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Harriman Expedition Retraced



after the expedition
After the

journals 2001

mammal list - part I
July 21 -
August 5

bird list - part 1
Bird List:
July 21 -
August 5

mammal list - part2
August 5 - 20

bird list -part 2
Bird List:
August 5 - 20


Journal: Clare Baldwin

12th Grade, Colony High School, Palmer, Alaska

August 5, 2001, 11:12 P.M.

Kenai Fjord National Park and Barren Islands.
Clipper Odyssey, Cabin 302

We boarded zodiacs in Surprise Bay, Kenai Fjords National Park at 7:30 this morning. Zodiac procedure is flipping a tag to show you're not onboard , and donning a life vest that is only a few inches in circumference, but will self-inflate immediately if you fall in the water.

It was about a two-mile ride to a small rocky beach with smooth, oval stones and beached lion's mane jellyfish. Several of the Harriman scholars led nature walks. Natashia [Dallin, Alaska High School student and member of the Young Explorers team], Smith College student Allison Eberhard and I tagged along with the film crew -- Larry Hott and Stephen McCarthy. I carried a backpack and an enormous tripod bag that resembled Artemis's quiver.

At the end of our time on the beach, the film crew interviewed scholars Richard Nelson and Paul Alaback about the forest. Paul made the point that you can't preserve just part of an ecosystem because it is all intrinsically connected. "Sure, protect the forest, but you've got to protect the ocean and the streams as well. The forest is healthy because salmon swim up the streams and die and the nutrients from their bodies seep into the soil." I like this sense of interdependency.

Lecture Notes: Robert Peck on the 1899 Harriman Expedition

Back on the ship, Bob Peck gave a lecture called "The 1899 Harriman Expedition; Observers, Collectors and Conservationists." It focused on John Muir and John Burroughs, and placed the original expedition into the context of the conservation movement. Burroughs, for instance, was a notoriously romantic writer, not a scientist. When he joined the expedition, his first thought was that everyone on board was wonderfully learned. He wrote "I am the most ignorant and most untraveled man among them, and the most silent . . . Nature will only reveal herself to the lovers of nature, and not to the professional naturalists. Botanists, entomologists, and glaciologists, geologists are partialists so intent on the body they miss the soul . . . Can I see nature under such circumstances?"

Muir was a little more practical. He said, "saving these woods from the ax and saw, from the money changers and the water changers is in many ways the most noble service to God and man I have heard of since my forest wanderings began." He saw his role on the Elder as a chance to recruit people for the preservation of wilderness, which at turn-of-the-century, was seen as raw material to be harvested for commercial profit. Bob Peck said that we see here in Alaska "a terrific -- and I use that word in all of its implications -- terrific boom and bust cycle where resources are exploited to the full until they crash and then people regroup and either move to another resource or wait until the original one recharges." At the time of the Harriman Expedition, Alaska was still considered to be so vast and so inexhaustible that there seemed to be no reason to fight the conservation battle. But now this seems to be the eternal battle in Alaska -- do we harvest and try to turn a profit, or do we preserve for the intrinsic value of wilderness?

The Tourist Economy

Natashia and I ate lunch with glaciologist Kris Crossen and David and Diane Rockefeller. Perhaps as a result of the lecture, conversation centered around economics vs. conservation and the value of tourism in Alaska.

I think tourism is good because it instills a sense of urgency in the tourist to care about and protect an area. It also provides jobs. The problem is that tourism requires infrastructure, and in developing infrastructure -- roads, hotels, etc. -- the place is changed. The ironic thing is that we are all being tourists right now, traveling by cruise ship.

Lecture Notes: Aron Crowell on the Alutiiqs

After lunch, Aron Crowell gave a lecture, "Culture and History of the Alutiiq People." The indigenous people along the western Gulf of Alaska are Alutiiq, and share 10,000 years of common history. "Aleut" is the Russianization of Alutiiq.

In Alutiiq life, the spirit and human worlds were closely related. A hunting hat represented a companion hunting spirit and transformed a hunter into an animal. The hats were very powerful, very important. When a masked hunter danced, he invited the hunting spirits to come from the sky and sea worlds. Whistling at any time was dangerous because whistling was the voice of the spirits.

