Sunday, February 19, 2017

Кот в сапогах -- Puss in Boots

Édition_Curmer_(1843)_-_Le_Chat_botté
 via Wikipedia
About a week ago, Olga invited me to join her and her two boys for a performance at the Petropavlovsk theater of

Кот в сапогах , Sunday 19 February at 11 AM.  

I happily agreed.  

Saturday was a day of intense wind and snow.  I still have no idea how much snow fell because it was rearranged so much by the wind into bare spots (old snow) and drifts -- a drift blocked the front door of my building, but someone had worked it open before I went out.  I woke up early on that Sunday morning and evaluated the scene as best I could, determining whether our theater excursion would proceed.  The wind had died down and the snow had mostly stopped falling.  My windows and eaves were impressively drifted.


My ktichen window Sunday AM
The eave of my balcony Sunday AM











We had a rendezvous spot at "6 km", near a large flower shop. Petropavlovsk is arranged in mostly linear fashion along the shore of Avachinskaya Guba (gulf or bay), and the locations along the main road are identified by their distance from the central post office.  The Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, as well as my flat, are located at "9 km" -- the bus terminal is at "10 km" which is also the location of the big Shamsa supermarket.  My other go-to shopping area is "8 km."

I determined to walk to our rendezvous -- that is, about three kilometers.  The main street was clear, and buses and traffic were running fine.  I tried to balance dressing for the theater with negotiating pedestrian walkways that went from cleared, to half-cleared to narrow steps to non-existent.  I wore snow boots and pants that would shed the snow.  Sometimes the walk is near the street and sometimes "inland" a bit, closer to shops.  I wished I had my walking poles, but managed not to fall, it's generally easier, in any case, to walk on snow than on the old ice that lay under it in many spots.  I arrived just about right on time, and we went to catch a bus.

Olga and her boys in front of the grand
"Kamchatka Theater of Drama and Comedy"
The boys were well dressed for snow, as were all the children I saw entering the theater.  I watched in fascination as all the snowsuits were shed and children transformed into little princes and princesses.  I did not get good pictures of those transformations before or after the performance. There is a huge coat/clothes check, clearly needed in this season. Once we left that area, though, I could hardly believe that it was a winter wonderland outside, children and parents--especially girls--dressed in flouncy, light outfits.

We were there in plenty of time to look around the theater, and we considered getting some second breakfast at the buffet, but decided to wait till after.  We looked in on the pre-theater scene, where groups of children were enjoying treats. Then we went up another level, where boys and girls were racing back and forth in a grand, wooden-floored lobby.  Good to get some physical energy out before the performance! 
groups of children enjoying a pre-performance treat at the
Kamchatka Theater of Drama and Comedy
It fascinates me to watch kids in settings like this theater, or the zoo, or a playground.  I am reminded of Lily Tomlin's character explaining to her space chums the difference between "soup" and "art", that is, the difference between a can of Campbell's soup and Andy Warhol's depiction of said can.  She later takes them to a theater performance, where her space chums decide that the audience is "art" and the performance "soup."  That is, they love watching the audience.  You must read this book. Wagner/Tomlin The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe

Of course the performance was in Russian...  As I watched, and enjoyed the performance as well as the audience, I realized that I should have "read the libretto" before coming to the theater.  This morning I read a short summary of the original story, which comes from the Italian "Master Cat, or The Booted Cat" (ItalianIl gatto con gli stivaliFrenchLe Maître chat ou le Chat botté) (from WIkipedia).  The English translation "Puss" seems a bit... feminine, whereas this cat is a swashbuckler -- ok, let's not get into feminist issues here....  In Russian, a male cat is "kot" and that is the word used for the Russian version "Kot v sapogakh"   A dinimutive used for female cats is "koshka" -- more like "puss" to me.  I guess I should try to find out the history of translation... later.  
After the performance, groups of children were brought up on
stage to receive gifts for their participation


The performance was very energetic, of course, geared for kids.  They were most engaged when there was physical comedy, including early on, Kot's acquisition of his boots by someone throwing them, one at a time, from offstage, where Kot had clearly annoyed someone.  There was singing (taped and lip-synched) and lots of dancing.  The Kot was of course the star of the show.  At the point where Kot is trying to convince the King that his (impoverished) master is the lord of a large estate (which Kot has tricked away from an ogre), he enjoins the children to yell out his name as the owner of all the lands they are passing through.  The kids did a great job.



