I was lamenting the fact that we’ve been having a pretty quiet January – a welcome change after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but making it hard to find something to Blog about. I’ve been sort of hibernating, doing a LOT of knitting and hoping for snow that actually stays around so we can go out and play in it. We had one beautiful snowfall, but the temps jumped up and the pretty white turned to rain and ice.
We finally had a little Blog-worthy excitement last night. The harbor staff knocked on our boat around 0120 this morning to wake us up and tell us about an active tsunami warning. We tuned to KFSK on the radio to find the normal overnight BBC broadcast replaced by familiar (somewhat sleepy) local voices. At least one of them was awakened by rumblings from the 7.9 earthquake that was centered 175 miles SE of Kodiak.We started pinging tsunami.gov for updates, as well as some of the other NPR stations in more vulnerable communities such as Kodiak and Sitka. Note all the angry red – that’s the area of active tsunami warning immediately after the earthquake. It might be hard to spot, but I put a small white dot in our approximate position near the eastern edge of the red warning area. In theory we should be pretty well protected deep in the inner channels of the Inside Passage, but I’ve learned a long time ago that Nature makes its own rules, and it doesn’t always pay attention to “theory”.
KFSK advised us to prepare to evacuate to high ground if the tsunami siren went off. We dressed in warm clothing and made sure we had our phones, wallets and flashlights handy. We decided that we’d grab our laptops too, if we heard the siren. Fortunately it only takes a few minutes to get to higher ground – everything is uphill from the harbor.
We got the all-clear at 0320 this morning, so we went back to bed and had to read for a while until we felt sleepy again. From our perspective, our community’s response to the threat was just great, and all we lost was some sleep. We’re all so relieved that the more vulnerable Alaskan communities were spared, and we hope things stay that way.
Right around Christmas the weather pattern changed and we had a week of temps in the low teens, with crystal blue skies. It’s really beautiful, and felt pretty warm in the sunshine – even though the warm light is fleeting. The sea water temperature, warmed by the Japanese Current, remains in the mid-high 40s all year ’round, so the super-cold air temperature makes the harbor steam. It’s the perfect condition for the formation of hoar frost! Ice crystals start to form, growing every day……building layer by layer, making a sparkling diamond-like crust on everything – it’s so beautiful!There’s no snow in these scenes – it’s all frost that has grown very thick. The creeks also freeze solid, making it nice for ice skating or for Mother Nature to create interesting patterns.I was pretty cold photographing the frost, but the crystals are breathtaking – delicate prisms, angles, and clusters like flowers – I could have spent hours out there (but I had the sense to go home when I couldn’t feel my hands anymore). The low angle sunlight made a warm glow on the frosty scenes, contrasting sharply with the deep blue light in the shade.We only get to enjoy these magnificent crystals for a few days, and though warmer temps were a welcome change on New Year’s day, I miss the sparkles.Here’s what the frost looks like on Day 1……and here’s how it has grown in just a few days. Stunning!
Julebukking and the Community Holiday Concert wrapped up the holiday season here. The concert showcased a variety of musical talent, including Jim singing with the Oxford Carolers.Jim has really gotten into baking – not the healthiest hobby – but this year he was very generous and (thankfully) gave most of his homemade cookies away as gifts. He also won the boat category for best holiday lights from the Chamber of Commerce, though there was virtually no competition. He keeps upping his game every year hoping to inspire others to decorate their boats, but since most of the boats in the harbor are commercial fishing boats…
The inside of the boat has been decorated, and we even have a “boat tree” made by my old Sea Scout buddy – it’s perfect.Many of you keep asking about Julebukking… so besides reading the link to Wikipedia, I’ll just say that it’s a chance for all the local businesses and organizations around town to say thank you to all their customers. They offer cookies, treats, things like smoked salmon, cold cuts, cheese, veggies, fruit and usually some kind of punch. Each business tends to have something special that they do, and the hosting events are spread across the calendar, leading up to Christmas. It means days of gastronomic debauchery for all of us…The airport had a nice spread, though it gets a bit crowded if you come too close to flight time. The hardware store had a fabulous selection this year, with meatballs, wings, pickled herring, smoked salmon, lefse… and everyone’s favorite: “moose milk”, made with softened ice cream and White Christmas liquor in a 5 gallon paint can, shaken in the paint shaker.Coastal Seafood had huge piles of shrimp – cajun and regular, and the pharmacy had their usual – fantastic pastrami sandwiches… served by Santa’s elves.We went to Christmas dinner with friends, many who also live aboard boats in the harbor. Our hosts almost had a disaster with the Christmas ham. A few days before Christmas their refrigerator was pretty full and the weather was quite cold, so they set the ham in the garage. A moment’s inattention leaving the garage door open was all it took for the ravens to find the ham and just start to attack the wrapping. The ham was saved before they got it open, but you have to move fast because the ravens are faster.
It was a nice holiday, but now we’re tired – trying to shake the sugar addiction and eating lots of salad! The days are slowly getting longer – we gained another 2 minutes since yesterday. We’ll take every minute we can get.