On the spur of the moment

My friend Zoya, who is a crazed walker and runner, called just as I was getting ready to take my husband some lunch at work.  The wind was muffling her voice so I knew she was outside.  She says “I am out at Priest Rock (I know she means Little Priest Rock) and there are so many seals sitting on the rocks, about 12 of them.  I’ve never seen so many together and they are so big.”  I verify that they are seals and not sea lions.  “Oh no, they are seals and they are so fat.  You should come take some pictures.”  (And you have to read this with an Armenian accent, by the way.)

By the time I got out there after going all the way over to airport to drop off lunch, they had decreased in numbers to about 9.  But they were so roly poly fat.  And all different colors.  Just basking away the afternoon in the winter sun;  sharing space with Emperor geese who were grazing in the near shore waters.

There are actually 8 harbor seals, but one is kind of on the other side of the rock.

There is nothing better than being able to drive out Summer Bay road in January.  Typically we are unable to drive it past November due to snow and avalanches.

This fatty had a rock all to himself.

And there is nothing better than living in a place where a spur of the moment phone call from a friend equals basking harbor seals…

I love how they relax!

…and feasting fowl.

I'm assuming these guys were grazing on mussels.

Thanks, Zoya!

Articulation progress.

When Caleb starts a project, he typically is unrelenting until it is finished.  When he articulated a Baird’s beaked whale several years ago, he had a short window of time to  learn the process and prepare the materials.  He and Marine Advisory agent Reid Brewer were on the fast track to get the bones cleaned in time for them to be utilized for the project. 

Having a friend who is always the first one notified when a sea mammal stranding is reported is a key to successfully being able to articulate a species.  Reid gets called about a stranding, and if he needs backup doing a necropsy, gathering samples, or whatever, sometimes he calls Caleb to help.  It seemed to happen on such a frequent basis that Caleb even modified tools to help in being able to cut through mammal skin and blubber  with good success. 

Reid Brewer preparing to take samples. Photo courtesy of Marine Advisory Program.

 Reid is great.  He is always thinking.  He has a knack for pre-planning.  “Caleb – lets save this skeleton just in case we need it for something”, is a typical part of Reid’s and Caleb’s conversations.  The male sea lion pictured above, washed up on the beach over 2 years ago.  After the investigation into the cause of death, the bones were cleaned of as much material as possible.  Then at some point, Reid wrapped them in a casing and lowered them back into the sea where they sat for over a year, getting cleaned by the sea and those inhabitants that feast on smelly stuff.

 After they were retreived, Caleb went through the lengthy (months) process of counting, configuring, and doing a final cleansing of the bones.  He also had to either find missing bones or manufacture new fake ones to complete the skeleton.  (Wave action can sometimes tear the casing that holds the bones…then you lose some.)  Strangely enough, Caleb lost one of the biggest….a scapula. 

Sorting out what is what can take ages.

Note:  I promise I will finish this articulation blog.  I am just so tired lately.

Articulation.

The Qawalangin Tribe of Unalaska hosts a traditional culture camp in Unalaska.    Camp Qungaayux^ is designed to bring Unangan Elders, Mentors, and Western science biologists together with the younger generation in order to teach both Traditional Knowledge practices and Western Science principles which encourages cultural and environmental awareness.  

So in 2003, I talked Caleb into helping his brother teach the kids how to construct model kayaks. 

2003

In 2004, I talked Caleb into working with his brother Mike, in teaching the kids how to construct a full-size iqyax^, or skinboat.  His brother couldn’t make it so Caleb ended up teaching by himself. 

2004

In 2005, Caleb taught the kids how to cover a full size iqyax^ by actually covering the one built the year before. 

2005
2005

In 2006, Caleb, with HIS mentor Lee Post, taught the kids how to articulate a Baird’s beaked whale. 

2006

In 2007, 2008, and 2009 Caleb taught the kids how to construct traditional drums. 

2007-2009

2007 was actually the last year I coordinated camp, so I don’t think that the Tribe knows what a jewel they have with Caleb.  The secret to Caleb is that he had never taught a class before 2003.  He had never made a model kayak.  He had never constructed a full size kayak.  He had never covered a skinboat.  He had never thought of articulating, let alone articulated, a whale.  He had never constructed a drum.  The secret to Caleb is presenting him with a problem and giving him the time to explore it and solve it.

So when the Tribe asked Caleb to teach at Camp again this year, and they asked him to do drums again, I said, “Drums?  Again?”  And Caleb’s other cohort who first suggested the whale articulation, Reid Brewer, reminded Caleb that they had the sealion bones from two years ago…… 

2010

….and the deal was sealed.  So, I am going to try to follow Caleb along in this project.  Not by being intrusive and all in his face with the camera and questions, but by using the photos he takes himself, and listening to him when he comes home lamenting his woes.  Hmmmmmm, I see he forgot the camera today.