Trying to catch up

The trip to the conferences went well.  I really didn’t have much time at SAAs to even see friends, if they weren’t in one of the sessions I was involved in.  Then it was off to Prague for a session at Arctic Science Summit Week.  It was a great session, although we were put into a tiny room, which the participants in the session nearly filled, so a lot of non-archaeologists wound up peeking in and moving on.  Peter Jordan  who got me involved in the session, and Sean Desjardins, are guest editors for a special issue of Quaternary International which will publish papers from this and a previous session.  I seem to have promised them two!

I didn’t have very long in Prague, but did get a chance to catch up with Vica Lozinschi, a former BASC intern who helped with some salvage at Nuvuk.  She is married and living in Prague now.  We only had a morning, but she took me to see some of the sights (some literally “see” from afar since I had a lunch meeting afterwards!).

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One of Prague’s many bridges
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Street performer in Prague
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Street food in Prague
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Vica sampling an adult beverage which the Czech people claim to have invented.
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Me also sampling said adult beverage.  My grandfather owned a brewery, so it is of more than passing interest.

Once I got back from Prague I have been writing proposal language, and papers almost non-stop.  For some reason, most of the handbook/encyclopedia type volumes I have contributions in are doing new editions this year, which means the articles have to be revised and updated.  Several other articles have reached the proofs stage and need to be gone through.

Then there is a dissertation committee I am on.  That meant I spent last weekend reading the dissertation, and am now trying to find a time when the entire committee can meet (several of us on Skype) to discuss.  I am also working on final radiocarbon calibration and modeling for the WALRUS project, with a deadline due to one of the students having a presentation at the end of the month in which he wants to use my results.  There were a few problems with the master database, now resolved.  I’ve got all the dates calibrated, haveHarris Matrices built for all but two of the sites, and am using them to check my  radiocarbon modeling against.  I’ve spent all day today and will spend part of tomorrow on a site with a big wiggle in the calibration curve that pretty much seems to fall right at the period of occupation, so that’s annoying.

I’m also trying to pull the Walakpa salvage project together.  This is a site with a deep history that was used up until very recently, and is still visited regularly by folks from Utqiaġvik.  It would be a real shame if the structures we found last year just eroded, and at the rate things are going, normal funding channels simply are not fast enough.

This has all kept me pretty busy, and last week I had dental surgery.  I was supposed to get an implanted post that a crown would go on after it healed, but apparently my bone hadn’t grown into the socket in a way to suit the dentist.  So he routed a bunch of it out (hate that crunching sound in your head) and did a bone graft, so now I have to wait four months and maybe then get the implant.  Sigh.

Workshop at the World Conservation Congress

After we got back from Walakpa, we had fieldwork in both Deering and Wainwright, which kept me pretty busy.  After that, I had to head to Honolulu for the World Conservation Congress.  I had organized a workshop on Global Environmental Change Threats to Heritage and Long Term Observing Networks of the Past.  The timing of the conference was a bit unfortunate, since it overlapped with the World Archaeological Conference in Japan, so the workshop was fairly small.  However, the idea was to get some of the people who are active the conservation field to  look to the paleoecological data from archaeological sites to help build realistic conservation plans.  It was pretty well attended and on top of that, it was live-streamed.  The video is now up on YouTube for your viewing pleasure.

Honolulu was quite a switch from Alaska, with temperatures in the 80s the whole time.  It was beautiful, of course.

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Rainbow on the walk back to the hotel after the workshop.
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Another rainbow from the balcony of the hotel room.

On the other hand, it was nice to get home to Alaska.  The sunsets are better.

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Getting closer

Time is flying before the field season.  It has been insanely busy trying to get some projects to a point that they can be left for a few weeks while we’re in the field, while at the same time getting set to actually go to the field.  We have been ordering things, and waiting for them to get here so we can build things, or pack things or prep meals or…   And of course, this being the Arctic, shipping delays abound.  However, we have gotten the replacement cover for a Weatherport, all the recalled transit batteries, extra new batteries for the handheld radios, Rite in the Rain paper for field forms, the refurbished iPads, the nice new big First Aid kits, chaining pins, Sharpies (lots of Sharpies) and a bunch of other goodies.  I got my new tent stuff sack (the original lasted one trip, and all the duct tape in the world isn’t enough to hold what’s left together if I actually put the tent in it) and my InReach.  We are still waiting on the parts for a water screening station, and the dry goods.

