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Archive for the ‘Alaskan experiences’ Category

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It was a very white start to Martin Luther King Day here at the Havens.  When I awoke, it was snowing, but the precipitation has stopped for now.   There was no water aerobics this morning, and I am not really excited about getting out on the roads.  While I cut my “driving teeth” in the mountains west of Boulder, Colorado; and then developed them experiencing the roads of Alaska, I still stay off the roads if I don’t have to go out when the weather is like this.

Around here people get way excited when a couple of inches of snow fall and there is a light rime of ice on the roadways, conditions that would make a seasoned Alaskan or Colorado mountain driver simply slow down a bit.  Around here, they close school and the weather people have regular conniptions about how dangerous it all is.  I have no qualms about my ability to negotiate the highways here in the Ozarks.  It is the REST of the drivers that give me pause.  They are so unpredictable I am reluctant to put myself in their vicinity.  Many of them seem to believe that since they have four wheel drive they can still drive over the speed limit and also stop on a dime if they need to. (She shakes her head…)

So I am home, and wondering if I will have any clients this afternoon.  There are three scheduled, whether they will show up is another question entirely.  It makes earning a living very unpredictable.

Meanwhile, the view from my kitchen window is splendid.  The little birds surely did appreciate me filling the feeders this morning.  There was a huge crowd of them at breakfast time.  The hawk flew through and scattered them, afterwards the yard was devoid of birds (and squirrels) for a good half hour.   I did not go out and investigate, but usually that means that the Cooper’s hawk was able to secure her breakfast.  She seems to view the pond area as her dining room.

The petite prairie is looking quite fine, as you can see from my opening photo above.  I love to go out there and inspect the environs after a few hours of no snow fall.  That is when it becomes evident just how important that cover is to the residents of the yard.

There was a small flock of cardinals hanging around after the hawk scare ebbed.   Here is a shot of them I took from the porch.

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That is not all of them, several of them were availing themselves of the sunflower seeds while I was taking these images.

There are more of them in that bush than meets the casual eye.  Here is a closer shot of the same group.

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Aside from the trio of juncos there is one male cardinal and four females sharing this bush.

The male is very suspicious of me.  Even though I was a good 30 meters away when I took this shot, his demeanor tells me “I know you are there and you are probably up to no good.”

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“Just stay on your porch and everyone will be happy.”

 

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One of the things I have always wanted to do was to walk on a glacier.

Actually, I have done this previously.   When I was a little girl living in the wild mountains of Colorado, we used to hike up into the high places quite frequently.   I walked on the St. Vrain glacier, and also the Arapahoe Glacier.   Nowadays, the tiny remnants that remain of both of these glaciers makes me wonder how in the name of sanity people are still able to convince themselves that there is no problem going on as regards to global climate change, or global warming (which seems to be a term that is in disrepute for some reason).

As I read the news of the disappearance and retreats of glaciers world wide, my internal need to walk on these ancient ice fields becomes more and more urgent.   When we decided to go on the seven day Inside Passage cruise up to southeast Alaska, I knew that I really really wanted to experience being on a glacier, before it was too late and there aren’t any left.    I mean, it is hard to believe that they might actually all melt world wide.   They are so massive, and there are so many of them.    People used to think that the Passenger Pigeon was so numerous they could not be hunted to extinction either.

Oh darn.   I was just going to tell you about my wonderful walk on the Herbert Glacier.   Then I went all poignant and scientifical and thoughtful on you.   Sorry.

Lets see.   We booked a tour up on the Mendenhall Glacier about four months before we went.  That is Juneau ahead of us, all decked in typical Southeast Alaskan weather.   Rain.

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Because of the low ceiling at the Mendenhall Glacier, our tour was cancelled.  I am not ashamed to admit that I went to my cabin on the ship and cried like a little child over the disappointment, but the day was saved by Chris with Juneau Tours , who was able to book us on a tour with Coastal Helicopters that went later in the day and to a different glacier that was not weathered in.

(I really can’t say enough good things about the staff of Coastal Helicopters.   They were dealing with two different groups, ours and one which spoke only Hebrew and had a translator, going to two different sites in three helicopters.  They were pleasant, professional, efficient, friendly, and went out of their way to get us what we wanted, even when they had to run across the tarmac in the rain to the warehouse to secure a t-shirt in the style and size I wanted.   

