I remember a Ray Bradbury story I read in junior high school. This was back in the days when the planet Venus was pictured as having total cloud cover and continuous rain. The story was about a patrol that had crash-landed, and it had to navigate back on foot to the shelter of an artificial sun dome. They never made it. Each person proceeded to go mad from the constant rain before arriving at the refuge. For some reason that story came back to me a couple of weeks ago, even though I hadn't thought of it for many years.
This has been the foggiest, mistiest, drizzliest and rainiest summer of the six I've spent on the Island. I heard that we set an all time record for rainfall during at least one day last July. One weather report on the radio after two straight weeks of rain and fog just broke me up: "Thursday, rain, with areas of fog; Friday, rain, with areas of fog...blah, blah, blah!"
Different habits begin to evolve as the days of fog and rain continue. I find my eyes begin to work out measurements for how foggy it's likely to be as the day goes on. Can I see across Monashka Bay? Can I see any of Marmot Island from Miller Point, or, more likely, am I faced with a wall of white? Can I see the top of the tall spruce tree down the road from my cabin?
Different cues from the environment become important. Do I hear any planes flying? I start making a point of listening for the jet coming out over my cabin in the morning. Sometimes I'll hear it circling a couple of times and heading back to Anchorage. The days go by and planeloads of disgruntled passengers start accumulating in both Kodiak and Anchorage. Grocery store aisle conversation is about who is stranded where and for how long. Unhappy bear viewers come into Fort Abercrombie and spend longer times looking at pictures and books in the Visitor Center.
When the planes aren't flying, there is an extra set of difficulties posed with supplying the Ranger Station at Shuyak Island State Park. We have a crew of three in residence there at Big Bay in a wilderness situation. Fort Abercrombie is in daily radio contact with Shuyak. We describe the satellite weather picture to them, and it shows weather systems stalling over Kodiak, with no changes coming up soon. It's disappointing to be out in the wilderness and expecting mail, papers, food, and finding it can't be gotten up there. Ironically, the summer weather experience there has been different from Kodiak. Geographically they're close by, but when we get our "rain, with areas of fog," they're likely to have areas of SUN!
Shopping for Shuyak means putting together a food order for the remote crew. Realizing their isolation, there's an attempt to get some special items up there, along with the salad makings, ground beef, bread, and apples. This year there's a somewhat eclectic tone to the treat recommendations, so we fill requests for sesame tofu, coconut milk, ginseng tea, and garlic hummus. Bad weather and plane delays put a whole new dimension on how we buy things. The food has to be able to sit around in boxes until the weather breaks.
Of course this swirling mist I see coming down through the spruces is part of what makes the Island. It's responsible for our Sitka spruce rain forest and its mosses and ferns. It produces the velvet covering of grasses and alders over the meadows and mountains outside of the spruce area. It gave me the unforgettable and mysterious silhouette of a solitary loon, crying eerily from Lake Gertrude. It's Kodiak.