The lab looks a mess, because everything is still out from the inventory, and needs to be packed, but some of the things to pack it in are part of the freight.  Not optimal, but it will sort itself out.

The freeze and chill food got in, and Kaare will be working with the volunteers to prep a lot of meals to freeze before we head down.  That is, once there are enough volunteers here.

The first of the volunteers were to get in Tuesday night, but the plane couldn’t land, so they all wound up heading back to Anchorage, getting in quite late.  One got on the early flight today on standby, but the rest are now coming tomorrow morning.  I figured maybe 2 nights in Anchorage would be a student budget-buster (having slept under some stairs once when stranded in England for a week on the way home from the field–Laker had raised ticket prices over the summer and I didn’t have a credit card), so I posted on a couple of northern archaeology Facebook groups, and had 5 offers of places to stay from folks in Anchorage within a couple of hours.  In the end, folks couldn’t get refunds for the nights they paid for (a downside of online booking, I guess), but if anyone else gets stranded overnight on the way in or out, at least I’ve got a bunch of phone numbers and we should be able to help out.  Gotta love Alaskan archaeologists.

Kaare made it to Walakpa, although there is still snow on the beach.  There has been a good bit more slumping, but it looks like the overhanging block that was making access so dangerous has fallen, which is a good thing indeed.  The plan is to try to take some of the heavy stuff down tomorrow, although that may change depending on if the freight makes it in.

We’ve also got a survey to finish before we go (only got the go-ahead a week ago) and maybe a desktop study as well, depending on their timeframe (just got the go-ahead today).  Oh, and a proposal, which was just requested yesterday.

And I need to finish making sense of a bunch of dates which I have calibrated for the WALRUS project.  It looks like we have decent ranges for many of the sites based on the caribou dates.  There are a couple of sites that are confusing (possible reverse stratigraphy in big mounds) and I haven’t been able to get copies of the field notes or talk to the excavators yet.  I’ve calibrated the walrus dates using the marine curve, and it is clear there is not a standard offset from the terrestrial dates.  I’m redoing it using the best available local delta R, but I know the one for Barrow is off by several hundred years (if you use it there are a lot of bones from archaeological sites that it indicates will be dying in a couple of centuries!) and there is one site in the walrus study where one pair of dates on associated caribou and walrus is several hundred years farther apart that the other pair.  Since walrus move around, some probably more than others,  it may not make sense until we figure out where the individuals were feeding.

Archaeology at Disney World. Seriously.

I am writing this from Disney World, where I have gone to talk about archaeology, particularly global change threats to the archaeological and paleoecological records.  The Society for American Archaeology is having its 81st Annual Meeting here, so I am sitting on the 11th floor of a hotel with a view across a lot of fairly low lying land.  It might be high enough to survive several meters of sea level rise, but by 20m, the Orlando airport looks like it gets iffy.

I organized a session on, surprise, global change threats to the archaeological and paleoecological records.  It should be good, with people presenting on various aspects of the problem in various part of the world (mostly the North), and some possible solutions being tried as well.  The session is Saturday morning, and we’ve got Ben Fitzhugh from UW as discussant, as well as a 15 minute discussion slot.  I hope we get good attendance, because this is a critical issue for the future of the discipline (and maybe of people in general).  Of course, in their infinite wisdom, the schedulers put us directly opposite the session in honor of Lou Giddings, which deals with coastal Alaska.  I actually have to read a paper for someone because the primary author couldn’t travel and the second author is giving a paper in the Giddings session at the same time!  Meanwhile, I’d already gone to most of the papers I want to see today by 10:30 AM.

Last night I went to the President’s Forum, which was on Climate Change and Archaeology.  Dan Sandweiss had organized a nice set of speakers.  One of them was Paul Mayewski,who specializes in ice cores and their analysis. He talked about some new software they have, and then he described a new instrument they have which can sample cores in tiny increments, so they can actually see individual storms thousands of years ago in the right type of core!  I introduced myself afterwards, and asked if it might work on ice wedges, following up on a suggestion Vlad Romanovsky had made during ASSW.  He thought so, and offered to pay to ship a trial wedge sample to his lab so they could try it.  Now I just have to get a good sample.  Hopefully it works, but either way it will be interesting.

