Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Umnak, Unalaska, 7/22/08, by Bob

This morning we got up and took off toward Unalaska Island. We planned to make Dutch Harbor, the town of Unalaska, tomorrow afternoon and pick up Fullerton, but it didn't quite work out.

What occasional wind there was was light and generally from a bad direction, so we motored. We went by Vsevedof Island, Kigul Island, Lone Rock, The Pillars, and Polivnoi Rock to get to Umnak Pass between Umnak Island and Unalaska Island. The Pillars are not where they are depicted in the electronic charts. I think someone moved them.

The pass has some pretty stiff tidal currents -- about 5 knots. For once I planned ahead and got there on time so we could make it through at slack tide, with no big currents. It worked! We were actually a little early, so we had to fight a 1-2 knot current until we got toward the end (northeast) of the pass when the current slacked.

As we arrived at Shiprock, a 450-foot-high rock not far from the northeast end of the pass, we noticed a dark sky on the horizon. It looked like heavy rain or a thunderstorm. But that doesn't happen much up hear. Then we figured out it must be the shadow under an ash cloud from Okmok, which was only about 10 miles away.

We decided to check out Fort Glenn, the old World War II airfield once occupied by 10,000 people, currently occupied by some cows. It's on Umnak Island at the top of Umnak Pass. As we approached, we realized that ash clouds drop their ashes. In no time, the boat was covered with a thin layer of volcanic ash, getting thicker. We turned around and took some pictures as we left. There was a corral and some cattle there. The cows didn't seem to mind the ash at all. They were just eating the grass.

We drove across the pass to see if we could get around it toward Dutch Harbor without suffocating ourselves, or more importantly, our engines. It looked bad. So we turned around and headed back down the pass with a 3-knot current against us.

As we neared the south end of the pass, we turned between Emerald Island and the mainland of Unalaska Island. That's a narrow section that, according to the Coast Pilot, avoids the heavy tide rips. I think they were talking about ebb tide instead of flood tide, though, because there were big standing waves as we got into the narrow passage, and after it smoothed out there was a 7 knot current running against us. Luckily it only lasted a mile or two.

After some severe boat-sweeping and etc., we got most of the ash off the boat.

We anchored off the west side of Cape Aiak about 11:00 pm. The cape is about 1800 feet high, steep cliffs, very impressive. There is a lot of columnar basalt and a couple of impressive lava dikes, and vertical cliffs all around the area. And now we'll go to Dutch Harbor the long way -- from the East.

1 comment:

Lonnie said...

Hey Bob,
Lonnie here at Ft.Glenn, Man I wish we could have connected, we just got back (23rd), we had to get out on the 12th for the valcono, things are a mess but a visit is always nice. If you are ever back this way give a holler on 18 it is on all the time. I am loving your story. Shoot me an email if you get a chance.
Later Lonnie