And the pilot!   Wow.   I want a helicopter now.   Okay, I’ll be honest.   I want the pilot too… but I’m already taken and he’s probably way too young for me.   Still, cute!  And professional.   And a great pilot.)

Okay.   Now the pictures.   When we got to the airport where the helicopters were, the clouds opened and an omen appeared.

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After a safety briefing, we were taken out to the helicopters in single file like a bunch of baby ducklings being shepherded along by their concerned Mama.  After we were all strapped in and equipped with our headphones, through which we could actually talk to the pilot, our little group of helicopters took off.

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Even though none of our craft were gunships, all of us thought of the movie Apocalypse Now for some reason as our group headed off up the valley.

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We flew past the Mendenhall Glacier.   Still socked in but beautiful anyway.

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You can see the big terminal moraine where the glacier has receded in the past few years.  We flew over some mighty pretty country, on the lookout for wildlife.  But we didn’t see any.

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It seemed like only moments, and we reached the Herbert Glacier.   Our pilot took us on an exciting little ride up over the terminus, along the glacier itself and through a small cirque off to the side where the glacier that created it was gone, centuries past.

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It was a thrill ride.   I’m sure we were never taken closer to the rock walls of the cirque than was safe, but it felt like you could have reached out and touched them.   The helicopter tilted and rose like a magic carpet.   Finally we descended to the glacier itself and landed.

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We de-coptered and our pilot strapped on crampons, and suddenly became our glacier tour guide.

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First thing he took us to was a moulin.  This is a place where melt water pours into a hole that tunnels through the glacier, flowing down to the rocky bed under the glacier.   At this particular spot, the glacier was about 1500 feet thick (about 450 meters or thereabouts).    The hole, about 10′ in diameter, was plenty big enough to swallow a human if she was so careless as to slip and fall in.

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“Anybody want to get close?” our intrepid guide asked.  Of course I did!   With a good hand to wrist grip on each other, he dug his crampons into the ice and I edged my way to within a couple of feet of the edge so I could get my shots.   What a rush.

After that, he led us across an ice bridge, and allowed us to peer into a deep crevasse.   “Don’t fall in that, please.   We don’t have ropes that are long enough to reach you to save you if you do,” we were instructed.   Needless to say, we approached that abyss gingerly.

This is the ice bridge.  Jim is on the bridge, our guide is down in the cave below it.

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I wished I had real crampons and not the silly studded overboots I had been given by the tour operators.   Our intrepid guide helped me go down to the cave safely.

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Yes.   It REALLY IS that blue.

Back out of the cave, across the bridge after looking around at some more cool stuff.  Then the obligatory shot proving that We Were There.  We were also very glad that we both had on long johns, boot socks, coats, hats and gloves.   Believe me it felt really silly to pack those things here in Missouri when it was 90 degrees.  It wasn’t so silly when we were on the glacier!

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I believe that there must be a required course in operating every kind of camera known to man for all tour guides.   I have never met one that had any trouble getting a fine documentary shot of my presence at a feature.  Our guide was no exception.

All too soon our time was up; our pilot had to get us back to civilization.  As he tried to round up his four chicks, I managed to get another couple of shots.

This is a hole that is mostly full of melt water.   I guess it to be about six feet deep.

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Jim looks at the view.

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Back in the air, we get another juicy little roller coaster ride down to the end of the glacier.   Lots of fun.

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Came around the shoulder of the mountain and BAM!   Right in front of us was spread the Lynn Canal, in all its sunset glory, complete with holes in the clouds and rays shooting down.    Unbelievable.   I was unable to get a good shot because we were heading back to Juneau and the pilot, the instruments, and the curved bubble of the copter were all in my way.

Plaintively, I asked if he could just turn the helicopter towards that view for me, please?

“Just for a minute,” was the reply.  I know we were way late, so I snapped away as he kindly held the attitude for me.

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So grateful for that minute, aren’t you?

Then back to the airport, where the other groups had been landed several minutes and the rest of the tour operator staff were figuratively tapping their toes in impatience to finish their day.

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It was a glorious day.

I walked on a glacier.   I am so blessed.

