Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thank goodness for global warming...

The snow and ice have gone. The streams are flowing freely. It has been above freezing for over a week. It is now 49 degrees in Kodiak, Alaska (yes, Alaska). After a short stroll, the hats and coats come off. The grass is actually turning green. Why do some not like global warming?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Viewing Kodiak's Ice Crystals

If it's warm at your place during the Christmas Holidays......just go on a walk with us.
It's a cold Sunday morning. A nice layer of frost has developed on the ground. So call your friends and lets go for a walk. Have someone bring his 22 in case a rabbit presents himself for dinner and have another bring his bear rifle, in case one wants you for dinner (Just kidding; but they say 1/3 of Kodiak's bears do not hibernate because there is enough food all year long). Bring your dog, your camera, and let's head out along the Bear Golf Course for a nice stroll. Then in the afternoon we'll head out behind the house, along the creek. We'll end up at Mill Bay and check out the frost on the beach. Have your friends keep an eye out for wildlife. We'll just walk along to the tune of the music and enjoy what lies at our feet.

P.S If you run into our ex-governor in the lower 48, just tell her the winds were favorable and we could hear Dr Zhivago's music directly across the sea from Russia. That's a joke. We can't hear their music here. And it is the Hungarian Dances, not Dr. Z's music.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Short winter days

The days are about as short as they will get. They say we now have 6 hours and 32 minutes of daylight. Sunrise is officially at 9:52 am and sunset is at 4:24 pm. But this has been a good year for light. With twilight, there is enough light to think it's daylight at 9 am and as late as 5 pm. This picture was taken at 4:24 pm last week; sunset should have been past 4:30. As you can see, it is not as bad as you might think.

This is different from last year. I remember one day in which the sun did not seem to rise till 10:20 am because it was cloudy and misty. Although this year is colder, it has been a good year for visible daylight in my opinion!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Extreme Ice Biking...

The days are short. So unless you want to leave for work after 9 in the morning and return before 4:30 in the afternoon, you better be decked out in your reflective outfit!
No, this is not the type of clothing you find at those yuppie biking stores. It's pure industrial grade stuff. A highway department vest works great along with high beam LED lights. And note those yellow leather gloves with built in reflectors. If it's raining, put on those Kodiak "always-in-style" Xtra-Tuff boots (not shown here). And finish out your outfit with metal studded extra-wide tires to get a grip on the ice and really pimp-out your ride!
Now, just hope there are no crazy walkers dressed in black along the unlit bike path. Better yet, leave work after 6 pm to be sure they are safely at home before you take off (I've read that up to 20% of the population of Kodiak walks to work). But most importantly, remember where each of those pot holes on the ground are located, because they sure give your wrist's scaphoid bone a contusion when your front tire falls in one of those holes in the dark!
Don't you agree that the Discover channel needs a show called: Xtreme Ice Bikers?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sea Lions At Play

Some of you have seen this video already, but we just learned how to easily insert it in our blog. Hopefully, this will make viewing Carlos' videos much easier.

I hope you enjoy this one. It highlights some sea lions we watched while on a glacier viewing cruise this past summer. They're so cute but when you get close and realize that they might weight up to 2000 pounds, you certainly give them some respect.

Let us know if you enjoy it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Eagle Field of View

Salmon are no longer in the Kodiak streams so the eagles are coming to town, hoping to find food at the fish processing plants. Here is one looking around. They can turn their necks more than 180 degrees to see what is behind them, without turning their bodies! Note that their feet keep facing forward. This is not trick photography.

A Democratic friend recommended that I send this to the Secret Service, to remind them to keep an eye for intruders at the Presidential Ball. But I think that might get me in trouble.

Monday, November 23, 2009

When the weather is bad....

What do you do when its been around 20 degrees for a week, snow has accumulated, and suddenly the temperature rises to 34 degrees? If the rain is coming down, you stay out of that slush. You look at your summer pictures and reorganize them into a slide show with music! So here is a new presentation of our bear viewing trip.
Join ous on a trip from Kodiak Island, across the Shelikof Strait, to Geographic point at Katmai Nat. Park. We sat by a "fish hole" in the river and let the bears come close to eat salmon. There were up to 29 bears we could count closeby at one time. We had at least 17 in view at any one time. We felt safe since they were interested in eating their salmon. Some were so close that they could almost have reached out and touched us. Only at one time did we think of using our "mass" for protection. The plan was to have us all stand up at the same time on the count of 3. Fortunaltely at the count of 1, the approaching bear turned away. Three hours of "communing with nature", shortened to 9 minutes. What do you think of the music?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winter arrives in Kodiak

It has been under 20 degrees since last Friday. Just a few inches of snow, but all of it is still on the ground. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, just one week before Thanksgiving. It seems strange because the last 2 years it didn't get this way till January. Is there Global Warming where you live? Hope you enjoy yourselves, whether it's hot or cold.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Is it a seal or a sea lion?

