Otis returned to Brooks Falls in Katmai on Wednesday. It was the first time he had been seen since last autumn. Otis, the Bear Cam favorite, is believed to be 27 years old. A winner of 4 Fat Bear titles, Otis last won two seasons ago.
Otis is arguably the most skilled fisher-bear in Katmai. His technique is effortless, and he wastes no energy as the old bruin fattens up for another hibernation.
Welcome back Otis. Your fan club has been waiting for you.
We have had a lot of volcanic activity in Alaska this year. We currently have six volcanos at an elevated alert level of either Code Yellow or Code Orange.
None are more intriguing to me than the newest member of Code Yellow: Trident Volcano in Katmai National Park. Trident is a member of what is known as The Katmai Cluster. In addition to Trident, the cluster includes Mount Katmai, Mount Mageik, Mount Martin and Novarupta.
Trident has seen an increase in activity the past year, but since May, the earthquake frequency underneath the volcano has gone up considerably. Add that to the ground uptick at Trident, and you have the signs of moving magma. Katmai, Mageik and Martin have all seen an increase in seismic activity recently, as well.
Trident was last active between 1953-1974, when it went quiet. The eruptions of ’53 and ’74 formed new vents, which means it could be difficult to pinpoint exactly where an eruption could come from.
On June 6, 1912, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century exploded out of the Katmai Cluster. For years, it was assumed that Mount Katmai was the culprit. It wasn’t until 1953 that Novarupta was determined to be the source. The majority of the magma was lying beneath Mount Katmai, but when the cluster erupted, the explosion came out of Novarupta, which is 6.5 miles away. Mount Katmai then collapsed into itself. Trident Volcano stands just 3 miles from Novarupta.
The amount of magma expelled from Novarupta was 30 times that of Mount St Helens. The devastation of the eruption formed the valley we now know as The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.
My visit to the Gila Wilderness and its cliff dwellings happened early on in the Original Beetle Roadtrip. In many ways it was in the Gila, that a 24 year old Aldo Leopold found his footing. As someone who really enjoyed Leopold’s writing, it was only a matter of time for me to visit the wilderness he proposed and the very first Federally recognized wilderness in the United States.
I found a nice place to camp in the national forest, driving the Beetle across a stream to limit my neighbors, and from that campsite, I explored the Gila.
Theodore Roosevelt designated the cliff dwellings a national monument in 1907. The monument is 533 acres, and had just over 41,000 visitors in 2016. To me, there seemed to be almost that many people there when I visited. It became a challenge to get a picture taken without a person in the frame, but I worked at it.
The dwellings are located in an absolutely beautiful part of New Mexico. It was easy for me to see why the Mogollon people settled here, and I wondered why they abandoned it years later.
Hiking the trail early in the morning, I was lucky enough to come across a black bear on its morning excursion. Later in the day, I met up with a couple who had seen a mountain lion. I was not at all surprised by either in this beautiful, rugged terrain.
The above is one of the earliest known published images of the Chaco Canyon area. The artwork is by Richard Kern from his exploration of the area with the military’s reconnaissance of the Four Corners country, led by J.H. Simpson, in 1849. The account of the expedition was published in 1851.
I first visited Chaco Canyon during The Beetle Roadtrip. I spent an entire month exploring New Mexico, and Chaco was among the favorites. The southwest, in general, is so vastly different than the Far North, and I find the country fascinating.
Chaco is an International Dark Sky Park, and the sky was truly brilliant at night. It was here and in the Grand Canyon that I spent the most time looking up at the Milky Way. It is highly unusual for me to be able to sit outside and watch the stars move across the sky, while in shorts and a t-shirt.
Starting around 900 AD, Chaco Canyon became a major culture center for Ancestral Puebloans, and a hub for ceremony and trade. Pueblo Bonito, the largest of the “Great Houses”, had at least 650 rooms. Its massive walls were 3 feet thick.
The petroglyphs throughout the area are absolutely astounding. I could have spent the entire month exploring Chaco Canyon alone, if left to my own devices.
