Thursday, January 29, 2009

from myspace....round island trip 2003

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
round island 2003Current mood: cheerful
round island has to be one of the coolest and most remote places i've ever been. i first read about it in a guidebook put out by national geographic on alaska. the idea of camping out with walrus''s just an animal most people will never see in the wild. to see an animal in it's natural habitat is just an experience that brings such joy and satisfaction. i spent a great deal of time the winter before planning this trip and attempting to recruit people to join me. this was my first island adventure trip...i had no reputation yet and i was asking people to spent a serious sum of cash to camp out with walruses.
many laughed at the idea, others were interested, but not willing to spend the money. the arrangements called for me to get 6 people. only this trip and kayak island were pretty strict as far as filling spots. if you don't fill the spots everyone else has to pick up the charge for the missing person. eventually, i did gather 6 people excited to go to round island!! we finalized plans and flew to dillingham. it was myself, deb springer, sue denlinger, maria peters, arden and debbie wong.
i had arranged for a fisherman to take us by boat to the island, which is a sanctuary for walrus. not many folks go out to this island so when we arrived in town, we stuck out like the tourists that we were. the fisherman pulled his truck over to deb and sue who had arrived the day before and said, "so are you going to round island". he was our captain. the day we took off for our 7+ hour boat trip to the island the weather was a bit questionable. weather in the bering sea and especially bristal bay where we were is always questionable!! we battled 10 ft seas all day and eventually had to hole up and give it up and head back to dillingham. it was such a disappointment, but often people can't get out there or get stuck out there.
the next day was flat/calm seas all day. it was amazing. our 7-8 hour boat trip was a dream. we grew more and more excited. we pulled up near the island.....saw a few of our first walrus cruising around the island. since it's a sanctuary and protected, motorized boats and planes must stay a good distance away. we had to transfer all our stuff to zodiaks. it took several trips to ferry our stuff over and the biologists on the island had to make sure there weren't any walrus impeding our landing. ferrying our stuff was no easy task and we were well aquainted with each others gear by the end of the week. we created transfer lines automatically and repeatedly. the gear had to go up a hill to get to the camp area.
the weather was amazing that first day though so we were rewarded. over 3000 walrus were counted on the island. it's only the males and they are quite white in the water, but on land they pink up as thier blood returns to the skin surfaces. they are monstrous animals and moved at a snails pace, clambering all over each other, getting ticked at each other, swiping each other with thier tusks.
we set up camp on the platforms and immediately went out to watch the walrus and many birds that inhabit the island. we went over solstice so we had long days to enjoy the scenery and wildlife. the island is lush and green and and abundant with birds, wildflowers and these beautiful red fox.
the light is out so late that in the tent at midnight i could read by the light that filtered into the tent. that is solstice. it's hard to really understand until you've been here. as we went to sleep we heard the walrus moving about and filling thier air sacks. not really sure how this works, but it makes a very strange musical sound. of course...if the wind was right and there is always a bit of wind out on the aluetions...there was a bit of a walrus odor...!! as we meandered the various trails on the island these adorable fox would check us out. they have no reason to fear humans and are very curious. they live off bird eggs as the island is a huge nesting ground for murres, puffins, cormorants and various other birds.
the next day was a bit foggy and damp, but we were still able to watch the walrus and explore. the fog cleared up later in the day. some picked a haul out spot and just enjoyed the day. i'm not a very good sitter so i would wander all over the trails and sit for a bit at each, then head towards the spine to see the birds and look over at all the walrus on teh spine.
these giant beasts were just an amazing site to behold. just watching thier slow progress up a beach, fraught with striff as they battled the other walrus already hauled out. they move so slow on land...they are huge though. once at sea, you could see thier swimming abilities improve greatly. there were some sea lions who hauled out at the other end from the spind and they seemed like speed demons in/out of the water by comparison. the walrus' tusks were often broken and fresh wounds could be seen on them. they were the most beautiful, ugly beasts one could lay eye on. so pink...when i bought my home i took a picture of them all hauled out and pink and matched it to paint my bedroom. i still love the colour.
on day three, the wind picked up. the walrus, tired of being hit by large wave action receeded back into the sea. we spend more time that day watchin the birds, sea lions and eventually we sat at an empty tent platform and i taught a few of my friends how to play nerts. at one point we heard scampering in the tall grasses around we knew a pair of young fox came chasing each other through our game. totally without fear.
we were woken early on our last day to pack up and meet our boat. we'd arranged for a large tour boat to pick us up...take us on a two hour boat trip to drop us on a remote beach, then we were to haul our stuff over the beach to a lake and wait for a float plane to come get us. it was rainy and the weather had dropped in...we were a bit unsure how our day would i rolled up my tent i discovered that there were mounds of huge worms that had made their home under our tents. it was so disgusting, i was quickly trying to get all the worms off my stuff and pack up so we could play chain gang back to the shore, the little boats, the big boat, the little boat, the shore...youget the idea.
the beach we were dropped at was very remote. doubt anyone but us had yet been there that year. there were scattered bones everywhere, dried starfish all over and bear scat....loads and loads of bear scat!! the boat captian was telling us where to camp if the plane didn't show up!! eek!! we hauled our stuff up to the lake and waited. luckily for us the plane did come. the first plane they brought could only carry two passengers so just the debs went. that was a pretty lonely feeling being left out there waiting. he said he'd be back...someone asked when and he just said, "hopefully, some time today". we had a at least 3 hours of waiting there before we'd see the next plane that showed up for us...we took turns watching for bears and all tried to keep the chatter up.
the flight back to dillingham was fairly's amazing though how you can fly for hours over parts of alaska and never see any sign of human life. just miles and miles of wilderness. it's an amazing place and i hope to be able to keep exploring all that is out there......
9:41 PM

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