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> July 27 – Two days on Kunashir Island (part 2), or What is that bright, orange thing in the sky?!
post Jul 28 2006, 11:10 PM
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July 27 – Two days on Kunashir Island (part 2)
or What is that bright, orange thing in the sky?!

Thursday, 27 July – Aboard the Gipanis, offshore to Golovnina on the southern tip of Kunashir Island

This morning when I woke up, I looked out my window to another GLORIOUS morning! I had set my alarm to go off a little bit early and headed up to the top deck to write in my Journal and do a bit of yoga. It was pleasant and there was very little wind. What a terrific morning!

Today, we (the geologist group) went ashore on the western side of a long spit that extends out about 8 km on the southeastern tip of Kunashir Island. We were planning to hike across the northern end of the spit from Izmeny Bay to the Pacific Ocean side, looking for what, from the satellite images, appeared to be beach ridges along that side. It was a warm day, so we put on our sunscreen, loaded up with extra water bottles and headed out.

We hadn’t been walking for even 3 minutes when Beth mentioned that Russian soldiers were coming up behind us. They had a fractured conversation with Jody and she managed to convey to them that we wanted to do some digging along the beach on the Pacific Ocean side of the spit. They actually helped to escort us down the beach, through the yard of a man with several barking dogs (they looked pretty friendly, with wagging tails) and to a road that ran over to the beach. Jody thanked them and we were on our way again.

When we got to the beach we saw 4-5 ridges, that looked suspiciously regularly spaced. When we got closer, we noticed that a couple of the mounds had rusted machinery sticking out of them. They were WWII gun turrets. They appeared to be tanks that had been possibly driven ashore and then buried in concrete and dirt. Many of these islands, and especially the southern ones, had been an intense area of combat between Japan and Russia during WWII and we often come across old fortifications, trenches or even overgrown holes that may have been made by artillery.

IPB Image
Jesse Einhorn investigates the WWII gun turret that is now rusting away on the spit that juts out from the south end of Kunashir Island.

We headed north along the beach on the Pacific side of Kunashir, looking for our beach ridges. We were to be sorely disappointed. It turns out that the ridges that we could see were either too disturbed by people and their activities (including probably military operations) or didn’t extend far enough or parallel enough to each other to convince Jody that they really were ridges. So we decided that we would hike along the beach toward some larger eroded cliffs that we could see in the distance until we saw something interesting.

We did manage to find and excavate down to about 1.5 meters two areas where the existing beach ridge was being undercut and eroding. We found some intriguing layers that were filled with a mixture of sand and pumice before we encountered the water table.

At about 1 pm, we determined that there was no reason for us to head back to where we had been dropped off that morning for lunch. It would have taken an hour each way plus the time to eat, so we decided to make due with the sandwiches and other snacks that we had in our packs for the day again. [Note to self – always pack at least one small “meal” for the field.]

Beth, Jesse and I headed up onto a large elevated area to see if we could find a portion of it that was undisturbed enough to find deposit layers. We were disappointed. The entire surface appeared to be riddled with 5-10 meter diameter holes, trenches and even a set of at least 6 rectangular-shaped holes about 1.5 meters deep which were most certainly bunkers. We dug a couple of test holes, but got down to at least 40 cm without getting through the soil.

We returned to the road area and decided to excavate the road cuts, since we had time and it was easier, just to see what we could see (Geologists are like the bear that went down in a hole, rather than over the mountain.) Beth and I dug down about 2 meters into a road cut and FINALLY found something! We found marine beach sand! That means that the elevated area is probably a marine terrace.

A marine terrace, as explained to me by Bre and Jody, is an area where a beach has been tectonically uplifted so it is above the level of the sea and starts building up other types of deposits other than sand, such as volcanic tephras, soil layers, river deposits, peat, etc. Excavating down to actual marine sand, gives a lot of support to a hypothesis that the raised area is a marine terrace formed by tectonics, not a sea level change alone. Other evidence and observations could help further confirm the theory, such as being able to date the tectonics with volcanic tephras or finding similar stratigraphy in other areas.

Well, it was time for us to begin the long hike back to the where the archaeologists were working today. It took us about 1 ˝ hours of hiking along the beach and road to get to where the zodiac was located – at the edge of a green field that ran between the road and the bay that was populated by a free-ranging herd of cows and some horses. (Russia does seem strange at times.) We loaded up and headed back to the Gipanis.

Tomorrow the plan is to begin heading back north toward the Central Kurils. We will look at some sites on the Sea of Okhotsk side of Kunashir and possibly some more on Iturup. We are beginning to head back to Urup to pick up our other parties in the next 2-3 days. We will do some geology and archaeology on that island before we head back to Ketoy, pick up the volcanologist group and head further north.

Check back in a couple of days!
Mrs. N-O
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