Kodiak refers to itself as the Emerald Isle, a title it borrowed from Ireland. Having driven through Ireland and flown over Kodiak, I understand. Our floatplane trip to watch Kodiak Bears on the Frazer River provided a great overview of the island. The first impression was one of pervasive greenness. Soon, the green became dotted with snow fields and then glaciers; Kodiak is not Ireland.
In American terms, Kodiak is a big Island. At 3500 square miles it is the second largest island in the US, second only to the island of Hawaii. Given that it has around 3500 Kodiak bears, there is an average of one bear per square mile. One was waiting for us when our plane landed in Frazer Lake. He came running toward us. We opted to stay on the plane until he disappeared. Later we saw him swimming across the lake.
Our floatplane trip also provided us with some great views of the Kodiak Coast Guard Station where our son Tony flies H-60 Helicopters on missions rescuing everything from stranded fisherman to errant oil rigs. I’ll blog about the Coast Guard later.
The floatplane was a 50-year-old plus de Havilland Beaver, which makes it not only old, but also something of a legend. Ours, according to the pilot, had originally been designed to serve as a light bomber during the Korean War and still had bomb mounts on the wings. The Beaver found its true vocation serving as a bush plane in the far north, however. It has lots of STOL in pilot lingo, short takeoff and landing capability. And STOL is critical when your runway might be a riverbank or a small pond.
The first floatplane I ever flew on had retractable wheels and took off from a regular airport. I somehow didn’t make the connection that we would be landing in a bay. The armrest probably still has my fingerprints embedded in it from when I thought we were crashing in the water. This time we took off from and landed in water. There was no confusion. Only the bear.