Cargo Cult

Note: Field reports have gotten delayed due to the intensive pace of work, and the difficulty in getting bytes to move out of the remote field locations. Even just getting photos from device to device has to happen the old-fashioned way – iCloud photo sharing will get my photos in sync in about a month, or within an hour of me getting to Anchorage, whichever comes first. Multiple posts this weekend will get us caught up.

August 20, Sand Point. Today we made the transit from Chignik to Sand Point. This being “Bush Alaska”, as they call it (and make flying TV reality shows about), it’s not simple to do even though they are not far apart. The simple way is to fly back to Anchorage, spend the night, then fly out to Sand Point the next day. We didn’t do that, obviously. Instead, we moved everyone and all the gear in the helicopter. The challenge with that was that we had to make it all fit into two helicopter trips.

Sarah Doelger’s part of the work was done, and she took the opportunity to fly back to Anchorage on Lake Clark Air. They had one seat fare available, and John and Mary Ann Rantz from our lodge tipped us off about this (they knew several people from Chignik were flying out, and helped us take advantage of this opportunity). Sarah took back some of the campaign GPS gear that we would not need in Sand Point. That turned out to be critical, as we would not have fit all the people and gear into two loads otherwise.

It’s about a 75-80 minute flight from Chignik to Sand Point, over spectacular terrain. I saw three more bears on my flight, bringing my wildlife total to 6 bears, 1 moose, and about 20 whales. Plus too many seabirds to count. We got the second group of people to Sand Point by about 2pm, and still had some flying weather. So we flew out and set up 3 of the 6 campaign GPS sites we planned for this part of the work. Carpe diem!

Jim Normandeau of UNAVCO finishes wrapping up the receiver bag at a campaign GPS site on Andronica Island. Once we can get back there, we will install a continuous site nearby.

But we had one problem that resulted from everything going so well and so fast. We had shipped all of the equipment needed for the Sand Point work straight to Sand Point, which was a great idea except for the fact that it had not yet left Anchorage even three days after it was dropped off. So began our obsessive cargo fixation – when would it arrive?

Keith Williams from UNAVCO was supposed to fly out to Sand Point today, but instead he canceled his flight and stayed in Anchorage to bug the air cargo company, and basically not leave their office until our cargo was on a plane. We were being out-competed by Amazon, mostly. The ACE cargo warehouse in Sand Point is always packed full of Amazon Prime boxes…. Keith was insistent and worked his way up the management chain; the alternative was that we would have to charter a plane with someone else, which would have cost a few thousand dollars more. Keith’s work paid off, and our cargo went out in the afternoon, making it to Sand Point about the time I picked up our pizza dinner (what a coincidence). Now we can install GPS sites, the remaining seismometers, and we have some leftover pizza for lunch food.

We have cargo!

Meanwhile, the weather forecast for the weekend is changing. It seems the low pressure system in the Bering Sea will not pass right over us, but will go clobber someone else. So we might get some work done Saturday and Sunday after all. It’s a good thing we have our cargo!

Jeff Freymueller, Michigan State University

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