A Summer Surveying Season in Alaska


May 16..Bethel

The R44...a gasoline powered helicopter...Every Helicopter jump is a stunt. Where you cinch your harnesses tight, hold your breath and try not to think of 2000 rotating nuts and bolts, the beer can aluminum fuselage, and what might be causing the backfires and squeals. coming from aft.

Yessiree...If the Bell Jet Ranger is the India Pale Ale of Hovering Aircraft, then the R44 is the Coors Light.

But really though...It's the first complete redesign of the helicopter in 30 years...I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. Super carbon composite rotor blades that droop to the ground when its at rest and bendy upwards when it's in flight...No "Snap" verbs allowed here please.

It Carries two up front scrunchingly and still has room for two midgets in the back. 

To load the aircraft you have to sit on the inflated rubber pontoon like John Wayne  riding in a saddle...but without the  digging in of the spurs. 

What the hell was me and Ralph talking about last night over beers?......If the rotors came off ...the path of the helicopter capsule would be of a lob like trajectory inverting once or twice depending on the separation altitude.

May 18...

Must have put in about 300 miles of flying today. The Land isn't boring here...it's monotonous. There is absolutely no topographic features that would lender themselves for orientation. A flat two dimensional labyrinth of random ponds and creeks of random sizes and shapes surrounded by the random curves of ancient ponds and creeks. With an overcast sky there is no sense of sun or direction. A truly empty place, a lost area. We are 100% relying on our GPS screens.

 Work is fun...positioning rectangular corners all over this weird place. Took only a day to get in the rhythm ...and the logistics are tight and efficient.


May 19...

Hmmm...why is the helicopter over that side of the lake? suppose to be over this side.

See lots of incoming migratory birds now. Arctic Fox looking for nests, eggs. Muskrats and Beavers building lodges and dams.

Man O Man O Man O...did I have a day long hangover yesterday or what?  Steve Stoll sent in some millers and guinness. Stayed up till 1:00 am...then had to do a 7 mile hike...quite rough that.

When I first worked in Bethel some 10 or 11 years ago, we were flown by a charter 206 piloted by Keli Mahoney. Just found out last night she was killed in a Cessna 185 crash on Mt. McKinley....bit of a pissa. I used to always think of her when ever I thought of Bethel.



May 30...

Solar Eclipse...an opposite solar eclipse is visible this evening...next opposite one in 2021.

A discarded glove lies in the Tundra with it's middle finger defiantly sticking up.

Hey...on the radio...Amazing Grace....sung in Yupik...not too shabby.

That friggen Sno Seal for boots works better as a hand moisturizer than Neutrogena hand cream. I'm sold.

This is Tuntutuliak...A Chupik village on the Yukon Delta near where the Kuskokwim River dumps out into the Bering Sea.

We fly out here in a cool 1956 DeHavilland Beaver painted olive drab with U.S. Army military markings. When it starts up it's Pratt and Witney sound just like World War II.

We then jump into our nifty little gasoline powered helicopter and away we go....to never never land

the worse part of the job has to be lugging that beast of a pjonjar around. Ralph calls it Sally after his ex-girlfriend...all I know is it's a friggen bitch. No matter how nice you are to it ...it pisses you off just the same. It runs only when it feels like running and when it does feel like running it cloaks you in a cloud of thick oily carbon monoxide smoke and 5000 decibels of ear ringing jack hammer noise.

If I end up in Hell, they'll probaly give me one of these to carry up that never ending hill for eternity.


June 1...


Recieved Parcel from Mary today with many wonderful things. Newsweek mags, inflatable suspenders, laughing cow cheese, 2 bottles of wine and letters...one from an interesting lady, Jackie Pels, whom I have struck up am aquaintance with with. She is a publisher and is using some of my photo's in her new book, Umnak. exciting.

Hanging out this evening...rocking out too Blur...they friggen rock...sipping on a sauvignon blanc and nibbling on kalamata olives with sardines. In fact I drank a whole bottle of wine but didn't want to break into my other bottle so I just stole a glass from the bottle that belongs to the guy upstairs. The only thing wrong with this meal is the cheese. $18 for a block of cheddar at the AC.  For $18 you think you would get quality cheese, but it's too crumbly like british chesire...that really pisses me off, but at least Mary sent up some laughing cow.


June 4....

My God...I have the best job in the whole world. I am now locating fish camps up and down the kuskokwim with hand held GPS...it's only highly paid recreation. I have a crew of two local chupik chaps and their boat that gets us about the place...weather has been good ..no stress what-so-ever...knock on wood.

My man Friday, one of my crew, David Friday that is, tells me about seal oil and stink fish trying to gauge my reaction...I tell him about Haggis and Black pudding trying to gauge his reaction.

The Yupik language is unique in that it has about 10 nouns for any one noun in English...instead of adjectives describing nouns, you have multiple nouns.  For example take the word Dog. The English speakers see a dog and say "There goes a dog" Where the Yupik might say "there goes a Angaqurta", or maybe a qimugta, or if it's a big dog, they would say qimulvak, if it's a shaggy dog, mesqussuk. On a dog sled team it's a Kilgaakuirta. A gray dog is a curangali, a light coloured dog is a quvak, Say...a dog with a dark eye spot is a eskaayaq. So trying to pick up and retain to memory the yupik words I hear and ask about is a monumental task. And the word fish? forget it.

A surveyor in Yupik....Nunaliurta. Bethel is Mamterilleq or Uuyarmiut. Mosquito is Makuryaq. Gasoline is kaassalinaq.


June 8....

Here I am again...sitting at the boat harbor with no boat and no crew.

Come on guys...If you don't want to work today..let me know last night. If you have errands to run...gotta go to church...need to get the kids to the clinic..or planning a hangover, Just let me know! I'm easy...Just let me know...don't make me jump through the hoops of excuses and lies! That just diminishes my respect for you. Come on..I'm on your side dammit. I 'm generous with your hours...I work at your pace in the field, and I let you take time off when ever you want. Just TALK TO ME SO I CAN PLAN!. I could be doing something productive instead of sitting here at the fuckin boat harbor reading a fuckin 3 week old copy of the fuckin Tundra Times!

Any forward progression however small is better than no progression at all
                                                                                Henry Stanley in the Congo

OOhhhh....It's the crew...they just showed up without the boat...fancy that. ...Looks like I better get my hoop jumping shoes on.


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