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I’ve got a meeting later today (and another on Saturday for those who can’t make today’s) for folks who want to help with 2016 Walakpa Archaeological Salvage (WASP 2016).  Today we meet at 5PM at registration, and anyone who is interested is free to come along.  Now I have to run off and find the meeting of the newest SAA committee, Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources (CCSAR).

Vienna & CHAGS

From Glasgow, we went on to Vienna and CHAGS (the Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies), by way of Düsseldorf.  The Düsseldorf airport is not high on my list of airports in Europe.

In Vienna, we stayed in Hotel-Pension Bleckmann, a nice family-run hotel near the University, where all the conference sessions were being held.  The hotel had great breakfasts, and the staff was really nice and very helpful.  They recommended a restaurant that had great food and a local clientele, so it was more reasonable than the more touristy places.

Glenn having dinner at D'Landsknect, Porzellengasse.
Glenn having dinner at D’Landsknect, Porzellengasse.

The conference was very interesting.  Both Glenn & I were giving papers in a session on Aboriginal Whaling in the 21st Century.  I talked about the archaeological evidence for whaling in Alaska, and Glenn talked about the late pre-contact/protohistoric whaling-centric system in North Alaska.  There were a number of other northern papers in the session, including papers on Central and Eastern Canadian whaling archaeology from Jim Savelle and Peter Whitridge, as well as papers on whaling in places like Korea & Bequia.  There were 51 other sessions, all having to do with hunting and gathering groups.  Of course there were a lot of northern papers, but some of the other papers were very interesting as well.  The organizing committee and the students really made an effort to have a green conference, including the food and drinks served at breaks, and all in all it was quite fun.

We ran into a couple of hooded crows in one of the courtyards on campus.  Oddly, we’d seen one at the University of Glasgow as well.

Hooded crow.
Hooded crows.

The campus has all sort of restaurants and beer gardens more or less on or next to it.  It was very convenient after sessions.  Several times we wound up at Steigel-Ambulanz.  This was a restaurant/beer garden right across a walkway from the area where the sessions were concentrated.  It featured seriously large portions, but the food was very good.  We also had a dinner at Universitätsbräuhaus, which was more or less across the quad.

 

Seriously large (and very carefully arranged) caprese salad).
Seriously large (and very carefully arranged) caprese salad).
Claire Alix about to enjoy that salad.
Claire Alix about to enjoy that salad.

The conference banquet was held in a banquet hall in the Wiener Rathauskeller.   That literally means the cellar of the city hall, and that’s exactly where it is, in the basement of Vienna City Hall.  It is set up for  banquets (and also as a restaurant).  The food was great, and Richard Lee (of Man the Hunter fame) was honored for his contributions.  He was just back from something like his 50th field season!

Conference banquet in Wiener Rathauskeller.
Conference banquet in Wiener Rathauskeller.

Vienna had more places that only took cash than do most cities these days.  We wound up having to wake quite a way to find a bank that exchanged money, since we needed more Euros than we had exchanged in the first place.  On the way, we stopped by the Spanish Riding School (home of the Lipizzaner stallions), and booked a stable tour for the next afternoon, when there weren’t any sessions we simply needed to hear.  The building the Riding School is in had a stratified archaeological site under the plaza in front of it, and portions had been preserved with a wall around it.

Archaeological site in Michaelerplatz. There are portions of a Roman road, Roman fortifications, and even 18th century apartments and drains exposed.
Archaeological site in Michaelerplatz.  There are portions of a Roman road, Roman fortifications, and even 18th century apartments and drains exposed.  The entrance to the Winter Riding School is in the background.

The next day we went for the stable tour.  It was pretty interesting, and the stables were very nice, although we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the actual stables.  Much like the Royal Stables in Denmark, the horses were all in box stalls, but you could see they had been converted from tie stalls at some point in the past.

Entrance to the Hofburg from Michaelerplatz. The Riding School is on the left of the main archway.
Entrance to the Hofburg from Michaelerplatz. The Riding School is on the left of the main archway.
Largest walker in the world.
Largest walker in the world.
Saddles in the tack room at the Winter Riding School.
Saddles in the tack room at the Spanish Riding School.
The Winter Riding School.
The Winter Riding School.

 

Chandelier at the Winter Riding School.
Chandelier at the Winter Riding School.