You could get all scientific and try to see if it has external ear lobes. Then you know its a seal.
But I go by size: if it's big, its a sea lion. If it's 11 feet long and 1,200 pounds (2 - 3x's a Sumo wrestler's size): it's a male sea lion. Eight feet, 500 pounds: it's a female sea lion. A seal is 200 pounds as an adult. Needless to say it is really easy to determine which it is when you are kayaking and one of the two comes up to you. When your heart suddenly starts racing, you know your adrenaline has kicked in because your subconcious noticed a sea lion before you could even meaure it's size. Anything that is almost as long as your boat and 3 times as wide is something that makes you pray!

Sea lions swim under your boat and seem to say, "You are lucky that I am in a good mood today because I could easily bump your toy boat and have my way with you". Seals come up to you with their puppy dog eyes and seem to say, "Want to play?" I hear they have come on shore to play with some people's dogs. I keep taking my dogs there but I guess they don't look friendly to the seals.

Do you get which I like better? There are a few people in Kodiak who are known to have pieces missing from their buttocks. Sea lions like to jump on board the fishing boats when they are unloading their catch. If you try to push them away from your catch, they are likely to push you over the side. Or in a few cases, they'll take a bite out of you. In fact, seals are thought to be related to nice small otters and sea lions are considered related to bears. They say if you find a sea lion skull near on a beach you might have a tough time determining it is not a bear's.
Anyway, here is a video I shot of a sea lion rookery this summer. They seem nice and playful when they are that far from you. Enjoy them at a distance.

Notice in the video how the sea lions are able to push themselves and almost "walk" on their hind legs. I hear they have remnants of hip sockets that let them do that. This is why they can climb such steep cliff walls. Seal are more like fish; they lack those hips. When on land they use their front paws like paddle wheels on a Mississippi riverboat to pull themselves forward. No steep beaches for them.

Enough for today. Another day we'll talk more about their first few day of life and perhaps about what I've learned form people who used to hunt them.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Crime Scene Investigations....Kodiak Style

The following was in the Kodiak Daily Mirror newspaper State Trooper Blotter:

Friday, Oct 30, 2009
At 12:10 pm a call was received from a person at the landfill reporting a foot was found in a dumpster next to a bag with meat and unknown fatty substances. Officers determined the foot was the foot of a bear and the bag contained the rest of the bear."

Your police probably get calls to investigate killings. You would think the State Troopers must have gotten all excited. But no. It was just another successful hunt they were called to investigate.

PS The picture is not not of the crime scene. It is one of my bear skinning photos. Those bear paws are pretty good to study anatomy. Only in Kodiak.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Life Under Kodiak Waters

During my "Kayaking among the kelp" blog I told you I was thinking of exploring more about life under water in the North Pacific. I have been visiting the Alaska Fisheries Research Center here in Kodiak and have learned quite a bit. I have been particularly impressed with how soft and pliable starfish are. In addition, I am convinced fish use their eyes about as much as we do...despite what I was told that they sense alot by motion and chemical smells. They seem to follow you with their eyes, just as much as a puppy would. Just take a look at my pictures and tell me what you think.
So why don't you put on your wet suit, climb on the kayak, go with me by the kelp where its a few fathoms deep, and take a dive. We'll be back before sunset.
See what lives underneath at:
Once you've been there in pictures, you are probably ready to come visit and see it for yourself. But now might not be the best time. It is 39 degrees outside and 46 degree water is a little cold to try it on your own. It will drop to about 34 in the winter. Stop by the scuba business here in Kodiak and have them get you ready for next summer to personally see what is underneath. The water will then be a warm 51 degrees or so. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Autumn in Kodiak

We returned after 2 weeks absence and found we need to drive with the headlights on till 8:20 AM. The green has almost all disappeared, except for the lawns, the Sitka Spruce, and the moss on the trees. Temperature at 2 PM was 39 degrees. Ice remained in the puddles.
But there is one thing we really enjoyed on our return: the thirst quenching drinking water. No, the tap water in Texas does not quench the thirst. And no, the store bought bottled water does not compare our our fresh tasting tap water.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Krispy Kremes come to Kodiak!!!