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That old saying “Time flies when you’re having fun”  also applies to working hard.

I did indeed go to Alaska.  We cruised for three days up the Inside Passage to Juneau and Skagway.   It was beautiful.

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We went whale watching and did see whales, both humpbacks and orcas.  All those amazing photos you see of whales?   Taken by professionals who got 5000 shots just like mine:

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Out of focus and not very interesting.   But the experience was fantastic.

We also saw the Mendenhall Glacier.

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There was a glacially carved pond along the walk way to the view point.   I loved this.

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I was entranced by the moss/lichen forests.

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The area right below the view point for the glacier was roped off from visitors.   The arctic terns were nesting there.   I watched a pair in their mating dance; the male flew down to the glacial lake and brought his intended a little tiny salmon.   She accepted it.   Farther down the beach there was a female who was deep in the process of incubation.

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We went on a bus tour of the inland part of the state, starting in Canada and crossing into Alaska near Tok.   On to Fairbanks, where I did the tourist things I never did while I lived there:   sailing on the Riverboat Discovery on the Chena to the Tanana River, visiting a gold dredge and learning to pan for gold.   It was fun.

Then we took the Alaska Railroad to Denali National Park.   There were more mountains than it seems possible.   And wildlife.   Mostly moose.  This was taken on our wildlife tour in the park.   This mama had twin babies.   They were less than 24 hours old.

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When I got back home, there was a 60th birthday to celebrate, which was done appropriately.   Apparently I am not quite done with my birthday.   Yesterday in the mail I received a beautiful ammonite fossil that someone anonymously ordered off Etsy and had shipped to me.   I feel special and loved.

While we were aboard the ship, we sat for professional portraits.   I believe this is a good way to demonstrate how 60 looks.

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Back at home, I had plenty of work waiting for me.   I got my day lily bed north of the stroll garden cleaned out, much to the day lilies’ relief.  They were being swamped by goldenrod, violets, wild iris and sundry other volunteers.   That took a few days.

I also had to catch everyone up on their massages, and I have been very busy with that ever since we got home.

Last night Jim mentioned that he thought we ought to rake the algae out of the pond that has been forming.  I went out there to do some of that this afternoon.  I decided to be circumspect about it, rather than just wholesale rake in clumps of algae.   I am very glad I did.   It is being used by literally dozens of tiny salamander newts.   They were not too happy to be fondled and photographed by the local paparazzi.

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You can see his gills and tiny legs.   I believe we may  be leaving the algae alone.

Of course the robins have been very busy too.  This fellow was outside my massage room window the other day, chirping loudly to his parents to induce them to feed him.   They were just as loudly exhorting him to move his butt off the juniper and learn to hunt for himself.   He won the day that afternoon, but I saw him out on the lawn a couple of days later, following his papa around and learning to find bugs for himself.   This is so gosh darned cute.

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When I left in mid May, the vegetable garden only had the cool weather crops in, and so since the beginning of June I got the squash, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and I don’t know what all else planted.   It is doing just fine.

We’ve been feasting on beautiful salads.

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This is how the garden looks today.   Notice the wooden boxes rather in the middle.   Those are the potato towers.   I’ll let you know how the crop is.

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Just in case I thought that all this belonged to me, the wren was there to set me straight.

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Well, that catches you all up a bit, I hope.   It is a long summer still.   Now I believe I shall hang out ANOTHER load of laundry and then take Ruby for a walk.

It won’t be a moment too soon for Mallory, who is trying to take a nap on the chair behind me and wishing I would move my derriere off Her Chair so she can get comfortable.  Cats.   Always willing to put your importance into perspective.

We

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I sat down at the computer in order to look at the radar to see if this rain/sleet stuff that is spitting from the pre-dawn sky is going to end any time soon; but I got sucked into the Astronomy Picture of the Day’s site by the trio of images of the aurora borealis taken near Yellowknife.

Suddenly I found myself flipped backwards in time to the days — 34 years ago really — when I lived in Alaska in a cabin that my husband and I and all our friends constructed out on the  edge of Goldstream Valley.   We had a composting toilet, but since we had no electricity the stack really didn’t pull enough suction and it would get very wet and anaerobic if you used it to urinate in.   So we always went outside for that activity, directing our guests off down “The Path” which wended its snowy way through the alder thicket south of the house to the edge of the bluff where our vegetable garden was.

