More about the Wales Writing Workshop presently; but I saw a small news item today that took me back to one of the most remote and beautiful places I've ever been.
"Biologists rescued from remote Alaska island after volcano erupts," read the headline on an AP story in the Fairbanks News-Miner yesterday. (I'm indebted, as is often the case, to Lou Carpenter's bird-news site littlebirdiehome.com for posting the report.)
"ANCHORAGE (AP) — Two federal biologists were rescued from a volcanic island just before it erupted, sending a 35-thousand foot ash plume into the air.
"The biologists, who were studying birds, were rescued from volcanic Kasatochi Island in the Aleutians on Thursday. They were rescued by a local fishing boat.
"Official said the escape allowed the unnamed biologists to escape burning flows of gas, steam and ash that reportedly enveloped the island.
“ 'If they had been there, they certainly could have died,' said Stephanie Prejean, U.S. Geological Survey seismologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory."
In the summer of 2005, I was lucky enough to hitch a ride to Kasatochi on the M/V Tiglax (pronounced Tek-la), the research vessel of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, which protects most of the Aleutian Islands chain. Kasatochi is a miniature Mt. Fuji, a perfect volcanic cone rising from the frigid Bering Sea waters, green with grass and cupping a deep lake inside its caldera.
The Tiglax, which had picked up me, field guide author David Sibley and several folks from The Nature Conservancy the previous day on Adak Island, 50 miles to the west, crossed the chaotic waters of Fenimore Pass as bright shafts of low sunlight pierced the storm clouds, illuminating rugged island shorelines.
Laysan albatrosses followed our wake, and the boat stirred up flocks of thousands of rare whiskered auklets, which David had come to see – one of the last North American birds he hadn't seen in the wild.