When the Russians came, they baptized the Alutiiq into the Russian Orthodox Church and taught school in the Russian language, but didn't attempt to suppress the Alutiiq culture. Instead, the Russians translated their missionary work into Alutiiq so it would be more widely accepted. But Americans went about deliberate acculturation. They instituted government schools run by Presbyterians and Baptists, and forbade Native language and ceremonies. The objective was to "civilize the Alutiiqs, to make you speak English, wear Western clothes, live in Western homes, be Christian," wrote one Alutiiq elder about the American government schools. When Aron began studying the Alutiiq, he said what was most important was that he approach the work as a scientist, and ask permission of the people he wished to study.

I spent all afternoon on deck watching humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae, as we passed by the Barren Islands. In the evening, there was the Captains welcome cocktail and dinner.

August 10, 2001, 12:23 A.M.

Unimak Island.
Clipper Odyssey, Cabin 302

Unimak Island is the first of the Aleutian Islands. Like everything since Geographic Harbor, it is treeless. Looking across the island in morning light, the yellows and greens fade together like a watercolor painting. Natashia's knee was hurting so she stayed on the beach to help David Koester with his driftwood study.

On the Tundra

I joined a group for a tundra walk. [Photographer] Kim Heacox walked with us, making raven calls across the flowered land. The flowers really were amazing -- monkshood and gentian, and other yellow and pink flowers. We followed a stream for a short distance, then climbed onto the tundra on the bluff beside it. I feasted on crowberries and salmon berries as we went.

The higher we climbed, the more our perspective of the island changed. After a while, we could see the way the island had been formed, starting at the center with iterated concentric circles. Each circle was a ridge formed as the waves pushed up sand. I don't know how many years each circle represented, or if there were multiple circles for a single year, but if I did, I could calculate the length of time Unimak had been an island.

A few of us climbed to the top of the bluff. When Kes Woodward, Patricia Savage, and I came over the top, we saw an Arctic fox running parallel to us, backlit. When it saw us, it sat, then lay down to watch us. I started to stalk it, but got called back because it was time to head back.

Back on the beach, I joined David, Natashia, and the rest of the Young Explorers Team with the driftwood study, labeling zipblocs, measuring logs, and using a serrated hacksaw to cut samples.

Lecture Notes: Vera Alexander on the Bering Sea

We returned to the boat for lunch. After lunch Vera Alexander gave a lecture, "The Bering Sea Ecosystem: The Big Picture." The more I hear about the Bering Sea, the more it fascinates me. There are 40 species of birds, 25 species of mammals, and more than 400 species of fish and marine mammals. This richness is accounted for by the 50- to 100-foot drop between the sea's shelf and deep basin, connected with underwater canyons. The coastal current is driven by melting glaciers in southeast Alaska.

Diatoms, plants with two silica shells separated by a girdle, are at the base of the Bering Sea food chain. They are cylindrical, oval, or in chain form, and are photosynthetic. Phytoplankton, which baleen whales and other large marine mammals eat, are single-cell photosynthetic diatoms or flagellates. They are important, not only because they are the basis of the food chain, but because they indicate a regime shift in environment. They bloom when the ice declines. In 1997, there was a large bloom of coccolithophores in the Bering Sea which turned the water milky. Scientists were concerned because coccolithophores typically bloom in warm, nutrient-poor water. "Once an ecosystem changes its state it doesn't go back," Vera told us. "It becomes something different."

She also talked about ice, which can move fifty m.p.h. in the Bering Strait. This movement creates leads and polynyas, patches of open water. The temperature and amount of salt in the water determines its density, and determines how high or low an iceberg will float.

Lecture Notes: Bill Cronon on the Kennecott Expedition

Right after Vera's lecture, Bill Cronon gave a lecture, "The Kennecott Journey: An Introduction to Environmental History." Bill has written several books -- Changes in the Land, Nature's Metropolis, Uncommon Ground -- and this was an essay from one of them. It was an interesting mix of science and anthropology, connecting the Native people of the Kennecott area to their environment. I was really interested when he started talking about food. "Think in terms of an ecologist," he said, "of energy flows and nutrient cycles. People inhabit ecosystems. People choose food, those parts of the ecosystem that will inhabit their gut. By the foods they eat, people decide what they think their place in nature should be."

Bill then read off a food list from the Kennecott Mine. All of it was imported. There was nothing Alaskan about it.

