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Archives in Alaska: side benefits

Sometimes being an archivist isn’t an 8-5 M-F job.  This past Saturday Arlene Schmuland (head of A&SC & your author) traveled to Homer and back in order to work with an incoming collection.  More on that collection later when all the ownership papers have been signed.

To be clear: Homer is about a 4 hour drive from Anchorage, if you’re paying respectable attention to speed limits and don’t have the misfortune to get stuck behind a school bus as I did the previous weekend.  So that was about 8 hours road trip plus about 5-6 hours of working on the collection.  Very long day.  But road trips in Alaska, if occasionally long, do have side benefits for the attentive driver.  Here’s a list of the wildlife I saw along the way on Saturday followed by how many I saw, in order of initial appearance.  The list is a little heavy on birds, but it is migration season in Southcentral Alaska.

  • Gulls (too many to count and I’m not a good enough birder to know my gull species: assume mew, herring, and glaucous at a minimum but no California)
  • Bald eagles (lost count at 10)
  • Dall sheep (3)
  • Trumpeter swans (2)
  • Grizzly bear (1)
  • Squirrel (1)
  • Attitudinal volcano (1)
  • Moose (3)
  • Golden eagles (2: I think, I’m still having problems distinguishing between goldens and juvenile balds)
  • Common loons (2)
  • Common goldeneyes (5)
  • Sandhill cranes (5)
  • Canvasbacks (4)
  • Stellar blue jay (1)

Being an archivist, you may now be wondering about where all my documentation (i.e. photos) of the above are.  Aside from some ineffective attempts with the trumpeter swans, I didn’t take any.  Much of the time I was driving at close to speed limit and stopping and parking on the side of a curvy 2-lane highway without much in the way of side clearance isn’t always the smartest idea.  Plus while the camera I had with me is good, it doesn’t have a telephoto lens and one of the things you learn in Alaska is that you don’t want to disturb the wildlife, especially in early spring when they’re probably pretty hungry after the long winter or tired from a long migration.  And I do have some photos of many of these animals from other times when it was safer to get photographs.   So this time I made the appraisal decision to store up the memories in my head, and provide written documentation here.

Okay, so I did take a picture of the volcano, since the State has thoughtfully provided some pull-offs for those of us who find active volcanoes interesting and inactive volcanoes pretty, so there’s your photo (and an  explanation of how good a photographer Arlene is not).  All the dark stuff on the sides of the mountain is either ash or bare rock, most of the volcanoes along this chain this time of year are pretty much snow-covered:

Mt. Redoubt 5/2/09

Mt. Redoubt 5/2/09

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