Monday, July 26, 2010

Credits and Out-takes

The family referred to in this blog flew uneventfully from Unalaska to Cheney, Wa., on Sunday, July 25. All of their luggage accompanied them, and they were met promptly at the airport by a good friend who delivered them safely home.

This blog has been authored and produced by Jan Abrams

Photography by George Abrams and Jan Abrams

Blog format courtesy of Google, "Simple" by Josh Peterson

This material is not guaranteed to be factually correct, although an attempt has been made to be accurate. All errors are the sole responsibility of the author.

No mammals were harmed in the making of this blog.

All rights reserved, July 26, 2010

Sunday, July 25, 2010


If you are reading this, it is because we actually got on the airplane and left lovely Unalaska today. Who knows where we'll be tonight--Anchorage? Seattle? or home tucked in our own bed!

What adventures will we have getting there? And what adventures will our luggage have that we never know about?!

This blog is almost done, but we will update you as to our final arrival home and our reactions to the huge weather change and the culture shift.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Local Arts and Crafts

One of the favorite activities to raise a little money in this community is to have an arts and crafts fair. These are usually planned for the days (Saturday every two weeks) when the ferry is in town or when a cruise boat is scheduled. This is with hopes that the Activities Director will include the fair on the one-day, whirl-wind tour of Unalaska and Dutch Harbour.

Since the native population is small (only 7%), and many of their arts and crafts have been lost, there is, unfortunately, little indigenous work. Most of what is sold is jewelry, hats and gloves, paintings, soaps, quilting and baked goods. (A bake sale always is held in conjunction with such an event, and today's sale had a Bar-B-Q in addition.)

The community shows up, and it is a fun event for all. There are usually four or five in the summer, and George has been to three, and I've been here for two of them this year.

Now that summer weather has finally arrived bringing temperatures in the mid to upper 60s, the wild flowers are fading away. Some few later-blooming species are making a big show now, like the wild iris, but the wild proliferation is notably absent. When the seasons are so short, change occurs more rapidly and is more readily noticed.

We're wondering how the birds, flowers, and weather in Iceland will compare with what we've come from here. Only problem will be that week or two of 85-95 degrees between the two trips!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Creatures of the Sea

Now that George is walking Marley in a new direction, it gives him access to the sandy part of the beach, rather than just the rocky part we had been traveling by. When it is low tide, there are interesting and wonderful creatures to observe.

I think we need a book on identifying the numerous kinds of jelly fish that we find. Some are really amazing--and big. Most are dinner plate size or bigger.

The sea urchins are also a bit larger than "normal" size--about 4".

There are also a lot of starfish in the bay. Maybe that is the identification book we need, rather than jelly fish! They are certainly lovely to find in the sand.

There are a variety of shells, most pretty typical of the west coast--clams, etc. But on occasion there is something unusual, like this whole sand dollar that George found. I haven't even seen any broken pieces, which are much more common, so this was a lucky find.

If Sandee and Marley can see each other, then they constantly strain at the leash to get together. That doesn't work well with the leashes. If they walk alone, at least Sandee is easier to manage. So, Sandee and I walk in our old direction if it is before or after rock hauling hours.

The dog makes the truckers nervous, even though he stands still on the shoulder and is obviously on a leash. Besides--they are noisy and dusty, so it isn't much fun to walk when they're working. They come by going either to or from the landfill area at the rate of about 25-30 per hour!

We're exploring other places to walk, now, but I will be very happy when our dog-tending days are over.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

That Bad Dog

Thought I'd written the last dog blog. That was until tonight. The story:

George went fishing today, and got home late and exhausted. Fell asleep in his chair and we didn't start eating until after 7:30. They got Dungeness Crab, halibut and pink salmon today, so we had fresh cracked crab for supper. Of course that takes some time to eat. By the time we were done, it didn't look feasible for me to clean the kitchen, walk the dog, write the blog, and still get to bed at a reasonable hour, so George offered to walk the dogs sequentially.

They had other ideas in mind, however. George went to the back yard and put Marley on his leash to take him first, and leave Sandee for second. However, when George opened the gate a crack for Marley to get out, both dogs stormed the gate, knocking George into the gate post, and lunging for freedom. Since Sandee had no leash, he was quickly gone--vanished, who knows which way in the tall grass.

Marley, on the leash, was brought to a halt, and George looped the handle of the leash over the gate post, closed the gate (with Marley outside the yard), and went to get me to help find Sandee. Leaving the leash over the gate post works fine for Sandee--but Marley thought this would be a good time to jump over the fence! He did so, and amazingly the leash didn't come off the post. His paw came up under the latch, releasing the gate, which swung open just as he reached the top of it! When he landed, part of the leash, still looped around the post, wrapped around his hind quarters, effectively immobilizing him. And there he stood, inside the yard with the gate open, but unable to escape!