I've been re-evaluating my vegetarianism this entire trip, and I think I've found what's been bugging me about it. Salmon and crab are indigenous to Alaska. By not eating them I am denying part of where I live. I need to live in Alaska in a way I couldn't live anywhere else. Food is crucial.

From food, Bill jumped to trade. He said trade is the most important impetus for ecological change because it links the ecological system of one economy with the demands of another. Any item can be transformed at that moment of trade. The place in which goods are consumed is usually very different from where they were produced. Cities grow where people are not limited by local ecosystems.

Bill made three other observations I wanted to think about more: fat is stored in summer. In certain Native communities, introducing reindeer was an ecological vehicle for settlement conducive to Christianity. Lights are required people interested in reading beyond the normal hours of daylight.

Kim laughed at me as I sat there when Bill finished, trying to sort through and organize all of the ideas. "It's pretty amazing, isn't it?" he asked. Then he added, "our language shapes how we think about things. If our language is inexact . . . "

Richard Nelson summed his thoughts up with the term, "geographic determinism." Landscape determines the life.

Falling in Love with the Bering Sea

Tonight the Committee on Music and Entertainment planned a poetry and piano program with Vera Alexander, David Rockefeller, and Sheila Nickerson. But David Policansky, Dale Chorman, Allison Sayer and I couldn't tear ourselves away from the bow of the ship. I think I fell in love with the sea tonight. The light was amazing, the Bering Sea's evening sunshine on the bow of a ship, and hundreds of thousands of whiskered auklets flying by. They must have flown around us for full fifteen minutes. The wind was icy and tore along my scalp, but it was the birds that made me shiver.

August 15, 2001, 11:37 P.M.

Gambel, St. Lawrence Island
Clipper Odyssey, Cabin 302

Lecture Notes: David Koester on the Russian Far East

After breakfast, David Koester gave a lecture, "Cultures, Local Ecologies and Political Histories in the Russian Far East" in preparation for our visit to Russia in two days. He talked mostly about the history of the area.

The Russian Far East has been inhabited for 14,000 years. Modern Russians arrived on the Chukchi Peninsula in the 1640s. In the twentieth century, the Soviets began a "Liquidation of Illiteracy Program," in which they taught the Russian language, and started schools. But all of this fell apart when Stalin came into power. It is slowly being rebuilt. Now, Russian villagers attend U.N. meetings. On the Chukchi, few people earn a living, although salmon caviar is a sure bet for cash. Just like everywhere else, people are leaving villages and moving to towns and cities

I liked it when David emphasized the distance between Moscow and the Far East and when he asked what was happening in these remote places while governments far away changed the political soul of the country.

Lunch and "I and Thou"

Lunch was right after the panel. I ate with the kids and Bill Cronon today. We had several really interesting conversations. [Teacher] Melissa Wockley told us how she counts incessantly as she walks, and thinks of things like calendars and weeks and days as shapes. Julia O'Malley talked about cultural theater, and asked if something could be authentic if it were public. Then Allison Sayer talked about Martin Michael Buber, and "I/thou" and " I/it" relationships. Whenever you're in a relationship, you want something. You want someone to like you or understand you, or you want to keep the image of a beautiful sunset, of a flower by taking a picture of it. That's an "I/it: relationship." In an "I/thou" relationship, you don't want anything at all. The caveat is that the moment you realize what's happening you want to preserve it, and, therefore, lose it. Martin Buber was talking about God when he said all of this, but I immediately thought of the sea lions I saw yesterday. When Sergey brought us back a second time and asked us not to take pictures, that's what it was: "I and thou." Just beautiful, and my mouth hanging open.

Basketball and Four-wheeling at Gambel

After lunch we landed at the Siberian Yupik village of Gambel, on St. Lawrence Island. The beach was covered with tiny, rounded pebbles that were difficult to walk on. The villagers came down and gave four-wheeler rides to anyone who didn't want to walk. They charged $5 each way -- Clipper issued us tickets the drivers collected, then redeemed for cash from the boat.

Natashia and I opted to walk, not because we didn't want a ride, but because we wanted to go more slowly and look around. Whale vertebrae and ribs were scattered everywhere.

People who live in Gambel subsist mainly on sea birds, bowhead whale, and walrus -- you can tell just walking around. I think that's really neat.

