodiak on the Tustemena - a large ocean-going ferry.  We hit some serious traffic this weekend - go figure the 4th of July is a big deal!?  We ended up skipping Seward, which was ok as it was raining there and we ended up on the western side of the Kenai Peninsula for a very dry and warm night before getting into Homer early this afternoon.  If you are keeping track - tonight is the second shower time of the trip.  We board Tustemena and it leaves at 10:30 this evening and arrive in Kodiak tomorrow around noon.  Here are some of the thoughts from the last couple of days and a few pictures of some of the wildlife (a bunch of moose yesterday and a baby bear the day before).

This has been an exciting leg of the trip that has been focused on looking at several aspects of eastern Prince William Sound, Cordova, and the Copper River Delta.  One distinctive aspect of this area is the dramatic impact that the Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964 had on the land surface.  The earthquake caused the surface to be uplifted here by about two meters, and this uplift had a dramatic effect on the rivers and the coastal marine areas.  So part of our work here has been to look at incision of the Alaganik River and to document evidence of the uplift of coastal environments.  The highlight for many has been Childs Glacier, an actively calving glacier that is in a struggle with the Copper River.

Sarah Logan
Hello from the water! We’re on our way to Whittier then off to Kodiak Island for the remainder of the trip. Can’t believe I’ll be home in about a week! So since the last blog a lot has happened! We stayed at a campsite next to Childs Glacier and all the time you could hear what was like loud thunder in the background as the glacier was calving. Definitely one of my favorite stops! Finally saw the bear we all have been looking for! From the safety of inside our car a black bear cub crossed the road and then walked along it for while. Seeing the salmon spawning in Cordova was impressive because they were bright red! On our last ferry ride we had porpoises swimming in the bow of the ferry so hopefully well get to see that again when we hit the water! Bald eagles up here are as common as crows at home. Amazing! Be home in just over a week. Can’t believe it! Until next time! XOXO Sarah

Gozzie Onyiuke
A big hello from the sea! Gozzie here and we are currently on our way to Whittier and later in the trip, we go to Kodiak! Weird how this week just totally flew by! We only have 9 days! I don’t know what to do with myself! Tons went down since the last blog. We camped up at Childs Glacier in Cordova and did another mapping project of the area. It was so much fun! Who knew hours could go by just by watching a glacier calve (break off) into the river? Giant chunks (one we named acorn) would fall into the river and just echo loudly throughout the campsite. Amazing! Then we would just veg out there and have s’mores and share interesting stories. I’m pretty sure people on this trip have no idea what goes on in my head…haha. Anyway, we left Childs and headed to McKinley Trail Cabin and spent two nights there. It was the size of my bedroom but it was fun to snuggle with everyone J Then we had time to walk around in town and check out the sites. We got to see the Red Salmon spawning in the water. IT was so cool but bittersweet because they were slowly decomposing and will die afterwards…awkward…
Everywhere I look on this ferry looks like it could be on a postcard! It’s so beautiful here. Until next time fellow readers… BALLIN’!

Mike Sachs
Hello from beautiful Cordova, Alaska a sleepy fishing village nestled in the Chugach Mountain Range with no road into or out of the town.  We had four great days here both on the water and at Childs Glacier.  The first day here I went out on a skiff with Professor Garver, Tyler Izyokowski and Colleen Kennedy to look at the Paleocene Orca Group that is intruded by 50 million year old granite rocks.  Samples of coarse sedimentary and granite rocks were taken to date.  We collected seven different samples of rocks from the Cordova, Prince William Sound area.  These rocks will be used in Tyler’s thesis and will also help further Professor Garver’s research on figuring out the exact time of uplift in the Chugach Mountain Range.  Within the rock samples Tyler will look at the zircon to date them.  This area of Alaska is still very wild with much geologic research to still be completed.  Wildlife was bountiful while out on the skiff.  Sea otters, seals, bald eagles and even king salmon feeding were spotted out on the water.  It will be interesting to see the age of the rocks collected once they are back in the lab.  On the ferry now to Whittier and the rest of the Kenai Peninsula.  Been to Whittier in the winter, but now it will be interesting to see what it is like in the summer time.  Also scored a free huge halibut filet in town yesterday.  It was delicious cooked on the campfire.  Hopefully better fishing awaits us on the Kenai Peninsula after getting skunked in Cordova.

