Yunaska and Unalaska Island
After a short steam from Atka, we dropped hook on the small, volcanic island of Yunaska. All of the Aleutians are volcanic in nature (see Bogoslof which erupted two days after our initial departure from Adak), but Yunaska is something else entirely. Once the dense, persistent fog, infamous in the Aleutians, finally lifted, we were awestruck by the landscape. Towering volcanoes gave way to exposed hillsides and rock faces dropping straight into the sea. A quick look at the charts confirmed our suspicions; we were in the middle of Crater Anchorage, the blast crater from a massive eruption in 1927.
Most of the time, visibility at depth in the Aleutians is pretty good (around 10 meters or so)—that is, until we stir up clouds of silt from the bottom by putting our chambers down or collecting samples. However, on Yunaska “the vis” was incredible; easily over 20 meters. Watching from the surface, I had a clear view of our chambers when we puttered over them in the small boats. Even though I can’t get in the water for another month or so, I was thrilled to be on the water in Yunaska.
While the dive teams were rounding off the data collection on our last island, I kept myself busy in the lab by entering and analyzing data and sorting samples as they came back. Some might say that this project is over-ambitious, but collectively we were able to make everything happen. It really is an incredible thing, attempting to collect a year’s worth of data in about a month. But the teams up here are mission-oriented; our days are long but spirits are always high.
Our last day on Yunaska was one for the books. The fog came and went in rapid dark grey eddies, leaving stillness and sunshine in its wake. The colors of the island, above and below the surface, came alive. You could feel the energy on the Oceanus. Yunaska is our last island for this whole project, and we had to make it count. But all too soon it was time to begin our day-long steam to Unalaska and our departure from Dutch Harbor. The last day on the Oceanus was bittersweet; as we packed up our dive gear and broke down the labs we reminisced about our two summers in the Aleutians. These islands are incredible, but the people that make up the dives teams really made this experience exceptional.
On the morning of the 25th we arrived in Dutch Harbor, the most populated place in the Aleutians. As part of this project, our Labs were asked to collaborate on an exhibit in the Museum of the Aleutians in Dutch Harbor. We were invited to tour the exhibit, which pulls together our project along with geologic and anthropologic research across the Aleutians. The exhibit even featured a small video, put together by yours truly.
After a long day in Dutch, we boarded our plane, bound for Anchorage. We said our bittersweet goodbyes at the airport, after more than a little celebrating in Dutch. This wraps up the second of our two research cruises in the Aleutian Archipelago. It has been an incredible journey, but it’s not over yet! While we’ve finished collecting our data, we still have a whole lot of analysis and writing ahead of us.
Be sure to check back in as we delve into the data and the story really develops!
This is Baron von Urchin checking out from the Great White North.
Pike Spector is currently a Research Operations Specialist with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary