While our team on the seas has wrapped up their work, the second land team is just halfway through. Today we installed our first two stations from King Salmon. The first was installed near a school in the village of Egegik. (That’s pronounced Igg-geh-gick; not to be confused with tomorrow’s station in Igiugig – pronounced Igg-eee-ogg-igg.) Our second station of the day was installed at Shoemaker’s Lodge.
Several of our stations on the Alaskan mainland have been installed on school grounds, and I’ve learned a few interesting things about the school system in rural Alaskan communities. Teachers often fly in for the school year and leave during the summer, unlike most school districts in the contiguous US, where teachers usually live locally long-term. To support a public school, a community must have at least 10 children who attend K-12. If the number of children dwindles beneath that, the school closes until the number rises (if it rises). This was the case in Egegik, where locals told us there were 3 school-aged children. So what does a family with school-aged children do in this situation? It seems there’s no simple answer. Remote learning is sometimes an option, but communications can be challenging. Some families simply move. Others send their children to live at and attend school in a larger village or town. This option seemed particularly popular farther west. We were told that there is a boarding house for child-learners in Sand Point. As a visitor to the area, I can easily imagine that this might be one of the challenges to preserving small communities.
Our visit to Shoemaker’s Lodge was wonderful. While we had to dig through cobbles instead of soft soil, the view couldn’t be beat. The proprietors, Phil and Rocky, were wonderful hosts. Their dog Zulu watched, gave us breaks for games of fetch, and tried to “help” by crawling in Jordan’s lap while she was testing the station. While I love visiting remote locations for work and fun, I rarely wish to live in a remote location long-term. But every once-in-a-while, I visit a location like this that makes me think that maybe – just maybe – I could live in the wilderness if I could have a view like that!
Tomorrow we’re off again to install two new sites. This time, we’re splitting into two teams so we can fly on a smaller plane. More on those adventures coming soon.
Aubreya Adams, Colgate University