(Felicity Barringer/New York Times, 6 March 2013) -- At a time when large dams are being taken down, not put up, the state of Alaska is proposing to construct one of the tallest and most expensive hydroelectric dams ever built in North America. The Alaska Energy Authority is planning to build a 735-foot, $5.2 billion structure on the Susitna River in a largely empty south-central part of the state, which is watered by runoff from the arc of the Alaska Range. The dam, designed to generate up to 600 megawatts of electricity, would create a new power supply for more than two-thirds of the state’s population. But in Alaska, where natural energy resources and wildlife are both foundations of the economy, the proposed dam presents twin conundrums. One is economic: which is better, creating a reliable source of hydroelectricity and weaning some of the state off natural gas, or building a spur off a proposed pipeline to bring gas from the North Slope to the populated region from Fairbanks to the Kenai Peninsula? Or both? The other is environmental: what serves the environment best, replacing natural gas-fired electricity with hydroelectricity, which is free of greenhouse gas emissions, or keeping the Susitna watershed untrammeled and avoiding the risks involved in changing the dynamics of a major salmon stream? ...
Posted 10 March 2013; 8:56:17 PM. Permalink
(Laurel Andrews/Alaska Dispatch, 10 March 2013) -- It’s a bird, it’s a plane – no wait, it’s a blimp! For the first time since the 1920s, a modern day airship will travel to Alaska this summer to conduct field work and show off its potential for becoming a permanent fixture in Alaska’s skies. Francis Grover, business manager with Skyship Services, said the company is “quite excited” for the northward journey. The blimp, a Skyship 600, will arrive in early July and plans to stick around until September. Lifting off from Orlando, Fl., the blimp will travel for 6 weeks at speeds of 40 miles per hour before it lands in the 49th state, making stops along the way. The Skyship 600 is the largest blimp in operation in the world, at a length of 200 feet; it's able to carry a 2 ton payload, and 15 passengers at a time. The blimp will usually cruise for around 18 hours at a time, but its record for staying aloft is 50 hours straight, Grover said. During its time in the state, the airship will conduct surveys for oil companies of wetlands and other vegetative areas; Grover declined to name the companies it will be working for. He also hopes the company will “spead some goodwill” during its time in Alaska and show off the potential airships have in the Last Frontier. The company hopes to make return trips to the state, and eventually have airships based in Alaska full-time. According to a press release sent out by Alaska Sen. Lesil McGuire, blimps have potential as “outstanding platforms for aerial surveys” due to their slow speeds and low altitude flying.
Posted 10 March 2013; 7:23:58 PM. Permalink
(Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner/Geography in the News&tm;, 3 March 2013) -- One of the world’s most grueling races, Alaska’s Iditarod Dog Sled Race, began today, March 3rd. The history and geography of this magnificent race excite followers all over the world as the race is one of the most challenging for humans and their teams of dogs. Sixty-six teams registered for the race and many are repeat entries. The Iditarod is an annual race through Alaska where mushers and teams of dogs cover about 1,150 miles (1,853 km) in eight to 15 days. The Iditarod competition began in 1973 as a test of the best dogs and mushers in the state and has evolved into a highly competitive and popular race. Teams often encounter blizzards with whiteout conditions, aggressive wild game animals, and sub-zero weather and gale-force winds that can create wind chill temperatures reaching minus 100 degrees F (-75 degrees C).
Posted 4 March 2013; 4:31:11 PM. Permalink
(NOAA press release, 28 February 2013) -- NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey has issued an updated Arctic Nautical Charting Plan, as a major effort to improve inadequate chart coverage for Arctic areas experiencing increasing vessel traffic due to ice diminishment. The update came after consultations with maritime interests and the public, as well as with other federal, state, and local agencies. “As multi-year sea ice continues to disappear, vessel traffic in the Arctic is on the rise,” said Rear Admiral Gerd Glang, NOAA Coast Survey director. “This is leading to new maritime concerns about adequate charts, especially in areas increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry and cruise liners,” Glang said. Commercial vessels depend on NOAA to provide charts and publications with the latest depth information, aids to navigation, accurate shorelines, and other features required for safe navigation in U.S. waters. But many regions of Alaska’s coastal areas have never had full bottom bathymetric surveys, and some haven’t had more than superficial depth measurements since Captain Cook explored the northern regions in the late 1700s. “Ships need updated charts with precise and accurate measurements,” said Capt. Doug Baird, chief of Coast Survey’s marine chart division. “We don’t have decades to get it done. Ice diminishment is here now.” NOAA plans to create 14 new charts to complement the existing chart coverage.
