Eruptions can’t stop sealife from calling Bogoslof home

Marine mammals are hauled out on Bogoslof island on July 3, the day after an eruption. (Courtesy Paul Wade, NOAA Fisheries)

Before Bogoslof volcano started erupting, it was a haven for endangered Steller sea lions, fur seals and sea birds. But scientists did not know when and if animals would return to the eastern Aleutian Island.

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In the last year, Bogoslof volcano has erupted more than 50 times and is giving no indication of slowing down. This means even though scientists like Tom Gelatt would like to set foot on land, they can’t.

But with powerful camera lenses, they can check for wildlife on the island even from miles away.

“It was interesting because it was still steaming quite a bit of course,” Gelatt said. “The whole island was still covered in ash, but there were sea lions and fur seals all along the shoreline. A lot of animals. A lot of birds.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist was expecting to see animals on Bogoslof.

“Those animals have evolved with volcanoes for a long time,” Gelatt said. “It’s only speculative, but you can imagine when [Bogoslof] starts to rumble and go those animals that can move get in the water.”

When Gelatt passed by it was the day after an eruption and there’s been more since then. At this point, it’s too soon to tell what effects the eruptions will have on animals.

But researchers can tell the island has grown in size. If it stays large, Gelatt said that could mean more space for Steller sea lions, fur seals and seabirds to call home.

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Zoe Sobel is a reporter with Alaska's Energy Desk based in Unalaska. As a high schooler in Portland, Maine, Zoë Sobel got her first taste of public radio at NPR’s easternmost station. From there, she moved to Boston where she studied at Wellesley College and worked at WBUR, covering sports for Only A Game and the trial of convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

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