My job allows me to visit a lot of Alaska on a yearly basis. I wanted to capture the trips in one location!

Cordova once again~sunshine, snow and Eyak the killer whale skelton!

March 18-20,2012

Returned to Cordova on a BEAUTIFUL day with the candidates for the superintendency.  We were so fortunate for the sun filled day on Sunday, then a more true look at Cordova as we woke up to snow on Monday, and lastly, another beautiful day on Tuesday, I did not even need my coat!

The most interesting thing I can share with you this blog is about our  visit to the Ilanka Cultural Center where I had a chance to see the huge skeleton of Eyak, one of the three preserved Killer Whale skeletons in the world. Prince William Sound Science Center (which was built with $ form the Valdez oil spill) and others  in Corodova, including youth, did an amazingly job to preserve this whale, Eyak.

I found some history on Eyak on line:

On July 11, 2000, an orca whale beached and then died in Hartney Bay, five miles southwest of Cordova. The whale was later identified as Eyak, a member of the transient AT1 group, also referred to as the Prince William Sound transients.

In the days preceding his death, Eyak and/or another orca were spotted by various witnesses in the area, displaying peculiar behavior. It was first reported on the 9th, that a whale was beached on Mummy Island, but this whale was able to get back into the water that evening. On the morning of the 11th, Eyak was seen swimming very slowly near Orca Cannery, three miles north of Cordova. Later that morning, another observer saw Eyak feeding near Hartney Bay just before he beached himself.
When news of the stranded whale reached the Science Center and the Forest Service, everyone went out there to help him through the tide cycle. Wet blankets were draped over his back throughout the afternoon. Despite everyone’s efforts, he passed away around 4:30 that day. Blubber samples were collected for researchers at the North Gulf Oceanic Society, for analysis of contaminant levels and genetic research. A year later, an article in the Anchorage Daily News, revealed probable causes of Eyak’s death.
It was quickly decided that the skeleton of the whale should be salvaged and re-articulated for educational purposes. In a collaborative effort of the PWSSC, the Native Village of Eyak, and the USDA Forest Service, this project has been underway ever since. There has been a great effort by all involved to collect and clean the bones. The Eyak’s skeleton is now on display in the Native Village of Eyak’s arts center.

for more information read:


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Cordova, Alaska~ March 12 and 13, still a lot of snow!

I returned to Cordova, AK 2 months after they made national news for snow fall, and they still have a lot of snow!  I got out and about this time, so more pics of the beautiful location!  I also got to shop at “Copper River Fleece” and the “Ilanka Cultural Center & Gift Gallery (Museum)“.  I spent a little too much $ but what’s a girl to do when she can buy handmade seal skin earrings?

Not a lot more exciting to share about this trip, but the pictures are worth 1000 words!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Touring the Largest Crab Processing Plant in the World, St. Paul Island


school board member Jason Bourdukofsky shared these new pictures with me from this week’s crabbing on St. Paul Island


school board member Jason Bourdukofsky shared these new pictures with me from this week’s crabbing on St. Paul Island


school board member Jason Bourdukofsky shared these new pictures with me from this week’s crabbing on St. Paul Island

Friday, March 9, 2012

This entry is written backwards from the last day to the first, because the last day was the most fun and interesting, starting off with watching the moon set over the Bering Sea (see picture) followed by lots of activities, including a tour of the Largest Crab Processing Plant in the World, Trident on St. Paul Island.

The film crew from “Deadliest Catch” was on site the same day filming the Wizzard as it came into off load crab.  Here are some of the facts of this plant:

  • Crab are off loaded alive because if they die, they must be frozen within 60 minutes or they go bad.
  • During this, the high season for crab, they will process 50,000 to 500,000 pounds of crab in one day (up to a 16 hour shift).
  • To start off the crab are lifted from the boat in big barrel looking tubs and,
  • 7-8 workers in the ‘hole’ putting the crab into the ‘braibers’ and then into the hoppers, there are 6 hoppers with 2 conveyor belts on each side of the door where live crab are placed.
  • As the live crab move on the conveyor belt they are killed, these machines do 40 crab a minute
  • After this they are “butchered”, where core body shells are blown leaving the legs and other edible parts to continue with.
  • Once the pieces are separated by grade (low, medium and high quality by size), they are placed in metal containers that hold about 45 pounds.
  • Each container is lowered into boiling water and cooked for 18.5 minutes for tanner/snow crab.  (if it were king crab that needs to cook for 25 minutes).
  • After it is cooked it is first dropped into salt water.
  • After the salt water it is then placed in ½ salt ½ fresh water,
  • Finally, it is lowered into water that is -3 degrees  and b/c salt is in water will not freeze!
  • It is then moved on another belt to a location where the 45#’s are placed in blue plastic bags and ultimately in a box.
  • The boxes are stacked and put in huge freezer.
  •  6000-8000, 45# boxes are done in one day.
  • To do all of this work they need 320 staff, most of them are from foreign countries as there is not a lot of luck recruiting people in the states.
  • Workers live and eat on site, (they have dorm like living quarters and cafeteria style eating).
  • The workers pay for their housing and food in advance of arriving to the job, BUT if they remain during the entire season they get all that money back.

All of these steps are highlighted  in the pictures.

I have a video of the Wizzard trying to get into the harbor, it tried for over an hour but had to pull back out eventually due to the current, tide and amount of ice in the harbor.  It made me sea sick just watching the boat as the water was causing the boat to rock so badly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Thursday March 8, 2012

Though the weather on Wed. was great, the weather today was terrible, a blizzard hit the island and 55+ MPH winds were blowing and there was a total white out.  School was called off and we had to wait until Mac, the district go to guy could come pick us up and take us to the school.

Interviews went most of the day, lunch was ‘fish pie’ a local favorite, halibut, rice, corn, bacon, all in a crust.  YUMMY.

As the day progressed, the weather improved and we were invited to have dinner at the Trident plant cafeteria (where the workers eat).  Since there is no ‘restaurant’ in town, this was about the closest we could get and it was a nice dinner.

The best part of the day was the sunset, which there are photos of!  Sunset around 8:15 p.m.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the morning I met up with the three candidates for the superintendents position at the ANC airport.  My supervisor was flying in from Fairbanks with 2 candidates that had interviewed the day before in a district up north.  The 3rd candidate flew in the day before from MT.

At 11:45 our flight was a ‘go’ and we were all headed to the boarding area, UNTIL the announcement came over the system: St. Paul flight is on hold currently, we will update you at 12:30, as currently we don’t have a crew  WHAT????!!!! So, Tasky Timi grabbed my phone and emailed my new contact at Pen Air asking him, how once again there was not a crew for a scheduled flight, indicating I would like a call.  Within 3 minutes the ‘mucky muck, big wig’ called and said he could not believe it and he would get back to me within 10 minutes.  He did and informed me that the crew was on its way in and we would be off the ground by 12:30.  Well, we were boarding around 12:30 and off by 12:50, but at least we go the ball rolling.  I reminded him how URGENT the flight on Friday would be because of the company that was joining me… candidates for a job that only 1 would be offered.!  He said he would call me on Friday and keep in touch as to the status of the flight!  He will regret the day he gave me his # and email 🙂

We stopped in Dillingham for fuel and then took off for St. Paul.  As we landed it was a PERFECT March day here! Sunshine, blue sky etc.  We of course all joked that it was like this all the time here (not!).

Dinner with the board and candidates was a Costco based meal, and all loved it.  I brought fresh veggies, lettuce, tomatoes, etc for a salad… big hit!  Then after dinner was a community forum for all and anyone to attend and meet the candidates, it too was successful.

Funniest parts of the day:

1. using a district vehicle  I was headed to my place (teacher housing, VERY nice), and I could NOT make it up a hill.  I had to go in reserve down the hill, and tried again with no luck.  Tried an alternative road and same luck, I could not get the 150 truck up the hill.  Came into the school with my head hung low until we realized that the right front tire was almost flat!

2. at the end of the evening I took the same truck with a newly filled tire and headed home, with the female candidate who was also staying at the housing unit with me.  However we could NOT find the house, we drove around and around and around, drove by the superintendents home 4 times until I finally stopped to ask for help. How do I mange to travel the world and not get lost but on an island of 400 + people I can’t find my house! craziness!


Bonus Points if You Know Where the Pribilof Islands are Located?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you watch Deadliest Catch (I have never watched it) you may have heard of St. Paul Island, where I find myself tonight after many, many hours of traveling. One of the first people I was shown in the airport was one of the captains, leaving the island for a bit, however, I did not recognize him b/c again, I don’t watch the show.

