Still Here

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 14 Aug 2014 03:34

Alongside Humboldt Harbor, Sand Point, Popof Island
Weather: mostly sunny, mild

Everything was ready for us to depart Sand Point yesterday afternoon. The water tanks were topped up, I had purchased fresh supplies, tools and equipment had been stowed, and, apart from a few minor items, Sylph was secured for sea. But late in the day I was chatting to my fisherman neighbour, John, here at the dock and he suggested that we go over to Unga Island to check on some of his crab pots and then go ashore and see the “petrified forest”. This seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up so I agreed and have once more delayed my departure by yet another day.

We departed the dock at eight o'clock and an hour and a half later were coming up to his line of crab pots on the western side of Unga Spit. His crew pulled in a couple of pots to count how many catchable crabs had been collected (about five in each were of legal, of the right size and not female), then returned the pots to the bottom. Once this quick check had been made we motored over to the beach, anchored, launched the inflatable dinghy, all five of us climbed in (John, his son Allan, John's deckhand Joel from Mexico, Joel's son Michi, and me), and motored the short distance to the beach.

Once ashore we hiked along the beach to the bluff at it southern end where the remnants of the petrified forest could be found. I must confess I was rather expecting to see stone tree stumps sticking out of the ground, but it was not quite as spectacular as I had imagined, but was nonetheless very interesting. The reality was that a shallow spit extended off the southern section of the beach and behind it was a stone and dirt bluff that was gradually eroding away. As the bluff eroded away boulders and lumps of petrified trees were left scattered over the spit of land jutting out into the sea. We arrived at the beach at low tide, which was actually a negative tide so lower than usual. This meant that the spit was exposed more than normal and we could wander around it and see numerous specimens of the petrified trees. They were easy to recognise as they were mostly of a yellowish hue or white compared to the black colouring of the numerous rocks which were also scattered on the beach. While perhaps not standing like one imagines a forest, there were nonetheless very sizable sections of trunks to be seen, with tree rings and the timber's original grain clearly visible, and in some cases even the outside bark was discernible. John told me that the forest was preserved when a volcano erupted twenty five million years ago and buried the forest in huge mud slide. I was able to count the tree rings on one particularly well preserved specimen, from the heart to the bark, and determine that the tree was roughly two hundred years old when it was buried all that time ago.

Another little treat that we saw while wandering about was a couple of foxes scampering amongst the rocks on the beach. They both had dark coats with white tipped tails. One was larger and, like most intelligent wild animals, curious but cautious. The larger and presumably older animal would run away from us then once she felt she was at a safe distance, stop and watch what we were up to, then, as we got closer, she would run off again. The smaller one was not quite so shy and ran right past us. I suspect that it might have been the larger one's cub, but it was clear from the shabbiness of its coat that it was not in very good condition. Allan said that when it had run towards us that his initial thought was that it might be rabid, a thought that did not cross my mind, coming as I do from rabies free Australia. Thankfully this was obviously not the case.

After collecting some small samples of petrified wood, and John some seashells for his wife's shell artwork, we hiked back to the dinghy and returned to John's boat, Aghileen for the return trip to Sand Point. We were heading back only a little after midday so it occurred to me that if I wanted I could still get away this afternoon but I noted that the wind had picked up form the north east, a bit fresher than forecast, which would have made for a headwind.  I decided that I may as well remain alongside tonight, have a good night's sleep, and aim to depart tomorrow morning. Certainly the delay in sailing has been for a much more pleasant reason than is usually the case.

Thank you John for your hospitality and a very enjoyable and interesting day.

All is well.