Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Day Two on St Paul, Pribilof Islands, Bering Sea

We start today's post by welcoming yet another country / region to the readership, this time at number 146 American Samoa join us. In with a real 'bang' they start with 25 readers who we hope will spread the word and pass the link on to all families and friends. Great to have you onboard and hope you continue to enjoy the read!

It hasn't taken me long to fall in love with the Pribilof's for their remoteness, wildness and the warm welcome from everyone encountered thus far. Strangely reminiscent of both the Buchan Alpha Oil Platform and the Mountain Steppe of Mongolia, firstly

the accommodation is so very similar on the interior (except there are no en-suite facilities here)

while the messing (galley & dining room) is almost identical. Crewed completely by Filipinos, I get such a warm welcome each time I attend and the food is beyond approach. This second dinner time I had prime rib beef steak with Halibut, caught less than a day ago, and on an 'eat as much as you like' basis.

As far as The Steppe is concerned, here nearly all of the open space is covered with a course grass and peppered with an array of Wild Flowers I couldn't even begin to recognise except for the most prolific which is Wild Lupin.

The 'City' is tiny, and as the board indicates supports very few people

while Russian Orthodox dominates as the main religion. There is no shortage of work with fishing, fish processing, mechanical maintenance and the airport providing most of the opportunity.

A typical residential street in St Paul.

The local cemetery, again Russian Orthodox

as is the monument at Big Lake.

Another Aleut Bara Bara dating from at least 300 years ago, when all such houses were constructed of
Whalebone and Seal Skin but have long since fallen to the Tundra.

History seems to have been unkind to the Islands as during the Second World War US troops were sent to raise anything that might be of use to a suspected Japanese invasion to the ground, while prior to that labour for the Seal Trade consisted mostly of 'slaves'! The Islands have suffered more than one Tsunami and a couple of severe earthquakes in more recent time, but things do seem very stable now.

The Northern Fur Seal Watch Towers on the east coast, used to monitor populations.

Arctic Poppy

Arctic Fox

Long-tailed Skua

Looking through local records, it was found that the highest day count on the Island for this 'sleek' seabird was until today just 6. This morning alone we counted 43, one of which is presumed to be a 'dark phase' individual. A bird on which myths and legends have been formed, we are making no hard and fast claims, but photographs have been sent to Paul Lehman (an authority on the Birds of the Bering Sea) who, we understand, has shown great interest and in turn has consulted others of his group. It is hoped to publish these photos tomorrow.

All a little nervous to human approach but what a bird to see even at a distance (which most usually do).

Harlequin Ducks heading to the shore, and

hauling out.

Siberian Eider (female) this crippled bird has remained since the early Spring.

Pink bill and rufous plumage.

In the interior at the grave of

James Heath of the USS Concord, haven't had time to investigate him yet, but bet I know a man who will!

Snow Bunting (male)

Snow Bunting (female)

Snow Bunting (juveniles) in varying stages of development.

A couple more shots of the Long-tailed Jaegers

The only 2 Arctic (Hoary) Redpoll we have come across so far.

Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch considered worth publishing 'every day'. Fantastic!

We had some fantastic company at dinner this evening, as some of the crew of the 'longliner' Northern Prince docked to off-load her cargo of 40,000 pounds (weight) of prime Bering Sea Halibut.

It was agreed that the meeting was all too short as 'she' was sailing within the next hour,

'wash-deck lockers' crammed full with 'long-lines', hooks freshly sharpened

she pulled through the harbour entrance for another couple of weeks looking for more Halibut and Black Cod. Hope you lads do read this when you get back to Washington State at the end of September and drop me an E-Mail please!