It’s good to be back in Alaska. Last Sunday was my final day in Oregon for the summer, and I won’t be returning until the 18th of September. The crew is assembled in Gustavus, our bags are (mostly) packed, the gear is (mostly) ready, and we are all very excited. Getting here however, was more difficult than we had anticipated.
I think it is common for us, or at least myself, to grow complacent after reaching a certain amount of experience. Your brain gets used to noticing the things it must anticipate, and you know longer have to be as actively vigilant about your thoughts and behaviors as you were when you started. I think there’s a real beauty in field work, because that attitude will make you look foolish faster than you can say “mechanical error”.
After flying into Juneau on Sunday, Michelle and David picked me up from the airport and dropped me off at the local hostel, warning me that Dawn, a previous student of Michelle’s who had recently passed through Juneau, had difficulty reserving a bed for the night. I shrugged off that warning with casual confidence. “I’ll be fine.” I told them, and I was right. I even got a whole room to myself, which was convenient considering the cold I was nursing at the time. After an early 4 AM wake up to board the ferry from Juneau to Gustavus Monday morning, everything seemed to be going just as planned. I knew what I was doing, I’d been here before and was ready for the problems we had encountered last time. Time for a relaxing boat ride to our destination.
The problem started while we were waiting to board David’s truck full of our gear and food for the summer onto the ferry. While waiting in the lot assigned to our ferry, David pointed out that a few cars were packing up and leaving.
“Must have parked in the wrong lot.” He said.
Not quite. A couple minutes later, we got a knock on our window, with an apologetic man telling us the ferry had a mechanical problem, and wouldn’t be taking anyone anywhere for a while.
Well, we did the only thing we could think of. We went and got coffee to problem solve. You see, this setback had the potential to really bungle things up for the beginning of what was promised to be a smooth(er) start than last summer. First of all, the other half of the team was flying in later that evening, and was expecting to meet us in Gustavus. Furthermore, the only way to get all of the gear and food we had brought for the summer was to get David’s truck onto a ferry. After tossing around several ideas, we concluded that we would all take a small plane to Gustavus and demand a refund for our ferry tickets. We asked Michelle’s oh so generous friend Sarah to watch the truck and, when the ferry was ready, deliver it to the docking station and send it on its way to us. Thanks to the generosity of friends and the adaptability of our team, we ended up right back on schedule.
After reaching Gustavus, I brought another problem with me. I had contracted a minor cold a couple days prior to my departure, but due to all the travel, lack of sleep and emotional duress from a recent break-up, my immune system totally crashed. After making it to the research housing, I went from a casual cold to full-blown plague victim. I was quickly quarantined in my own room, forcing the rest of my roommates to sleep out in the halls with their mattresses. I was forbidden from handling food, touching too many things, or breathing too much in people’s general presence. Basically, I was bubble boy for the week.
This turned out to be a wise choice, as although feeling rather useless in my seclusion, it did give me the opportunity to really heal up. Currently, I am churning this out as fast as possible, because tomorrow we head out for the real deal! Three weeks on strawberry island before we return for our first furlough.
I’ll be back with lots of photos!
If the wi-fi will allow it…