In previous visits, I have been to this theater for performances by a Russian men's choir, by indigenous groups of Kamchatka, and by singers of the "bard" tradition.  Now that I have been with Olga and her boys, I think I will make more of an effort to go again.  But Olga says the St. Petersburg ballet performance is already sold out.  You have to know what's going on and how to plan ahead; clearly music and dance are easier for me to appreciate than drama and comedy.  But next time, I'll "read the libretto."

After the performance we went for a walk in Petropavlovsk center.  All the fresh snow was beautiful.  The center has many historical buildings and monuments.  More on them another time.

Costumes on display in the theater.

Here I am in my semi-practical theater outfit.
Besides this, I had only a rain-type parka,
hat and gloves (checked at the theater),
It was snowy but not cold out.

Here are Olga and her boys at the theater.  

This is the entry lobby, with huge coat check to the right.
 Not a great shot, but you can see some of the various levels of kids outside and inside dress.

This is the February 2017 schedule for the
Kamchatka Theater of Drama and Comedy


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Does Kamchatka belong to North America?

On this traditional map of tectonic plates, Kamchatka belongs to North America
This past week has been a week of science -- Wednesday was "Day of Science" in Russia.  Russia has "Days of" many things, there is a Geologists Day, a Day of Volcanology, a day of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatksiy, a Day of Fishermen,... and TODAY--Sunday 12 February--is a national day for healthy life, with skiing, Tanya says over 1.5 million people nationwide have registered for (cross-country) skiing events.  Avoiding the crowds, we went yesterday, when they were still setting trail and putting up bleachers at the ski center outside the city.

And I have learned that yesterday (11 February--ok, that's actually "today" at this point in the Americas) was/is International Day of Women and Girls in Science, declared by the United Nations. UN on women and girls in science.  I've blogged in the past about this topic.  For example Russian Women Geoscientists and from Hokkaido University, Girls be Ambitious!

For Science Day at the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, which is part of the Far East Division of the Russian Academy of Science (FED RAS), the director, Akademik E.I. Gordeev gave an introduction, which Tanya partially translated for me; I can understand words and sometimes gist, but commonly lose track and give up.... He talked about the state of the Institute and read the names of those receiving special commendation this year; he announced that everyone would be getting a 5000-ruble bonus, which caused a happy rustle in the auditorium.  Then the owner of the Shamsa supermarkets (I call him "Mr. Shamsa") pronounced some congratulations and presented us with a huge basket of fruit.

There were then three scientific talks, the first by a close colleague, Andrey Kozhurin, on tectonic geomorphology; I could understand much of it and discussed it with him later. The second talk was about HSE elements in Kamchatka petrology (I asked Tanya what were HSE, she didn't know, I just now looked it up on Google--highly siderophile elements).  He also used PGE, which I did figure out as platinum group elements.  I didn't understand much at all of that talk, but perked up when a map of the Kamchatskiy Peninsula was shown--one of our major stomping grounds.  The third talk was about seismic monitoring, with some details on recent Zhupanovsky volcanic activity and on the remarkably deep 2013 Sea of Okhotsk earthquake (Mw 8.3).  Then there was an archival movie about "volcanoes and life" -- it was quite romantic; I think it focused on 1970s Tolbachik eruptions; there was poetry composed and recited by one of the narrators, an Akademik volcanologist whose name I forget -- lots of facial hair.


9 Feb 2017 meeting at IVS with some young scientists;
more about them individually, later
On Thursday I met for the second time with our "young scientists" group (I have defined "young" as younger than I am 👵).  I gave a presentation entitled, "Does Kamchatka belong to North America?" -- an important plate tectonic question addressed by some of our group's research and publications.  When we submitted a manuscript to Geology with a long, convoluted title -- about an extruding Okhotsk block and coastal neotectonics -- the editors asked for a catchier title, and I came up with "Does Kamchatka belong to North America?", which, when the paper came out in 2006, gave us headlines around the world.  Here is just one example.  You can Google for more, and find a pdf of the article on Tanya's IVS site.  
Jody's photo.  Upper left to lower right:  Slava Sokolovsky,
Katya Kravshunovskaya (RIP), Vitya Morozov, Sasha
Storcheus (RIP), Kevin Pedoja, Viviana Alvarez, Tanya
Pinegina, Vanya Storcheus, Misha Egorov.

