Field work by kayak on Kodiak Island's south end

Philip.AK

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Jun 30, 2012
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161
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Kodiak, Alaska
I just spent the past week and a half on the south end of Kodiak Island helping a friend conduct a spring field archaeological site survey of prehistoric Native Alaskan settlements. The Kodiak Archipelago was settled approximately 7,500 years ago by coastal peoples called the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq, and the Natives went through a series of ‘traditions’ of natural resource use, types of art and tools produced, and styles of dwelling construction that define the time periods/traditions. Our purpose on these spring surveys is not to do any excavation but rather to identify sites of prehistoric use and importance, and perhaps to categorize those sites by the likely tradition. My friend is the archaeologist on the trip and I am basically just there helping with safety, daily chores, and logistics. I pick the camp sites, pitch the tent, put the wood stove together, cut and split all the firewood, fetch water, consider weather forecasts and tide cycles, etc. He just runs around and maps.

We got dropped off in Deadman Bay just south of Ivor Cove and inflated the kayaks and headed north up the Hepburn Peninsula. The weather was pleasant if cool with a slight head wind. Since we are in and out of the boats so often, not having a deck makes some amount of sense, though having waves slop into my lap when it gets rough is not my favorite. It is difficult to transport rigid-hulled boats by float plane so this is also the only real option for remote work.




We go this time of year because after the grass and other veg starts to grow it totally obscures the subtle depressions in the ground delineating the house pits and obscuring things like fire-cracked rock and midden debris.






Our arrival coincided with a mass molting event by Tanner crab on the east side of Kodiak Island and the crab ‘casts’ (the discarded shells) lined the beaches like a bathtub ring running for miles. Hundreds of thousands of crab casts washed up in a single tide cycle.




We were there during some of the largest tides of the spring and when combined with very strong winds the second night, some of the crab which had come into shallower waters to molt misjudged the low tide line and had not completed the molting process before the tide receded, leaving them exposed in varying states of undress. Happily most crab got the timing and tide cycle right, but it was a fatal miscalculation for some.







Home is a Seek Outside Redcliff in DCF fabric with a packable titanium woodstove. We do all our cooking on the woodstove and since everything is getting transported by kayak, we don't go very light on the food, lol.





 

Philip.AK

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Joined
Jun 30, 2012
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161
Location
Kodiak, Alaska
We saw less marine critter life than in other parts of the archipelago. Some harbor seals, but other than a pod of orcas that swam by, that was about it. But there were deer and foxes and bears wandering about. A lot of bears. Did I mention bears?

Sitka blacktail deer (asleep)...





Foxes...




And Kodiak brown bears...









This was one of the weirdest places I have seen bears napping:




We found some cool stuff on the beaches.








With no trees on the south end of Kodiak, the eagles nest on the ground, taking advantage of pinnacles and cliffs where possible.




Eventually it became time to head back home.

 
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mick_allen

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May 15, 2005
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spec-tac-ular Philip! If any archeological report or summary gets written up on this, let us know.
Wow, the bears! Wow the bear [seal, sea lion?] skulls! Wow the deer! Wow the mastodon tusk! Wow, wow, wow.
 

SalishSeaNior

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Nov 15, 2020
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29
Location
Okanagan Valley, Canada
Superb trip report!! Love the images and the fact that there are yet a few wild places left on Earth where Homo sapiens are not the dominant species. I have long dreamed of paddling in that part of Alaska.

Thanks for the vicarious tour, Rick
 

Philip.AK

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Jun 30, 2012
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161
Location
Kodiak, Alaska
Cheers, folks. :) The skull with big teeth are from an adult bear. It was not an old animal judging by the lack of tooth wear. You can tell bear skulls from sea lion skulls (California and Steller) in that sea lions have a continuous row of teeth behind the canines while bears have a tooth gap between the canines and molars. Sea lions also lack a 'forehead'. And sadly that was not a mastodon tusk, but rather just a freaking enormous whale rib that bears somehow managed to drag off the beach and into the grass.

Kodiak has the most watchable wildlife of any place I have visited. There is almost always something walking, swimming, or flying by. The critter density and diversity is amazing.

By the way, a while back I started a thread on paddling in the Kodiak Archipelago. You can see more stuff there including what it looks like in the summer after green-up. [Some of the pic links are wonky, so if some don't load try refreshing the page.]
 
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Philip.AK

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Jun 30, 2012
Messages
161
Location
Kodiak, Alaska
I got a few pics from Patrick.

Getting dropped off.



Traveling like the Beverly Hillbillies.




Sometimes I would tow Patrick’s boat so that he could hike the shoreline.






Sea cucumber and green urchins.



We did pretty well on glass balls too.




 

JohnAbercrombie

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Dec 7, 2011
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Location
Victoria, BC
Fantastic pics and info - thanks!

Other than the bear spray, did you have anything else for bear 'protection' ?
Bear bangers?
I've had more than one northener tell me I was crazy not to carry a gun.
 

Philip.AK

Paddler
Joined
Jun 30, 2012
Messages
161
Location
Kodiak, Alaska
Just bear spray has worked for me the past 30+ years of doing this. We sometimes will bring an electric fence for when we are Roosevelt elk hunting and need to set up a meat cache as we shuttle loads, or when we have a base camp and will be away from it for hours at a time. Kodiak bears are pretty well behaved. They are hunted and are afraid of humans. That said, once every year or two someone gets chewed on a bit, almost always because the bear was surprised by a careless human. I personally know 3 people who were on the receiving end, resulting in injuries, and I’ve had a couple of hair-raising encounters (charged; never touched). But in recorded history, only one person in the Kodiak Archipelago has died of injuries sustained in a bear mauling. It’s an exceedingly remote hazard in light of the many thousands of bear-human interactions every year here that end peacefully. I’m more worried about drowning or falling off a mountain, personally. And I’m only talking about Kodiak brown bears. It’s important to understand your local bruins and not think all bears are the same everywhere. Our bears are smart, read body language well, and are usually conflict averse. You just need to be prepared for the one weirdo.
 
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