When we got into town, Natashia and I wandered over to a community center where residents were selling ivory. It was mobbed. Instead of going inside, we talked to some of the villagers standing around outside. One villager, a 20 year-old Village Public Safety Officer named Kyle Booshu was particularly friendly. I showed him a list of people my mom had known when she had in Savoonga, the other village on St. Lawrence Island, in the late 1970s. She thought it would be neat for me to meet some of the people she had known. Kyle recognized all of the names, but said they were all still over in Savoonga.

Natashia asked him if there was anywhere to play basketball. He grinned, asked us to wait, took off on his four-wheeler and returned with a flat basketball. He told us to climb on. We raced back toward the beach and stopped next to an old building. Beside it was a cracked, canted cement court and a hoop without a net. We shifted a couple of white buckets and odd bits of machinery off the cement and had a court. Kyle shook his head, grinned, and shot the ball at the basket. It went through and hit the cement with a thud, not rolling. I jogged over to retrieve it and smiled. We shot around, taking turns retrieving the ball and shooting.

After a while I mentioned that we had to get back to see the dancing. Natashia jumped onto the four-wheeler and asked to drive. Kyle laughed, doubting she could.

"It's a kick-start,"he said.

"I know," she said. "It's like mine at home."

Natashia kicked it into gear. "Get on." He shook his head, grinning, and got on the back beside me. We went to the qerngughvik (community center) for the dancing. It was beautiful. Natashia told me later that she finally decided she liked Eskimo dancing. For the last dance, they invited the audience to join in. Kyle, Natashia, several other people and I did. It was a lot of fun. Everyone laughed at our awkward attempts.

After the dancing, Kyle offered to drive us around the village. Natashia wanted to drive, so Kyle and I climbed on the back. After a while, Kyle said he had to sign out at work and directed Natashia, who was racing over gravel speed bumps and ruts, to the police station. This was a double-wide trailer with two men, a radio, a bathroom, and two tiny rooms at the far end that served as cells. "We mostly get drunk, so we don't have to be real secure," one of them said. The only locks I could see were in the doorknobs.

Kyle still had 15 minutes left on his shift, so he pointed out the boarded- up teen center and store, and suggested we walk over to the store and check it out. The store was tiny, barely anything except for candy bars. If you hadn't known before that the village was mainly subsistence-based, you would know it by coming here. It reminded me of the store in Alakanuk, where I used to live.

Natashia called her parents and bought candy bars, I waited and talked to the cashier. A few minutes later, Kyle and his uncle showed up. As the three of us talked, Kyle and his uncle kept slipping into Yupik. When Natashia got off the phone, it was time to go. Kyle's uncle gave us a ride back down to the beach on his four-wheeler.

Back on the Odyssey: A Russian Lesson

As soon as everyone was back onboard, there was a recap and briefing in the lounge. David Koester said that the Russian word for the ocean north of St. Lawrence Island translates to the large kitchen garden, and that the ruble/dollar exchange rate is 28:1. Carmen Field said that only Native Alaskans can use raw, that is not-yet-fossilized, ivory for carving or scrimshaw. It's a law meant to prevent walrus from being killed for their ivory, but it can be frustrating for people like her husband, Conrad, who likes to scrimshaw.

After dinner, I wandered out on deck. It was very windy and no one else was out. After a little bit, David Policansky joined me and we talked about Gambel. I told him I was surprised how much the villagers relied on four-wheelers. The loose gravel makes it extremely difficult to walk, and the only efficient way to move about is on a four-wheeler. I guess I was just kind of surprised there weren't any walking paths. Before we got too deep into conversation Melissa came down the stairs and asked me to come to the lounge, so David Koester could teach all of us kids some Russian. The spelling is phonetic, but here goes:

Kak tebye zavoot -- What's your name?
Breve-yet -- Hello
Dobre-ootra -- Good morning
Da -- Yes
Nyet -- No
Ya ni zni-you -- I don't know.
Mojna sni-mot -- May I photograph?
Vaam -- giving to someone older
Tib-ye -- giving to someone the same age or younger
Spaseeba -- Thank you
Minya zavoot -- My name is
A tibya -- And you?
Ti -- You
Ya ji-voo na Alaskiyet -- I live in Alaska.
Da-svidanya -- Goodbye/Until we meet again.
Da-vye -- Let's go!
Puj-jolista -- Please/Your welcome

I'm going to do my best to memorize it all tomorrow. Poor David and everyone else who will have to listen!




For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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