The first author of the paper is Kevin Pedoja, now a professor in Normandy, France.  This photo is from our Ozernoi field season, which was a classic in many ways, not least of which were the gourmet meals we had from fresh salmon, caviar, shellfish, wild fowl, mushrooms, berries, ... kak zhizn! (what a life!).  While Tanya's and my paleotsuanami group spent our time on low beach ridges, Kevin and Vitya (Morozov) would run up to the high terraces to get elevations and make observations.  This involved challenging bushwacking and not-uncommon bear encounters.  Then Kevin would become our "French chef" in the evening.


Here is the basic puzzle:  
The plate boundary between North America and Eurasia is well defined in the Atlantic (white line in picture to left); the mid-Atlantic ridge marks where the two plates move away from each other.  That ridge continues up into the Arctic, but loses character off Siberia.  There is not another distinct plate boundary between that endpoint and the boundary of the Pacific oceanic plate, which is subducting beneath the Aleutians and along the Japan-Kuril-Kamchatka (JKK) trench.

Our basic null hypothesis was that if Kamchatka belongs to the North American plate, then there should not be tectonic activity north of where the Aleutian chain collides with Kamchatka, which is also where the JKK subduction zone ends (the corner in the red line, above).  We have subsequently published two longer articles about this collision zone. By the way, Hokkaido and northern Honshu would also be part of the North America plate in this traditional model (see map at top of blog).  In recent years, other plates have been proposed in this area, including the Okhotsk plate, which has been relatively well accepted by now, and the Bering plate, which is not as well accepted.
In the 3-plate, older model, North America
encompasses Kamchatka, the Sea of Okhotsk,
and northern Japan.  We can call this our
"null hypothesis."
In the newer, 4- or 5-plate model, the Okhotsk plate
is being squeezed where Europe and North America come
together, pushing it (and thus Kamchatka)
 toward the east/southeast.















Much of our Kamchatka field work has focused on the area at and north of the Pacific "corner"  There have been some large historic earthquakes along this border, some tsunamigenic, which tends to support a 4- or 5-plate model.  As paleoseismologists, we have found a relatively high frequency of tsunami deposits in this region, comparable to or higher than some other subduction zones.  And as neotectonicists, we have found uplifted marine terraces that show significant rates of uplift indicative not of the tectonic quiescence one would expect in the three-plate model, our null hypothesis.  So, if you ask us, "Does Kamchatka belong to North America?" our answer would be NO.
Photo by Kevin Pedoja of (labeled) uplifted terraces north of the terminus of the Kuril-Kamchatka subduction zone.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A day in the life (Kamchatka field)

Yesterday (1 Feb 2017) I met with a group of young scientists at the Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (it had different name/s back in 1998) --we will meet weekly to practice English and to learn more about international science.  The group ranges from (field) volcanologists to mathematical modelers; I forgot my camera....  I am excited to get to know them and will write more in a future post.  Yesterday we introduced ourselves, Tanya introducing me first in a long encomium (in Russian). Later, I told some of her story (in English, slowly and distinctly spoken), and of our history together. So I decided today to post an essay I wrote some time ago--back in 2000 or so, I call it "a day in the life" -- from our first Kamchatka field season in 1998.
This was our 1998 crew, twoard the end of a 35-km backpack out of our Stolbovaya site.  From left to right:  Vanya Storcheus, Roman Spitsa, Jody Bourgeois, Sasha Storcheus, Tanya Pinegina