Believe it or not, when it was built, the Winter Riding School hall was considered very simple in design, the better to show off the horses!

We walked back to our hotel through the Hofburg grounds.  Being in Vienna really brings home that until pretty recently, it was the seat of a major empire.

Gardens in Vienna.
Gardens in Vienna.
Display rose garden. It seemed to have one bush of each variety of rose, clearly labeled.
Display rose garden. It seemed to have one bush of each variety of rose, clearly labeled.

 

Another garden.
Another garden.

I couldn’t resist adding this.  The German for ice cream is “eis” and this is an ice cream shop.

An ice cream shop in Vienna.
An ice cream shop in Vienna.

EAA 2015 and Glasgow

We went to Glasgow where the 2014 European Archaeology Association was held, by way of Anchorage and Reykjavik.  Because flights from Barrow are disrupted fairly frequently, we went down a bit early, and had a chance to visit with our daughter.  There was a pretty amazing double rainbow and a nice lenticular cloud.

The rainbow
The rainbow
Closer shot of the rainbow
Closer shot of the rainbow
Lenticular cloud over the Church Mts.
Lenticular cloud over the Church Mts.

We flew Icelandair to Reykjavik and then from there to Glasgow.  Glasgow was great.  The people who live there seem really proud of their city.  The cab driver on the way in from the airport was recommending museums, and in particular Christ of Saint John on the Cross by Dali at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Musuem.  Glasgow was once the second most prosperous  city in the UK, and the residents seem to have been very civic-minded.  The Kelvingrove was built to house the collections that were donated by prominent Glaswegians, using funds from an international exposition and public subscriptions.  It houses a fair bit of Charles Rennie Mackintosh material.  We got in a good visit our last day there.  Unfortunately, some of the other Mackintosh venues were under renovation.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Charles Rennie Mackintosh cabinet
Charles Rennie Mackintosh cabinet
Charles Rennie Mackintosh table & chairs.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh table & chairs from one of the famous tea room interiors.

The meetings were held in various venues at the University, including some very old lecture halls and more modern buildings.

University of Glasgow Main Building tower
University of Glasgow Main Building tower
Nuvuk Archaeology Project alum Dr. Tony Krus chairing a session in a centuries-old lecture hall
Nuvuk Archaeology Project alum Dr. Tony Krus chairing a session in a centuries-old lecture hall

We spent most of our time around the University.  There were a number of good restaurants & pubs, particularly along Ashton Lane.  We tried a bunch of them.  We never made it to this one,which was apparently an isolated inn before Glasgow got so big, near a pond where local curlers used to throw rocks.  This is apparently where they went afterwards back then, as curlers are wont to do :-).

Curlers' Rest
Curler’s Rest

Our session (Archaeology and Climate Change) was heavily advertised.  Tom Dawson, the organizer, had managed to get leaflets put up all around campus before the session, so it was very well attended.  As you can see, there were participants from all over.  I talked about the threats to frozen coastal sites from climate change, with an emphasis on the Barrow area.  I was able to incorporate images from the storm that had happened the week before.  There were some other pretty bad situations, but none that were worse.  On the other hand, some people are making strides in dealing with these issues with public help, which is good given the turn-around time for even successful funding applications.

Poster for our session on
Poster for our session on Archaeology and Climate Change.

The conference featured a very nice party, spread across two venues, both within a block of our hotel!  One was Òran Mór, a converted church which now houses performance space and a bar.  The upstairs had been rented for the party.  It had obviously been redone from its days as a church.  The other was the glass house at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, just across the way.

Òran Mór from the outside, with a blue halo on the tower.
Òran Mór from the outside, with a blue halo on the tower.
Interior space at Òran Mór
Interior space at Òran Mór, with a crowd of EAA delegates
Approaching the Glass House at the Glasgow Botanic Garden
Approaching the Glass House at the Glasgow Botanic Garden

The conference banquet was held in the main hall at the Kelvingrove.  It was sponsored by Glenmorangie (the distillery near Glasgow) so there were samples of a couple of their special products.  After the speeches and dinner, there was a fine band and dancing.

Dancing at Kelvingrove. BT Wygal and Katie Krazinski by pillar at center.
Dancing at Kelvingrove. BT Wygal and Katie Krazinski by pillar at center.

