Archive for September, 2017

Saturday 26 August 2017, week 15: Buldir Island, 22:44

finished Monday 11 September 2017, week 18: Homer, AK – while watching MNF

“If our mountain was erupting, the earth would be shaking, right?” asked McKenzie, voice full of nervous excitement. For a moment, Buldir’s cloud blanket assumed a dusky violet color before disappearing into the darkness again.

One one thousand, two one – BA-BOOOM!

Nerves of electric excitement moved as Kevin, McKenzie, and I peered through the windows of the main cabin. We’d just finished watching Planet Earth II “Grasslands” and had been moved by images of elephants, rhinos, lions, wildebeest, bison, foxes, and caribou when the forecasted rain picked up its intensity. Kevin and I just barely caught the first flash through the window and were wondering if we’d imagined it when we heard the first crack of thunder.

YES! It was happening: our final storm of the season. Unlike our last “storm” that turned out to be rather disappointing, this one brought the full show. Way out in the western Aleutians – where these things hardly ever happen – we found ourselves in the middle of a Midwestern thunderstorm.

All afternoon the ocean had grown more angry as it worked itself into frenzied whitecaps. Tall grasses appeared at half height, blown sideways northward by the 30 knot southerly winds pushing up North Marsh. Late in the afternoon we noticed the first sheets of mist flying their way north over the grass.

The first lightning struck shortly after 22:00, and buckets of rain began falling closely behind. Our final tempest had arrived.

After watching the storm from inside for 10 minutes, the 3 of us moved to the bunk cabin for tooth brushing and bed. The problem was that we couldn’t see the lightning very well from inside, which is how we all ended up standing in the lee on the deck of the cabin’s north side. McKenzie and I wore raincoats to help stay a little drier, since the wind was causing our roof’s run-off to fly toward us rather than fall down. Whenever I stuck my head around the building’s northeast corner, my face immediately got washed by the pelting rain and driving wind.

As buckets of rain drenched Buldir, the thunder and lightning kept coming. Since thunderstorms are so rare in the Aleutians, we kept watching the sky for the next bolt of lightning, as well as listening for the coming thunderclap. We didn’t withhold our gasps, wows, and comments, instead choosing to appreciate the storm’s intensity together.

“I saw the bolt that time!” McKenzie exclaimed. Being in a typically cloudy and foggy locale made the show even more exciting. Most bolts of lightning fell over the top of the ridge behind camp, but some carved their way across the sky, illuminating the darkness for a moment. When those bolts came, we were nearly giddy like schoolchildren.

We spent about a half an hour standing outside before deciding to move back inside the main cabin to each claim a window. After all, when nature puts on a show, going to bed needs to be put on hold.

“I don’t want to hear Steph complaining about this storm,” Kevin said as we finally all crawled under our sleeping bags. I definitely had no complaints and was happily tucking myself in to the sound of rain absolutely hammering the south wall of the cabin, about 10 inches from my head.

While peace and quiet is preferable to road sounds at night, I’ll take storm petrels, ocean waves, or cabin-shaking wind and pounding rain over silence every night. Even with the thought of a very wet mid-night pee run, I couldn’t contain my smile as I slowly drifted my way to sleep.


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