Started off the morning with a 1.5 hour flight from Juneau to ANC, followed by a lot of wait time in ANC.  Once in the boarding area for my flight to St. Paul (Pen Air) I was almost sure I wasn’t going to make it in,  A HUGE winter storm was heading towards the island but I was wrong as here now as I sit in the school.    Winds are blowing over 50 MPH and it is cold.  We had such a strong head wind flying out here; we had to stop in Dillingham (see earlier blog on that community) and refuel.  It took over 3.5 flying hours to get out here!  How far would you be across the country if you flew 3.5 hours?  I am 880 miles west of Anchorage and only 500 miles east of Siberia, Russia (less to the waterways of Russia) while I write this!

I landed and they were in such a hurry to get the plane off the ground and headed back to ANC that it took almost 1 hour for the 12 of us that flew here to get our luggage, but mine all made it!  As Mack, the man that took me to the school (along with Dan a teacher and John a refrigerator sales man) drove we were all blinded by the TOTAL white out caused by the winds and the blowing snow.  (I now am wondering why a refrigerator repairman is needed as it is sooooo cold here I can’t see the need now J).

Dan is a 2nd year teacher here, he and his wife (also a teacher) are originally from Michigan, huge MI State Spartan fans and most ironically, Amanda his wife went to Aquinas College, 4 years after I worked there, but still… that is pretty ‘small world’ if you ask me.

I went immediately to my meeting with the board and did not get a chance to even use the restroom; however, now it is 3.5 hours after we started the meeting and we are not even close to being done!  That is how tough it can be to select a new superintendent!    UPDATE, it ended almost 5 hours after we started.  WOW.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Because there are no planes that fly on Thursday I must stay until tomorrow and that flight does not leave til 4:15 p.m.  I will get a lot of work done since so far I have Internet and it is quiet in the School District apartment.  Though at 5 this a.m. as I was coming out of the rest room I ran into the guy staying in one of the other rooms.  This is how we roll in rural AK.  He’s here working at the radio station, AND no one told him to bring food.  Hence he spent $70+ on items over at the AC store, enough for a few days.  See my pictures for the cost of some common day items.

Spent most of the day calling potential candidates for the superintendent job, arranging their flights and working on stuff I need to get to them, so the windy and cold weather didn’t bother me too much as I sat inside.  I eventually took a walk but it was still windy and cold and it indeed was cold.  The blizzard was to subside around 5 so hope tomorrow is better when I want to fly. There is a common saying on the islands: “This is the only place in the world where you can experience all four seasons in one hour.”

A little bit of information about St. Paul Island:

  • No fewer than 248 species of birds have been spotted on the island. In spring, (May?) many rare birds are seen on the island.
  • Other interesting sites on the island are the fur seal rookeries, the males stake their spot our in late May and wait for the females to come!  If I were here after May 31 I would not be allowed to go to the rookeries, but rather only view the action from some blinds that have been built for viewing.
  • There are no dogs allowed on the island… mostly b/c of the birds.
  • However, there are grey fox that are rather pesky at times getting into garbage and leftovers at the processing plant.
  • Saint Paul is the largest of the Pribilof Islands and lies the furthest north.,
  • It is just over 7.6 miles wide at its widest axis and 13.5 miles and has a total area of 43 square miles.
  • The island was created by a volcano and so there are many cinder cones and volcanic craters on the island, the highest is Rush Hill about 650 feet above sea level.

Friday, March 2, 2012

I was to fly out at 4:15 p.m. but around 10 a.m. I found out that Pen Air had canceled the flight, NOT due to weather but because they did not have a crew, or as I was told later because of a mechanical.  I sent an email stating my concerns and received this from the Chief Operating Officer!  We spoke, but I still don’t have high hopes.

Scott Bloomquist asked me to try to contact you, I don’t see a cell number in your email. Please email or call me back and I’d like to see what we can do to make amends to you for screwing up your trip.

So I walked (slid) around town a bit, school, museum, etc, took some pictures and enjoyed the sunshine even if it wasn’t that warm yet.  I went to the school board meeting in the evening and spent the night back at the apt. reading and talking to Harry on the phone.  Thank goodness the apartment has a phone and internet.

Saturday,  March 3, 2012

At 7:30 p.m. I finally left the island and got to Anchorage at 10:30… I will got home Sunday morning, but will turn around and head back to St. Paul on Wed.  Hope the traveling goes better that time!