A busy autumn

When I last posted I had just left for a trip to two conferences in Europe.  Since then, I’ve been in 4 countries, given two papers (at EAA 2015 in Glasgow and CHAGS 11 in Vienna), submitted an organized SAA session for next spring, come home, gone to Fairbanks for shotgun qualification, come back home, had two of the WALRUS project participants up here to cut samples from the bones that the interns have been finding in the collections, written part of two reports, drafted two abstracts for a meeting in November, and started on a proposal for an edited volume dealing with climate change & archaeology.  I haven’t managed to post at all.

Last week was a tough week for Barrow in many ways, with the deaths of several community members, including long-time mayor Nate Olemaun Jr..  On a brighter note, Barrow took three whales on Friday, and another three today.

On the road to recovery

The surgery went well, and I now have 3 fused vertebrae in my lower back.  I had actually broken 2 of the 4 screws and bent one of the two plates that were in there, so no wonder things weren’t right.

My old hardware.
My old hardware.

There were a few cardiac complications that resulted in me a) passing out a lot, and b) being moved to a general hospital from the orthopedic one so that a variety of specialists could figure it out–final guess, side effects of anesthesia & painkillers.  It stopped & I got released before Christmas, which we spent in the Residence Inn.  One of the housekeepers at the hospital had brought me a tiny tree with lights, and told me to take it home, so we had that.

They wanted me to walk as much as possible.  My leg pain vanished right away, but my back hurt from the surgery, so it was a challenge at first.  I was using a walker, so it pretty much meant flat and paved.  I walked up and down the hall in the hotel for a few days, but that was boring, so we ventured to something called the Riparian Preserve at Water Ranch, which is a municipal park/nature preserve with a bunch of ponds, some paved trails around one of them, and many birds.  I never got past the pond closest to the parking lot (taking the walker onto unpaved trails was not  really working and they could use a few more benches ) but I worked up to being able to circle the entire pond before we left.

Paved trail at the Water Ranch.
Paved trail at the Water Ranch.
Evening visit to the Water Ranch.
Evening visit to the Water Ranch.
Turtle on a log at the Water Ranch.
Turtle on a log at the Water Ranch.
Ducks at the Water Ranch
Ducks at the Water Ranch
Cactus
Cactus

We returned to Alaska at the beginning of the year, after the doctor gave me the OK to travel.  I spent a couple of weeks just recuperating, and then began doing a bit of work from home.  I’ve been going in to the office (thanks to Sean Gunnells & the others from UMIAQ Science Logistics for shoveling the handicap ramp so I could get into the building) and am pretty well back to full-time.

In the meantime, I’ve submitted two major proposals (one archaeology and one not), several smaller ones for non-archaeology science support work, reviewed a chapter, gotten the AJA Recent Research Notes column out, checked the galleys of an article Glenn & I wrote, got grabbed by UMIAQ’s marketing person to do an interview with a TV crew who were up here trying to see the first sunrise of the year (of course it was cloudy), and even managed to get some lab work done.

Tuesday I am off to Fairbanks for the Alaska Anthropological Association meetings, where I am doing a 2-minute talk and a paper.  It’ll be the first time I’ve driven much more than the 5 minutes back and forth to the office since surgery, and the first time I’ve traveled by myself.  Hopefully all goes well.  Looks like there are some interesting papers and I should see some old friends.

August 15th at Walakpa–78 years ago and today

Seventy-eight years ago, it was a foggy day at Walakpa.  The Okpeaha family was camping there.  A floatplane descended out of the fog, and two men asked how to get to Barrow, since they had lost their bearings in the fog.  Getting directions, the got back in the plane and took off.  The engine failed, and the nose-heavy aircraft crashed into the lagoon and flipped.  Unable to reach the plane to help the men, Clare Okpeaha ran all the way to Brower’s Trading Post in Barrow, over 12 miles of very rough going, to get help.  When boats got back to Walakpa & they got to the plane, it became clear the men had been killed instantly.  They were Will Rogers, a noted humorist and political commentator, who was traveling around Alaska to get stories for the newspapers, and Wiley Post, probably the most famous American aviator of the time after Charles Lindbergh.

The crash was national news at the time, and a few years later a monument was erected near the site, followed some time later by another one.  These are the monuments that show up in some of the pictures of the site.  For some reason, these are on the National Register of Historic Places, but the archaeological site isn’t.

