Thursday, December 30, 2010

Seward, Alaska

 Because we were able to get off the island a couple of days early, we had some time to kill before our flight. We tried to get our flights bumped up earlier, but to no avail. So, we flew to Anchorage and had about three days to kill. So, Adrienne and I rented a car and drove to Seward. I cannot emphasize to you how beautiful this town is. Fell in love...


Quaint town.

 Buoy tree.


 We were trying to go to the glacier outside of Seward, but decided against it after reading the sign.

 Resurrection Bay.

 Resurrection Bay.

It was one of the most peaceful, relaxing drives. I bought Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris at a small bookstore in Seward, and I read the whole thing aloud in the car on the way back to Anchorage. Perfect way to kick off the break.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

flying by chopper from Little Diomede Island to Wales, AK

It took about a half hour to fly from the island to Wales (the nearest village on the mainland). It was really incredible. We saw walruses on the ice floes! So cool.

Glad to be home. More later. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ice is a fickle monster

It's after 1 a.m. I am packing, and my mind is abuzz. Tomorrow we are leaving the island for our break. We thought we were leaving Friday, but we have a perfect weather/ice window tomorrow that would enable us to make our escape. You know, ice is a fickle monster. It toys with my emotions...or at least it has been for the past few days. On Thursday and Friday, the ice and slush came. On Saturday we had a beautiful day with lily pad ice. Then, on Sunday all of the ice melted, and September waves returned. This was bad news for the teachers who wanted to go home for Christmas. The chopper will only take us if there is ice -- enough ice to land on in case of an engine failure. So, back and forth, for the past few weeks -- Yes, we'll get out for Christmas, wait, no, it looks like we might be stranded. Back and forth, back and forth. I think my mom had the entire church praying for ice to build up in the Bering Strait. What a weird prayer. Well, on Monday, big slushy waves were crashing on the shore, but today (by today I mean Tuesday, and not the actual day it really is) was all quiet. No waves, just slush that does what slush does best -- it slushes. Some thin layers of ice float in between the two islands. From what I understand, after the chopper delivers mail tomorrow, we'll hitch a ride to Wales, which is about 20 miles away on the mainland. Then we'll take a flight to Nome. After Nome is Anchorage, then Seattle, then Atlanta. Long trip, but worth it for a few weeks home.

 Sunset 3:45ish p.m.
 Ice around sunset today.
 Ice to the north of us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

ice hiking

 The ice has finally made its grand appearance around Thursday and Friday. However, the students call it slush, but it's all ice to me.

 Our boardwalk is slowly being buried by the snow.

 Someone caught an oogruk (bearded seal), and they cut it all up on the boardwalk and let the blood drip off onto the snow.

 Sometimes Diomede reminds me of the Swiss Family Robinson's home, but instead of rope bridges and tree swings, the boardwalk steps connect all the homes.

Adorable puppy.

 Many of the natives here ferment their walrus meat for months. They keep them in barrels like the ones above.

The boardwalk is slowly getting covered by snow.

He was eating a candy necklace. 

 It was a really pretty day.

 Standing on the helipad.


 Someone on a boat.

 Christmas party at Sandra & Joe's apartment. We had chips, toffee, apples, and caramel!

 Sandra & Joe. Willis looming in the background... All three sporting their Island Living shirts!

 Our Christmas tree. Kind of sad. It's not like you can just run to the store to replace the broken string of Christmas lights. So you just do without.

 The humble abode.

 Sunset around 3:45 p.m.

 If you haven't looked at the webcam, you should. It's the view from our living room window.
Oh, and we put up Christmas lights!

 On Saturday Adrienne & I went hiking up to the top. We left as soon as the sun was up (about 12:00 p.m.) The whole journey took about three hours. We were going to borrow Willis' ice pick, but we decided against it. We regretted it later once we were closer to the top of the island though because the ice was impossible to break with our boots. So we gave up and went home after we couldn't get any higher.

 Bundled up.

 The mayor currently has my hood because she is sewing a polar bear ruff on it. I wish I had snow pants. I ordered some a month or so ago, and when they arrived, they were ginormous. So, I had to reorder...  So, I just layered for the hike. Base layer pants, jeans (not enough at all, but I survived). Regular socks, wool socks, Sorel boots. Long-sleeved shirt, big thick hoodie, down parka. Cotton gloves (i.e. fake gloves) and big giant thick arctic gloves. One Diomede toboggan hat and a scarf to cover my face.

 Kind of pathetic, but all will be better once I get my snow pants and hood back.

 On the way up, the sun began to rise.

 The village from midway up the island. It's amazing how small it seems once you step away to look at it.

 In a moment of exhilaration, I turned to Adrienne and said, "We live here. Can you believe that?"

 Looking towards the south. There were two boats that were out hunting seal, and as we hiked, we heard a gun shot every ten minutes or so.

 Towards the north.

 The sun peeked out, and the ice glistened and the snow turned gold.

 When we had to turn back because of the thick blue ice, we discovered that it was a lot easier to slide down on our butts. Truthfully though, I came back sore and bruised. For several stretches of the climb, we had to crawl on our knees, crouch between boulders, or walk on all fours. We had to break sheets of ice with our boots to get footholds. Because you are walking on rocks, ice, grass, and packed snow, you never know where you're stepping. What you think might be a steady rock actually ends up being a crack between two rocks. Several times we'd fall in the cracks between the rocks. One time both of Adrienne's legs got stuck in between two rocks, and she had to carefully maneuver herself out. Once I was trying to cross an icy slope that had no rocks I could cling to, and I started to slide down the side, but Adrienne grabbed my arm while I was hanging there about to slide and said, "This is just like Cliffhanger...right before he lets go and she dies." Thanks, Adrienne. Thanks.

What happened yesterday though was 100% the opposite of what happened in Cliffhanger, but still Adrienne should have known better to not say such a thing. Regardless, she pulled me up, and I didn't slide down.

 And then! We saw a fox! It was beautiful. It watched us as we made our way down the side of the island.

Here's a close-up.  As we went back down the island, we saw that the fox had been following us. His paw prints were right along our tracks. Sneaky fox.

Adrienne got the creative idea to pick up a piece of ice and put it in front of the sunrise (or sunset...both are the same when you only have four hours of light). So cool.

 You cannot imagine how quiet it is when you are that far away. Silence is all you hear, and then you remember that this is the way God made the world. Such beautiful silence.

 There are days I forget that I live on this island, which I attribute to human nature's inclination to take everything for granted. I can't take this for granted; I can't let that happen. If I forget the beauty around me, then I forget Christ.