Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Journey to Laysan Island

I have just returned from a research cruise out to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and it was a remarkable trip! I hopped on a boat in Honolulu (the M/V Searcher) and we headed out to drop a crew off on the remote and uninhabited island of Nihoa. It is an amazing little island, very rugged and tough to get people on shore due to the cliffs that surround most of the perimeter. Once we dropped the crew off we headed out on the four day journey to Laysan Island. There is a permanent field camp on Laysan and I was headed up there with the incoming crew that was to replace the three guys who had been out there for the last six months. Like Nihoa, Laysan is remote and not open to the public. Laysan Island is a major seabird colony with a large poulation of both Black-footed and Laysan Albatrosses. The island also has a population of Greater Frigatebirds. The breeding male frigates were diplaying all over the place with their large red pouches inflated to call in all the ladies! All three species of Pacific Boobies (Red-footed, Masked and Brown) nest on the island. I am a huge fan of the Boobies and it was great to have so many all around to photograph!

My work on the island was pretty straight-forward. I was out there to check on the work that the outgoing crew had been doing on my albatross project. Laysan Island is one of the field sites that we are using to monitor adult survival and reproductive success so that we can assess long term trends in the population. The guys did a great job, despite having minimal guidance from me. In truth, I was learning how to do this work on Midway this winter while these guys were learning it for themselves on Laysan! I had a great time out there and I would have gladly stayed longer, but after four days we loaded up and headed back to the southeast to pick up the crew we had dropped off at Nihoa. The trip back to Nihoa and on to Oahu was pretty rough and I spent one long day pretty queasy as we bounced into some big seas.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Leaving Alaska

With heavy hearts but excitement for our future, Camille and I said goodbye to Alaska last week. Dustin and Cecille gave us a nice send-off party at their house. I said goodbye to some of my closest friends that night but I know I'll be seeing a lot of them either on visits to Alaska or down in Portland. We had an epic journey getting out of Alaska and down to our new home. After driving 750 miles from Anchorage, heading for the town of Haines (where we were suppossed to get on the Alaska ferry to Washington), we were stopped 40 miles short of our goal by a blizzard that shut down the highway. So, instead of a nice relaxing four day cruise on the ferry, Camille and I drove 2,200 miles down the Alaska Highway to get to Portland. The drive through the Yukon and B.C. was beautiful but extremely tiring. Both Camille and I were driving our own trucks with a cat on our lap. Fortunately Dustin let us borrow walkie-talkies for the trip and that saved us!! I am glad we did it because I have always wanted to drive the highway, and the hot springs at Laird River, right on the B.C. /Yukon Border made the whole trip worth it!