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Harriman Expedition Retraced

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Expedition Log: August 6, 2001

Debbie Chalmers - Teacher, Young Explorers Tesm
Megan Litwin - Student, Young Explorers Team

This expedition log was written in two sections to provide student and teacher perspective on a memorable day in Kodiak.


Kodiak Island

Megan Litwin - Student, Young Explorers Team

Last night when I was getting ready for bed I planned to wake up at 7:30 am and get ahead on my work, but at 7:00 this morning I realized that this would not be the case. With sleepy eyes the young explorers team woke to greet a group of students who had arrived on Zodiacs from Kodiak Island. After we ate breakfast we joined the Kodiak students in the library. We sat and exchanged introductions and shared stories about our interests.

When our little meeting ended we returned to our cabins to get dressed to disembark the ship and tour the Triplet Islands. It was a lot of fun and a lot of discoveries were made in the few hours that we spent exploring the islands. The first exciting event involved viewing a family of sea otters. Continuing along we came across a harbor seal swimming, many birds nesting on the rocks, and a variety of little underwater creatures. The area that we were investigating was filled with huge clumps of slimy kelp. While the Zodiac traveled through the masses of lasagna pasta-like kelp we also pulled in a piece that consisted of a long tube with a hollow cavity at the end, allowing the kelp to float. The naturalist, Larry Van Daele, used his knife to cut and dissect the tube. An interesting point that we learned about the kelp was that it produces carbon monoxide within the hollow cavity, so that no other organisms can live inside of the float. One of the pieces of kelp kept its root structure attached after we pulled it onboard. An enthusiastic science teacher started to pull an assortment of little creepy crawlers from the root and classify them by phylum. Among these creatures was a group of echinoderms (brittle stars), annelids (segmented worms), and porifera (sponges).

root

This is the root which we were able to look at in the Zodiac. (Photo by Megan Litwin).
Click image for a larger view.

When we returned from our exploration we found other uses for the thirty-foot piece of kelp. One was a jump rope that our science teacher created and the other more unique use was to create a trumpet-like instrument. Using a foot long piece of the kelp tube, we cut off the bottom to make the object and added three holes to increase the range of tones. We then passed the instrument around and attempted to play some tunes.

jumprope with kelp

Melissa Wockely is using this huge piece of kelp as a jump rope. (Photo by Megan Litwin).
Click image for a larger view.

After a busy morning, we ate lunch and hung out for the few free minutes that we have free during the day. We docked in Kodiak harbor, and different groups went out and to see the sites in Kodiak. There were three museums and a few shops. I was happy to visit the shops and buy a few things to remember the area. Devon, another student from Massachusetts, and Ms. Wockley, our teacher, both found souvenirs and Elizabeth Litwin checked her email. We then headed to the Fisheries building and watched some traditional Alutiiq dancing and a group of Russian musicians. The dancing was really cool, I have seen some Tlingit dancing but because the Aleuts originate farther north the influence on their dancing techniques is quite different. Some people stayed quite a while but Devon, Elizabeth and I all made our way home towards the ship. We stopped at a coffee shop were they had Harriman lattes on the menu and thought that was a pretty cool coincidence. After dinner, with many visiting guests from Kodiak, we headed to bed with many new experiences completed.



Alaskan native dancers

In this Alutiiq dance the women stand in the back and wash the little pests off of the boys in the front. The rattles that they are shaking are made of puffin beaks that were collected from all of the puffins that died in the oil spill (Photo by Megan Litwin).
Click image for a larger view.


Triplets Islands and Kodiak Town

Debbie Chalmers - Teacher, Young Explorers Team

Tales related to me of Kodiak evoked perceptions of Kodiak bears lumbering through vast expanses of interior valleys or overturning rocks on the beaches framed by green-carpeted, rounded-peaked mountains. I hoped to glimpse a ranch boasting prized Scottish Longhair cattle I'd heard thrived in Alaska's rough climate here. I envisioned John Burroughs provincial reaction to Kodiak as he transformed the emerald-jeweled scene that greeted us into a pastoral New England scene made even more perfect by the sun-warmed, blue sky day. The rounded treeless mountains and Sitka Spruce covered islands that dotted the landscape completed an image from a childhood memory along the coast of Maine.

The Odyssey picked up passengers representing various Kodiak community organizations along with three visiting students for a tour of the Triplet Islands off the Kodiak coast. The collective knowledge the visitors shared with us reflected varied career passions that ranged from fish and game biologists to community roles with the local museums and tourism was impressive. I looked forward to the upcoming afternoon tour of this vital community. The visiting students were committed to contributing to their community. For example, Jocelyn, a high school student, is planning to pursue a degree in law to better understand and participate in leadership roles in her Native corporation.

We were ushered into high-tech, low profile life jackets for an amazing Zodiac tour to the triplet islands. Ten to twelve passengers filed into each Zodiac for scheduled daily expedition excursions. The islands were teeming with intertidal life and seabirds. The seafoam green water, golden kelp, brown rock walls and grass-crested rock walls provided a hospitable habitat for the horned puffins, nesting cormorants and quickly moving sea otters that captivated us as we peered through binoculars and camera lenses to better capture the scene. Bird calls and waves lapping against rocks punctuated the serene landscape. What a treat to observe and photograph this place that even locals rarely visited far from town. I wanted more time in this idyllic remote coastal setting.

Docking back in Kodiak was a major event and locals turned out to greet us at the dock and in the museums. I stepped back through time examining artifacts and stories created by the Alutiiq people of the region. Another highlight was visiting the Russian Orthodox Church, the home of Father Herman, the first Russian Orthodox Alaskan saint.

(View the day's photos)


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

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