August 11, 2008

It was a highly uncomfortable night, due in large part to the ship’s horn blasting me from my sleep everytime we entered a fogbank. However, as dawn arrived we rounded Kodiak Island and the wild and rugged coastline, dotted with a few fishing settlements, came into view. Upon arrival in the port of Kodiak I was whisked away immediately to Andrew Airways where the owner flew me in his de Havilland Beaver to Kukak Bay where my bear tour ship was anchored. My home for the next few days would be “The Waters”, a 1944 vessel originally built as a tug to escort tankers out of the Valdes Harbour. It was refitted as a ‘live-aboard’ and used primarily as for research teams and private charter and then bear viewing. It is a rustic but functional ship captained by a 29 year old woman named Menkin. She is an attractive strawberry blonde with an air of authority beyond her years. Co-captain and guide Bill, and cook Kathy round out the small crew. After a brief meeting with the crew and only 3 other ‘bear viewers’ we headed out in the skiff to our first bear viewing. As we rode to shore I was wondering how I would react to being so close to these huge and powerful animals. news33It did not take me long to find out as we walked about a hundred feet onto the beach and along came our first bear. We sat down in the sand (which to the bears means you are non-threatening) and proceeded to watch a very old bear who the guides have named Pythagoras because he has a triangle shaped scar on his hip. Pythagoras is huge and very cool with people, so a good ‘first bear’ to encounter. He walked by our little group, no more than 30 feet away, nonchalantly scanning the stream for salmon. I cant begin to explain the awe that I felt being in such close presence with this magnificent animal. Soon there were three large males, who share their territory more or less amicably, fishing from the stream. news34The bears are so unconcerned about our presence that they go about their foraging and fishing with little more than a glance in our direction. Observing the behaviour and body language is absolutely fascinating. I am more worried about the monster knats that are trying to devour me. We sat on the river bed for about three hours before loosing the evening light. What an amazing beginning! Here’s hoping tomorrow is as fruitful.

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