“A day in the life”  from Jody B’s 1998 Kamchatka journal

Introduction
            The Kamchatka Peninsula, in the Russian "Far East," is one of the most seismically and volcanically active regions in the world.  It is also one of the most remote.  Until about 10 years ago, Kamchatka was off limits even to most Soviet citizens, and visits by non-aligned geoscientists virtually unheard of.  With détente and perestroika, Kamchatka opened up in the 1990s, although bureaucratic paperwork, continued military sensitivity, complex logistics, and the unstable Russian economy were still significant hurdles to overcome.
            In the summer of 1998, for six weeks, I worked with Tatiana (Tanya) Pinegina on the Kamchatka Peninsula, just north of the triple junction, on the Bering Sea coast. We were looking for historical and prehistorical tsunami deposits in a frontier area.  My trip was supported by University of Washington Geological Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as the ingenuity and dedication of Tanya and her field crew.  Tanya, a researcher at the Institute of Volcanic Geology and Geochemistry in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, spent a month in Washington State in 1997, hosted by Brian Atwater (USGS, UW) and myself, so this was a return exchange. 
            Tanya's well organized plan to work on a shoestring budget was the single, most important contributor to the success of our field season.  We took public buses, hired local cars and motorboats to transport our gear, and backpacked and paddled to two remote sites.  Berries and fish we caught were important components of our field fare.  I've chosen one day from my journal and field notes to typify the experience.