I will just say that I sleep in the nude and have for years and years after I wound up almost strangled to death during my twelfth year by the long flannel granny nightgown I was wearing that had welded itself to the flannel sheets while I threw myself from side to side in whatever dream was controlling my limbs.

That being said, going off down The Path at 2 a.m. when the outside temperature is in the low -40°F (-40°C) range and if you spit it crackles as it falls to the ground is an adventure in efficiency.   I usually would just slip on my mukluks and my parka, put on my hat and scurry carefully out of the house.   You really did not want to slip and fall on the packed snow that surrounded the place, and had for months.

One night I emerged from the cozy cabin so attired, and focused my attention on the ground as I made my way along the path we had trampled through the snowy woods.   It seemed like I could see where I was going better than usual, it was so light outside!   I squatted to pee, musing on the concept that you cannot really buy beer, you can only rent it for a little while, balancing carefully so that the stream would run down hill away from my mukluks, which were merely canvas bags strapped around felt booties.   That night such care was unnecessary, as the warm fluid immediately vaporized into frozen fog and drifted slowly down in the still air.    I stayed down for a minute, stretching my hamstrings and letting myself drip dry.   As I crouched there, I looked up and immediately became drawn into the flickering flowing floating crackling lights that were dancing all over the night sky.

I slowly stood up, unable to take my eyes away from the hypnotic show going on above me.    I don’t know how long it lasted, I really don’t.   But I know that I stood there until my bare knees, which were really all that were showing of my basically nude body between the tops of my mukluks and the bottom of my parka, suddenly lost all feeling and I felt a very cold draft begin to blow up the chimney formed by my torso and the shell of the jacket since I had neglected to put on a scarf.   I also had no hat on, and my ears were hanging out in the open since I had had my head tilted backwards for the show.

I snapped out of my hypnotic state and rushed back into the house.   I shed my outer garments, carefully putting the mukluks up on the high shelf where they would dry out, and crawled up the ladder into the loft.   I slid back under the quilts into the warmth of my young husband, trying not to touch him with my very chilly body.   He rolled over and threw his arm over me and instantly recoiled from the ice maiden he found himself wrapped around.

“Good God!”  he gasped, shocked awake.  “What have you been doing?”

“There were the most amazing Northern lights out there, I got sucked up into the Universe.”

He immediately got up, went down and put on his parka and boots and went out to gaze at the spectacle himself, as he negotiated “The Path” for his own nightly relief expedition.

I was asleep, half warmed, when he crawled in with me, an ice man to match the ice maiden.   We melted each other.

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It’s been beautiful at The Havens lately.

We’ve been working hard too.   Not only have we been building walls, we have been pruning and burning grape trimmings and we had a sauna in there too as well as some extremely nice and friendly and protracted afternoon encounter sessions.   S0 I have not been blogging, or really visiting blogs either.

Plus I got sucked into Zuma blitz on Facebook and I have been mesmerized by it for days.   When I thought about the Aurora borealis this morning, I realized that that game does something hypnotizing to your brain.    I really can’t tell you how obsessed I have been with it.   And it is going to stop right here and now because I have a lot better things to do than move the mouse around on the computer desk and match colors and make balls blow up.  I mean really.    But I see how gamers get made.   I think their brains become rewired.

Anyway, in between obsessive game playing sessions, this is what we accomplished in the yard.

The vegetable garden is planted, at least the cool weather crops.   I have lots of seeds (broccoli, broccoli raab, beets, chard, carrots) shivering in the ground this morning — it is rain/sleeting just at freezing point — in addition to the bed of  hardy lettuces, kale and spinach that made it through the depths of winter.   This cold damp is nothing to them!   We ate some of them for dinner last night, along with a quiche made from the last of last year’s asparagus.

We had the first batch of fresh asparagus a few days ago, and my my my it was goooood.    Since we picked those first brave spears the weather has harshened and the patch is standing at attention, in cold storage, awaiting the return of spring.   I have little pea sprouts that are about an inch tall.   They are almost old enough to take the row cover off of them.   I have found that the cardinals, blue jays, robins, squirrels, and who knows who else think that tiny little pea sprouts make the tastiest salad ever, so if I want to have any peas to grow up and make actual pea pods, I had better protect the little darlings until they are not so tender and tasty any more.   The peas don’t care about cold weather,  in fact they prefer it.   I pray the spring does not heat up too soon, hot peas don’t make pods, they just shut down and die.

