If you don’t know the story - I went to Cordova in August of 2018 with a small team to do work for a program called Science & Memory at the University of Oregon. Cordova is a small town on the Eastern side of Prince William Sound, roughly 150 miles SE of Anchorage. With no roads in or out, only accessible by boat or plane, it is intentionally off the beaten path. We stayed at the end of the road, at Orca Adventure Lodge. My professors Deb & Dan Morrison are friends with the Ranney family who own the lodge, and started the Science & Memory program here in 2014. They are the reason I am here.
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After graduating from college my plan was to spend 5 weeks in South America, come back and get a job. I was still thinking about the effect Cordova had on me while traveling through Chile & Uruguay. Unable to get it out of my head, I knew that it was important for me to make time to spend in Cordova, before I got locked into a “real” job.
I was fortunate enough to be offered a position working for the Orca Team for the 2019 season. Here is where I will keep my thoughts, stories, and photos.
Carl Ranney took me kayaking today after office work all morning. We went to a small island (less than a mile long) across from the lodge called Observation Island. It is said that there was once a lookout stationed at the top during the war, hence the name. He told me stories about how he and his Boy Scout group used to camp on the beach and explore the island as kids. What a way to grow up with this as your back yard!
We hiked or “followed a game trail” which is basically bushwhacking. It’s a gorgeous hike through a mossy forest and marsh lands to a fantastic view at the top. It was a dry, gray sky kind of day but awesome seeing the island through Carl’s eyes. [5.12]
First full day off and it was the best day yet. [the 13th, of course, my lucky day!] I kayaked out with two coworkers to Observation Island to show them what Carl had shown me the day before. We hiked to the top, spent hours laying in the sun and enjoying the view with a clear blue sky. We hiked down to our kayaks and spent a few more blissful hours scouring the beach for the perfect skipping stones. The tide carried us back home and we had halibut collars for dinner (the best fish I’ve ever eaten) and then split off and watched the sunset on our own. The sky didn’t disappoint after nearly a week of rain.
My playground! Sheridan Glacier is where I’ll be taking groups for day trips this season. A hike in and kayak tour once down on the glacier. We don’t expect guests to lug their own kayaks down the rocky hike so today we trekked three heavy double kayaks. Carrying them one at a time down the mile long windy path to the glacier to lock up for later use. Of course when we finished all our hard work we went out to paddle on the water. We were on the water less than 10 minutes when thundering cracks echoed and we sat with our mouths open as huge faces of the glacier broke off and began to flip. Where there was white, huge bright blue shapes rose out, cracking and pushing ice at a drastic rate. This was all happening far enough away that we were protected from the wake of the movement.
What’s special about this trip is that every time it’s different. It’s both beautiful and sad to know that every ice formation, and the ways in which they melt, are unique and will never look the same again. What a day! After hours of moving kayaks, the glaciers waited until we had a front row seat on the water and weren’t too close. The timing was pretty perfect.
Turned out to be a Prince William Sound cookout for dinner tonight. Steamed tanner crab, homemade beer batter halibut/cod fish & chips, jumbo spot shrimp and oysters straight off the grill. All locally sourced from the PWS. We thought our jumbo spot shrimp were just particularly jumbo, but we were excited to find fresh roe! Don’t know if I’ll be able to top this meal! [5.18]
Another amazing day off. [5.20] I’m getting so lucky with the weather! Tony and I paddled twice the distance, past Observation Island to North Island to this piece of heaven! A rope swing (that I can’t imagine anyone using... the water is too cold!) hangs over the calm hideout. We found lots of trash that we cleaned up and took back with us. We didn’t plan our trip so we went against the current / wind both directions. Made it hard on ourselves but had a good time and a good workout.
Took the hypothermia kit I made (a laminated step by step instruction list, sleeping bag, tent, tarp, towel, garbage bags, space blanket, sugary drink mix, hand/body warmers, fleece gloves/hat, & wool socks) to hide near the glacier today with a coworker. Took them out on the lake as a thanks for helping trek it out there. It was pouring down rain and I got soaked but we had fun exploring fresh blue ice [5.30]
Today was a perfect day with blue skies and warm air. [6.6] Went up Power Creek with John and caught some char and poked around looking for bears. On our drive back to the lodge there was a dense fog rolling in off the sound. Not coming to shore, but filling up from the center out. It was so thick we could not see Observation Island across the inlet.
“You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Exactly when you’re supposed to be there.” A new mantra.
Such thick fog we couldn’t see 20 feet in front of us. We couldn’t continue into the fog (safety reasons) so we sat and waited as surrounding mountains, icebergs and sun slowly revealed themselves. It was like paddling at the end of the earth - floating in the clouds. Video below...
David Rosenthal is a local artist I met through an acquaintance of mine that works at Copper River Watershed. We all went paddling to Shepard’s Point a few weeks ago on a day off. David is an Alaskan Landscape Artist that specializes in ice and glacier paintings with an emphasis on visual documentation of our world and climate change. Of course I had to put him in contact with the Science & Memory team and today we visited his home studio.
David is a wealth of knowledge and it has been incredible talking with him about the changes he has seen. I hope to take him out on the glacier in the coming weeks to see more of it through his eyes. It is important to notice changes in the environment and even more important to document them in a way that will move people and live on. To check out David’s work click below.
I have started to see these column like lines (in the video below). They form when an iceberg sits in one position for a period of time and then slowly rises out of the water as it’s buoyancy shifts. The marble like pattern is the previously mentioned term foliation.