5 August 1998, Soldatskaya Bay, Bering Sea coast. 
We get up fairly early, around seven, emerging from our sardine-like sleeping arrangements--five of us on a 1.5 by 3-meter platform in a 3 by 3-meter cabin dug in to the river bank.  The storm has abated, our clothes have dried, the river has dropped, the surf is quiet.  Breakfast, cooked by Vanya on the outside fire, is kasha, with (instant) milk and freshly picked blueberries.  The boys drink tea, and Tanya and I have weak coffee--we are running low, as we had to wait out the storm.  Vanya will stay in camp for the day, to guard from bears, to gather wood, to keep camp and to prepare food.
            We pack and dress for a long day.  I am still struggling to learn how to wrap my feet in partyanki, rectangles of wool used rather than socks by Russian field workers (soldiers, geologists, fishermen), before stuffing them in my rubber hip boots--standard footwear for the wet grass, marshes, and streams we commonly encounter.  This day we aim to the center of the embayment, heading ultimately for the 35-m-high terrace about 2 km from the shore.  After crossing the river mouth on foot (tide is low), we stop and pick "princess" berries (gnyazhnika--a kind of ground raspberry)--we are never in too much of a hurry to pick berries, this exercise providing not only part of our sustenance, but also one of our small pleasures. 
            The weather is pleasant, mostly sunny, the flowers are spectacular in their variety of colors and sizes.  Mosquitoes not too bad today.  First, Roma and Sasha excavate small trenches on the lower beach ridges.  As we work toward the back of the coastal plain, the trenches exhibit older and older volcanic ash layers, and some ‘candidate’ (potential, up for evaluation) tsunami deposits.  Before we reach the high terrace, we bushwhack through shrubs, hop over bumpy patterned ground, and traverse a spongy marsh.  We collect a pot of water from a slough, as there will be none up on the terrace.  Along the terrace front I can see five or six bear trails--places the grass has been flattened, recently.  We climb the slope and cross an open field to the edge of a birch grove, choosing the site for a 3-m-deep excavation (shurf), which Roma lays out.
            While Roma digs, Sasha builds a fire and boils water.  Tanya and I chat, write notes, pick berries, think grand thoughts, discuss ideas.  When I excuse myself to go off to the bushes, Tanya says, "Jody, don't go far, here lives bear."   Before describing the excavation, we recline in the tall grass and eat lunch--the last of our bread (somewhat moldy), freshly caught salmon and its caviar, prepared last night, caramel (boiled condensed milk, sgushyonka), weak tea.  A small shower blows over as Tanya and I describe the trench, then Roma and Sasha fill it back up, and we head north, toward another terrace.
            Sasha typically leads the way.  A volcano seismologist who grew up in the Russian Far East, he has spent much time in the wilds of Kamchatka and Siberia.  We follow a bear trail, for the most part, but veer right where the bear veered left, away from our terrace.  Soon we come to a slough we cannot cross, and we backtrack--Sasha's a good pathfinder, but the bear knew better.  On the next terrace, we repeat our actions.  I sketch a view of the mountains to the south--they seem to be tilted up and back toward the west--this area is very active tectonically, with many uplifted, relatively young terraces, and some deranged drainages.  Before dropping off the terrace, we pick more berries, mostly crowberries (shiksha) here, getting fatter and riper as the weeks pass.  You can strip 15 or 20 with a few swipes of your hand.  I wonder how the bears do it--Tanya says they eat the whole plant and spit out the branches.
            We head back toward the beach, crossing small sloughs by leaping, stepping on overhanging shrubs, bushwhacking till we find narrow spots.  Tanya picks another excavation spot, and Roma starts to dig.  Sasha is suddenly at my side, saying, "Jody, bear!" and turning me to face west, toward the terrace, orienting me to get a view.  I have not yet seen a Kamchatka bear (myedved), though I have seen many bear signs—bear trails, bear beds, bear footprints, bearshit.  I strain to look in the distance when a large brown head pops up above the shrubs, not more than 15 meters away, and then it is gone!  Sasha says he saw the bear, then the bear stood on its hind legs and looked our way, and now the bear, a big, old (light brown) one, is hightailing it away from us.  I want to see the bear some more, but Sasha tells me no, I don't, because the bear has smelled or heard us and is going away, afraid.  If it comes back, it only means trouble.  We carry whistles, bear flares, and two guns, but never have used them; these bears are solitary by nature, and here they are unfamiliar with and afraid of people. 
            We finish the trench description and head on, one more slough to cross.  We jump over a narrow spot, and then find ourselves on an island, with a wider channel yet to go.  Sasha leans over the slough, steps on unstable vegetation, makes the leap, successfully.  He takes Tanya's outstretched hand, and she reaches back to me for balance, making the leap, successfully.  To make a long story short, I tried next, and ended up waist deep in the slough.  Tanya and Sasha pulled me out, and I got down on all fours to dump the water from my hip boots.  The day was nearly gone (it was after 8 PM), so Tanya decided to send me and Sasha back to camp, while she and Roma did one more excavation. 
            I was wet, but not miserable.  When we got back to the river mouth, though, the tide was too high for us to wade across, so Sasha had to pump up the small rubber boat.  Big enough for one, we used it for two, as a ferry on these small rivers.  The pumping seemed to take forever.  A seal watched from the water close by--probably the seal who took bites out of the flounder and salmon caught in our nearby fish net.  (I always called a watching seal nyerpa nol-nol-syem – 007).  All we had as a paddle was a small shovel, but it was not far across.  Once on the other side, Sasha went on ahead to tell Vanya to stoke the fire.  When I arrived, Vanya helped me remove my boots and wet clothes, and gave me a big cup of kompote--berries boiled in sweetened water.  I warmed up quickly, eating some lukewarm salmon/rice cakes and noodles, trying to enjoy the spectacular sunset.  Sasha went back to ferry Tanya and Roma, and they returned with more fish from our net. 
As the sun set, around 10:30, the mosquitoes got thicker, and I retired to the sleeping platform, not even bothering to undress, and quickly dozed off.  Next thing I know, I am awakened by a rumbling, shaking sensation--an earthquake.  No one else has yet come in to the cabin to sleep.  Tanya starts yelling, "Jody, quickly, stand up!"  "Jody, quickly, come!"  I wonder, is she afraid the dug-in cabin will collapse?  Slowly I realize she is evacuating us to higher ground, in case of tsunami.  I am sleepy and tired and cranky and do not want to get up.  I "reason" that the earthquake was not big enough to make a sizeable tsunami.  I forget all the advice I tell folks living on the coast--if you feel an earthquake, don't wait, go to high ground!  I forget about all the people in Nicaragua (1992) and Peru (1996) who did not feel their earthquake (or barely felt it) and whose tsunami flattened their houses.  I only slowly remember that recently, two tsunamis in Kamchatka with high runup were amplified by earthquake-triggered landslides.  I reluctantly pull on my boots and follow Tanya and the others across the moonlit terrace to higher ground.   I begin to understand how easy it is to ignore warning signs of a tsunami, especially when it is nighttime and you are in an exhausted state....
            We chat in the chill night air, and hear a distant rumble but feel no more shaking—a landslide?  aftershock?  Waiting a respectable amount of time, we then return to our sleeping bags, calm down and finally fall asleep.  The next morning, there is no trace of a tsunami on the beach, but there are new bear tracks covering our footprints from the day before.