Follow us on Instagram @pribsbluesmuse, but here is our daily log if you want the full experience!
July 8, Saturday and July 9, Sunday – WOW! The plane made it in on Saturday! Some say it was a miracle; mostly those that landed. We expected more of a delay given the weather, but thankfully we got out and back to Juneau. Time to sure up our data, buy a couple more needed things, and enjoy home for a brief minute. I’ll be back blogging on July 24! The three weeks after that are going to be intense to say the least!July 5, Wednesday, July 6, Thursday, and July 7, Friday – ECO camp! Three packed afternoons of science with the kids of St. Paul is a fantastic way to end our 6 weeks on island! (Don’t worry, we’ll be back at the end of July to keep the BKC search going!) The first day was filled will welcome visitors, our colleagues from the NOAA-AFSC Eastern Bering Sea Trawl Survey are in town to trade out some scientists and educate some kids! Lyle Britt, Bob Foy, et al. stopped in with many fish and invertebrate samples caught during the survey. We took many morphological and internal measurements before rolling up our sleeves, painting some fish for prints, and opening up some stomachs for food web analysis! The second day was spent focusing on blue king crab and crab ecology! Alex and I collected the glaucothoe collectors from the harbor and brought them to the science classroom and the kids started searching through them for baby crab! Of which, they found a red king crab, tanner crab, helmet crab, and a crested gunnel (among other small invertebrates for microscopy)! Then we had a photo and video session focusing on our crab work and the habitats around the island that serve as crab nurseries. The final day was spent focusing on the Bering Sea food web and looking at more stomach samples. Plus, you can’t end a camp with out a movie, lemonade, and popcorn!.. Meanwhile, while not at camp, Alex and I packed, cleaned and prepared to leave St. Paul for a two week break. July 4, Tuesday – Happy June-July, so it’s called on St. Paul! The town parade and events were some of the most fun 4th of July festivities of which I’ve ever been involved! The red, white, and blue parade of cars and floats honked and swerved down each and every gravel road in town serving a slew of onlookers with candy and cheers of epic proportions. Afterward, the town centered around the softball field with various events including an egg toss, tug-of-war, children’s quarters in the a haystack, and a feast of reindeer, snow crab, and sweet delights. The day was concluded in epic fashion with a one-of-a-kind event, The Greasepoll. This was no ordinary greased-poll, mind you! Tradition includes caking a 15ft tall telephone poll in nearly 4 inches of Crisco cooking grease/shortening and cheering on a select few ‘skilled’ climbers in reaching the mini-USA flag planted at the top. Alex and I were both felt the pull of the pole and its over $1800 winner’s purse! In the end, we were not winners even with valent (if not pathetic looking) effort. It was really fun, even the ten minutes in the shower that it took to scrape the grease from in betwixt my beard!
July 3, Monday – Monday before the 4th holiday turned out to be fairly stressful, however useful! We calculated that today would be the last day to get out on the Lunax before our mid-summer break and return to Juneau given the holiday, weather forecast, and ECO camp schedule.So, Alex, Duck and I started in the morning hoping to have an ‘all drop camera’ day around the island. Things didn’t quite go as planned as seas were still up at about 5ft and Sheila the drop camera system was giving us the run around! Several attempts produced tangled lines in the strong current just north of Otter Island. Our tangled lines made it quite a challenge to hand pull the line up with Sheila’s full weight. We decided to return to the harbor to re-stretch the line and change the connection points on the Dungeness pots to decrease the likelihood of self-entanglement. After lunch, we went back out to Sea Lion Rock and found our new system worked as planned! And we continued back toward Otter to finish our work. Unfortunately, we soon realized that our cameras and lights were losing charge very quickly due to cold water conditions. Thus, we did what we could, took a CTD and Zooplankton sample off East Otter, and came in talking about designing a mobile charging unit (MCU) to be created in Juneau next week. July 1, Saturday and July 2, Sunday – With most of Team Muse now gone after a busy couple of weeks, Alex and I more-or-less relaxed over the weekend with not so good weather keeping the Lunax in the harbor. Saturday we spent the day working inside on cameras, data entry, photos, videos and this blog and Instagram posting in particular! We have found that real-time outreach is really paying off both on island and off and want to keep it up! Sunday, we decided to try our hand at reindeer hunting (or as Team Muse says, ”Searching for ‘dom bou’!” (domestic caribou). We had our rifle, scope, binocs, and ECO office permit gathered and took the quad out. Eventualy we found the herd, did quite bit of strategic hiking, and were right in position; but another hunter had the same game plan sadly and beat us by only a few minutes. Definitely try again at a later date!