It is amazing what you miss when you are an island in the North Pacific!

When the football team had a fund raiser selling "fresh" Krispy Kreme doughnuts they had few people turn them down. Just magine getting those mouth watering donuts shipped directly from the closest bakery in Seatle. Only 7 - 9 hours after being cooked! $ 20 per dozen... no problem! Sign me up! There was not a shortage of orders. I think even the religious were praying for good weather to let the jet fly in last Saturday.

Got to say though, they didn't taste as good as I expected. Guess 9 hours old is not fresh enough.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fall comes to Kodiak

The day after the equinox, we woke to 30 degrees. Frost covered the lawn and they say a dusting of snow dropped on the mountains. Overnight the fireweed sprouted their cottony white tufts. By the next day their red leaves turned brown.

Now its time to prepare a few things.
1. Mow the lawn for the last time and put the tractor away.
2. Change the water in the hot tub before the faucet temperature drops below 50 degrees.
3. Find the ice scrapers for the car's windshield.

But don't get too depressed. It still gets to nearly 50 degrees every day. Just start a hike with a jacket and take it off as the day goes on. Just think: no more sweating in that hot, nearly 70 degree weather!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where does your sun rise?

In the East... but only on the 2 days of the year that are called the Equinox: Sept 24 and March 18th. In the winter it rises further south than tre East.

Here is our sunrise. On June 14 it was to the North, over the neighbor's house at 4:30 AM. On August 22 at 7:00 AM, it was just off the tip off Spruce Cape. And on September 21st (three days before the Autumn Equinox), it is rising close to true East at 8:30 AM.

By December 21, the Winter Solstice, our sun will rise 50 degrees further to the South than it does on Sept 24...... well outside the right side of the picture.

Where it rises depends on how far north of the equator you live. We live at 58 degrees north of the equator. Denver (which is 40 degrees from the equator) will see the sun rising just 30 degrees south of East! At the equator, it will rise just 22 degrees south of true East during the winter Solstice.That's because the Earth tilts more the further north you travel and, in fact, is alot more elliptical or thin at the top and bottom than midway from the equator. So the position of the sun rising and setting changes alot more on the horizon the further north your travel.

If you want to know where your sun will really rise on any day, wherever you are, check it out at

Sunrise Locations

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wedding in Chiniak

We had a wedding last weekend in Chiniak. This is a very small community, of about 70 people, about an hour drive south of Kodiak. Let me spend a small amount of time describing the town. After you turn off the main road to Chiniak, the road is unpaved and there are continual potholes...large potholes. The US Post Office is open 3 days a week for 2 hours at a time. There are no grocery stores or gas stations.

Anyway, this is where the wedding was held. It was set on the beach with a beautiful backdrop of the bay. The bride wore a lovely long gown and the groom a tux. What I want you to enjoy is the attire of the guests. It had been raining all day and could start again at any moment during the ceremony. Luckily, it didn't. Many guests wore ExtraTuffs, the standard Kodiak rain boot, and everyone had on their raingear.

So, even with the inclement weather, the poor roads, and the long drive, the entire place was full. I don't think anyone turned down the invitation. We need all the entertainment we can get here in the North Pacific.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Autumn Storms are Beginning

Last Friday we had a typical Autumn storm. 40 knot winds and 18 foot seas were expected off Baren Island. That is on the course the ferry takes to Homer, AK. Even the Tustumena decided to stay in port...and that is the ferry that makes it here even in the winter storms.
I, of course, decided to take pictures at Mill Bay and off Spruce Cape. The dogs decided to stay behind. I can tell you that gusts actually knocked me over twice as I tried to photograph the weather. Here are a few pics. Compare the one of the point to the one with the helicopter landing on the blog form last week. Aren't those some waves? On the bluish picture (taken just before dark near 9 PM), the rocks in the far ground are 30+ feet above mean water level!. An if you still want to go out in that, note that the picture with the pine trees is close to where we usually put in the kayaks.
A seal kept looking at me as if saying, "Help me , please". Whenever a wave came, it would dive under the water. But knowing what rocks are visible at low tide, I can only assume that it was getting battered up pretty bad. I like that seal. I thnk it is the one which comes close to me when I kayak around the bay.