Colleen Kennedy
Reaching the end of week two here in Alaska, and I must say it is definitely starting to feel more like “living on the edge” everyday! When we got into Cordova for the first night, Tent Igloo ended up solo on the last tent platform at the end of the trail (which was more of a mud slide at that point). Luckily, we made it through the night- although we didn’t sleep much and we still aren’t sure what was making all the noise in that forest! Our stay at Child’s Glacier was terrific, as promised. We could have spent the whole time sitting there, waiting for huge pieces of ice to calve off, except that it is pretty cold around glaciers. The canoe/kayak trip produced some new classics such as “Tree Coring’” (sung to the tune of Free Fallin’ by Tom Petty… and we’re TREE… tree coringggggg). The tree cores will be used to study the effects of the 1964 earthquake, which caused an uplift of 2 meters.  It was lovely to spend a day in downtown Cordova, and I’m almost positive we went to every local business…twice. Hoping to see some whales on the ferry ride over to Kodiak, and can’t wait to see what our last week has in store for us!

Lauren Graniero
After surviving my first two weeks living on the edge in Alaska, it is getting easier and easier to appreciate the almost entirely natural environment surrounding me.  I must say I will definitely miss the mountains and the exotic animals when I go home to my town and the squirrels.  The scariest experience I’ve had thus far is when Colleen and I, in the Igloo, were sleeping on a platform quite in the middle of the woods (thank you, boys) where we proceeded to hear some growls I was convinced were either airplanes or boats coming into harbor.   Needless to say Colleen and I did not get a good night sleep THAT night.  Kayaking the next day was utterly amazing, and we took lots of tree cores… still avoiding being bear food; a success in itself.  Cordova was a quaint little town where we made friends with locals, chilled in cafes and did a little shopping.  While regretting not purchasing some of the world famous fleece, some vintage Cordova tee’s were purchased promising to be real crowd pleasers in the Schenectady area. On the ferry now, hoping NOT to see whales like Coll (I’m a little fearful of those big guys) and hoping the rest of the trip is as much fun as spending the night in that cabin was last night. Talk about COZY! I can’t wait to spend another week with the wondrous people on this trip. Infinite x’s and o’s.  Bye Izzy.

Sasha Rothenberg
After a very early morning, we’re on the ferry ride to the Kenai Peninsula and then on to Kodiak Island. This week we got to visit our fourth glacier of the trip and probably the most exciting, Child’s Glacier. Our campground was just twenty feet from the Copper River and we could hear the thunder-like sounds the glacier makes as it breaks and falls 300 feet into the river all day and night. Watching the glacier calving into the river was pretty thrilling but nothing compared to climbing on it the next day. After making it through grizzly country safe, seeing nothing but giant footprints in the sand, we hiked up and had to very carefully pick our way through the maze of crevasses on the glacier. Some of the narrow paths had seemingly never ending falls on either side! Sea kayaking, on the other hand, was a much more relaxing kind of experience. The protected Orca Cove was easy to paddle around in and Nicole and I were basically experts by the end. We were looking for old barnacle lines two meters higher than today’s sea level that are evidence of the uplift from the 1964 earthquake. While searching, we made some adorable sea otter friends (might be my new favorite animal!) and we saw lots of seals and bald eagles. Can’t wait for shower number two tomorrow!

Mike DeLuca
In the last few days we’ve been to some amazing spots.  Childs glacier was unbelievable, there was so much ice falling into the river that it sounded like a thunderstorm. I woke up to one crash in the middle of the night that I thought was an earthquake.  We have been studying the effects of the 1964 earthquake by using ecological clues such as skeletal barnacles or tree rings.  Yesterday we went to Cordova, and I found it extremely interesting.  Everybody was extremely friendly and the town was heavily fishing-based, and it is pretty clear that they are still affected by the oil spill.  We went into a local art shop in our free time and were offered a huge halibut steak, which we brought to camp and cooked over the fire.

Kyra Burnett
Hey it’s Kyra here. So the last couple days have been pretty extreme, especially since we have been in bear country for real. We all spotted one the other day, but don’t worry everybody, we were all in the vans!! The other time a couple of us spotted one was on our awesome canoe trip down the Alaganik Slough. Exciting as at was, the tall grasses were literally the only barrier between us and the grizzly. Not only did we almost see a bear, but we also learned some really cool ways of how the 1964 Earthquake affected the land around us. Being able to spot the effects of the river’s incision on the trees around the banks of the river was quite interesting. I know a lot of people enjoyed the evidence we found of the interseismic subsidence in the river (especially Jackie), which contained a really thick amount of sticky clay and a top coating of peat. When we found the layer of peat, we had our evidence that the river must have turned into an intertidal mudflat. This whole day was definitely one of my favorite living on the edge experiences! By the way, thanks Mr. Logan for giving me Sox updates, I know my family won’t because they’re all rooting for the exact opposite team. 