The first monument , looking out over the lagoon where the crash occurred.
The first monument , looking out over the lagoon where the crash occurred.

Today was a much better day at Walakpa.  We headed down with 7 volunteers, including David Pettibone, Michael Berger, dental extern Temurkin Cucukov, and the entire Von Duyke family, plus Marybeth Timm from the Inupiat Heritage Center.  The stream was running high and fast at Nunavak, but we got across, although not before I got my boot wet.  With that many people, it seemed worth getting the water screening going, so we did, using a small pump to take water out of the lagoon.  Alan & Scott Kerner happened by on an ATV ride and pitched in for a while as well.

Wet screeners in action by the lagoon.
Wet screeners in action by the lagoon.

The rest of us continued with taking down the rather disturbed level under the sod.  It would be a lot easier if we could just shovel it out, but the bluff doesn’t seem that stable & we’re afraid we’ll knock the whole thing down if we shovel, especially since there are still a lot of roots holding things together at this level.

Excavating the disturbed layer. Note the Visqueen.
Excavating the disturbed layer. Note the Visqueen.

A while after we got there, a boat pulled in, and Jeff Rasic from the National Park Service (in town for a meeting at the Inupiat Heritage Center) Patuk Glenn (IHC) and Kunneak Nageak (IHLC) appeared.  They got a good tour, and spent a bit of time wandering around.  Jeff found a big sod with a lot of artifacts in it, including several very nice potsherds, one with residue, which we collected.

Excavation at Walakpa.
Excavation at Walakpa.  L. to R.  Marybeth Timm, Temerkin Cucukov, Michael Berger, Jeff Rasic, David Pettibone & Trina Brower.
Potsherds.
Potsherds.

The ride home was even more exciting.  Nunavak wasn’t too bad, but they were unloading a barge on the beach, so we took the old Nunavak “road” back to town.  It has pretty much disappeared back into the tundra on the middle section the last few years, and it was a very muddy ride!

On the way to Aukureyri

I’m heading to Akureyri, Iceland, to take part in a workshop and a NABO Open Meeting.  It’s a fairly long trip from Barrow to anywhere, but Icelandair is now flying direct Anchorage-Reykjavik, so that’s a help.  Not surprisingly, seats on the July 4th departure were very, very cheap, so it was more cost effective to fly me to Iceland then, and put me up in Reykjavik for a couple of days before I head to Akureyri.

When I left Barrow, the ice had come back in.  I got a good shot of the only operational heavy icebreaker in the US fleet, USCG Polar Star lying off Barrow.  You can see masts belonging to much smaller vessels off her bow.  They are a French group who are trying to take a catamaran to the North Pole (it apparently can move over ice as well as water, or they hope so).  They beat  Polar Star to Barrow by a couple days.

USCG Polar Star off Barrow in the ice.
USCG Polar Star off Barrow in the ice.

The flight from Anchorage leaves at 3:15 PM AKDT, and gets in at 6AM local (GMT) which is before bedtime in Alaska, so I didn’t get much sleep.  I was wiped, so I took a nap, planning to get up and go wandering about Reykjavik.  Alas, the weather didn’t cooperate.  When I got up, it was raining & blowing 25+.

View out the livingroom window of the B&B
View out the living room window of the B&B

So I confined my walking to a trip to the grocery store and bakery.  Lots of nice local vegetables for good prices–geothermal greenhouses can do wonders.

This morning the weather had improved, so I headed out to see some sights.  I had intended to check out a Danish restaurant, but wound up doing something else entirely.  I found a food truck selling grass-fed beef hamburgers, which smelled wonderful.  So that’s what I had.  Then I wound up heading down to the harbor.

Reykjavik harbor
Reykjavik harbor

The green buildings on the left are former (mostly) fishmongers’ stalls that have been converted to shops & restaurants.  I wound up getting a bracelet made of wolfish leather.  There are still the old ladders, presumably for self-rescue by unfortunate fishermen who fell in on the way back to the ship.

Ladder in the old harbor
Ladder in the old harbor
Trawler in Reykjavik harbor.
Trawler in Reykjavik harbor.

There were the expected Icelandic coast guard ships.  There were also a Danish naval ship and a German Fisheries Protection ship tied up.

