June 1 – 16, 2017

Follow us on Instagram @pribsbluesmuse, but here is our daily log if you want the full experience!

June 15, Thursday and June 16, Friday – For the last couple days, since we haven’t been able to get out on the Lunax, I have been finishing early data entry for our survey dives, settlement bag locations, drop cameras video editing and filing, and zooplankton/ctd work! Man, that’s a lot it turns out! In addition, I had some other work reviewing a manuscript for a scientific journal and helped our second captain, Richard, fill the Lunax up with much needed gasoline. Meanwhile, Alex took the day helping a bit and then went off to circumnavigate the island with the quad. He earned a good break and sight-seeing adventure, for sure! Plus, Melissa (Missy) Good arrived Friday night and we did a checkout dive to get her all sorted away for scientific diving again, though she has no lack of experience being from Unalaska!

Evacuation Day gathering at the School Library! A historic day in St. Paul and greater Aleutian Islands.

Evacuation Day gathering at the School Library! A historic day in St. Paul and greater Aleutian Islands.

June 14, Wednesday – Happy Evacuation Day! The first part of the day was spent indoors starting to enter all of our last week’s worth of survey data. As I plugged away at the computer, Alex figured out one of our remaining problems with our iPad/GPS navigation application which has been annoying us and halted our data entry for too long. After, I was able to enter the correct latitude and longitude for all of our mooring and dive survey transect lines with our glaucothoe collectors. Before we knew it, Carl was headed to the airport to leave after his two week stay. We were happy to have him as a part of this project!
In the evening, we attended a very special event, the Evacuation Day reception and ceremony held at the School library! It was a very touching event, full of history, knowledge and first-hand experience of the 1942 evacuation of the Pribilof Island Aleuts from their homes by the US Navy after the capture of Attu and Kiska and bombings of Dutch Harbor. After given an evening and one bag allowance per person, they boarded the vessel Delarof for unknown shores and homes. Little did they know, they would be taken to an abandoned fish cannery in Funter Bay, Southeast Alaska and remain there under US Fish & Wildlife Service supervision, in squalor conditions, until 1944. Those folks were then offered a chance to return to the island and to their homes; many of which accepted and now their children are respected elders in the community!

June 13, Tuesday – With Carl’s last diving day on the line, we estimated that the Lunax would not be available and we took to the skiff. Unfortunately, upon placing the request, we were told that another local fisherman had booked its use for the afternoon. Not to be discouraged, all of us hustled into high gear and we collected our gear and motored out of the harbor in less than 45 minutes. We took our last chance to return to the Zapadni Point horsemussel bed for a full transect survey. Upon coming on the site, we threw in a marker buoy and jumped in the water for a 50 minute dive getting a full habitat and crab search done at a site we hadn’t previously thought to do until a few days before. I guess that is what exploratory diving gets you, more opportunity to find and dive possible blue king crab habitat!

Look at the beautiful sunny evening! And the equally spectacular grilled SE king salmon!

Look at the beautiful sunny evening! And the equally spectacular grilled SE king salmon!

June 12, Monday – After the successful sea day yesterday, we had plenty of catch-up around the shop. After Carl finally received two of his three lost bags from ACE/Pen Air purgatory, we had many our final purchases to make the summer run smoothly. Carl and I took a little time to perform a little TLC work on the Tribe trailer we use to haul gear with the Polaris. We drilled and placed some new bolts in key spots to keep the trailer working all summer and plugged the leaky tire which didn’t hold much air. Alex took a little time to work on our drop camera arrangement with Sheila, to be sure everything works properly the next time we send her to the benthos. Then the evening cleared up handsomely, so we got out the grill and prepared some fine king salmon!

June 11, Sunday – Today, we had a full day on the Lunax! With winds coming in from the East, we headed out of the harbor set for sampling our dive survey transects on the northwest shore! We conducted two dives off the Einahuhto Bluffs. Carl and Alex were first to dive on the southern transect where they found raised bedrock with sand and sections of large shellhash. Then Carl and I took the northern transect where we found mostly bedrock pinnacles with sand base. Encrusting biota, mostly sponges and large fauna, were very prevalent at these locations with the amount of fast moving current and storm exposure in the area. On the last dive, Alex and I went on our North Point Transect; which was a more protected, continuous bedrock substrate mostly encrusted with horsemussels (Modiolus modiolus). The second dive, I saw a huge octopus just off the transect! It was perfectly camouflaged with the substrate in texture and would have been easy to miss if it hadn’t been so LARGE! Unfortunately, I did not have a camera and Alex didn’t see it; so, I guess you’ll just have to trust me that it was there. Haha! To finish up the day, we sent the CTD down to the bottom for a temperature and salinity profile, as well as, deployed our 333 micrometer mesh zooplankton ring net for a plankton sample. This proved very fruitful as upon glancing at the sample there were many lithodid crab larvae and what appears to be Slender Cockscomb (Anaplarchus insignis) larvae.

Our final site of SW Bay and Zapadni Point. It could be decent crab habitat with a bed of mussels and a bit of shellhash!

Our final site of SW Bay and Zapadni Point. It could be decent crab habitat with a bed of mussels and a bit of shellhash!

