Overflight trip

Jul 18, 2012 | 0 comments

Yesterday was our long-awaited overflight tour of Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, and this time it went off without a hitch. 
Our ride was a Cessna 208 Caravan, which just fit out 8 staff members, plus the pilot and copilot. I was seated in the front left, directly behind the pilot. 
Our excited crew

Take off was smooth and the ascent to our 500 ft altitude was thrilling. With a huge window all to myself, I felt like I was just hanging in the air, bobbing over bumps in the air turbulence and leaning into the tight banking maneuvers around mountains and hills.

Banking out towards Salmon Lake

The mountains

Grizzly bears

Our first exciting find was a pair of grizzly bears — the first bears I’ve ever seen! — galomping across the tundra. The pilot did three tight turns over them so we could get photos, but unfortunately mine didn’t come out well, as I was battling the churning of my stomach and the shakiness of the plane.

After that, my stomach turned for the worse and after the flight I found out that pretty much did everyone else in as well. At the time though, I assumed I was the only one feeling sick, so I toughed it out in silence. Fortunately, the scenery was spectacular enough to keep me distracted.

Kuzitrin River

 The Kuzitrin River was fascinating — strange curves and oxbows formed serpentine patterns through the tundra, some parts of the river not even connected. Amazing geology and hydrology going on there.

Kuzitrin River bend

Lava fields

Our next landmark was the Imuruk lava fields. The black once-molten rock stretched for miles, as far as the eye could see.

Our wing, perpendicular to the ground

 Above is the main lava dome, from where most of the lava in the field came out.

Serpentine Bunkhouse 

 This is where I’ll be staying starting on Monday. It has its own landing strip, and a bathhouse where the hot water from the spring is pumped. I’ll be helping with maintenance and hiking to get photos of the preserve.

 The rock formations around Serpentine are called “tors” and are made from volcanic activity underground. It somehow pushes up the rocks in this area.

Plane wreck on a hillside

BELA is also known for its maar lakes. We have the largest maars in the world, which are formed from lava  underground coming in contact with the permafrost layer and creating a violent explosion.

A moose

Along the bank of one of the lakes was a moose! Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get a good picture of this guy either, but it was cool to see.

Research camp on Devil Mountain Lakes

Devil Mountain Lakes, THE largest maars in the world

 From the maar lakes, we headed to the coast of the Chuckchi Sea. This was a long stretch of very interesting wetland formations, small native villages, and we even got to see the Russian island of Big Diomede through the incoming fog.

Unfortunately we were running behind schedule so we had to cut out our last flyover and head back to Nome through the mountains.

Heading into the mountains

More mountains

Glacial valley

By the time we landed, everyone was quite queasy, but I think we all enjoyed the trip immensely — I know I certainly did! I feel like I understand the preserve a lot better now, and can’t wait to explore it more in-depth this summer.

Fortunately, I will starting this week so I’ll be totally out of touch after tomorrow for about a week and a half.  I’ll try to post at least one more update before I leave, and then lots more when I get back.


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