Islands and Ocean
Both Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge and the Kachemak Bay Research Reserve have made a commitment to inform and educate the public about the natural treasures in the Refuge and the Reserve. Your visit to the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center is always free. As it can be very difficult to visit the distant lands of the Alaska Maritime Refuge, you can take a virtual tour!
The Visitor Center hours vary. Please visit Islands And Ocean for current hours. As of 11/23/12, the Visitor Center is open 12:00 p.m. –5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. (Closed Sunday and Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day)
Sign the log, make some trades, and help a Travel Bug or Geocoin move along to its next cache. If the trade swag is getting low, let the folks at the desk know. This cache was started with some Alaska Maritime NWR pencils, some post-it pads, Refuge temporary tattoos, magnets, and a Homer lapel pin for the FTF. If you are letterboxing, use the separate stamp logbook, and enjoy adding our Canada Goose stamp to your own logbook! Please leave the stamp with the cache. It is not a trade item! As usual, with trade swag, please trade up, trade even, or do not trade at all. Thank you!
Start in the main parking lot for the Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. This letterbox has also been crossposted at www.geocaching.com, and is permitted to be placed here by the staff of Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.
Cross the wooden bridge, and enter when you see the old Dory used to help the recovery of the once-endangered Aleutian Cackling Goose. These sturdy wooden boats transported biologists through the remote islands and rough waters of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge up until the 1970s. This is the boat that Bob “Sea Otter” Jones used 50 years ago.
Either take the elevator or stairs down, and you have entered the sea floor at low tide. Look around and notice the shells and other objects stuck in the sand. At your left, you will see a life-sized replica of an adult bull Steller Sea Lion. Cast of resin, this model shows how large bulls can be—up to 1500 pounds! A majority of Stellar Sea Lion haul-out sites and rookeries are located on AMNWR lands.
To your right, you see the Visitor Center Desk. Stop by and say hello to the staff and volunteers! Continue into the exhibit hall, straight ahead.
Hear that noise? Smell the smells? That’s the seabird theater. Here you will see a nesting colony as if you were on an island in the Refuge. Some colonies support more than 1 million birds nesting on precarious ledges on steep windswept cliffs. There are more than 120 sculpted seabirds in the exhibit hall. Birds found on these cliffs and sea stacks include red-legged kittiwakes, thick-billed murres, common murres, crested auklets, least auklets, red-faced cormorants, tufted and horned puffins.
Walk past the Aleut baidarka (or kayak), stone and bone artifacts from the Refuge, and look out! There’s a Inupiat buy gathering seabird eggs above you! You don’t want to get egg on your head!
On your left, don’t be startled by Orville, our resident fox trapper. He’s been here since the 1930s, and he can tell you a little about the devastating effects that some activities have on marine wildlife.
On your right, you will see events and historic milestones laid out in a timeline. As you look it over, don’t be startled by the sounds of war coming from the bunker behind you. World War II was fought right here in Alaska on the Aleutian Islands. 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Attu and Kiska Islands from the Japanese in 1943. There were also military installations and testing performed during the Cold War.
You’ll next have an opportunity to hear from some past researchers on our Refuge, like Olaus Murie (1930s), Karl Kenyon (1960s), and Bob “Sea Otter” Jones (1960s). As you move on after hearing from them, you’ll be able to take a virtual tour with today’s Refuge biologists. See their field camps, and learn why they spend months in remote areas, working under harsh conditions, to study seabirds. You’re almost to the cache!
Stop in the corner where you see an Aleutian Cackling Goose in a cage. You can touch one of the actual, original boxes used to transport geese and goslings to their new homes. You can also read a little about “Peat”, the dog who helped in the recovery program.
Now, glance to your left. The box there can show you, with help of binoculars, how to identify seabirds by their bands, or identifying tags on their leg (tarsus). You must have a keen eye to see which bands are on which birds—but you’re a great observer! So good in fact, that you notice a wooden cabinet in the box below that contains the cache you seek! Be discreet! You don’t want to disturb the research going on around you!