Anyway, that’s the news from hereabouts; hope your news is good.

Hen and chicks “Gazelle”

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I was moved to searcha certain name on Google this afternoon as I was trying to cool down after my morning’s forays into the brassica patch.  I mean “forays” in the most military of its usage.

It has come to my attention that since I removed the floating row cover from the broccoli, which was getting entirely to big to be contained within the narrow confines of the piece I had on it, the cabbage looper butterflies, corn ear worm moths, harlequin beetles and several other herbivores have discovered the existence of this most elysian of grazing grounds.   So I was out there, in the sun, without my hat on (I know, my bad!), making a surgical strike against the bug population by locating their egg masses and squashing them,  . . .

cabbage looper moth egg case

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. . .putting the squeeze on any and all caterpillars I came across in my search for the eggs including the little tiny ones that are still only 3-4mm long right now, . . .

. . . and capturing and despatching all the adult harlequin beetles that dared to show themselves.

I ruminated on the realization that I was essentially attempting to commit genocide.  Unrepentant, I continued my activities.  I was happy to despatch this newly hatched group of harlequin beetles.

Notice the older nymph just above the hatchlings.   It has been feeding in the area for a couple of days, and you can see the characteristic damage to the leaf just to its left in the photo.

A further flight into fancy involved the cosmetic industry and the power of advertising.   It occurred to me that if the Madison Avenue types could figure out a way to convince the Great American Consumerwoman that rubbing the juice of freshly smashed harlequin beetles into their skin would prevent them from getting the dreaded Wrinkle Disease, I would have people lining up at my door, clamoring to come help me kill harlequin beetles, and even paying for the privilege.    Somehow I found this line of thought amusing, although I did not try rubbing any dead bugs on my face.

Below is a pair of images, one of a broccoli plant that I did not get around to checking thoroughly the other day and which had a substantial number of herbivores eating their dinner on it.   The second one is one that I cleaned off a couple of days ago.  Please notice the acute difference in the health and glossiness of the leaves.

I realize that this method of organic pest control is way too labor intensive for a large operation, but it suits my purposes just fine. I find killing bugs is a wonderful antidote to any feelings of negativity I have, plus  I find considerable amusement in meeting the members of the ecosystem that occupy my garden.   A little mason bee took a break from its pollinating activities, visited me and helped himself to the potassium and sodium on my skin.  That is the base of my thumb in the shot.

I also saw lots of little spiders.  This one was busily hunting for the small harlequin beetles I missed, so I left her to her work.

I came inside to get my camera, because after I finished going through the whole patch, I picked the daily crop of cucumbers (one of which I have been munching on as I type this post).   While I was searching the cucumber vines, I noticed the asparagus has decided to start a new little flush of stalks.  I noticed that because the cucumbers have made it all the way across the path and have begun using the  forest of old asparagus stalks as a new trellis.

So I picked a little asparagus, and while I was doing that  I noticed a cucumber hanging amidst the asparagus patch that was so beautiful and surreal I just had to come in to get my camera.  Once I got inside, I realized that I needed to cool off a bit, considering I was pretty much bathed in sweat.

Now I have cooled off a bit, and I shall go out to see if I can locate said surreal cucumber, and photograph it.   I am not sure it will actually still be there, as we have developed a theory about cucumbers designed to help explain how a cucumber can possibly get to be six inches long when two people are combing through the patch, once in the morning and once in the evening, in a concerted effort to gather enough 1-2″ long baby cucumbers for a batch of sweet gherkins.   Our theory involves alternate universes and multiple dimensions:   we think the cucumbers go off into an alternate reality where time is speeded up radically, thereby becoming able to grow several inches in what appears in this dimension to be only a few hours.   So, if our theory is correct, it is entirely possible that I will go out to the cucumber patch and not be able to locate the cucumber that sent me inside for the camera in the first place.

Back in a few. . .

It must have heard me coming and flipped back into this universe when I opened the garden gate, because it was still there where I left it.

