Walrus, Dead Batteries and Bears, Oh My!

Anne and Pnina ran into issues at not just one, but both stations they visited on Sunday. These stations were in the villages of Igiugig (pronounced Igg-ee-ogg-igg) and Levelock, and the stations had gone out within one day of each other due to battery-related issues. This means that there is a data gap of about 2.5 months at each of these locations, but since we have many stations on the peninsula, it’s not the end of the world because significant earthquakes would be picked up by the other sensors.

The batteries at our stations are encased with the rest of the instruments inside a weather-resistant box that is accessible from the surface. The only part which is not accessible is the sensor, which picks up seismic waves traveling through the earth and is buried a couple of feet underground. The batteries are wired in series and need to maintain a voltage of 12V or greater to keep the station running. These two stations each had a voltage below that, and when we looked at the data, they had stopped recording data on March 1st and 2nd respectively. But, Anne and Pnina got to see beluga whales from the plane (cool)!


Levelock-051919Above: This is why we bring spare batteries. Pnina and Anne replace batteries at both stations. One of our village guides, Ron (pictured), was a big help. Photo credit: Anne Sheehan, Pnina Miller

By comparison, our visit to the village of Port Heiden the following day was quite a breeze. It was our last village of this trip, as our other stations are located within Katmai National Park. Like the other village stations, this one was located on school property.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0906.JPGAbove: Pnina and Anne use a Sony Clié to get information about the station before replacing the data baler. Photo credit: Mel Zhang

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0913.JPGAbove: Pnina and Mel check the station’s state of health by looking at the retrieved dataset on a field laptop. Photo credit: Anne Sheehan

In fact, on the Port Heiden trip we saw:

  • 7 grizzly bears (1 large male and two groups of 3 smaller bears, presumably a mama bear and cubs)
  • 2 herds of walrus
  • 1 pod of seals
  • several flocks of Sandhill cranes
  • a bunch of bald eagles
  • a couple of caribou
  • and the most breathtaking view of the inside of the Aniakchak Crater

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0943.JPGSurprise Lake, inside Aniakchak Crater. Photo credit: Mel Zhang

Aniakchak Crater, located within Aniakchak National Monument, is one of the largest explosive craters in the world, averaging 6 miles wide and 2000 feet deep. The crater contains Surprise Lake, a warm springs fed lake that provides spawning grounds for a unique subspecies of salmon. The lake is the source of the Aniakchak River, which flows through a breach in the crater rim to the Pacific Ocean. The last eruption of this volcano was in 1931. It was designated in 1967, and is comprised of 20,727 acres.
(from the National Park Service)

Our pilot, Jay, gets lifelong props for flying us around inside the crater. It’s not a view that many people get to see!

Until next time,

Mel, Anne and Pnina

Photo credit: Mel Zhang


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