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Launching camera drone from boat
Alaska 2015
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: May - August, 4380 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Create photospheres using flying camera platform.

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Onion Bay

Every season I visit Onion Bay on Raspberry Island (near Kodiak Island). It's a very pretty place and there are a number of fun hikes. One of them involves hiking to the top of a mountain, through what is sometimes difficult and thorny brush, but with a nice view from the top. Another goes along a narrow, nearly level valley that runs from Onion Bay to Shelikof Strait.

This year, shortly after arriving, I created a photosphere from a gravel bar (image #1 below), which provided me with a much better view of the mountain that I climb, and I immediately saw a more efficient hiking route than I could have seen from the boat in years past. The next day I hiked that route and it lived up to its promise. I should add that, because aerial photospheres tend to flatten out some landscape features, that's not always the outcome. A number of times I've relied on a photosphere for field guidance only to discover that the terrain was much more rugged than it appeared in the high-altitude images.

My pictures of the valley route, images #2 and #3 below, also showed me things I had missed before — some landscape features and alternate paths. It occurs to me that in the future, economical and easy-to-use quadcopters and drones will make some kinds of navigation much easier.

Philosophical Digression

I occasionally meet a big brown bear along the valley route (now that he knows me, he looks at me with an expression of perfect indifference and walks away), but in over a decade of visits I've never met a person. This may come as a shock to many Americans, but there are places you can visit in Alaska where you're the only person there, and it might be one of the prettiest places you can imagine. That's what wild Alaska is like — primarily because most people who visit Alaska see it from huge floating hotels like this:

This picture shows people in Ketchikan getting off a very big boat, something these people don't like to do, but they have a reason — they can immediately get onto another, smaller boat and avoid any further exercise:

When I first saw this wheeled tourist bus/boat In Ketchikan, I almost died laughing, but on reflection it makes perfect sense. People who go on big-boat tours aren't the kind of people inclined to get any exercise, so for them to justify getting off the big boat, there must be a nearby alternative mode of effortless transport ready to pick them up. In this case I estimate these people had to walk 50 meters to get from one zero-effort conveyance to another.

Not to be judgmental, but in the picture above, I see a couple of people about to climb aboard the little wheeled tourist bus/boat and thereby avoid any further exercise, but who in my opinion really, really need to go for a long walk, and maybe even reëvaluate their lifestyle before it kills them:

It would be fun and instructive to set up a bicycle-rental stand next to the big boat dock and see how long it takes for the bicycles to rust away from neglect and disuse.

In case you missed it, the ingenious wheeled tourist bus/boat shown above actually goes in the water — it picks up some customers near the big boat, drives to a suitable launch ramp in town, then plows straight into the water. The point is that these people don't have to get off a bus and get on a boat — the bus is the boat. It's all designed to avoid unnecessary exercise.

Pardon my digression — let's go back to Onion Bay, a little heaven on earth, one of hundreds hidden in the wilder places of Alaska. I hope you enjoy these aerial photospheres of a very pretty, unspoiled place.

Photosphere viewer instructions: Use your mouse to navigate the image below. Drag your mouse to pan around the image, and use your mouse wheel to change magnification (on touch screens, use two fingers to zoom in and out). Notice the full-screen control at the upper left.

Image Notes:

At the time of writing, using aerial photospheres you can discover things about terrain that can't be gotten any other way — here's a Google Maps image of the same area for comparison. Not much to see, is there? This means, for the present and in particular for remote locations where satellite resolution is poor, a quadcopter will show you details not available any other way.

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