About that time, Sandee remembered that after a walk he gets a meal, and by golly it was supper time. So he returned to the yard, walked inside, and up on the porch to see when dinner would be served! He was gone less than 5 minutes. George saw what had happened, retrieved Marley, shut the gate and let Sandee inside for supper. No walk for Sandee tonight. Runaways don't get extra positive attention.

After tying Marley back up in the back yard, George had to go and retrieve me! I hadn't seen all this unfold, and was still wandering toward the church, leash in hand, looking through the long grass for a flash of brown.

George and Marley are now on their walk (actually, Marley is dragging George around the block), and I'm at the church writing this blog. It's 10:45 at night--so much for getting to bed at a reasonable hour!

Just when you think you have it figured out . . . !

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This is Strictly for the Birds

Unalaska Island is very famous for its wildflowers, as you already know. It is also an extremely popular site for bird watchers. Many birds here are specially adapted to the harsh weather and are not seen south of here.

Others are migratory, but may look and behave much differently here in their breeding grounds than in the lower 48. Their plumage may be different, their songs may change for courtship, and they may even change habitat. (My favorite example is the sandpipers that nest in Alaska's mountains, far from seashores and marshes--who'd have thought!) Some come in from Asia and return there, so are seen here as migratory, but not ever seen in the lower 48.

Of course in Unalaska, one always thinks of and is aware of eagles--whether one wants to be or not! Bald eagles spend the first three years of their lives as adolescents which camouflage colors. Some look pretty scruffy, but some are really handsome.

Currently there is an Ornithologist from Germany visiting here specifically to study the eagles. He has been coming every year for 10 years, he said, and he uses the church parking lot to make his observations and take pictures, since it is right on the edge of Iliuliuk Lake, and beyond the very small lake are peaks perfect for eagles to perch on.

My favorite bird to listen to is the horned lark. It's melodic sound is even louder than a meadow lark, and much more musically varied. It is a smaller bird, and primarily perches in willow shrubs and such, but is a great musician! (Remember, you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.)

George's favorite bird is the oyster catcher. It is stunning, and he often sees it on the shore rocks between the house and the landfill.

There are many, many species of ducks, and it is fun to see some of the ones we don't normally see at home. Identifying them, however, is an entirely different story! While we were left a bird reference book by the pastor, we aren't very proficient at using it.

When George was out fishing, he was fortunate enough to see a whole bunch of Puffins. They are very difficult to photograph from a bouncing fishing boat. We are hoping to see more of them when we journey to Iceland later this summer with our grandson.

We have many more pictures of birds in our cameras, but taking pictures of birds is much different than taking pictures of flowers! Flowers stand still, except for the wind, which is pretty constant. It is still less disruptive than the dramatic fluttering and flying of birds. Perhaps I should concentrate on taking pictures of rocks! They'd stand still for me at least.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Fooled you!

Today at 1 PM the plane was supposed to fly--I had a 1 1/2 hour connection to make in Anchorage, and 1 hour in Seattle. Weather looked great--no clouds on Ballyhoo, which the airport abuts. (The picture above shows that the short runway is very unforgiving of those who take too long to either land or take off! Both ends of the runway look like this.)

Got packed, went to check in, and they said, "Well, you'll have to wait a bit. We decided to make two stops between Anchorage and Dutch Harbor, so the plane won't arrive until about 2:30, and will probably leave about 3:00." So much for being able to make the connection in Anchorage.

This is the earliest plane out of the airport every day--nothing leaves earlier. The plane from Seattle to Spokane is the last flight of the day. Everything has to work! But remember, this is "When Air!" The next flight with empty seats without an overnight layover in Anchorage would be Saturday! George flies home Sunday, and they had space on his flights, so we decided we'd just fly home together on Sunday, July 25. That way if we get stranded, we'll at least have each other for company! Daughter Kris in Tacoma is standing by to rescue us at SeaTac if we get that far but miss the Spokane connection.

See--traveling in the Aleutians is an adventure in and of itself! We listen to fishing and cannery people saying that it costs them $1000 for every day that their bags are late and they can't work. Today we heard a man say his suitcase contained $6000 worth of sensitive meters, gauges, and technical equipment, and if his suitcase didn't leave with him on the plane, he wouldn't go either! (His suitcase was huge--not a carry on by any means.) The outside world doesn't understand the system here, and travelers look astounded when told at the desk that luggage arriving within 24 hours of the passenger is considered "on time!" (It's been 48 hours and the German tourists that we met are still waiting for their luggage.)

So you'll get a few more days of blog than you originally thought, and I'll get a few more days of this marvelous adventure!