Posted 1 March 2013; 2:23:50 PM. Permalink
(Kelsey Gobroski/KTOO Juneau, 20 February 2013) -- Attu Island is overdue for some spring cleaning. Seventy years after World War II, the island is still littered with shards of old Coke bottles, lead-based batteries, leaking fuel drums and unexploded artillery. This summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages the remote island as a refuge, will survey the extent of World War II debris and contamination. As KTOO news intern Kelsey Gobroski reports, the entire ecosystem could be affected by the decades of pollution. Listen to the full story
(Office of Senator Murkowski press release via Alaska Native News, 29 January 2013) -- WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, yesterday reintroduced legislation restoring the traditional rights of the Huna Tlingit to gather glaucous-winged gull eggs in Glacier Bay National Park as part of their subsistence hunting activities. “The Huna Tlingit have gathered gull eggs as part of their traditional subsistence activities for centuries – certainly long before Glacier Bay was made into a national park,” Murkowski said. “Gull eggs are part of their traditional diet and cultural identity, and I believe it’s an activity they should be allowed to continue legally.” Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska is the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit, who traditionally harvested gull eggs at rookeries from the cliffs of Glacier Bay prior to, and following, establishment of the park. Collection was prohibited in the 1960s under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and National Park Service regulations. The National Park Service determined in 2010 that annual harvests would not harm the gull populations in the park, but congressional action is still required to authorize gull egg collection. Murkowski’s legislation would allow tribal members of the Hoonah Indian Association to collect gull eggs up to two times a year at as many as five locations within Glacier Bay National Park. Murkowski introduced similar legislation in 2011, during the 112th Congress. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, plans to introduce companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Posted 30 January 2013; 11:52:27 PM. Permalink
(Subsea World News, 18 January 2013) -- Arctic Fibre Inc. announced that it will partner with Anchorage-based Quintillion Networks, LLC to provide broadband telecommunications services to more than 26,500 Alaska residents living along the Alaskan North Slope and Bering Sea coastline, and to provide a geographically diverse alternate fibre route for traffic from the United States to Europe and Asia. This provision of virtually unlimited bandwidth will enable government to reduce the cost of providing services to citizens and enable consumers to access faster Internet speeds now available in most urban communities in Alaska. Arctic Fibre was established in 2009 to explore deploying a fibre optic telecommunications system through the Canadian Arctic. Arctic Fibre plans to construct a 15,167 km (9,424 mile) subsea fibre optic cable extending from Tokyo, Japan to London, England via the Bering Strait, Beaufort Sea and Canadian Arctic with a planned in-service date of November 2014. Arctic Fibre’s backbone network will reduce the cost of wholesale bandwidth by more than 85% in the Canadian communities of Cambridge Bay, Gjoa Haven, Taloyoak, Igloolik, Hall Beach, Cape Dorset and Iqaluit. The company successfully concluded a capacity nomination process for Canadian carriers in late 2012 and is now moving to formal contracts with a group of Canadian carriers and government agencies. In December 2012, Arctic Fibre entered into an agreement with Quintillion Networks to serve the Alaska market as a wholesaler providing bandwidth to existing Alaska telecommunications carriers on a non-discriminatory basis. ... Quintillion’s Chief Operating Officer, Hans Roeterink, said Quintillion also intends to construct a 490-mile fibre parallel to Alaska’s Dalton Highway from Prudhoe Bay south to Fairbanks, and then to connect with existing terrestrial fibre networks to Anchorage and south through existing subsea fibres to mainland US. “This terrestrial portion of Quintillion’s network will enable high capacity connectivity for Alaskan customers as well as an alternative route for customers from the United States to other regions of the world”, added Roeterink.
Posted 18 January 2013; 7:47:07 PM. Permalink
(Ayesha Rascoe/Reuters via Scientific American, 3 January 2013) -- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Opponents of Royal Dutch Shell's ambitious Arctic oil program have called on the Obama administration to put offshore drilling plans in the region on hold after one of the company's oil rigs broke away from tow boats in high seas and ran aground off Alaska. The Natural Resources Defense Council and The Wilderness Society on Thursday said the accident involving Shell's Kulluk oil rig is new evidence that oil companies are not prepared to safely manage the extreme conditions of the Arctic. The 30-year-old Kulluk rig ran aground on New Year's Eve in what were described as "near hurricane" conditions while it was being towed south for the winter. "This string of mishaps by Shell makes it crystal clear that we are not ready to drill in the Arctic," Chuck Clusen, NRDC's director of Alaska projects, told reporters in a teleconference. The green groups said they plan to send a letter to the Department of the Interior demanding that it stop issuing permits in the Arctic and that it prevent drilling in the sensitive area until it is determined that the environment can be fully protected. Ocean conservation group Oceana also called on the department to stop oil drilling activities in the Arctic after the Kulluk's grounding. Shell has spent $4.5 billion since 2005 to develop the Arctic's vast oil reserves, but the company has faced intense opposition from environmentalists and native groups as well as regulatory and technical hurdles.
