Thursday, January 14, 2010

2114 Miles Traveled

Clearest day yet, but still quite foggy. Very cold. Flurries.
Last night a letter arrived from a former Biomes student who gave us a few pieces of advice, including 1) hang out with Denny, Ziegred, and David as much as possible and 2) write more than you possibly ever thought you could. I’ve been trying to take that advice, and I feel that several thousand words over the last few days has been a pretty decent amount to write. This summer, a woman named Lena showed me her journals – I asked if it was alright if I read them because I feel that journals are often very private and personal. She said it was fine, that she always intended what she wrote for an audience. At the time, it struck me as a very arrogant comment. Now that I’m publishing my daily journal on a blog open to anyone, I realize that writing for an audience keeps you on task and writing about the most interesting and relevant things. If I was not publishing my journal, it would probably be filled with senseless commentary on banal events – for example, the shower water here smells a bit funny. But you guys don’t want to hear about that.
What the point of this journal should be is to record my observations about interesting and unique things I encounter while traveling. I’ll probably continue this entry later this evening, but I had some inspiration to write. We had the morning off to sleep and shower and organize ourselves. Right after lunch, I went outside (inadequately dressed for the frigid weather). I walked along the shore of the bay, and saw that the tide had pushed up a foot-high wall of purplish-black seaweed. About 30 yards along, I found a crab shell about 6 inches long, from a rock crab. Apparently the crab had molted. Low tide today is around 4:30pm, so the tide was receding, and many small pools were visible. Many of the rocks are covered by slimy green algae. The ravens and seagulls were mingling, and grabbing in their beaks the mussels thrown up by the tide, flying about 10 feet in the air, and then dropping shells on the rocks in order to pick out the soft animal inside.
By this time, I became extremely cold, and had taken off my gloves to take a few pictures. I grabbed my crab shell and went back inside. I sat down for a moment to talk with Denny about my individual project. I desperately want to look at diatoms of the world, but without a microscope of any kind it would be very difficult. I still don’t know what my project will be. As we were sitting there talking, we saw five or six huge blows in the distance. The humpback whales were coming closer to the point of the island, and most of us immediately grabbed our warm clothes and ran out to the point. The whales had dived down, but after waiting a few minutes, they resurfaced even closer. We saw them dive down, and saw their tails poke out of the water before they were completely submerged.
Tomorrow is our last day in Alaska, but fear not, Norway will offer another chance to observe freezing boreal forests, with an average temperature of 4°F in April.

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