Icelandic Coast Guard ships.
Icelandic Coast Guard ships.
Danish ship.
Danish naval fisheries inspection ship, probably HDMS Triton.
German Fisheries Protection ship.
German Fisheries Protection ship.

And there were several large fishing vessels out of the water.

Fishing vessel in the yard.
Fishing vessel in the yard, being scraped & painted.

 

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A trip to the nation’s capitol

Last week I went to Washington, DC.  I went for the 18th Inuit Studies Conference.  The Inuit Studies Conference happens somewhere every two years, and this year it was hosted by the Smithsonian.  I was a co-author on a paper on aDNA from the North Slope (I provided the archaeological background), and I wanted to hear it, as well as a couple of other Arctic genetics papers.  I also wanted to get together with several folks I collaborate with who were going to be there.  Sometimes face-to-face is better than Skype between Europe & Alaska.

Because of the Smithsonian hosting, it was a bit of an odd conference.  There was no main conference hotel.  Events & sessions took place at three different venues distributed around the mall, which in many cases made it logistically impossible to catch a paper in one session and hop over to another session.  The program didn’t have times set for papers, so it was tough to know when folks were talking even if the sessions were next door to one another.  And of course there was the usual problem of all the papers on a topic being scheduled in sessions which were opposite each other!  Despite the challenges, there was a very interesting Paleoeskimo session, which I was able to go to 2/3rds of.  I had to miss the end to go over the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) to hear the paper on Nuvuk (given by Justin Tackney) and one on the North Slope modern genetics given by Jenny Raff.  They were in a session with papers on 1) Unangan myth and magic, 2) theriomorphic imagery in the Liangzhu culture of China and Old Bering Sea, and 3) the Sealstone (a large petroglyph which was probably from Shemya in the Aleutian Islands, although it had been removed to a garden in California and the folks who were trying to return it to its home weren’t quite sure.  It was a bit incoherent.

All this happened opposite what looked like a very interesting session on ethnology and one on education with a number of my friends from the North Slope in it.  The next day I went to a session to hear a couple of archaeology papers, which were in a session with a paper on Greenlandic theater and a paper about a novel about Greenland.

I arrived to find my registration had gotten scrambled, so that there was no banquet ticket (and they were sold out).  A 1-day registration was $100, and the full conference was $325.  Even though I was only able to stay for 2 days, I had to pay the full conference fee!  It didn’t seem quite right, but there was supposed to be a free book included.  Unfortunately, they were out of all the books that I didn’t already own, and even though they kept saying more copies would come, they never did…  Hauling an extra copy of a book back to Alaska in my carry-on didn’t seem that attractive.

While I was there, it became clear that Sandy was going to play havoc with my planned return to Alaska (by way of my Mom’s in upstate NY).  That in turn would mess up plans for a trip to Valdez for an Arctic Visiting Scholars speaking tour and Seattle for a workshop.  I had to spend some time on the phone moving the travel up a day, and changing the routing out of Albany to head Alaska by going west to Minneapolis instead of south to Atlanta.

One of the pluses of the various venues was getting to see a special exhibition at NMAI of the sculpture of Abraham Anghik Reuben.  His work was using aspects of the lives of the ancient Norse and the Thule whalers.  There is a Flickr photo stream with professional pictures here, but I took some too.  My favorite of all was Silent Drum: Death of the Shaman.

This piece is so powerful.
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The artist captured the way it would look in amazing fashion, given that he is working in stone, not with soft material.
This blind shaman’s eyes are astounding. You can see the cataracts (at least in person).
Odin, his ravens, & other Norse being.

I did eat cake

Quite a bit of it, in fact.  Also for breakfast.  I was planning on spending the weekend reading a pile of articles, but life intervened. Since I’m going to be traveling so much, there were a bunch of things I just had to get taken care of before Tuesday morning. And I did need a little down time.

For one thing, I had a thawed goose I had to deal with.  The meat  became a very nice stew with apples & gooseberries ( and a bit of apple brandy) and the carcase made some nice goose stock.  The bones are now reposing in the qanitchaq (arctic entryway) to become a lab exercise.

Then we had to put the slipcover back on the sofa.  What a job!  But it does look a lot nicer after being washed.  Got caught up with the laundry, figured out what I need to pack for the next trip, started some no-knead bread, watered the flowers (the big ones need it several times a day) and then got started on the reading.

