Success and Failure Aboard the Aleut Mistress

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Setting sail on the Aleut Mistress

On Thursday the 24th, the three members of our team (Patrick Shore from WashU, and Jordan Tockstein and Aubreya Adams from Colgate University) set sail on the Aleut Mistress to install two strong motion sites on Nagai Island.  The day started with beautiful glassy-smooth seas and a calm two hour cruise to our first site on the north side of the island.

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A tired group leaving our first site

We loaded our equipment into a skiff, hopped onboard and motored to our chosen landing site.  This site was chosen by satellite imagery, and as always, conditions on the ground where a little different than expected.  Our landing site was a bit marshy, and we had to lug the equipment uphill through marsh grasses and bushes, and then dug through a foot-thick mat of interwoven vegetation to find a suitably dry site for burial.  Anything for good data!

The equipment worked like a champ, so our time spent testing equipment in Sand Point paid off.  We left the station after 5 hours of work – only two-and-a-half times longer than it’s taken for any other station thus far!  Back on the Aleut Mistress, our captain Boomer had boiled some Alaskan crab for our lunch.  Hard to get it any fresher!

In the afternoon, the seas started picking up with swells a little over 2 fathoms (that’s a little over 12 feet for you land-lubbers…).  While none of our crew suffer from seasickness, there were some flying objects on deck and in the cabin!  We hopped back in the skiff when we reached Nagai site #2, and headed toward shore.  We got so close, but in the end the boat crew felt it was unsafe to land with the high seas and changing tide.  We cruised around the harbor looking for a suitable alternative site, but found only high cliffs.  Disappointed, we made the call to cancel the site.

It’s a hard decision to chose not to install a station – even for safety reasons – so we were a fairly morose bunch on the ride back to Sand Point.  Patrick and I endlessly discussed logistics and options for alternative locations.  Fortunately, an excellent Plan B fell into our laps.  King Cove is located at the western-most point of the Aleutian Peninsula, just before you reach the Aleutian Islands.  By putting our newly-available equipment there, we could extend the land array as far west as the OBS array.  As luck would have it, our boat captain Boomer, owns property near King Cove and offered his place as a home for our new station.

So, a fairly tough first day in the field ended on a high note, with the formation of plans for the future.  The next three days passed slowly, as our team waited on unanticipated repairs to the plane needed for other installations out of Sand Point.  Everybody wants a well-maintained plane, so we waited patiently for the repairs and sorted through and retested equipment in Sand Point.  By the time the plane was ready though, our team was raring to hit the field again.  We hammered out four more stations in just two days, and have nearly finished our work here in Sand Point.  More on these stations coming soon…

Aubreya Adams, Colgate University

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