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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Tundra of the Pribilofs

October 20th, 2013 · No Comments

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During one of the five days I explored the Pribilof Islands, one of my St. Paul Tours guides, Doug Gochfeld, took me to Southwest Point on Saint Paul Island. There we spent several happy hours watching and photographing the thousands of alcids on the cliff ledges just below us. Alcids are a family of birds that includes the auks, murres, and puffins. They are pelagic birds, those that live on the open ocean and rarely venture onto land except to breed. My main reason for traveling to the Pribilofs was to see these strange birds.

Doug drove us to the point in one of the few vehicles on the island. Not many vehicles get there because freight charges are so high, about $10,000 each, and because the island has no automotive repair facilities. As a result, the vehicles that make it to the island are in poor repair. We rode in a reasonably new Toyota SUV, but a passenger-side door was held on with rope because an earlier traveler failed to hold it when he opened it in the wind.

Once we reached the end of the road, we walked along the cliff edge. Very carefully. Not only did we prefer to avoid stepping into the ocean but we also wanted to avoid stepping into a hole that we couldn’t see through the tundra that we walked across. There is no trail, but I only stepped into one hole, which fortunately was only four feet deep.

On the way back to the SUV from birding at Southwest Point we paused to study the tundra. The Pribilofs are volcanic and therefore rocky, but except on the beaches, almost everywhere the aspect is of lush, green, coastal tundra. Only seven trees grow on the island, and none are taller than three and one-half feet.

My guide, Doug, introduced me to one of the edible plants that grow almost everywhere on the island. Wild celery looks and tastes very much like the tame stuff that I sometimes add to my salads, except this wild variety is somewhat sharper tasting.

This Wild Celery Only Looks Like a Weird Tree Because I Photographed It from Celery Level

This Wild Celery Only Looks Like a Weird Tree Because I Photographed It from Celery Level

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Maybe Because of the Incessant Wild, this Monkshood Preferred to Grow Sideways

Maybe Because of the Incessant Wild, this Monkshood Preferred to Grow Sideways

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The Jacob's Ladder Flower Tolerates the Island's Dreary Weather

The Jacob's Ladder Flower Tolerates the Island's Dreary Weather

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The Lousewort is Prettier than Its Name

The Lousewort is Prettier than Its Name

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The lousewort belongs to the broomrape family. The plant’s common name derives from an old belief that when livestock ate them they got lice infestations. The broom in the family name might have something to do with witches, and rape comes from the Latin term “rapum,” meaning knob.

Strange names for a pretty flower. But no stranger than the people and birds who visit the Pribilofs. I took very few photographs of people, because you know what they look like. But a small selection of my photographs of the birds will follow.

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Posted in: Alaska

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