Anyway, the Google search made me wonder what I would turn up if I googled my own name, and when I searched the nickname I generally go by I discovered that there is a singer in the SF Bay area that is a lot more important than I am, and some woman died  someplace about four years ago, and that is also more important.   Then I thought to search my formal name, and that was when I came across this abstract of an article which was published thirty two years ago in Estuarine and Coastal Marine Science, Volume  9, Issue 4:

Arene and alkane hydrocarbons in nearshore Beaufort Sea sediments

David G. Shaw, Douglas J. McIntosh and Eleanor R. Smith

Institute of Marine Science, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska 99701, U.S.A.

Received 30 June 1978.

A suite of nearshore arctic marine sediments whose alkane composition suggests only biogenic sources, contains complex mixtures of arenes (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Among the stations analyzed, distributions of arenes characteristic of both pyrolytic and fossil sources were observed. The geographic distribution of pyrolytic arenes and other lines of evidence suggest that their source may be long distance transport of anthropogenic combustion products. Fossil arenes are present at some locations in sufficient quantity to mask any pyrolytics present.

You know, I remember writing that article for the journal at the behest of my boss.  I can hardly believe that I actually wrote an article with such an arcane abstract; that I actually understood the subject well enough to write a journal article.  There were others I wrote, one of which appeared in the Journal of Hydrocarbon Chemistry.

I was also required to present a paper based on that research at an oceanography conference held at the U of A.   That article appears in Volume One of a report entitled “The Eastern Bering Sea Shelf: Oceanography and Resources”.  All I really remember about that presentation was the acute stage fright I suffered when I got up to the rostrum to present, and the way I almost could not talk when the Q and A session began.   But my boss, the David Shaw in the above list of authors, told me I did a great job.

Anyway, when I googled my name, that listing was fifth on the list of the Google “finds”, my Facebook page is 7th.  I don’t think  someone looking at those two google results would necessarily put those entries together as referring to one and same person.

Goodness, how life has changed and progressed in the interim.

It boggles the mind.

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Recently I have been finding myself in the phase of life where one finds oneself saying things like “When I was a young girl” or “Back in the old days” and then embarking on a tale designed to wise up the young ears that are supposedly listening to it.  Actually, some of my tales are racy and harrowing enough that the young ears hang on them.   I’m not sure they learn anything, but they do listen.

This is one of those tales.

Back in the old days (there, see?   I said it!) you could not meet people on the internet, because not only did the internet not exist, neither did the personal computer.   (Imagine being so old you remember when all phones had cords and the PC was the stuff of science fiction.)

Anyway, back in the old days you had to meet people by being introduced to them by your friends, or by running into them at parties where large quantities of alcohol could reduce your inhibitions enough that you would agree to engage in wild schemes.   I was still in college, and since I had no car I truly enjoyed having boyfriends that did have such a commodity.  (One of those gentlemen so equipped taught me to drive, but that is another story entirely, which you can find here.)

So as events eventualized, I happened to be at one of those sorts of parties where there were quite a number of young men present, but no alcohol as it was a party being put on by the Youth Group of the religion I adhered to at the time.   Contrary to my present manners, I was a rather happy-go-lucky young lady, more than adequately free with my favors, in fact you might even have termed me loose if you were so disposed as to be uncharitable.   Anyway, suffice it to say that one of the young men present was quite good looking, and not a bad dancer either.   During the course of events I also ascertained that he was a more than adequate kisser, and after a certain amount of that activity we pretty much decided that we wished to pursue the natural course of events in a more private spot.

We explored the possibilities of the home in which the party was being held, and discovered that in the basement there happened to be a very comfortable mattress.   We availed ourselves of the facilities for some indeterminate time (quite satisfactorily), and returned to the upstairs party not a little disheveled just in time to discover that we were among the very last guests to leave.  My ride had departed for the university some time previously.  Our host was laboring under the delusion that we had left the premises hours previously, and was dumbfounded by our appearance from belowstairs.   We did not find it convenient to educate him regarding what we had been doing.

