Saturday, August 16, 2008

Day 77 Pictures--

Day 77-- Bear--Blue Ice, Brown Water

Wednesday is my last full day in the field, and of couse, a bear shows up on the ride out. He/she was on the beach about half way out, we stopped and Issac and JR hazed himn into the water. Got some decent pictures of him on the crest of the beach ridge. Seemed to be about 5', a teenager, not full grown. Got most of another burial excavated up by Anne's honda, the wind was so bad--about 25 MPH, gusting to 35---we put two hondas together with a large tarp to form a windbreak. Excavated him/her till about 3PM --looks to be another 12 yr old +or- 2 years, second molars are erupted but with no wear at all. Took a break at lunch and went down to the shore to get some picures of brown waves breaking over blue ice. Issac was kind enough to take some pictures of me in front of the ice with the brown waves breaking over them. I remember standing there smiling broadly thinking this is a good place to be at a good time--it just all felt right--The pictures look great, I don't remember looking or feeling so confident and relaxed, comfortable and in charge, in front of natural chaos. That will be my signature picture.
Wrapped up early so we could get to the Post Office so a lot of us could mail packages back. Said good-bye to everyone on Thursday morning as they left for the point.
Unfinished thoughts--
Lying on the bluff stretched out with my arm extended to take a transit shot and support the stadia rod--with the wind directly head-on so I can't even hear the radio--watching the gulls dive into the waves and pluck 3" long Tomcod out of the crest of the incoming waves. there is a line of about 20 of them just hovering in the wind fishing a school of them--Where did they learn that behavior? I've never heard of them being that patient and organized. Anne telling the story of the killer whales at Seaworld learning how to catch seagulls by retaining one of their herring treats and spitting it up into the air and if a gull took the bait and came in for it, snatching the gull off the water. They have taught three generations of them how to do that--again a behavior not seen in the wild.
If you close your eyes, you listen to the surf and it sounds exactly like the surf in Hawaii or California but it isn't--this has chunks of sea ice in it, and a 25 MPH cold wind in your face--I love it! It feels like work that is not only worthwhile but worth the time and effort to accomplish it. It fits me naturally, like a glove--There is a feeling of power, like gearing up for hockey, putting on all the layers and accroutments to do the job and them striding out to do it--there is no whining or complaining in archaeology.
Striding across the gravel, I'm gripped by the image of standing in the surf in Hawaii and watching your toes disappear in the sand and if you stand there longer, your feet and your ankles and calves sink in also. I get the feeling that if you stand still in the gravel the same thing will happen,first your boots, then your ankles and calves will disappear and pretty soon you'll become another dark organic stain in the gravel, like the ones we excavate. Best to keep moving.
I'll miss the approachability of the people here, not only the researchers but also the natives and residents. You can walk up to anyone, introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. People make eye contact here and are willing to engage and respond--that is a different experience from the lower world.
I like it here, I feel comfortable--and, dare I say it--Happy--

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Day 75 pictures

Day 75--2 to go--Barges, Bluff Burial and Real Estate

Winding down now , day 75 with only two days to go--at day 77 it will be exactly 11 weeks, seems much shorter--the rythym of working hard and long for 5 days and off for 2 has become comfortable--The cold is always a factor as is the wind but if you gear up properly you can get adapted pretty quickly --nobody whines, no one complains, you just do what needs to be done.
Today I found myself hanging headfirst off the 15" bluff excavating a 12 year old that had partially tumbled out of the bluff face, when the melting permafrost caused the bluff to slump. there was not much too him/her--Skull partial mandible, partial pelvis and 2 unfused femurs, fibula,and 1 phalange. Took only about an hour and a half to get him out but David and I had to lay on our stomachs to spread out the weight so the bluff would not crumble and take him and us with him.
Worked on finishing up two other partial burials and got them completed, and may try to finish another one tomorrow. The driftwood feature is slowly winding down with a terminus line marked in the gravel(literally) that we won't go beyond. Passed the 2000 mark in number of items recorded. with a decent number showing working by humans.
The first barge of the season arrived today, and started to offload. everyone is heading to the Napa gas station to fill up cars, gas cans and 55 gallon drums with the "cheap" $4.55 gallon gas because they know what is coming--the fuel barge arrives and the price for the entire next year is set--the anticipation is between $7-8.00 per gallon, maybe more. The barge is basically a small container ship with those 20' X10' containers loaded on deck. There is a small LST type ship that ferries the containers and other goods to shore. see the attached pictures. All of the lumber, building supplies, prefab houses, cars, trucks, heavy equipment arrives this way.
Real estate--I'll try to add some pictures of real estate, the blue house sold for $250K, the little green one is for sale at $72K. the empty lot with the posts is the beginning of construction. You buy the land from UIC, plant the permafrost posts, wait a year to see if they are solid and order your building materials to arrive on next summer's barge and start building. If you decide to sell you have to offer it back to UIC who has first right of refusal, at market prices. Most new permits are granted near the Barrow Utilidor, which carries water, sewage, fiber optic lines in an underground heated tunnel. They will hook you up for free but you have to pay an ongoing maintaince fee, plus the cost of the utilities. the other option is septic and water cistern with daily water delivery.
More later--pictures to follow.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Day 70 pictures

