Chenega Bay and Float Planes
“Can this plane do any crazy movements?” I asked.
“Like what?” the pilot asked.
“Umm, well the only one I know of is the barrel roll.”
“Oh yeah, definitely.”
“Really?!?” I asked.
I was sitting up front in this small float plane so I could see the pilot turn the steering wheel . Suddenly, the wing dipped right and my stomach lurched with adrenaline.
“Nononononono,” a voice behind me exclaimed.
He leveled the plane and in my head I thought, awwww man.
“Stop asking questions, Jimena.”
This was the first time I ever got to fly in float plane and the day was a gorgeous one for flying. Just the day before, a blizzard blew through rendering visibility to almost none. But Monday was beautiful, which was perfect because Monday we were due to fly out to Chenega Bay.
Chenega Bay is a small town on Evans Island, on the west side of Prince William Sound. Only about 40 people live there. Chenega used to be located on Chenega Island, but that was destroyed by a tsunami in 1964. It was a devastating event, killing a third of the 68 people who lived there. Some of the survivors moved to what is now known as Chenega Bay.
Danielle and I were once again doing tree and owl ecology presentations, but this time, we were not alone. We were joined by Ferdinand Sison, the high school intern at the Forest Service. The Cordova Watershed Project sponsored Ferdinand’s trip out to Chenega so that he could tell the students about the Capitol Christmas Tree.
You know that big Christmas tree they light up at the lawn of the U.S. Capitol? Every year that tree comes from a different national forest in the US. This year, that tree is coming from the Chugach National Forest. That’s right here! That’s where I am right now! So, each time we’ve gone out to do community outreach, we’ve also been asking students to make tree ornaments for the tree.
“So, President Obama might see them?” a kid once asked.
“Yep! Well, maybe. It’s possible.”
Ferdinand prepared for the activity by making a model owl ornament out of miniature pine cones, colorful feathers and googly eyes. After we laid out the ornament supplies, the kids jumped at the chance to flex their creative skills. Apart from the ornament, the Capitol also asked for the students to submit a short written response to the question “What do you want people to know about Chenega when they see your ornament for the Capitol Christmas tree?” One student gave her owl ornament blue and green feathers and wrote that the blue symbolizes the ocean and the green symbolizes all the green trees they have. Another student created a traditional Aleut hunting visor for his owl and wrote about his culture in the response. A few students glued purple and blue feathers to their owl ornaments and described the beautiful sunsets in Chenega.
After we were done with the school activities and we were waiting for the float plane to return to pick us up. We spent some time walking around Chenega. We came across a few of the students and one particularly happy puppy. One of the students, named Jacob, was extremely excited to talk about his upcoming trip to Anchorage for the Native Youth Olympics. I have to say, the Native Youth Olympic events sound a lot more exciting than any other Olympic events I’ve heard of, with the possible exception of the Championship Guinea Pig Race (yes that’s a real event). Ferdinand was also happy to share about his upcoming trip for a choir competition. Both he and Jacob had met each other at Chugach Children’s Forest, a science and nature camp and it was cool to see them both excited to share about their future trips.
I had a wonderful time in Chenega and I was sorry to have to say goodbye to it so soon. Once we heard the plane arrive, we ran back to the school to grab our things and say our goodbyes. We enjoyed a gorgeous flight back to Cordova where we even spotted a whale. However, I was determined to feel that sinking feeling you get in your stomach when you’re on a roller coaster, and so before we landed, I had one more question to ask the pilot.