Nicole Reeger
We left Cordova this morning and we are now on our second ferry ride. The day we went to Childs Glacier was the most frightening moment on the trip so far. Before getting on the glacier, we saw bear paw prints right on our path meaning a bear was way to close to where I was. When we made it on the glacier the view was absolutely beautiful with sights such as the Chugach Mountains, Million Dollar Bridge, and the Copper River. Maneuvering along the glacier was a little difficult because of the narrow paths and abundance of crevasses. We all made it back alive and successfully completed our second mapping project. At the end of the day we laid down and stared at the actively calving glacier and anxiously waited with our cameras for large chunks to fall off and to hear the loud noise that followed. A bunch of us have some good videos. I can’t wait for these adventures in the last week of Alaska.

Zoe Blatt
Greetings from Alaska! We spent the other day in Cordova. During the afternoon, most of us went Sea Kayaking in Orca Cove. I had the pleasure of kayaking with Mike DeLuca - luckily he steered while I took pictures of a bunch of sea otters and seals! Throughout the day we searched for evidence of the 1964 earthquake and the impact it  had on the topography. We were able to identify the 1-2 meter uplift by the presence of dead barnacles on high rocks. We finished the day with hot coco and coffee from Baja Taco, the local coffee shop, which was once a school bus. That night we pitched tents at Childs Glacier.  It was incredible to watch and listen to the glacier as it was actively calving. The sound of the massive chunks of ice falling into the Copper River echoed like thunder - we could hear it all night from our campground! Luckily tent "Schist" (Sasha, Nicole and I) are deep sleepers!

Our adventures in Alaska have far exceeded any of my expectations. I will be sure to savor our last week!

Sam O’Connell
Howdy from Alaska! We're well into the trip now and it has been nothing short of spectacular. I thought Matanuska was awesome, but Childs Glacier definitely beats it. Wow what a sight, as the glacier calves spontaneously into the fast-flowing Copper River, creating thunderous booms heard throughout the campsite. Tree-coring and kayaking in bear country was exhilarating, and we looked at some sweet peat deposits. We've jammed out to some country music in the van, and I'm starting to become a fan. Having a lot of fun, on our way to Kodiak now!

The moose that was in our campground last night at Johnson Lake - Kasilof, AK - July 3
Miles Glacier behind Million Dollar Bridge on the Copper River - June 30
Stop along Alaganik Slough - July 1


  1. Thanks for all the fabulous descriptions of your experiences in Alaska and the work you are doing to disguise the vacation of a lifetime! i used to think it was an adventure going overseas in college when I crossed the Charles River to visit Cambridge from Boston. Joking aside, enjoy ever minute and ever moment of your last week. You have no idea how much this month in the wilderness will shape how you think and view the world for the rest of your lives-it will make a difference and I am confident that each of you will have an influence on others in the future that in part will flow out of "living on the edge." For those of you new to camping and living without all the amenities of home, welcome to the "real" world of nature. Isn't it amazing how the simple things in life can be so special. The mountains, the fresh air, the beautiful natural wildlife, hooking a fish that you may never have seen before, and just the sound of ice dropping into the ocean can make you giggle in delight and hope the adventure never ends. Kodiak Island is a special place and should be filled with lots of surprises. Keep up the great work and send more pictures when you get the chance. Be safe, have fun, learn something new each day, and make a difference. Cheers, Phil

  2. Great blogs! It sounds like the past few days have been long ones, filled with quite a few adventures and a lot of learning. I'm glad everyone got a second shower!!! Almost 100 degrees here in Ma. yesterday and today. I would rather be in Alaska. The Red Sox and Tampa Bay are battling it out for second place behind the Yankees. That was for you, Kyra. :) Less than a week left. Have fun and keep taking great pictures.

  3. Last posting of the '10 LOTE expedition. Hope everyone had a great time and learned a lot(you are technically still in school, after all). Study hard for the final, would be pretty embarrassing to get a poor grade for a camping trip! Not missing much here weather-wise. Still 90-100 and humid.(Note to Kyra-sorry to tell you the Sox are slumping, but the Yankees still s@#k!) See you in about 90 hours Sarah-not that we're counting! Safe travels everyone.

  4. Looks and sounds like the trip of a lifetime...the posts and photos are wonderful. We miss Sarah and can't wait to see her for the full update. Travel safe and continue to enjoy!

    Aunt Kiki and Uncle Steve

  5. How is life on Kodiak Island? Looking forward to seeing more wildlife pictures and some good bear and fish stories. Have a safe passage on the ferry back to the mainland. Be prepared for a drastic change in the weather upon your return. 80s and 90s with lots of humidity is the norm around much of the lower 48 which may break this weekend as a cold front is pushing its way across the midwest on its way to the east coast.
    Cheers, Phil

  6. Wow, it's not everyday that you get to see a moose like that!?

  7. Sarah -
    Enjoy the rest of your trip - it looks fantastic from here!
    We miss you terribly and can't wait to have you home.
    Travel safely.
    love, Mom