Day 70---Bear, Bears and more Bears

Weather has held steady this week, 30-35 degrees, some wind, some fog, mostly overcast but when the sun does come out it truly is glorious--Blue sky, blue ocean white ice, the pack ice has moved back in. we've had new bear guards the last few days, brothers, Issac and J.R.--they have been taking me out at lunch breaks and showing/teaching me how to spot bear tracks, not too difficult truly, most of the pictures this time are bear tracks which i thought most people would enjoy. Today there were tracks of three distinctly different bears, both by size and shape, i tried to shoot them to give boyj a feel of size and stride. The other picture is of David trying to paddle a small ice floe with a shovel--the kids get bored at lunch--as Issac sais "Silly white boy!" We're winding down now, Christine and I are working on what should be the last burial, looks like a young adult > 16 for sure. We had a new dental exturn out with us this week, helped to finish off the last of the dentition xrays, and came out to the site with us. She worked on our burial and was thrilled to find two teeth--
The driftwood feature is starting to shape up, they are up to 1500 objects shot in and probably will hit 2000 before next week wraps up the season, that is an unheard of number of objects for a 5M X 3M site. A piece of baleen showed up today, about 12" long that-- should not be there either, way to early for anyone to be harvesting whales by about 600 years--BUT could have been washed in on the driftline. Season is winding down, just 1 week to go--I'll post more soon, trying to wrap up some other issues I've been thinking about including real estate prices up here...enjoy--

Friday, August 1, 2008

Day 65--Have I Mentioned its Fracking Cold Up Here??

We've been kinda cruising through the summer, work wise, , and really haven't had much in the way of brutal weather--its always "chilly" but not un-doable or brutally cold, just gear up properly and you'll be fine but the last 3 days have been fracking COLD!! We had Tues, Wednesday in the lab and Thrusday they gave us the day off,totally--I lobbyied hard to have us go out to the point and at least check out the site on Friday, which drew more than a few nasty looks and one "You've moved to the top of my hit list!!"
See the pictures above to see what we saw on Friday morning, It is Fracking August 1st!! I know you guys down in California are *suffering* under 80 degree temps and no rain or wind, we, on the other hand have 31 degrees, 20-30MPH winds and fracking snow, not just a few flakes, but snow that stuck and gave us the situation you see above. I'll try to include more than the regulation 5 pictures the blog allows me to show the effects of the snow and erosion since last Monday, if i put two that have basically the same view , one is Monday and the second is Friday. The sea/pack ice moved back in and actually ptotected the shoreline to some degree. There are Gray Whales playing off the point. There were also frozen jellyfish on the beach this morning some up to 15" across. Once we got out there and took of the frozen tarp from the site, with its frozen 3" of ice all over it, the day went quickly and we got a lot done. We are all concentrated on the driftwood feature for the rest of the season, #1--because it is important, #2--the first winter storm will more than likely totally remove it, so this truly becomes a salvage project, with the goal to get out as much as possible and try to figure out what is going on, archaeologically. We know that it is a mixture of classic driftline, with storm tossed debris, BUT we also know that there was extensive human activity here AND it's old. The down side is that there is 1 1/2 meters of gravel covering everything, which is about ten billion tons and no heavy equipment to move it.
We're finding faunal remains, mainly caribou and seal, and birds; gut from seals(go figure how that preserves, but it does) coal,Worked wood, with toolmarks and obvious human intended usage, and hundreds of pieces of undiagnosable wood fragments ranging from 2' logs to tiny cottonwood bark fragments. We've shot in and recorded over 1100 pieces so far, and that does not count the "bucket shots" that gives a single designation to a 50CM circle and you pick up everything there and put them all in their own bag. Every individual numbered piece/artifact gets its own bag and if it's wood (98% is) it gets wrapped in tin foil. We've bought every roll of Reynold's Heavy Duty in Barrow--amounted to over $300 (Barrow prices)--Last friday Laura had a 1000 artifact cake made to commerate the event--we didn't actually hit it until Monday but still, for one 3M X 5M area it is a staggering number and the suprising thing is that it is nowhere near close to being done, every scrape of a trowel or brush of a brush brings up more. I'm currently working on a log that may or may not be a foundation piece, raw material or just plain driftwood-- who knows? It's about 10" in diameter and I've got 4' revealed with no end in sight--keep in mind that it is frozen fast in permafrost.

All in all a good day--only 10 burials so far, but the focus has changed to the driftwood as the burial area seems safe for the time being. Enjoy the pictures, be well, and quit complaining about how hot it is down there!
Lois--that last pair of gloves you sent me has saved me--I brought 7 pair with me and 3 have been trashed so far--that last good pair is my last good pair, the rest , which are essential are liners or lighter weight--Thanks for thinking of me--Matt's jacket is still the best of the 5 layers I routinely wear--