The park itself is just over 33,000 areas, and it saw 39,000 visitors in 2011.
Lake Clark National Park & Preserve is located approximately 100 miles southwest of Anchorage. Originally designated a National Monument in 1978, the area was named a national park by Congress in 1980 via the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.
The park itself is roughly 2.6 million acres, with an additional 1.4 million set aside as preserve, putting the total size at just over 4 million acres. In 2018, the park saw 14,000 visitors.
The Lake Clark area gained some degree of fame through the adventures of Dick Proenneke, who documented his homestead life at Twin Lakes before the area became a park. Proenneke not only kept detailed journals, but filmed his world in a documentary style. Alone in the Wilderness, the book about his life at Twin Lakes, and the PBS documentary of the same name were extremely well received by Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike. Not an easy thing to accomplish!
Lake Clark is a vital salmon hatchery for Bristol Bay, and is Alaska’s sixth largest lake at 42 miles long and a maximum depth of just over 1000 feet.
Lake Clark NP&P is also home to two active volcanoes. The ever rumbling Mount Redoubt and Iliamna volcano, which has been quiet of late.
Lake Clark NP&P is not road accessible. One can get to the park via floatplane or via boat from Cook Inlet.
Local reports have had several bear sightings this past week. The warmer temps and increased daylight have woke the bruins from their winter slumber. Only one casualty that I know of so far: A 50 pound bag of dog food that was left outside in a shed.
The photo was taken by an NPS employee out at Kennecott Mine in Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve.
Ice core records from the Arctic show that Alaska’s Okmok Volcano had a massive eruption in 43 BCE. Following the eruption, there was an abrupt cooling globally, which led to crop failures, famine, disease, and eventually, social unrest. The Mediterranean region was no exception to this.
Such a shift in climate, coming a year after the assassination of Caesar, would have put great pressure on local powers. Strain was also felt in Egypt.
Okmok has a very active history. At one time, it had a 150 meter deep lake in its crater. A notch in the rim eventually drained the lake, although some small remnant lakes remain near cones B & D.
The eruptions of Okmok 8300 and 2050 years ago earn a Volcanic Explosivity Index rating of 6, which puts it on par with Novarupta and Krakatoa.
On 12 July 2008, Okmok erupted without warning, sending ash 50,000 feet into the air. It erupted continuously for almost six full days, causing transportation problems in the air and on the water for the region. That eruption was ranked a 4 VEI, which is considered “cataclysmic”.
Back to 43 BCE. The decade following the eruption was one of the coldest in a millennia, with 43 and 42 BCE being some of the coldest years. It is believed that a temperature drop of 7C from normal was a result of the volcanic eruption on the other side of the globe.
There is a cluster of volcanic islands in the Aleutian Chain that scientists have recently been asking a rather provocative question: Could they all be a part of one giant super volcano, similar to the Yellowstone Caldera?
This tight grouping of islands is home to six stratovolcanoes: Carlisle, Cleveland, Herbert, Kagamil, Tana and Uliaga. Mount Cleveland has been one of the most active volcanoes in North America over the past 20 years.
Most stratovolcanoes tend to have modest sized reservoirs of magma. Although that doesn’t mean they can’t have explosive eruptions, but they are dwarfed by caldera forming eruptions. A caldera is formed by tapping a huge reservoir of magma in the earth’s crust. A caldera forming eruption releases a massive amount of lava and ash, and they are catastrophic, often causing world-wide effects.*
Field work continues, although there is nothing easy about doing research in the Aleutians.
Photo and map credit: USGS, *University of Alaska – Fairbanks
It’s the tail end of Volcano Week with the National Park Service. The above photo, of Mount Wrangell, was taken in 1902 by W.C. Mendenhall, of the U. S. Geological Survey. The namesake of Mendenhall Glacier.
Mount Wrangell is a andesitic shield volcano within Wrangell-St Elias National Park. Its last eruption was in 1930, but it has been actively steaming for over 100 years.