Tuesday, July 21, 2009

National Geographic-Salmon of Kamchatka

Russia’s remote Kamchatka Peninsula has some of the richest salmon runs in the Pacific, sustaining animals and communities. Now the fish need help.

By David Quammen
Photograph by Randy Olson

The Kamchatka Peninsula, rugged and remote, is a vast blade of land stabbing southwestward through cold seas from the mainland of northeastern Russia. Its coastline is scalloped like the edges of an obsidian dagger. Its highlands rise to cone-shaped volcanic peaks, snow-streaked in summer, and to ridges of bare, gray rock. Its gentler slopes are upholstered in boreal greens. It's a wild place, in which brown bears and Steller's sea-eagles thrive on a diet rich in fatty fish. About 350,000 people inhabit Kamchatka Krai (its label as a governmental region), and they too are highly dependent on fish. In fact, you can't begin to understand Kamchatka without considering one extraordinary genus: Oncorhynchus, encompassing the six species of Pacific salmon.

You can read the entire story at National Geographic

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Maps, maps, maps

It seems that since this expedition began we have been looking for maps of the Kamchatka Peninsula. I can't speak for the beginning, but I know that I have spent a good many hours myself searching the interweb and the Oregon State library for some semblance of a topo map.

After the obligatory Google search of topo + maps + Kamchatka + Russia turned up little more than a few internet bride sites, I took a study break to go to the Valley Library and search the map archive. Now if you want an original copy of the map John Wesley Powell made of his trip through the South Dakota Badlands, that is easy to find, but looking for a Russian Map in the card catalogue involves sifting through 10,000 hits that are mostly in Russian, Cyrllic Alphabet Russian, Pho-Cyrillic Alphabet Russian and German. Apparently the Germans love maps of Russia, almost as much as David Hasselhoff. After floundering in the drawer of Russian political maps that told me which areas of the country were known for their cheese , and which are known for their wheat, I decided the better tactic was to ask for help.

With a little coaxing, my girlfriend, Steph, who happened to live in Russia, helped me look through the card catalogue. After a few hours of chasing leads, we basically found only one map of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and it was from 1875, drawn in that old map style where all the rivers go straight inland to the mountain with a dragon on top. Thar be dragons!

On the disheartening walk back home, Steph suggested I look at the online data base through the library that allows you to borrow books, and other materials from libraries around the world. The next morning I did a few quick checks and ordered 1 map, with only a modicum of hope. It would be two weeks before I would get anything anyways, so I continued the "help" route by asking a few friends who actually take map classes, formally known as GIS (thats a hard G sound) or geographic information systems. These are the 21st century version of maps, that have layers of data so numerous I could look at shading that tells where to find the highest concentration of male pattern baldness.

Luckily one of the people I asked was Josh Grabel, who also happens to be a paddler. This made things a lot easier, especially when he decided to do his GIS project on "Runnable Rivers of the Kamchatka Peninsula", after finding a bounty of data from an old Space Shuttle mission. That's right, the government just leaves folders of data from Space Shuttle missions just lying around the internet so that people can make maps from it. And, that's right, he did a graduate project that entailed picking which rivers had the best chance of having good whitewater. That is a great class.

Josh sent us 47 maps of the highlands of Kamchatka that he made using the shuttle data. To the right is the key that he made of the different maps. These maps have allowed us to actually start looking at the the feasibility of the different drainages for whitewater.

I recently received the map I ordered from Inter Library Loan. It is a single map, and not much bigger than a street map. It also happens to be 1:1 million scale which basically tells us whether we are looking at a river or a creek. It is the most up to date map we have found, and shows many more roads than we had hoped for. It is published by Avacha Bay Co. a small company right here in Oregon, in the town of Brightwood.

What I was really hoping to find out there somewhere, was a DeLorme Gazetteer - type atlas, the first purchase any kayaker makes when moving to a new state. Well, when I went to the Avacha Bay website what did I find, but two Atlases of the entire Kamchatka Peninsula, published in DeLorme style. Unfortunately, Avacha Bay is out of stock, and the maps are published by the Russian Government, which makes it difficult at best to find them. Also, not one library in the US has a copy.

Right now I am waiting to hear from Avacha Bay to see if they know when they will have more copies, but while writing this post I found a website, Mapstor, that actually has digital topos of the entire peninsula. I am currently downloading those maps, and I can't wait to spend some time pouring over them to find out where our adventures will be. In fact I still need to email the other folks on the team, so you all probably know that tidbit before them!

I hope folks out there can start seeing how much ground time a trip like this takes. Normally, I would go to the government map agency, once we arrive in country, but we can't afford to wait that long. If any of you out there in the blog-o-sphere have an suggestions please let us know. We would love the extra help. Now that we have some good maps we will start coming up with a list of feasible rivers.

Keep posted for some actual river names.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kamchatka Project Update

Friends and Supporters of the Kamchatka Project,

It has been an exciting time amongst the group with many updates to tell you about. Before getting to some of our recent achievements, we want to inform you of the team’s decision to postpone the mission to Kamchatka until 2010. This decision is largely based on a team consensus that with this additional time our objectives will be more fully realized. From the moment we announced this project, we have been overwhelmed by the amount of positive support and opportunity presented by this exploration, and we anticipate that adding a year to the overall project will further advance and refine our objectives.