June 30, Friday – Missy and Andy leave us today, so sad! But, they were lucking in that this morning was the first scheduled fur seal hunt of the year for the community! Several of us woke early, signed observer permits to view the hunt, and were off to Zapadni with many hunters and families to take in this amazing community subsistence event. As observers, we cannot take or show photos or specific descriptions of the hunt, but it is quite learning experience for those whom had never seen one and a beautiful display of Alaska Native subsistence and its importance in maintaining a sense of community. In the afternoon, after a quick goodbye to Missy and Andy, Lauren, Alex and I took the good weather window and sped in the Lunax with Duck over to do a few blue king crab searches at previously documented sites with good habitat! Though we didn’t come across any juveniles this time, we are content knowing we are searching our hardest in the right locations! On the way back, we stopped west of Sea Lion Rock to try a drop down dive on an unknown habitat site. This proved to be a too much current, and we cancelled the survey but did achieve a habitat check and some video footage. After returning to the harbor, the St. George Island kids arrived for several camp opportunities during July and we welcomed them with Lauren and Veronica Padula. June 29, Thursday – Necropsy Training with Kathy Burek Huntington! The ECO office made arrangements for the Kathy to come out to St. Paul to conduct a Necropsy training session for Tribe workers and stranding first responders! It was truly a day to remember learning how and why we sample dead, stranded marine mammals! The importance of understanding marine mammal stranding events cannot be understated for monitoring ecosystem and human subsistence interaction and health. More than 10 participants spent the afternoon conducting three different necropsies on a harbor porpoise, harbor seal and ringed seal. First, the group worked together with Kathy in a step-by-step process to imitate a Carcass Code #1 necropsy (very fresh or “I would eat this!” -type necropsy! Haha). I say imitate because the porpoise was frozen, but in the event of a fresh stranding scientists try to deploy as quickly as possible for fresh samples with little decay. Secondly, the group split in two to sample the seals independently and go through a necropsy on their own with Kathy available to answer questions. Everyone learned a lot and after a serious clean up in the lab, we all felt we had enough experience and understanding to respond to public-reported strandings and necropsy opportunities!
June 28, Wednesday – With Andy’s plane ticket changed to Friday, the group heads out early this morning for one of the most remote sampling sites around St. Paul, a benthic feature to the northeast of the island called the Elephant’s Trunk. The weather and seas were coming down from yesterday; however diving was still too risky. Plus, upon arrive at the submerged plateau, Lauren spotted a small pod of orca very nearby! We surmised it was a group of three consisting of a large mother, medium sized juvenile daughter or son, and a yearling calf! How exciting! However, we proceeded to get to work above the water preparing our last 3 glaucothoe bag moorings to be placed on the Trunk at about 8 fathoms. Second, we proceeded a bit to the east to get to deeper water to conduct a zooplankton tow. And finally we returned to the moorings and shallow areas and conducted 3 drop cameras, revealing great shellhash and boulder environment! We hope to return and dive this site in August! We then returned to St. Paul northeast coast to do one drop dive to spot check habitat off the northern sandy beach and proceeded back to the harbor where Lauren and I did her AAUS scientific diver checkout dive.June 27, Tuesday – With a marginal forecast, we decided to give it one last try to get some diving in before Andy’s departure (Which was actually in the midst of being changed to Friday!). Anyway, Richard agreed to fire up the Lunax and go check out Walrus Island for some diving and other operations in the morning. Unfortunately, when we arrived the seas had not come down enough. We were getting 4 foot seas with occasional sets of 7 feet, so we wisely decided to forgo operations today. However, the winds were not too bad, so Andy sent up the drone for some footage of the island and the Lunax on the water. It saved the day, as some of the images and video will be very useful! When we got back in the early afternoon, Missy, Andy and Alex prepped for getting the adults in the water at the harbor. There were 6 adults in the class from 5pm-8pm, and everyone had a wonderful time even in the murky harbor waters! I, on the other hand, finished preparing my presentation for the NPFMC and Public Meeting to be held at 6pm at the Community Center. The presentation had a number of attendees, lasted about an hour and a half, and many folks were interested and asked questions. I would like to thank Phil Zavadil and Heather McCarty for setting this up! Soon, I will be able to get the recording from Walter at KUHB and put the audio and presentation materials up on the website.
