Monday, November 3, 2008

Not all sunshine and lollipops

It's not paradise out here everyday. Sometimes you have to pay for the privilege of volunteering on the island. We've had some stormy weather over the past few days, but that doesn't mean we get to stay inside all day. On Saturday, a storm that was supposed to drop over an inch of rain was predicted. Since this would be the first significant rainfall since the end of the seabird breeding season, we had a big job to do. You see, our only source of fresh water is precipitation. To collect this water we have a concrete catchment pad (built by the Navy or Coast Guard decades ago) about half the size of a football field, that drains into a collecting tank. During the summer Western Gulls nest there, and generally fowl up the area. So, during this first good rain we (whoever happens to be on the island) have to go out and scrub the whole pad with push brooms. It took four of us 4-5 hours to "clean" the pad. And I say "clean," because it didn't look all that clean after we finished. It was back-breaking work, in a rainstorm. Not what I signed up for. On top of it, we had to complete all of our regular bird surveys. It's a day that I'll probably try to forget.
Not so happy

We definitely moved a ton of dirt, feathers, bone and guano (nice way of saying bird poop), but I think most of you would be hesitant to drink any water that flowed over what was left. Luckily, there is a sophisticated system set-up to treat the water so that it's potable. It starts with a settling tank, where dirt and whatever settle to the bottom. Then the water at the top is pumped into another holding tank. From there, when we need water, we pump it from the holding tank, through a series of filters, to a gravity tank half way up the hill behind the house. While in this tank, it is ozonated to kill any bacteria that made it through the filters. And lastly, down at the house, the water passes through one more filter before flowing out of the tap. It's not the best water I've ever tasted, but it's all part of being off-the-grid out here.

Yesterday was a pretty nice day, but today was stormy again. I had to be outside for several hours in the driving rain, looking for birds, of which there were very few. I know, I know, "Boo hoo, Mark, I have to stand out in the rain for a couple days." It really is a privilege to get to spend so much time out here, and if all it costs me are some sore muscles and callouses, then I consider myself lucky.
Between storms - Saturday

1 comment:

Gary said...

Very cool picture, Mark!