Finishing up the Land Recovery

The on-land component of AACSE nearing completion. Susan Schwartz and Dan Sampson from the University of California, Santa Cruz have been running the retrievals on both the western half of the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Archipelago. I arrived in Kodiak in time to help out with most of the retrievals and pack everything up. Susan and Dan were great to work with and learn from! We were able to recover all 18 of our stations, pack up, and ship everything out with time to spare.

In order to retrieve one especially remote station on Nagai Island, we relied on Peter Haeussler of the USGS Anchorage and a team of scientists who were already on Nagai looking for signs of past tsunami to get the station for us. A big thanks to the USGS from the AACSE team! They saved us a lot of time and money. Peter is currently on the R/V Marcus Langseth as a Chief Scientist helping with the final leg of the ocean bottom seismometer (OBS) retrieval.

We rode in wheeled and float planes to get to our sites, giving us repeated viewings of the beautiful Alaskan scenery. I thought seeing the small villages across Kodiak Island and the remote locations where I helped deploy the seismometers last year was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but I’ve been fortunate to get out to Kodiak again to help with the retrieval.

Panorama view from our site at Anvil Lake, Kodiak Island

I wrote a blog post last year for this experiment talking about our interactions with wildlife, and specifically about our interactions with Kodiak bears. We were able to see many from the air while flying over the island, but this year we didn’t see any from our stations. While Kodiak bears are large (they can be nearly 2200 lbs!) and over 3500 Kodiak bears live on the Kodiak Archipelago islands, they’re known to be anti-social and skittish, running away from our plane whenever we arrived at a site. However, after the planes and humans had left the bears came back to investigate what we left behind. Most of the seismic stations in the Kodiak archipelago had been revisited by bears since the previous team serviced the stations in May. While none of the damage inflicted was fatal to the valuable instruments – thanks to our bear-proof boxes – in some cases it affected data recording and quality.

The bear-proof box (smaller grey box at the feet of the person) was moved from where the picture was taken.

When we deployed these seismometers last year in May, the only significant obstacles we had to deal with were bears and steep, grassy terrane. At some of the sites, we may have had to step over or through waist-high bushes and climb up a hill, but overall it was easy to walk and carry the equipment. I was not prepared for how much things can change over the summer. Every single site was covered with dense vegetation. Sites with knee-high grass in May now have nearly impassible eight foot tall alder trees surrounding them. It took nearly 20 minutes to find KT09, which was 100 ft up a hill of dense vegetation, and we even had a handheld GPS with the exact location!

On a major experiment in an unforgiving environment such as the Kodiak Archipelago, there are many variables to consider. I was fortunate enough to see firsthand how these experienced researchers handled the various problems, from weather delays to bear visits at stations to the logistics of it all. Seeing the planning and execution of an experiment of this scale, from start to finish, has been invaluable to me as an aspiring scientist and I hope to be involved in similar experiments in the future. I was also able to board and tour both the R/V Marcus Langseth and the R/V Sikuliaq and see the impressive equipment and instrumentation necessary to run a research cruise. The R/V Sikuliaq was in port to offload the OBSs they recovered from this experiment and send the crew home. The R/V Marcus Langseth was also in port so their new crew could board and head out to collect the rest of the OBSs. You can check out some other blog posts for more information on their adventure!

The seismometers and equipment we’ve recovered had to be cleaned, sorted into boxes, and wrapped up on pallets for shipping. It was a tedious task but a small price to pay for the beautiful “work” that preceded it. We would like to thank the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center for letting us stage our experiment before the initial deployment, store our gear for the last 15 months, and pack everything up in their facilities. The staff were so accommodating and this whole enterprise would have been much more difficult and complicated without their help!

Some of the pallets loaded up with seismometers and equipment.

Typical Kodiak weather in the summer is rainy and cloud-covered, with temperatures around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the nearly two straight weeks of clear skies and 60 degrees gave us ample opportunity to fly around retrieving stations. There has been a slight drought caused by lack of rain in Kodiak, which is a problem for the ecosystem on the island and has delayed the running of salmon up some of the smaller rivers. They’re calling for rain every day for the next week and temperatures to drop 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit from just a day ago. At the moment, we’re waiting to see if our flight out of Kodiak is delayed, again, due to cloud cover and rain. Presently, Patrick Shore and a student from Washington University in Saint Louis are out in King Salmon retrieving the remaining on-land seismometers in and around Katmai National Park, and the R/V Marcus Langseth is out recovering the rest of the OBSs. Hopefully they don’t run into any weather problems and the rest of the work goes smoothly!

Michael Everett Mann, Cornell University


1 thought on “Finishing up the Land Recovery

  1. That is a interesting Bear


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