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> August 2 - 3 – Central & North Urup Island, or Sand and Bug bites and rough boat rides, oh my!
post Aug 3 2006, 10:47 PM
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August 2 - 3 – Central & North Urup Island
or Sand and Bug bites and rough boat rides, oh my!

Thursday, 3 August – Aboard the Gipanis, anchored offshore near Novokuril’skaya on Northern Urup Island
4:30 pm

Yesterday, we transited from the Ainu Creek location to Tokotan Creek, where the palynologist group had been camped for more than a week. We arrived just before breakfast and learned that the plan was to split into teams of 3 people with at least one archaeologist and one geologist on each to visit 6 sites and quickly dig test pits to determine if they were worth further investigation next year. I was on a team with Beth and Colby and we went to a location near Okhotsknichi Creek, just north of Tokotan. In between each trip ashore, the palynologist gear was brought onboard.

We were in the last group to go to shore, so we had a long wait before our turn. We got to shore at about 10:30 and Dr. Shubin pointed out where the locations for our two teams were generally located. Then he said that he would be back in 2 hours to pick us up.

Colby, Beth and I hiked up into the rolling dunes and through the thick beach grasses to get an idea of the lay of the land to decide the best place to begin digging. The location had been disturbed quite a bit by military activities and we could see holes that might have been pit houses in the past, but had obviously been further excavated to create bunkers. We didn’t really find a great spot and with our limited time we decided to just dig a couple of test pits in the trough areas between the ridges.

My archaeology jinx remains intact – we found only sand in the holes that we dug down to between 70-90 centimeters. And no definite tephra layers either. So we filled the holes back in, took some notes and headed back to the beach to wait for Dr. Shubin. (See picture below)

While we waited, Beth and I beach combed for a bit. Up in a large pile of driftwood that had become lodged in the small creek that runs down to the beach there, I discovered the best Japanese glass float yet! I found a dark green glass float as big as a basketball! It is beautiful and will definitely accompany me back to Washington as part of my carry on baggage. smile.gif

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On the left: Colby and Beth work to fill in the test pit that we dug at Okhotsknichi Creek. We dug two pits nearly a meter wide by a nearly a meter deep and didn’t find anything but sand and two possible tephra layers.
On the right: Okhotsknichi Beach where the Creek flows into the Sea of Okhotsk. Just to the left of the picture and a little bit up the creek is where I found my prized glass float.

When Dr. Shubin arrived, he took us back to another part of the beach where some of us had lunch and then we rejoined the other groups that had been digging south of the lunch location. While we had been futilely digging sand, they had been digging up artifacts and getting eaten alive by biting flies.

In my last journal entry, I mentioned that the fly bites are not as bad as those of mosquitoes – I apparently spoke too soon. Turns out that about 12-15 hours after you get the bite the fly bites begin to ITCH LIKE CRAZY! Not only that but many of us are finding that the areas with bites are swelling up quite dramatically. The areas around our ankles and wrists are very fat and James’ and Jesse’s hands are completely swollen. We are taking antihistamines, treating them with anti-itch cream and TRYING DESPERATELY NOT to SCRATCH! In addition, at least Jesse and I also managed to get rashes from a plant here called puchka. It is like a poison ivy or nettle sting that causes a rash that looks like a second degree burn – blisters and all. This apparently happened when we were hiking to Os’ma the other day and we walked through it. So today we have been nursing our wounds.

In the afternoon, we all headed back to the ship and found that the palynologist group had been brought back aboard while we were on shore. We were sad that there had been no one onboard to greet them when they first arrived, but made up for it with extra words of welcome and double hugs. Then we worked on some lab work for the evening.

This morning, we arrived at a location in Northern Urup called Novokuril’skaya. There once was a Russian-American fur trading company camp located on near this site, so we were all very excited to see what kinds of artifacts might be found here. But the weather, however, was not cooperative for such an endeavor.

I woke up last night to a new sound in my cabin – raindrops falling on the top deck – and apparently also into my room, because I could heard a little “drip, drip, drip”. I got up and put my computer into my bunk with me because I didn’t want to wake up Pat by trying to find the source of the drip at 3 am and I knew that it certainly wasn’t in my bunk. I also put down a towel on my desk to catch the drip, which did keep the desk dry, but not my backpack. When I started to get ready to go later, I discovered that the drip had been falling on my backpack and had soaked the top through and all of my extra layers inside were wet. I quickly borrowed some extra long-sleeved layers from Bre, Matt and Mike and got ready to go to shore.

When we got out on deck, we discovered that it was definitely a day for as many dry and water impermeable layers as you could manage. There was a low pressure system that had settled in overnight and while the wind from the east was not too cold, since the Pacific is warmer than the Okhotsk here, it was strong and whipping up the waves with whitecaps. Dr. Shubin and Vladimir Golobtsov headed to shore first to make sure that there was a safe landing site. When they returned it was decided that only a skeleton crew of Ben, Jody, Tanya, Mike, Shubin and Vladimir would go ashore today to check out the site – in order to minimize the risk and number of zodiac rides that were required. (See picture below – left)

So the rest of us took off our rain gear, put away our packs and watched our friends head out into the wind and waves – getting splashed and sprayed every few seconds. We all headed off to do ship-bound work – cataloguing samples, computer inputs and individual projects as well as nursing our bug bites and taking cat naps. smile.gif

At about lunch time we heard quite a few announcements over the PA system and activity on the deck, followed by the rattling of the anchors and the starting of the engines. When we went outside to see what was going on, we discovered that the ship had been moved to the next bay south of Novokuril’skaya. Apparently, the increasing wind in the less protected bay was causing the Gipanis to drag her anchors, so the captain had decided to seek shelter in a better protected bay. We all concurred with such a wise decision, but wondered about how our friends on shore were doing.

Around 3 pm, the zodiac returned with our intrepid and energetic explorers. Turns out that once they got to shore, while it was still very windy and wet, the temperature was warm and the site was amazing! They found several tephra layers and a couple of cultural layers in an eroded outcrop that surrounded a deflation lag deposit. They were able to document and sample the layers as well as some of the artifacts so that next year Ben and Jody can include a visit to this site in their plan. (See picture below – right)

The plan for tonight is to sit tight for awhile before we head across what is essentially the open ocean that is the large channel with only 3 small islands between Urup and Simushir, which is our next stop. Currently there is a storm in the channel and we already expect a rough transit of 8-12 hours, so we are waiting as long as possible for the storm to move out or die off before we make the run. (It’ll be a night of motion sickness patches and pills!) When we get to Simushir, sometime around lunch tomorrow, hopefully, we will be stopping to put on water from an accessible and drinkable stream that comes right off a volcano. This will be good, because our water flow and its “drinkability” over the past few days has been spotty at best.

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On the left: Natalia Toropova, Jesse Einhorn, James Taylor and Tetsuya Amano brave the cold and wet as they help to secure the zodiac along the side of the ship and wait to see if they will be going ashore today.
On the right: Dr. Ben Fitzhugh working at the Novokuril’skaya site. On the eroded outcrop to the left of him you can see two of the three lighter-colored volcanic tephra layers that were found. One runs near the top of the picture above his head and the other larger layer is just below his right arm. Nearly all of the pre-historic cultural material that was found at this site was found between the two tephra layers. (Image courtesy of Mike Etnier)
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