Our last journey took us to the Tropic of Cancer, a land of heat and relentless sun, where snorkeling and spearfishing were our daily pastimes. But today we sit beneath a mile deep soup of Seattle fog, awaiting our flight to Alaska and 59 degrees north of the equator.
We will land in a world of cool rain, endless daylight hours, and glaciers at our back doorstep. We will trade rattlesnakes for brown bears, cardon cactus for spruce trees, and sand dunes for swamps.
You’d be hard pressed to find two more disparate landscapes, but the Sea of Cortez and coastal Alaska both circulate the same same salty Pacific waters that we’ve called home for the past year. That same great ocean has shaped the human cultures and the ecosystems of each place, and it will continue to shape us as we muck about the wild shores of Alaska this season.
The sun’s angle is low at this new latitude, so the water stays cool, the land stays moist, and life abounds in lavish forms in these short summer months. It is brief, but it is bounteous, and it will be our duty for the next five months to explain and interpret some of the finer points of the natural history of this magnificent place.
We have packed two sets of raingear, muck boots, down jackets and waders to try and keep our bronzed (some might say lizardesque) skin warm and dry. Along with all the foul weather gear, our work will also require bear spray (to fend off the grizzlies) fly rods (to fend off the salmon), binoculars (yes, we get paid to bird watch), life jackets (it’s cold water beneath those sea kayaks) and hiking boots (there are miles of wilderness out the back door).
Today begins our exploration of the creatures, the landscape, the people and all of the beautiful interactions that comprise this amazing ecosystem.