Friday, December 14, 2012

Soccer Ball Lost in Japan Tsunami Surfaces in Alaska

While roaming the beach on Alaska’s barren, largely uninhabited Middleton Island, radar station technician David Baxter noticed a soccer ball floating off the shore. But it wasn’t until he fished it out that Baxter realized how far the ball had traveled: some 3,000 miles, from its home in Japan, where a disastrous tsunami killed 19,000 people and poured the belongings of thousands of others into the ocean more than a year ago.

Although this news item originates from April this year, David Baxter recently informed me that a full documentary covering the story can now be watched here:

Unfortunately I am not able to view it from this part of the world, so for the moment I’ll have to be satisfied with the trailer:

Ahhhh… beachcombing on Middleton Island… David informed me he will keep on going for another couple of years, in the hopes of finding that one glass float...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A few photos from Clark Pearson’s 2012 summer visit to Middleton Island & the NALEMP.

Clark Pearson is a ‘Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Project Manager’ for the Native Village of Eyak. I share with him a strong interest in Middleton Island’s history and we met before out on the island in the fall of 2009. The Native Village of Eyak is currently performing environmental investigations on Middleton Island and Clark’s most recent visit has been part of this investigation as well.

Alaska has been a mecca for military activity for over 100 years and many of the historical military sites, including those on Middleton Island, have been heavily polluted while in operation. An environmental assessment conducted on the island in 2009 revealed the presence of asbestos, diesel range contaminants, and lead. The Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP), overseen by the US Army Corps of Engineers and funds remediation activities for former military sites on Native American lands, allows Alaska Native and Native American tribes to investigate and remove hazardous materials from their land and provides valuable employment and skills training to tribal members.

More about the NALEMP and details for Middleton Island can be found here:

Clark just sent me a few of the photos he took during his most recent visit to Middleton during late August.

Clark Pearson standing in between the poles that once held the “Middleton Island blue fox farm” sign (or whatever is left of them). It would be great to get some proper GPS-coordinates of their locations, before they’re completely gone. I’m pretty sure the farmers housing was to the left of you, Clark, not the right..:-)

Try to find Clark, at the exact location of the former fox farmer’s housing. The extensive growth of fireweed is an indication for the soil disturbance at the site that occurred in the past.

One of my favorite parts of the island; the eastern lowlands. The wash of gravel and clay originates from a small water stream that eventually leads to the ocean. Just to the right of the photo this stream made a steep cut in the bedrock of the older and higher part of the island. This little canyon is called ‘the military dump’, as it was used as a dump site for a lot of material and pollutants in the past.

The NALEMP is also inspecting the environmental impacts resulting from this old fuel pipe line, which runs from the north end all the way to the former A.C.&W. station in the center of the island.

By late August 2012, and after a very successful breeding season I believe, the Kittiwakes were still occupying the former radar tower.

Clark at the gravel beach in the north end, used as the most regular barge landing site. At least some things haven’t changed…

Thanks Clark!