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April 1, 2017: Finally in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska

And so here I am, in a room in the Grand Aleutian hotel, second floor—right outside the window, handing out on the porch railing, is a huge, mature, fully grown bald eagle. It has a yellow beak and a stern expression. The wind is blowing hard, so its feathers are ruffled. It shifts its weight from foot to foot. There was, earlier, an immature bald eagle, but it has come and gone. It doesn’t have the patience that this eagle has.

This eagle is waiting for someone to toss it some food. Kathy just obliged and tossed it a portion of a grilled cheese sandwich. It has now hopped off the railing and is now on the deck, examining the food. I suspect that the eagles here (and there are hundreds of them) can afford to be picky. There are of course the hotel pickings. And this being a fishing port, there are cannery pickings.

We have a view of the inlet – the water now has small whitecaps. There are ducks on the water, the kind that dive underwater. I would really like to bring my sister here – I sense that this place is a birders paradise.

On the very far side of inlet are Maersk shipping containers and office trailer detritus.

There are fishermen from all over the world here. Guys in ball caps, broad shoulders, big bellies, pudgy faces. Not the sort of people that I’d like to associate with. This is part and parcel a part of Alaska’s boom and bust economy – those who have a bent for skills based labor end up out here. If you are big and strong you can make a quick buck – and spend a chunk of it in the bar.

The plane ride here was bumpy. I had second thoughts about getting on it. I was really hoping the flight would be cancelled so that I would not have to deal with the flight. My thinking, based on what I saw, was that this was a risky flight. The weather here was no better than the weather on the previous days. But the Pen Air people decided to chance it because the fishermen had to get to work – and their numbers were piling up.

So they found a young, brash pilot who was very confident. I saw him swaggering around. The crew repeatedly changed people’s seats in order to rebalance the load. This too did not bode well with me. And we were told that we’d be stopping in King Salmon in order to take on more fuel. My thinking was that oh oh, this was a just-in-case measure – had to have more fuel just in case they we had to turn back.

The prospect of having to turn back, and spend four hours in a small plane that didn’t go anywhere really didn’t appeal to me. I suggested to Kathy that she reschedule and make this a spring trip, but she didn’t go for the idea. I next called Pete and asked him to come and pick me up. I could tell from the pauses that he did not want to drive all the way out to the Anchorage airport.

I am not sure, and never will be, what made me decide to get on the damned plane. I was terrified. But for reasons that I will never understand, I actually did it.

And here I am, in Dutch Harbor, saints be praised.

Next: 92. 4/2/17: Ta Pocketa, Ta Pocketa, History Repeats Itself

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