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> August 1 – Southern Urup Island (part 2), or The Gipanis welcomes home some of our comrades and Misty tries her
post Aug 1 2006, 06:14 PM
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August 1 – Southern Urup Island
or The Gipanis welcomes home some of our comrades and Misty tries her hand at archaeology

Tuesday, 1 August – Aboard the Gipanis, anchored offshore of Ainu Creek on Southern Urup Island
8:30 pm

Today, we awoke to another beautiful day in the Kuril Islands. It was foggy, but the kind that we were sure would burn off by midday. Not too windy. I was even able to go up to the top deck and do some yoga before breakfast.

After breakfast, we split into two groups. One group was going ashore back to the Ainu Creek site to do some more excavating. The other was going to hike from the Ainu Creek site across the island to a bay on the Pacific side called Os’ma – a distance of about 4 km one way up and over a terrace of about 120 meters. I joined the group that was hiking. We all made sandwiches for lunch, packed extra water and layers for the weather and went ashore. Beth, Bre, Jody, Jesse, Mike and I followed our guide Vladimir, who had stayed at the Ainu Creek camp the week before and knew the best way to get across the island.

It took about 30 minutes to get to the top of the terrace and about 50 minutes to follow the gradual slope down to the bay on the other side. Some of the terrain was steep, some was boggy and some was covered with waist high bamboo. At the top of the terrace, we encountered a lot of tundra plants – small delicate plants that live on ground that is frozen solid much of the winter. As we headed back down we saw more and more of the temperate flowers that we had seen yesterday and on the southern islands, though some of them were a few weeks behind their southern counterparts in their blooming cycle.

When we got to Os’ma bay, at about 11:30, we had a quick bite to eat and Jody, Bre, Beth, Jesse and I started working on measuring the profile of the beach and the marine terraces behind it as well as making excavations to determine the vertical soil profile. This location had marine terraces, tectonically uplifted beaches or wave-cut platforms, as compared to the beach ridges that we had measured before, which form when the water level moves lower on the beach. One of the clues to this is that from the top of each step you could see that the area behind it was flat rather than a trough, like with the beach ridges.

Today, we didn’t need to fend off mosquitoes. Rather we had a devil of a time with the biting black flies. Their bite hurts a lot more and leaves a red welt that just stings rather than itches. Not much of a tradeoff.

About 2 pm, after the excavations were nearly finished and a shovel could be spared, Mike and I headed up the small stream that ran through an eroded valley behind the terraces to do some archaeology. Mike was thinking that if pre-historic peoples lived in this valley, they might live on a small ridge about the stream further back from the ocean. So we hiked about 400 meters back to a likely spot, found some round depressed areas that could be pit houses and started digging a test pit through the bamboo.

Unfortunately, after about 4-5 times of attempting to pry up the bamboo roots, Mike broke the handle of the shovel near where it attaches to the metal scoop part. So we were left with using the metal part to cut through the roots and our trowels to dig out the dirt. We made do and managed to dig a very narrow hole (about 30 cm by 50 cm) nearly a meter deep – as deep as Mike could possibly reach. We were disappointed though to find no artifacts and only one small bit of charcoal. We did find a few layers that might be tephra deposits, so when Beth came by she obligingly described the vertical profile and took samples of the possible tephra layers. (It’s very possible that she did this just to humor us – we had worked so hard to dig the hole and were so disappointed with the results.)

At about 4 pm we started hiking back to Ainu Creek – up and over the terraces again. It took a little bit longer this time, but we all got in a good workout today. It had become a beautiful day and we took advantage of the opportunity to snap some pictures while we were at the top. (See picture below – right)

When we got back to Ainu Creek, we helped Ben and his group finish up with collecting some samples and backfilling the test pits – we’re good at moving dirt! Then back to the Gipanis, a shower (yeah!) and a hot dinner. Tomorrow we head to a point a little further north on Urup Island, Tokotan, to collect the palynologists. More friends to welcome home!

IPB Image
On the left: The beach terraces that Jody, Beth, Bre and Jesse worked on profiling and excavating at Os’ma Bay. In this image from the beach you can see three of the four terraces that we measured. Marine terraces are tectonically uplifted beaches, as opposed to beach ridges, which form when the water level moves lower. One of the clues to this is that from the top of each step you could see that the area behind it was flat rather than a trough, like with the beach ridges.
On the right: A picture from the top of southern Urup looking north toward the volcanoes that lie between us and the palynologists at Tokotan. If you look closely you can see the Gipanis in the middle lower left of the image, anchored off the coast.
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