This is the third post I’ve written about life as and Electrical Engineer. Click here for the post about life in general as an electrical engineer, and click here for my post on a site visit in Fairbanks.
Thursday and Friday of this past week were the two most rewarding days I’ve experienced as an Electrical Engineer. I got to go on only my third site visit that required air travel, and only the second one to the bush (see my Living in Alaska post to find the definition of this term). They say “a picture is worth 1000 words” so I’m going to let the beautiful pictures I took tell most of the story in this recap (all times listed are approximate).
March 10th, 2011
After packing up everything I needed and stopping off for some delicious McDonald’s breakfast via the drive-thru, I arrive at Ted Stevens International Airport. Since False Pass is located on Unimak Island, just off of the Alaska Peninsula, my colleague and I were going to be flying PenAir. So I check in at the PenAir counter in the terminal, and then I am able to proceed straight to the PenAir gate without the inconvenience of going through security.
I board the turboprop airplane that is about to take me to the village of Cold Bay. Not a lot of leg room for someone of my size, but at least I have a seat adjacent to both the window and the aisle.
We make a short pit-stop in Sand Point to drop some people off and pick others up, and also to put a bit more fuel in the plane. The approach into the Sand Point Airport was absolutely gorgeous as the sun was shining on the coastal bluffs that the airport is set on. I didn’t have my camera handy, so I didn’t get a good shot of it, but trust me, it was beautiful. I did take this picture of the nearby mountains from my seat while we were on the ground.
Touchdown in Cold Bay. We grab our bags, and then await our 2:00 PM scheduled flight to False Pass. I throw down a PB&J that I had packed, and then settle in with a little reading. I also took a quick snapshot of the beautiful scenery.
It’s time to fly to False Pass. The plane was some sort of “Cherokee” we’re told by our pilot. It only seats five of us including the pilot, and the back seat is pretty tight for 3 full grown men to sit in.
We arrive in False Pass. That last 30 minutes of my life will go down as one of the best 30 minute intervals of time in my entire life. Our pilot was clearly very experienced, and he wasn’t content to just “get us there”. He wanted to show off just how beautiful of country we were flying through. The only bummer was that False Pass wasn’t further from Cold Bay so the flight could have been longer.
So after landing, we got a ride over to the job site, which was a fish processing plant. We moved into our room and got settled a little bit, and while doing so, I noticed a sticker on a dresser that had a tsunami warning on it. For some reason, I thought that it wasn’t serious, and so I took a picture of it (more on this later). The mechanical engineer from my company, Ernie, gave me a crash course in the concepts of recycling waste heat from a diesel generator and using it to heat buildings, since that was what we were doing for this project. After his explanation, it was time to get to work.
After a couple hours of working, I had finished what I needed to, since the electrical side of this job was pretty minimal. So I grabbed my Zune, my camera, and decided to explore a little bit. I walked out onto a large pier to take in the beautiful scenery while listening to Christian praise music, and just took in the wonder that is God’s creation. I just had an awesome grin on my face the entire time as I took awesome snapshots with my camera, and even got a couple with myself in the shot with the self-timer function. While I was out enjoying myself and praising the Lord for allowing me to be in such a beautiful place, I got to see an otter swimming around the pier, and also a seal poked his head out of the water a couple of times. I was only able to get a picture of the otter, but just seeing the seal was rewarding enough.
I did bring some other work to do since I knew I would have free time, so I got comfortable on my bed and marked up a drawing from another project. And after about an hour, it was finally time for dinner. It wasn’t very good, but I was really hungry, so I ate a good amount.
After dinner, I decided to lie down and read for a while. Then I listened to music for a while, and finally turned in for the night at around 10 or 11 or so. I actually don’t really know what time it was because I rely on my cell phone for time and it didn’t get service there.
March 11th, 2011
I greatly appreciated the time to sleep in, but unfortunately by the time I wandered into the kitchen, everyone had just finished eating breakfast. I sat down and joined the conversation, and found out that the night before, our village had been on a tsunami warning due to the earthquake off the coast of Japan. It ended up being nothing more than a scare for False Pass, but I just found it funny that we had a warning after I mocked and ridiculed the sticker in my room. After chewing the fat a bit longer, Ernie had a couple more things to do, and I actually needed to have a panelboard opened up by the electrician. I quickly took care of that, and then learned that the plane coming to pick us up would be there in 40 minutes. So I packed up my stuff, and then we made our way to the airport.
The same awesome pilot that brought us to False Pass had returned to bring us back to Cold Bay. False Pass was a much cloudier place than it was a day earlier, so the flight wasn’t quite as awesome, but as we got closer to Cold Bay, it cleared up, and the views were spectacular once again. I got to ride shotgun this time, and we actually got to see about 5 caribou out on the tundra.
After getting to Cold Bay and checking in for our flight back to Anchorage, we went looking for food at the one store in town, the Bearfoot Inn. I grabbed a pastrami and cheese sandwich and a chimichanga which were actually pretty tasty after heated in the microwave, especially after being washed down with chocolate milk. I snapped one more picture of the mountain overlooking Cold Bay, and then it was time to fly home.
We boarded our flight, and were on our way back to Anchorage. I got an exit row seat, which was tight, but I was sitting right next to a very obese man, so that wasn’t so cool. I did some reading, but mainly just chilled while listening to music, and we were home before I knew it. Definitely a great way to end the work week.
I enjoy my job as an Electrical Engineer, but trips like this make me absolutely love it.