Midway Weather

Monday, October 21, 2013

The only constant is change

Attu in the background [last island in the Aleutians]

Over the weekend we were blessed with a spell of nice weather.  Though the wind was still blowing at around 30 MPH, I took my chances and headed off for the long route along the North Beach Rd.  Within a few miles I was stuck in the middle of our first snow storm of the season.  I spent the entire upwind slog back to the barracks dreaming about the dry sauna in the gym.

Russian influence

The Klyuchevskoy volcano is erupting again.  It seems to be one of the more active volcanoes in the world, with frequent eruptions and ash clouds.  Several days ago it started up again and now there is concern that the ash cloud may be headed our way.

We are only a couple hundred miles East, so there is a real concern about any ash debris affecting aircraft engines.  If the weekly flight get cancelled today, it may be a while until we see fresh food again.

Shemya double dip

Local folklore says that Shemya Island is one of the few islands in the world that has two different bodies of water touching it, the Bering Sea to the North and Pacific Ocean to the South.  One of the fun activities here is to swim in both the ocean and the sea simultaneously.

This weekend a friend and I took the work truck out to the West end of the island for the 'double dip' experience.  Fortunately the weather broke and we had a beautiful view of the Near Islands [in the foreground] and Attu [peak in the background].  The experience consisted of wading into the Pacific [on the left of the picture] then sprinting across the sand to wade into the Bering [right side of the picture].  It was truly surprising to feel that the Bering was noticeably colder, even though the two spots were only several hundred feet apart.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


52°43′27″N 174°07′08″E

I've been scratching my head since arriving here, trying to figure out why the sun rises at 9:30AM and sets at 9PM.  It seems like our time zone is a bit out of sync here, even though Shemya and Adak are in their own unique Alaska time zone [UTC -10]

In an 'oh duh' moment, it came to me.  We're beyond the International Date Line here, out in the Eastern longitudes.  This location should actually be in UTC +12; three hours different from our actual time zone.  We share this time zone with: Cook Island, French Polynesia and the Johnston Atoll.  I wish the weather were as nice here as our time zone counterparts.

Holiday weekend lock-down

This last weekend was three days because of the federal holiday.  There were plans for a 5k fun run round the island, that unfortunately was cancelled because of weather.

In fact the entire weekend was CON2, with restricted travel outside any buildings.  The monotony of being stuck inside is starting to wear on the soul.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Scruffy the Shemya mascot

Every place has a mascot of some sort.  Here it is the Blue Arctic Fox, called 'Scruffy'.  The species was introduced to the Bering Islands by the Russians some 200 years ago and left as a fur source.  Since then the population has maintained itself on a harvest of ground nesting birds and mice.  When the island was heavily populated by military folks [some 5,000 people at the height] they took to 'supporting' the fox population.

Rumor has it that there was a heavy extermination effort several years ago that culled the numbers down.  These days there are a few foxes that try to sneak into the buildings, but most mind their distance [unfortunately for me].

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Blue Mistress

I took the clinic vehicle for a tour of our wind-swept island yesterday to become familiar with the 4 square mile rock that is home for the next few months.  There are a few tucked away places to explore; but I think I've found them all.

I've been told that Shemya is one of two islands in the world where two bodies of water meet [the Pacific on our Southern shore and the Bering to the North].  The surrounding ocean is omnipresent on the island, and a bit overwhelming to think about.  According to the satellite imagery, it is a straight 9,800 mile journey from here to Pine Island Glacier without touching land in-between.  Our nearest human neighbors are in Adak, 400 miles to the East.  On the Western skyline I can see Attu Island - the next landfall is the Russian Commander Islands, with mainland Russia another 100 miles beyond them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Weather watching

With not much to do here on 'The Rock', it has become important to keep an eye on the weather an get outside whenever possible.  The old-timers [some folks have been working here for 40 years] say that pleasant weather is infrequent and fleeting.  The flag pole outside my unit is a stand-in anemometer; though the Weather Underground works well too.

Within the next few weeks winter weather is expected to set in soon.  I've been told to expect frequent bouts of Condition 1 weather [wind > 70 knots and/or more than 5 inches of rain per hour].  Should be fun!

Behind the Iron Curtain

Though the Cold War is long over, it seems that we are stuck behind a veil of secrecy here at the 'Black Pearl of the Aleutians'.  There are signs everywhere about not saying anything over the phone or internet that would violate security protocols.  There are warning signs on doors and underground tunnels that aren't supposed to exist.

It's all quite fun ... for now.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Private air travel

Over the years I've got to have some pretty amazing commutes.  For ski patrol there was the pre-dawn CAT rides to the top of the mountain with a backpack full of dynamite.  The Forest Service delivered us to remote fires via helicopter.  With the Coast Guard, I got to drive a rescue boat out to our 'work' on the water.  Then I had the pleasure of 'commuting' by C-130 and Twin Otter in Antarctica.

But nothing is as good as commuting by G-3 to a remote military base in Alaska.  The coffee and snacks in the back were self-serve, but the views of the Alaska and Brooks Range outside Anchorage more than made up for it.

In the land of giants

Almost two years to the day and I'm leaving from the same airport, with the same luggage and the same clothes.  This time its bound for Northern latitudes.