Now on to some of the many recent opportunities and achievements the project has accomplished lately. On April 8th, Mountain Equipment Co-op (more commonly known as MEC) of Canada awarded us with a $1000 grant toward the project. MEC is a tremendous organization in its ability and willingness to give back to its community, and we are honored to have them on board with the Kamchatka Project.

We also had our National Geographic Inquiry Grant application approved. This is essentially the gate keeping process of National Geographic’s grant process, and getting this approval is a major accomplishment in itself. We are currently working on the more extensive application to pursue an Expedition Grant with this incredibly prestigious organization.

We also added another member to the team – Jeff Hazboun. Jeff is working on his PhD in physics, is an accomplished expedition kayaker, and is now working hard as the team’s primary science coordinator. His experience as a field biologist will provide proficiency in fisheries and wildlife management research techniques and facilitate our communication with scientists researching the salmon of Kamchatka.

While the economic state of our nation and the world has been quite tenuous lately, the support of our friends and supporters has kept our spirits high. We continue to receive kind donations from friends and friends of friends, and we truly appreciate these contributions as our primary source of funding, which will ultimately make this project a reality.

Thank you for your help, your interest, and your involvement.

The Kamchatka Project
Andy, Bryan, Ethan, Jay, Jeff, Robert, and Shane

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Kamchatka Project T-Shirts Are Here!

We are pleased to announce the release of the official Kamchatka Project T-shirts. The shirts were designed by team member Ethan Smith and printed by Jay Gifford and Andy Round. In keeping with our values, the shirts are made from 100% Organic Cotton and no pesticides were used in producing these shirts. As you have all contributed to the success of our project we wanted to extend a t-shirt to each of you to show our gratitude for supporting the Kamchatka Project. We hope that you will wear these shirts proudly and help us spread the word about our project.

Donors who contribute $35 or more may opt to receive an Official Organic Cotton Kamchatka Project T-Shirt. Please let us know your size, color preference and shipping address and we will put a shirt in the mail for you. Due to size availability, some shirts may have a 2-3 week delay on shipping.

You can contact us at: explore@kamchatkaproject.org

Thank you for your continued support,

The Kamchatka Project

Kamchatka Project from Jay Gifford on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Win a pair of Rudy Project Optics!

In the Siberian city of Tomsk, children play a game called telephone, whispering a sentence around a circle until someone fails to repeat the original wording accurately. The penalty for getting the sentence wrong, is "you must go live in Kamchatka."

If you were that child, along with your Rudy Project sunglasses, what is the one item that you would bring with you to Kamchatka?

To some, Kamchatka is remote and dangerous and to others it is a place that is wild, beautiful, and worth exploring. Either way, you ONLY get to bring one item with you. What's it gonna be?.

Contest rules:

-1. Go to Rudy Project and pick out the sunglasses that you want to win!

-2. Check out our Facebook page and leave a message on our wall telling us the sunglasses you want to win and your answer to this week's question, "What is the one item that you would bring with you to Kamchatka?" by 9 pm PST on Sunday (1.25.09).

-3. Monday morning we will randomly draw three winners from the submissions! Grand Prize: Your choice of Rudy Project optics. 2nd & 3rd Prize: Rudy Project pro-forms and Kamchatka Project t-shirts. Winners will be announced on Monday the 26th by 9 am PST.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

100% Organic Cotton T-Shirts

We are excited to announce the release of the official Kamchatka Project T-shirts. There will be two color options which are yellow haze and river blue with a black logo on the front and back.

We would like to thank everyone who has contributed to the creation of these shirts, specifically Ethan Smith for the shirt design and Cassandra and Drew for their timely printing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

National Geographic examines Kamchatka

By David Quammen
Photograph by Michael Melford

Some places on this planet are so wondrous, and so frangible, that maybe we just shouldn't go there.

Maybe we should leave them alone and appreciate them from afar. Send a delegated observer who will absorb much, walk lightly, and report back as Neil Armstrong did from the moon—and let the rest of us stay home. That paradox applies to Kronotsky Zapovednik, a remote nature reserve on the east side of Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, along the Pacific coast a thousand miles north of Japan. It's a splendorous landscape, dynamic and rich, tumultuous and delicate, encompassing 2.8 million acres of volcanic mountains and forest and tundra and river bottoms as well as more than 700 brown bears, thickets of Siberian dwarf pine (with edible nuts for the bears) and relict "graceful" fir (Abies sacha­linensis) left in the wake of Pleistocene glaciers, a major rookery of Steller sea lions on the coast, a population of kokanee salmon in Kronotskoye Lake, along with sea-run salmon and steelhead in the rivers, eagles and gyrfalcons and wolverines and many other species—terrain altogether too good to be a mere destination. With so much to offer, so much at stake, so much that can be quickly damaged but (because of the high latitudes, the slow growth of plants, the intri­cacies of its geothermal underpinnings, the specialness of its ecosystems, the delicacy of its topographic repose) not quickly repaired, does Kronotsky need people, even as visitors? I raise this question, acutely aware that it may sound hypocritical, or anyway inconsistent, given that I've recently left my own boot prints in Kronotsky's yielding crust.

To learn more go to: National Geographic