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Friday, July 20, 2018

Blueberries for Nora

Yesterday Nora, Stuey and Stuey's friend Elias joined me for the dog walk to the park.  I told them there are ripe blueberries and they were raring to go.  In most of the park the blueberries are still far from ripe but I know of a few bushes where the berries are large and ripe.

The kids had planned on making some sort of dessert, and brought along berry pails to fill.  But they proved too easy to resist and only a few berries made it home.  Patrick

Digging Away

We've been digging at the site for 4 days now, and I already have a pretty good story to tell (and will tell in another post soon).  The pictures in this post are mostly from earlier in the week. We are now MUCH deeper into the site and have even reached the bottom in one square.

It has been a fairly hot and sunny week, but every day we have been digging in the cool, cool shade.  Our site in situated in the alders and we did not cut any down when we opened up the site for excavation.  So the branches form a sort of bower over our heads.  It is sort of like digging in a cathedral.

On Kodiak I can't remember ever digging at a site in the woods.  At the Kashevaroff site on Salonie Creek we had cottonwoods all around, but at that site we also got sun-blasted every afternoon.  At this site it feels cool and green all day long.  Patrick

A deep sea fishing line weight

Trying to block the sunlight for a top of smoke processing feature picture

Interviews for the radio

Peter for scale with the smoke processing feature we uncovered on the second day

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Yesterday evening was super beautiful.  After Nora's paper route I had planned to take the doggies on a quick hike into the park.  I was tired from running the dig all day, and wanted to do just the bare minimum in regards to doggie exercise.  But Nora begged to go for a hike.  It was so beautiful that we just had to do something.

So after loading up the dogs and convincing Stuey to come along too, we drove up to the top of Pillar Mountain and went for a hike.  Nora raced down the steep green slope towards the ocean and Stuey and I played our usual game of tag.  I followed Nora down the slope and Stuey stayed and watched from on high.  There are a few nice trail on the slope and it is an amazing view.  There were quite a few areas where all the grass is beaten down from people relaxing and making their own bed on the slope.  On hikes I am used to finding deer and elk beds, but these were human beds!

I'm glad Nora convinced me to do more than the usual evening hike!

Termination Point before the rain

Last weekend I hiked out Termination Point with the dogs and a visiting archaeologist Peter.  I was kind of amazed to find that the beaver pond in the woods halfway to the point has practically dried up.  Peter and I checked to see if the beaver dams had blown out, and all seemed intact.  So how did the pond lose so much water?  It has not been that dry!

Along the coast I showed him some archaeological sites and we discovered that the point itself looks like it was the site of a pretty substantial early 20th century homestead.  Of course the doggies were totally excited to go on a completely different hike than usual!

What happened to the beaver pond?

Peter acting as scale for a historic house depression

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Qik'rtangcuk 2018 - it begins!

Crew prior to the start of excavation

Yesterday was the first day of the Community Archaeology dig - the Qik'rtangcuk excavation 2018 begins!

Over the years I have found artifacts in front of the site that look 3 to 7 thousand years old, and even noted a few preserved cod bones eroding out of the deposits.  The site is located on a point abutting Near Island where there is good near shore fishing.  So I have been hoping to find a 3-7 thousand year old Alutiiq cod-processing site.

Last Friday we set out the grid and noticed that there was very little to none of the 1912 Katmai volcanic ash on top of the site.  This ash always caps sites on the road system and its absence could indicate that the site had been badly disturbed in the 20th century.  Uh Oh!

So yesterday when we started to dig in earnest I was very relieved to find that there was actually a thin layer of the ash over the whole site.  Phew!  It looks like much of the ash might have blown away in strong winds soon after the eruption in 1912.  I was also relieved that we found artifacts that look 3-4 thousand years old.  It looks like the very top of the site is from the Early Kachemak period (2500 to 4000 BP) of Alutiiq Prehistory.  Just what I hoped to find and no unpleasant surprises!

Now to dig down into the site and learn what people were doing there 3 to 7 thousand years ago.  What will we find in the older layers?  Patrick

Keith and the artifact of the day - a 3500 year old plummet (fishing lineweight)

Setting out the grid on Friday

We begin to seriously excavate - on the first day!

Chipped basalt point midsection

Molly on the screen

Monday, July 16, 2018

Old Womens Mountain

Last week one day after work I took the doggies, Stuey and his friend Elias for a hike up Old Women Mountain.  This week it will be Community Archaeology all day every day.  No more hikes after work.  But I will not be inside a building for work either.  I'll be outside next to a beach excavating a 3-7 thousand year-old site.  More on the dig tonight after our first day of excavation.

On Old Women Stuey and his friend lagged behind or ran way out ahead.  I pretty much walked alone with the dogs.  They tried setting up a few ambushes and I did the same.  The point of the game was to find the ambushers before they could set their trap.  The hardest part was fooling the dogs.  They pretty much found (or stayed with) anyone hiding in the bushes.  Patrick

Spruce Cape with my co-workers - I took this pan with my iPad!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

75 year old bomber emerges from the snow

Today I climbed up Sharatin in the fog and then skied down.  I actually got in a pretty good ski (1000 vertical and 1 mile horizontal), but I was chagrined to see the fog totally clear off just as I finished my ski and headed for home.

On the way back I decided to go look some more at the old plane wreck I examined last week.  I've known about the plane wreck for years but had no idea what it represents.  Last week I had even asked other people about it.  One friend with a foot in the aviation industry had told me that it was a Beaver floatplane and that everyone had lived.  Looking at the wreck with binoculars it just seemed too big for a single engine Beaver.  So I went closer to investigate.

First off I noticed a huge landing gear strut and tire rim.  Clearly NOT a beaver floatplane.  And then I noticed that there are actually 2 very large engines.  I also saw evidence for an extremely hot fire.  This looked like a pretty serious airplane crash and I had a hard time seeing how anyone could survive such a crash on such a precipitous slope.

The wings and fuselage are emerging out of the snow, and the whole scene is quite dramatic.  It reminded me of that plane crash scene from 'Tintin in Tibet' or the one in the Andes with the rugby team.  Clearly something bad had happened here.

On the way home I met other hikers and asked if they knew about the crash - and one man did!  He said the plaque at the bottom of the Red Cloud trail is in honor of the men who crashed.  So once at the car and driving home I stopped and looked at the plaque (see photo below).  Then at home I googled it and hit on Crusty old Joe's WWII website (linked here). I finally had the story.

It was a B18a bomber that crashed soon after takeoff on an aerial photography mission to Umnak Island.  This occurred on the morning of April 29th, 1942 a month before the Japanese bombed Dutch Harbor, and really brought the war to Alaska.  What's amazing is that there was a survivor.  He recounted that the plane had cleared the ridge but was caught in a downdraft and crashed.

It really hit home after I read what happened - Sharatin was the scene of a very tragic plane crash.  My great uncle flew bombers (B24's) in Italy during WWII and these were some of his colleagues.  Patrick

This must have been a pretty hot fire

The view from the bottom of my ski run - I skied 1000 feet vertical and 1 mile horizontal

The wreck is scattered down a steep slope for a couple 100 meters

After being totally socked in when I was skiing off of the summit - it totally cleared off when I was on my way home

Rest in Peace - and thank you for your service