June 10, Saturday – After a successful skiff outing yesterday, and even better conditions today, we head out on another nearshore adventure! Since we don’t really have other near-town transects, we spent today scouting for good habitat in deeper, diveable depths on the south shore. We conducted four, shore duration dives from the skiff, due south of Ridge Wall to south of SW Bay. We were pretty far from shore so as not to disturb the rookery or nesting seabirds. Off Ridge Wall, we found a large boulder habitat giving way to bedrock with many large sponges. Off West Zapadni Point, we found mostly encrusted bed rock with many Yellow Irish Lord, and Cucumaria fallax/frondosa. Off course, large green urchins were present (as always)! The urchin sizes surrounding St. Paul are still a wonder to me! Last one, due south of SW Bay on Zap’s east, was a potentially a really good site! A natural, large bed of horsemussels (Modiolus modiolus) on bedrock interspersed with mud/sand and shellhash! The best blue king crab habitat I’ve seen yet around the island. Since it was just a short exploratory dive, we couldn’t pick the substrate much; but, we denfinitely will be coming back here for an opportunistic survey and search for the ever elusive PIBKC!… PS. We are becoming quite the bread makers. With a new auto machine and a 5 gallon bucket of flour, we are all testing our baking skills so we don’t have to spend $10 per loaf at the store!

Carl St. John, Marker buoy mooring and a CTD for oceanography!

Carl St. John, Marker buoy mooring and a CTD for oceanography!

Cucamaria frondosa, Pteraster tesselatus, and large yellow sponge at Site 2 off Zapadni Point.

Cucamaria frondosa, Pteraster tesselatus, and large yellow sponge at Site 2 off Zapadni Point.

June 9, Friday – Now that the dock is in, from our window, we keep looking at the CBSFA skiff and thinking about taking it out for some close diving spots. This morning, we head up to the CBSFA office and inquire after its availability… Success! We are the first users of the season and we gear up to head out south around Sea Lion Rock and back north to our shallow transect placed off of East Landing. This is our first official dive survey, from the skiff none the less! There was quite a bit of current, but we prevailed to finish the site safely and efficiently! When we finished, it was apparent how surprised each of us were after discussion as to how different our two East Landing shallow transect sites are! The difference between 25ft depth and 45-50 is astounding! There is no more kelp whatsoever! It is just too deep and dark with the productivity of top layers of water! It was boulder on bedrock habitat with many beautiful sponge epifauna species. There were some cobbles, but not enough nooks and crannies for good blue king crab habitat, as we found none. Just our near shore, typical Dermaturus mandtii scale crab again.

June 8, Thursday – After our successful dive of North Point a few days ago, we spent today really trying to scout out just how much shore diving could be accomplished or desired on the rest of the North Shore. So, knowing the conditions, we packed up the ECO-truck and the Polaris quad with trailer to drive North Point to Northeast Point. We smartly abandoned the truck before north point so as not to get it stuck in the tundra nor expose it to spring rattling rocks and tussuks. The Polaris and trailer worked like a champ while driving slow and cautious on the relatively unused 4-wheeler trails. We first scouted the coast, stopping at various points to check out the beach and surf, while also looking for treasures in the grass. However, after spotting the reindeer half way up Rush Hill from Northeast Point, we decided to head back to North Point to near the Cormorant Bluffs where a dive might be most fruitful for blue king crab habitat. Even on a nice day with calmish seas, this site proved to be quite the challenge, it was very shallow even relatively far offshore and heavy understory kelp of Thallasiophyllum, Saccharina and Alaria allowed little access to the bedrock in heavy surge. It not the best dive nor habitat, but north off shore from there we have a transect placed so we’ll get a better assessment at more suitable depths.

June 7, Wednesday – We were hoping to get out on the Lunax today, but no dice. Not to worry though, there was one remaining activity I wanted to accomplish at East Landing. Since we put in a dive-able transect in the shallows, I wanted to have Alex and Carl run through our survey methods to test out some of our changes and have them get a handle on local species and protocols. They did great and we really went over our approach so everyone was on the same page. Practice makes perfect, and when your on the Lunax, at sea, in an expensive boat; you want to have the science be second nature!

June 6, Tuesday – Happy Aleut Day! Evacuation Day on the 14th will have an official town celebration and ceremony, so stay tuned for that! However, this morning was spent attending to a need, CLEANING! We spent the better part of the morning cleaning our apartment from top to bottom in Staff Quarters. We were lucky enough to be allowed to stay here and use the laboratory space, so we are trying to stay on top of our responsibilities as good house guests. In the afternoon, realizing the Lunax wasn’t destined to go out this holiday, we geared up and checked out one of our most undesirable dive locations on the northeast beach. These sand beaches stretch for a few miles, but we wanted to confirm that it just wasn’t skin deep in the beaches and dunes. After a necessary short dive, we did confirm sand extends quite a ways out and is a pretty homogeneous habitat. It makes sense, but it being one of the more accessible locations for shore diving, we had to make sure it is not what we are looking for to find blue king crab.

Leptasterias sp. sea star on the bedrock among the understory algae.

