Monday, May 21, 2012

Dancing Sea Otters - Umnak

We left Unalaska behind us, and made the crossing over to Umnak Island
a last view over the shoulder prior to rounding Paso Point and paddling further down the coast than previously planned to allow for the flooding tide and favourable wind direction.
 True to forecast (Karel Vissel at Kayak Weather updates us twice a day via the sat phone) - the wind dropped (from 30 knots down to 15) by the time we headed out into Umnak Pass.
Some reasonable swell and Overfalls, then puffins galore and the sea went smooth... Landed at Fort Glenn, abandoned village, and decided to spend the next day looking round. Next morning was low visibility and raining, so we paddled instead. Turned into quite an endurance performance.

Much of Umnak we have viewed in those conditions, with brief respites at rocky headlands. Extensive black sandy beaches, a total contrast to Unalaska. Some phenomenal sections of stacks, caves and sea arches though.
I think both our favourite area was Inanudak Bay, a huge inlet with little bays, and as we paddled into it there were three sea otters 'dancing' in the kelp. We just gazed at them, and I knew by the time I got the camera out, I'd have missed the show. Loads of life in here, hundreds of Puffins, a few Grey Seals.
 Herds of Reindeer on Umnak Island, as well as cattle, all of which suffered heavy losses during the previous very harsh winter. The spring is coming though, and green shoots are poking through, birds are chirping, and we got another unexpected quick break in the weather.
It was 8pm, and we were ready to finish for the day, when the sun came out, (the wind was still doing its thing) and the rain had stopped. We dashed in to land, pulled the tent and kit out, and got everything drying... Its light till 11pm here, and we got about a hour and half before the wind brought the next wave of cloud through.
 Camped right beneath Mount Vsevidof (6510ft) was very exciting, so I got up early, grabbed the tripod and headed into the foothills above camp. There I was videoing the Eagles circling above, a unusual still ness had decended on the area, and then close at hand I heard the sharp bark of a fox. There are actually two in this above : )
one of whom came close, then curled up nearby and had a snooze!
We passes a few more Grey Seals (Umnak seemed to have Grey's rather than Common Seals) but much less habitat for Sea Otters, and just the occasional sighting of Stella Sea Lions.
After the following quarterly sea prior to Seaweed Pass, paddling into Nikolski Bay was serene.

A few gentle miles of flat water, allowing us time to adjust our minds back to land, people and the impressive, friendly and totally honest generosity and hospitality we have be received since entering Alaska.
Scott Kerr (above) invited us into his home and gave us some much needed sustenance. Scott's wife Agrafina is on the village council, and filled me in on how Nikolski works.
 Village elders run the tribal council, making decisions for the 17 permanant habitants here. They are a self-funding community, not government subsidised, and very resourceful.
We have been blown away by the whole picture, and deeply indebted to Nikolski for its support. 

Keirron & George

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