June 26, Monday – With the poor weather coming down still limiting operations outside of the harbor, we split time preparing for the adult scuba class and editing photos and videos from the past week. We are up to about 75 GB (“Jiggas”) of digital files so far! On a sad note, this is also the last week for several of us. Prior to Caroline’s departure today, we took one last opportunity to head out to Southwest Point to get some photography of the seabirds and fur seals. Caroline was a great volunteer over the last week and our tight knit group was sad to see her leave.June 24, Saturday and June 25, Sunday – A bad weather front rolled in and has put us mostly inside over the weekend. It’s pretty rainy and snotty outside, so we send some time working on data, watching movies, and making food as a team! We did get out in some cold overcast skies for a while to walk down to the sea cliffs and reef near town for some more sea bird and fur seal observing. We did see our first fur seal pup of the season, so cute! Not a bad way to spend down time during a poor weather spat; in great company with some of your best friends!.. Additionally, the heavily anticipated meeting of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council started this weekend and will continue through Tuesday! We attended the public meeting and potluck on Saturday afternoon, bringing delicious dilly bread and homemade hummus to add to the bounty!
June 23, Friday – With Missy, Andy, and Lauren Divine (Co-Director of Ecosystem Conservation Office with the Tribe) et al. the kids class finally continued after receiving the gear! The rest of us helped as best we could. Several kids took part in the class, splashing around and snorkeling while patiently waiting their turn to strap on the dive gear and go underwater!June 22, Thursday – Since yesterday, the winds have come down and sea state improved enough for another trip out on the Lunax with Richard out to our sites around Otter Island! Missy, Alex and I were on tap to conduct the scientific dives and data collection, while Andy took footy and stills with Missy’s new dive camera to document our science! A one diver, Caroline and Richard stayed topside to help tend the boat and take abovewater footy! Three successful dive surveys were conducted, two of which on our transect lines on the East and South sides, while another was done on the north side with our trusty friend “Block 41”. (Block 41 may be the most consistent worker within our project! Jk!.. It is always 62lbs of concrete we have to haul up after using our temporary dive mooring for surveys.) Much of the great footage taken for this project was taken by Andy today when we had the correct lighting on Missy’s camera. You can see the real beauty of our dives once we shed a little light on the situation! After diving, we devoted some time to deploy the CTD and zooplankton net for additional data. June 21, Wednesday – With sea conditions slightly poor today with elevated winds, we decided to spend the day of Southwest Point on the watching the seabirds on the cliff! We brought all of our binoculars and video equipment. Watching the murres, kittiwakes, cormorants, auklets, and puffins proved to be a great day!
June 20, Tuesday – This morning, Missy and Andy finished preparations for the dive class and tracked down the location of the delayed bags containing their scuba gear. Meanwhile, Caroline, Alex and I took the CBSFA skiff out in into English Bay and off Sea Lion Rock close to town. With Caroline as boat tender, Alex and I jumped in for two exploratory dives to check bottom habitat. The first, Tolstoi Point near to town, proved to be sandy bottom. This was interesting, since a few hundred yards away off of Zapadni Point we found previously a bedrock substrate and Modiolus modiolus bed that wasn’t bad crab habitat. This just continues our theme of extreme patchiness of environments surrounding St. Paul! Our second dive just west of the kelp reef off Sea Lion Rock was a big payoff! It was a beautiful site of large boulders with cobble and shellhash between. This was also special as to the abundance of Gersemia sp. octocorals! It was a very beautiful site of which we’ll have to return. In the evening, we decided to get some aerial footy of Northeast Point south of the rookery. There was also some fun beach combing!June 19, Monday – Scuba class started today, so Missy and Andy worked most of the morning and afternoon getting the kids through their first class. Unfortunately, some bags had not reached the island yet they were unable to start getting the kids underwater. Alex and I spent the morning entering data and doing odd jobs. By late afternoon, the class had ended and we had another volunteer coming in! Caroline Schultz from Juneau. Caroline took a little time off of work in Governor Walker’s Office to come enjoy St. Paul for the first time and help out with the project as needed. That evening, after her arrival, we gathered supplies for the first of many aerial photography outings around the island, this one being up by North Point. These will hence forth be referred to as “footy” operations!
June 18, Sunday – Today was the blessing of the local Pacific halibut fleet by Father John. Thus, there was no option to get out on the water. It was a very ceremonious event and many folks showed up at the harbor to pay respects and hope the fishermen and fisherwomen much success and safety at sea with the upcoming start of the season. We also had another arrival today; Andy Dietrick of the UAF Unalaska and Bristol Bay Campus’s has come to help Missy conduct the first ever UAF sanctioned open water scuba diving class for the University! It is equally amazing that the first ever will take place in St. Paul! He also specializes in drone aerial photography and videography and owns Aleutian Aerial LLC. He plans to use to document the scuba classes, our Pribs Blues Muse work, and other interesting activities or locations of interest to the Tribe and community!