We have finally made it to Attu, Alaska, the last island in the Aleutian chain. We are waiting for our weather router to guide is to the best day to cross, which is a three day trip with no place to duck into should the weather turn bad.
The trip from my last update took us to Kiska, which is 180 miles to the east of Attu. We stopped in Kiska, which, other than being a beautiful, calm anchorage, to see the World War II relics that were abandoned by the Japanese during the war. The coolest thing by far was an old two man submarine, rusting and sitting on shore.
My impression is that they (the Japanese) blew it up before abandoning the island. It is largely in tact except for a large hole in one side that could only have been made by an explosive on the inside. It is about 75 feet long and about 5 feet in diameter and a 3 foot conning tower toward the forward end. It looks like a regular, US sub but much smaller. The inside was absolutely packed with batteries with a small compartment for two guys and a single (or maybe two) torpedoes. Conspicuously missing is any device to back up the batteries or even charge them. It was obviously a suicide mission as if they ran out of power, they simply sunk.
We also visited some underground caves that they hid in from time to time. I decided not to go in (I hate confined spaces that could collapse, for some reason). Although it was made from dirt, it was hard as concrete on the inside.
For a desolate outpost, there were really quite a few boats in the harbor. Aside from us, there were two sailboats (about 35ft long) that had just sailed from Japan. I feel like we are in VERY luxurious accommodations after seeing them. They joined us on the hike and gave us some great information that will be useful when we get to Japan.
Jeff and Kurt took off that night in Ken’s inflatable with David, a guy we met in Adak, who was a Pilot on a large freighter anchored with us in the harbor. I guess the intent was to catch a large (50lb) Halibut. We didn’t find out until the next morning but it was a bit more than they bargained for. They caught a few smaller fish in the 20lb range and then felt a (large) tug on the line. It took some time to get it to the surface, only to see a 7 foot long, 250lb Halibut hanging there, waiting to exact its revenge on our fishermen! They tried to gaff it and punctured a hole in the inflatable, deflating one of the rear pontoons. The fish then took off with the gaff and the line fouling the propeller and dragging the boat toward the reef, nearly submerging the boat. All three guys had to lean to the other side of the boat to stop it from going under. It was foggy and getting dark and all they could think of was the fisherman in Adak who drifted at sea for 3 days before they found him. I guess they finally subdued him by clubbing him and then slitting his throat (or so they thought). They towed him back to the freighter only to find him kicking and fighting again. Fortunately they did not try to bring him in the boat after they clobbered him. I think it would have knocked them all out of the little boat (and THIS water is COLD!!). I think there is quite a bit more to the story but I need to talk to Jeff or Kurt in person. The next morning, prior to our departure, Grey Pearl, Seabird and Sans Souci creeped up to the back side of the freighter and were all given large bags of cleaned Halibut. I will try to post pics on the website blog of Kurt laying down next to the fish. It looks like a giant flounder, but bigger than him!!
Our trip to Attu was really not fun. We left Kiska at about 1pm as we were told that the weather was going to lie down. How wrong. The winds were kicking up to 35 and 40 knots with what I can describe as “confused seas” coming from all directions. It was 24 hours of mostly crashing and banging and about 4 hours into the trip we were actually discussing turning around for the first time and returning to Kiska to wait out the bad weather. After a lengthy discussion, we decided to continue on, thinking that most of it was current related and it would subside, just as the forecaster had predicted. Well, it did, a bit, for a while but the crappy weather kept creeping back time after time. It was a very long 24 hours. We arrived this afternoon in Attu, sleep deprived and with plenty of queasiness to go around too. Interestingly enough, we arrived to a bright, sunny and warm 60 degree day to a flat calm anchorage.
Attu is the island that the Japanese invaded during WWII. There was an epic battle to retake it by the US troops in a very hostile environment. It is a long story and many DVD’s are available on the subject. The island is still manned by a small US Coast Guard team. I cannot imagine what you could have done wrong to deserve this punishment being stationed here!! No town, no women, no stores, no restaurants. It is really just a huge, beautiful rock covered with green. I am not sure how long we are going to be here. It may be a day or a week, depending on the weather. We really would like a four day window of calm weather to travel to Kamchatka. If we are here longer than a day, I will be traveling about taking pictures to post on my blog (which is the same as this text, but with more pictures) WWW.SEABIRDLRC.COM .
You can see our exact location by pressing this link: http://tinyurl.com/cp8m88 . If you tried to track us recently and found that it was not working, you did not do anything wrong. There was some sort of a software glitch that the SPOT people were working on. They evidently gave us priority service after I told them that there were nearly 3000 people following our 3 blogs on a regular basis (probably 2999 of them are looking at Ken’s). If that didn’t work I was going to tell them to look at our websites and they might find a picture of a person stomping on the SPOT device, which would not have been great advertising for them. To their credit, they took care of the problem within a few hours. Thanks, SPOT guys for your great service!!
Next update may be from Kamchatka, Siberia.
Moored in Attu, Alaska