Birding the Zombie Apocalypse
Rows of empty houses lined the streets, each one a cookie-cutter copy of the next. It looked like a SoCal suburban neighborhood had been transplanted onto this far-flung Aleutian island, before being hit by a cyclonic windstorm. Actually, that's not too far from reality. (The highest gust of wind on Adak went unrecorded because it ripped the instruments off the tower)
I got lost walking down the road to breakfast, which was in a unit identical to all of the others along the road, the only difference is someone actually lived inside and cooked meals. Only a small neon-lit 'OPEN' sign hung in the garage window indicated my destination: the Blue Bird Cafe. Adak's McDonalds had long ago closed down, its drive-thru menu was still intact, preserving a time when DINO-SIZE FRIES ruled the Jurassic menu, along with now-extinct Danish and Sanka breakfast menu options.
A former Army/Navy base, most of the facilities on Adak are now abandoned after the military suspended their operations and transferred ownership to the Aleut tribal corporation in the early 2000's. Now, it's a hub for off-loading fish during commercial seasons.
Adak gets 263 days of rain each year, ranking second to Hilo, HI in wettest cities in North America. Since Hawaii isn't part of the ABA area, I have officially birded the rainiest city in North America. Check that one off the list I didn't make...
Guess what? Adak didn't disappoint... it rained every day I was there.
To make a long story short, the Attu trip was modified with the consent of other passengers - extended by several days, and the start date was moved up. I was birding in Ohio when I received a Facebook message asking where I was. Well, I certainly wasn't in Adak where everyone else was waiting for the Pukuk to take us to Attu. There was a mechanical issue with the boat in Sand Point, AK and so the trip was delayed, until the part arrived and the Pukuk was on its way. It arrived the evening I landed on Adak, right on schedule according to my itinerary. No harm, no foul. However, I had a couple hours on Adak in the afternoon to pick up a few new year birds... Tufted Duck, Common Snipe, Ruff, Rock Ptarmigan, Smew, and Gyrfalcon.
As the sky grew dark, we shuttled our gear in borrowed vehicles to the docks and loaded it up on the Pukuk. Following a safety briefing, each passenger rehearsed putting on an emergency survival suit, and we crawled into our bunks as we steamed out of the harbor and headed North by Northwest.