Finding ourselves rather unceremoniously deposited upon the street, we discussed what we should do next.   Now bear in mind that I had never laid eyes upon the lad I was accompanying before that party, but I felt that I had become rather better acquainted with him over the course of the evening.   In fact, I felt that I had gotten to know him just well enough to want to pursue the relationship a little further, especially that evening.  In other words, I was hot to have a couple more orgasms should the opportunity arise (so to speak).  The gentleman had a car.  And he expressed a desire to take me home with him for further activities.

The downside of the situation was that he did not have a lot of money with which to purchase lodging.  He was a rather low echelon member of the USArmy which precluded a large salary, and he had a car, which has a tendency to suck cash out of your bank account.   The further downside of the situation was that he was not stationed at Ft. Wainwright, which was right on the outskirts of town, but rather at Fort Greeley, which was about 10 miles the other side of Delta Junction, a hamlet that was located some 98 miles from Fairbanks.    The downest of the downsides of all these situations was that he was living in the barracks, and even though I was still naive about some things, I knew that girls were not generally allowed in them.   However, when I brought this up he assured me that he had good friends that were living in quarters, and so if I accompanied him back to the base there would be a place where we could continue our acquaintance.

Let me just say right now that I do not approve of haring off on such addlepated adventures and will strongly un-recommend doing any such thing as what I then proceeded to do.   I will say in my defense that I was at least aware of the fact that once he got back to Fort Greeley, my chances of having him drive me back to Fairbanks were slim to none, and so I did ask him exactly how he intended to get me home if I was so idiotic as to go riding off into the night with him.   He blithely informed me that there was a daily bus from the fort back to town that I would be welcome to ride.

Reassured, I agreed that going on a two hour drive in the middle of the night in order to have some more fun and games was a grand idea, and so we set off.  Did I mention that it was mid-January, and the temperature was somewhere around -35°F (-37.5°C)?  The fact that we were making our negotiations on the street in that temperature added a certain hastiness to them, I am sure.   Perhaps my neurons were functioning poorly due to the cold.  I certainly cannot blame inebriation as at that time in my life I did not drink.  At all.

Anyway, as we were leaving Fairbanks my swain stopped off at a local emporium to acquire certain supplies that he felt had been lacking in the evening’s festivities so far.   This was the point at which I should have exited the vehicle and wended my way back to my nice warm dormitory, but I was still focused on the fun I thought I was going to have later.   However, misgivings soon arose in my sex-fogged mind as my chauffeur proceeded to indulge in the bourbon which he had purchased at regular intervals as he drove.   At least he poured it into a cup and did not drink straight from the bottle.

By the time I was fully aware of exactly what a bad situation I was in, we were approximately 40 miles south of town and when I say it was the middle of nowhere I am not exaggerating.   Alaska in the early 1970s was truly a unpopulated wilderness when you got away from town, and bear in mind that I was not equipped for solo walking at -35°.  I had just been at a party, for God’s sake.   Anyway, the farther away from town we got, the drunker my escort became  By the time we reached the outskirts of Delta Junction he was, for lack of a better word, plastered.   This did not stop him from making a pit stop at the roadhouse on the outskirts of town, ostensibly to call his buddy in quarters to let him know of our imminent (and until then completely unheralded) arrival.   He availed himself of the bar facilities there and topped himself off, whereupon we proceeded to the back gate of the fort and made our way to his friend’s place.

Needless to say, his friend was not all that happy to see us, seeing as how it was approximately 1:30 a.m., but in the time honored tradition of soldiers everywhere was happy to see a buddy about to get lucky, so he let us in and showed us to our accommodations, which were a very thin air mattress on the floor of the living room.

Let me just say at this time that imbibing large quantities of alcohol is not a good way to improve your sexual prowess.   The gentleman with whom I had gone off to adventure was basically completely incapable of any activity that remotely resembled sex.   And, since he was drunk as a skunk he very unpleasantly proceeded to insult me and inform me that his inability to perform was somehow my fault.   I disagreed, having done my womanly best to inspire his limp rag of a penis to stand to attention, using all my considerable expertise to do so.  Fortunately, before he could add physical abuse to the verbal he unceremoniosly passed out.  I availed myself of the couch and got some sleep.