This morning I was contacted by folks from Ilisaġvik who were trying to finalize the catalog for spring.  Assuming there are enough students (courses taught by adjuncts don’t go unless there are at least 5), I’ll be doing a Fundamentals of Archaeology and a Lab Methods course.  The idea is to do them as distance-delivered, with a lab that is in-person for the lab course.  People in Barrow can take the lab during the semester, and it can also be offered as a summer camp for those who are outside of Barrow.  Today it became clear the lab needed to be a separate course to fit into the catalog format, so I had to hurry up and do a course description for  the lab and a new one for the course leaving out the lab components.  Then the bread had to be baked & now back to reading articles.

2000+ miles of outreach–part 1

I’ve been busily writing away at a couple of overdue papers, and the students have been going great guns processing and cataloging artifacts in the lab.  While all this work is important, it doesn’t make for the most exciting blog posts, so I’ve been focusing on the papers.

Last week I wound up doing a couple of outreach events.  The first was a public talk at the Murie Science and Learning Center at Denali National Park.  Since I don’t live anywhere near Denali NP, this was no small undertaking.  I flew to Anchorage, rented a car  and went to the Apple store to pick up some video adapters for my Mac Air on Sunday, picked up my daughter Justine on Monday morning, and we made some sandwiches and set out.  It is a 240 mile (more or less) north out of Anchorage, up the Parks Highway to the Park and the MSLC.  I was speaking at 7 PM, but wanted to get there a bit early to make sure I found the place and my computer worked with their projector & so forth.

We had a pretty nice drive.  The weather was sunny, but since I was driving north that was no problem.  The drive is beautiful, although there were clouds around Denali (the mountain some call Mt. McKinley) so it wasn’t out.We stopped at a couple of viewing areas, but no luck.  There are actually mountains between Denali and the Parks Highway, but Denali is so big it would have been visible anyway except for the clouds.

Alaska Range from Parks Highway

We made good time to Denali.  It is very beautiful country, to my way of thinking, and gets prettier as you climb away from sea level and taiga forests with tundra on the mountains.  It took a bit of doing to find the MSLC, but we succeeded.

Pathway to Murie Science and Learning Center. The white dinosaur footprints lead to the MSLC from the Denali NP Visitors’ Center.

Closer view of MSLC.
Justine indicating where we are for the photographic record of the trip.
Main room of the MSLC, with a couple of park visitors and an interpreter.

We got in touch with NJ Gates, who runs the speakers’ program and she got us settled.  I made sure my computer worked with their projector.  Although this was not a paying gig, they were kind enough to put us up in a yurt that they have for visiting researchers.  Since there weren’t many around, we each got our own room.  I had brought down sleeping bags & a Thermarest (since we thought one of us would be sleeping on the floor) from Barrow.  The Park has wagons, and we used one to pull our gear to the yurt.  I somehow didn’t manage to get a picture of the outside or the bear-proof box into which all food and toiletries went.  The interior was divided into 3 rooms, 2 of which shared an entryway.  We got those two.

Bed in yurt, strewn with gear.
Interior view of yurt & skylight.

After we got settled, we went to the grill at the visitors’ center for a quick dinner, and headed back to give the talk.  We got a decent crowd for a Monday night, I thought.  It went well, except for the earthquake in the middle of it.  It was big enough to really shake the screen, and given that the MSLC is a heavy timber-frame building, I waited a few seconds to see if it would get bigger.  It didn’t, so on we went.  Some folks had a lot of questions, but we were all done, and in bed in the yurt by about 9:30.

This was important, because Justine had a doctor’s appointment in Anchorage at 11AM the next day.  We got up at 4:15, grabbed a couple of sandwiches & a drink and were on the road a little after 5AM.  The weather wants quite as nice, but it didn’t rain until we were nearly to Wasilla (yeah, that Wasilla), but stopped quickly a little later.  Still no sight of Denali, but the drive was beautiful.

Mountains along the Parks Highway.

We made it to the doctor’s office around 10AM, I dropped Justine off, met my husband for lunch (he was in Anchorage on his way back from Ketchikan to Barrow), and caught a plane back to Barrow on Tuesday night.

Wednesday, we got ready for a visit by kids from the City of Barrow summer program.  More about that in the next post.