Leptasterias sp. sea star on the bedrock among the understory algae.

Rock sole in the sand flats.

Rock sole in the sand flats.

June 5, Monday – It’s a beautiful day outside!!! And the wind isn’t too bad! LET’S DIVE! We loaded the ECO truck and decided to drive slowly across the island and dive off of North Point! There was a cobble beach on the east side which we spotted the other day on our hike that we thought would be a good spot. We were really excited to dive in a spot that we are pretty sure no one has ever dove before! How exciting exploration and science can be! Surprisingly, though not especially surprising now that I think about it :) , we went quite a distance off shore and only got to 15ft depth. Substrate was majority bedrock and sand habitats, which seemed to vary along shore going from cobble beach, to hard bedrock with LOTS of understory algae, to sand, to bedrock/algae, to sand, to bedrock… etc. etc. etc. We didn’t find many hiding places for baby crab, but we did see many Telmessus helmet crab hanging and scurrying through the thick kelp. The understory kelp species themselves were also interesting! The majority of bedrock was covered with Clathromorphum sp. (encrusting red algae), however many brown/grey sponges (Latrunculia sp?) and encrusting yellow sponge were present and beautiful. Many species of algae were present, including browns (Laminaria yezoensis (with a discoidal holdfast), Saccharina dentigera (with a haptera holdfast), Agarum clathatrum (shotgun kelp), Thallasiophyllum clathratum (spiraling shotgun kelp), Alaria marginata (boa kelp) and many reds (Constantinea rosa-marina), Palmaria hecatensis, and Neoptilota/Ptilota sp. sea ferns. All in all, this is definitely a place to collect algae for pressing. Melissa Good, Alex, and I will definitely be coming back here later in June to get kelp for scuba and ECO camps!

June 4, Sunday – The harbor crew are working on Sunday!!! That’s awesome. (I know I keep updating their progress without a little background, so I’ll be brief. The harbor dock floats are huge, they need to use the Lunax occasionally to pull up anchor chains, thus we cannot use the boat until this is done! Hence, we are constantly checking to see how they are doing.) Winds were pretty strong out of the East, so we decided to go back to dive West Zapadni Point off of Antone Lake again. I wanted to test our dive cameras with new lighting to see if I could get more color into our videos, and the guys wanted to practice searching through shell habitat for crab with our large dive tweezers! This dive site is mostly bedrock, so we only had a few spots to settle in. The dive went well, but was a little underwhelming as it is not very crab friendly habitat and the surge was pretty strong.

Toting our treasures back from our North Shore beach combing!

Toting our treasures back from our North Shore beach combing!

June 3, Saturday – The harbor crew still works away at placing the floating dock. Things are really progressing down there. So, with a beautiful day, we decided to take the day off from science and get a little exercise! We hiked and beach combed the North Shore, from Northeast Point to North Point. It was quite a hike in soft sand, which we realized about half way through! We all found certain “treasures”, but Alex took the cake with a small Japanese glass ball. Some of us have been searching for our first glass ball for years and years, but I guess beginners luck was on Alex’s side as he hadn’t even heard of glass balls until that morning. Lucky! But, Carl did find a cool red light bulb, fit for a large ships port side signal which was really cool. I found some dry whale bones and decided to lug back an 30lb vertebra section. The hike took most of the day and we were all pretty bushed, but we did find out a few interesting things. Hundreds of juvenile Dungeness crab molts are being washed up on the north shore, which is interesting given we are so far north! Also, North point is a boulder point, which is entirely dive-able!

June 2, Friday – After getting some shore work done yesterday, we spent some time working on gear modifications, filling our empty scuba tanks, data entry and quality control. We identified some more efficient methods of dive sampling after running through a survey yesterday. This was also Chris’s last day on the island with us. We were really happy to have him with us for two weeks given his busy summer schedule helping run the shellfish portion of the NMFS Eastern Bering Sea Bottom Trawl Survey, which is run annually for 3 months each summer.

Chris Long, Carl St. John, and I perch atop Bogoslof Hill. Perhaps we contemplate our existence in the distance, but more likely we are scanning for reindeer!

Chris Long, Carl St. John, and I perch atop Bogoslof Hill. Perhaps we contemplate our existence in the distance, but more likely we are scanning for reindeer!

June 1, Thursday – This was our first two-dive day! We had a really productive brain storm last night and decided to put out another shallow, dive-able transect right off of East Landing near town. Firstly, it never really hurts to have more settlement data. Secondly, this comes with the added plus of being data directly close to town where we are likely to conduct tethering experiments of juvenile crab next year! This means both indices of settlement and survival in our most accessible site! Thus, the early part of the day, we constructed another 50m transect line and Alex, Chris and Carl went on the first dive to secure it to the sea floor at about 25ft depth a few hundred yards from shore. Then, Chris and I dove on the transect to conduct our first survey dive! Here we are testing our methods and survey design in order to be more prepared and efficient on our boat diving days! It went really well, with only a few adjustments planned! Later in the evening, since it was Chris’s last night with us, we hiked up to the top of Bogoslof and then into the two caves beneath the peak! It was good to get out and have a little non-work fun!