The next morning we were awakened by loud and officious knocking on the door of the apartment we were in.   This was when my education in military rules and regulations was furthered.  It seems that there was some requirement for this low-ranked person, who was out on an evening pass, to actually be in his own bed in his own barracks by a certain hour, and not only was he not there but the guy at the gate had actually noticed his inebriation as he came onto post.  Fort Greeley was not that big a place, it didn’t take the MPs long to discover where he was actually sleeping, and they were there to take him off to “Special Duty,” where he could spend his Sunday walking around and around with his gear, his weapon,and his hangover.  That was the last I ever saw of my erst-while lover, as he was summarily escorted by armed men to a very official looking jeep.

The buddy and his wife were not amused.  However, they were kind enough to provide me with some breakfast (corn flakes) and then transport me to where the bus back to town was scheduled to depart.  They dropped me off outside the Post Exchange, and right before they took off I ran my eyes about the area, where I did not see anything that remotely resembled a bus, at least not in my lexicon and experience.

“Where is the bus to Fairbanks?”  I inquired, rather desperately.

“Right there!”  the buddy said.   I looked to where he was pointing, and all I could see was an Army 6×6 truck, completely with canvas top, that looked like it was surplus from WWII.  It probably was, actually.

“That is the bus??”  I asked, incredulous.

“That is the bus,” I was assured.  The buddy took pity on me, and exited his vehicle to discuss my situation with the driver of the transport and make sure that I indeed was going to be able to get a ride back to town.

There were several other folks waiting for “The Bus” to leave.  We were stamping our feet and swinging our arms in the brisk arctic air.   I looked in the back of the truck.   It was bare bones.   There were benches along the sides to sit on.   There was no heater.   I assessed the situation, and immediately began utilizing my womanly wiles in an attempt to get to ride in the cab with the driver.

Unfortunately for me, the presence of a Master Sergeant and a Colonel in the passenger list trumped my wiles.   I rode in the back.   I was ill equipped for the experience.  While I had on a proper parka, hat, gloves, scarf and mittens, I did not have on any long underwear, or a third layer  under my parka.  My footwear was not appropriate either, being Lowa hiking boots, which were fine for walking around in but not much good at keep feet warm at sub-zero temperatures, especially not when you are sitting still with your feet on a metal floor.  The driver did take pity on me and find an Army drab wool blanket for me to wrap up in.   It was filthy, but at that point I did not care.

I froze all the way back to town.   There was a pit stop at the half way point, at a settlement called “Halfway”, oddly enough.   The driver of our conveyance manufactured some sort of problem with his vehicle and that problem persisted until he was certain that I was thoroughly warmed up, despite the frowns and exhortations of the Colonel, who apparently had a plane to catch.   He also detoured through Fairbanks and dropped me at the bus stop for Walt’s Bus (a “real” bus) which would get me back to campus.   Walt allowed me to ride home to the University despite the fact that I did not have the fare at the time.   Walt was good that way; he would let you ride for free and as far as I know never got stiffed for a fare he fronted to an impecunious college student.

Miraculously, I did not get frostbite.   And I never heard from the Soldier Boy again.   If I had, I’m afraid I would probably have hung up on him unceremoniously.

My ardor had been thoroughly cooled.

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Today I am joining Nursemyra in Corset Friday, in honor of the fact that tomorrow is the first day of spring and also the first day of my vacation in the tropics, I am posting a photograph that was acquired by one of my journalism major buddies in college.

See, it was the first day of spring in Fairbanks, Alaska (circa 1972), and someone had the brilliant idea that it would be cool to show a photograph of a bathing beauty on the front page of the student newspaper.   Achieving this aim was difficult, however.   The young men were running around the dormitory trying to find a girl who not only owned a two piece bathing suit (they really wanted a skimpy bikini, but there were none available) AND (and this was the truly difficult part) was crazy enough to go out and lie in the snow to pose for the shot. It was a balmy 20° F (-6.6° C) that day.  And yes, that is a snow bank I am lying in.   After a certain amount of negotiation, they decided I could have a towel between me and the snow.

The limitations of my scanner do not allow you to see the goose bumps.  The photograph was folded so I could put it in an envelope and mail it to my mother.   I’m not sure exactly what her thoughts were, but they were probably somewhere along the line of “That girl has a scholarship and a straight A average, but apparently this is no indication of intelligence or common sense.”

Happy spring everybody!   See you in a couple of weeks when I get back from warmer places.

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