It was nearing dusk with soft light, calm seas, and Chagulak in view. We had a break in the fog just in time to see the cratery peak. It looked pretty volcanic.
Without realizing, we were slowly being swarmed by birds. Alfred Hitchcock's "Birds" had nothing on what we were about to see. Thousands upon thousands of Northern Fulmars surrounded the boat in rafts. It was pretty neat once we took notice, and then we circled Chagulak's southside where it became overwhelming.
Every inch of the sky was covered by avian invaders. The hills moved and squawked and squeaked. There were strange things happening in the water too; there was a distinct boundary separating upwelling and downwelling currents with birds lined up right down the middle.
It was really neat.
We were exhausted after a few long nights and days and anchored at Herbert Island that evening. We awoke to a distant grumble. I thought it was either Bob fumbling with the water maker or somebody flushing the head. Bob alerted the crew about an eruption in the distance, which we sort of expected from the Okmok Caldera, (it has been erupting for nearly a week now), but it was strange that we could hear it so well. Okmok was still pretty far away.
We motored closer to the ash plume towards Chuginadak and called a landlubber via sat phone to check the latest volcano news. Absolutely nothing except for Okmok.
Gathering from the local marine radio, it was definitely Mount Cleveland erupting, which was only 1.7 miles away from us. Then the fog broke.
It was the most powerful thing I've ever seen in my life. We could see enormous clumps of lava bombs blasted upwards with huge clouds of tan ash blowing northward.
Then the fog rolled back in and we could see nothing. We changed route to the south side upwind of the ash.
It was a little intimidating to hear the eruptions louder and clearer as we motored along in thick fog. We went along the bubbling shoreline where muddy lava flows were pouring into the ocean.
We left in the pouring rain and rough seas with a slightly ashy boat, a little awe-struck from what we'd just experienced.