Posted 4 January 2013; 5:07:41 PM. Permalink
(Emily Schwing/KUAC - Fairbanks via Eye on the Arctic, 11 October 2012) -- The Arctic Village of Kivalina may run out of fresh water this winter. Governor Sean Parnell declared a disaster in the village last month after heavy rainfall flooded the Wulik River and washed away some of the city's surface water piping. By the time the state Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management had shipped a new high speed pump and pipe to the community, it was too late according to City Administrator, Janet Mitchell. Slush clogged the pipes and the crew gave up. It's not clear how much water made it into the tanks. Mitchell, who grew up in Kivalina, says residents have always tried to conserve water. But the majority of Kivalina's 436 residents don't have boats or snowmachines to access large quantities of fresh drinking water. So they use the local washeteria. It's unlikely to remain open through the winter.
Posted 12 October 2012; 3:19:17 PM. Permalink
(Coastal Care, 21 September 2012) -- ... the village of Shishmaref in North Western Alaska, inhabited for 400 years, is currently facing evacuation due to rising temperatures, which are causing a reduction in sea ice, thawing of permafrost along the coast. The reduced sea ice allows higher storm surges to reach shore and thawing permafrost makes the shoreline more vulnerable to erosion. The town’s homes, water system and infrastructure are being undermined. A federal appeals court has ruled against the northwest Alaska village of Kivalina, which sued energy companies over claims that greenhouse emissions contributed to global warming that is threatening the community’s existence. The eroding village sought monetary damages to help with the estimated $400 million to relocate…
Posted 22 September 2012; 10:40:02 AM. Permalink
(Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center, 6 September 2012) -- A blog detailing the daily progress of the Healy as researchers study the Arctic Ocean and map the sea floor. Blog post from September 5, 2012: Today we returned to the seafloor knoll that was partially sounded on August 31 to fully map the feature and determine if it rises above the 2500 m depth contour. (The 2500-m contour is a key element in establishing limits of the extended continental shelf.) Our multibeam mapping determined that the highest point of the knoll is about 2690 m deep and thus does not give us a 2500-m contour to work with. Nonetheless, we now have a detailed survey of the knoll to replace the vague shape on the existing maps. After we acquire the multibeam echo sounder data, our data processing watch team “processes” the data. In data processing, we confirm that the ship’s position and attitude data are valid and we clean erroneous depth values from the sounding data. These erroneous depth values can arise from interference from other echo sounders, bubbles or ice under the ship, mechanical noise from the ship’s machinery, or often just from weak echoes returning from the seafloor. The cleaned depth values are combined into a digital depth data grid for display and analysis.
Posted 6 September 2012; 3:31:17 PM. Permalink
(Dennis L. Bryant/Marinelink.com, 16 July 2012) -- While it seems that half the world is monitoring the oil and gas exploration activities of Royal Dutch Shell (Shell Oil) on the United States outer continental shelf (OCS) in waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas off the north coast of Alaska, another historic event is occurring in those same waters: Arctic Shield 2012. The US Coast Guard is assembling its largest ever effort in the Arctic during the period July through October 2012. The Coast Guard has been gradually expanding its presence in the Arctic over the past four years. ... This summer, though, the Coast Guard is making a full-court press. The National Security Cutter Bertholf, the Medium Endurance Cutter Alex Haley, and the buoy tenders Hickory and Sycamore will be operating in waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, testing their ability to perform national security, maritime safety, law enforcement, marine pollution prevention, and other Coast Guard missions in Arctic waters. They will be joined by four helicopters, a mobile communications facility, and various shore-based assets. In a first-ever Arctic waters test, the Coast Guard, the US Northern Command, the Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving, and other agencies will deploy Spilled Oil Recovery System (SORS) equipment from one of the buoy tenders.
Posted 17 July 2012; 2:26:18 PM. Permalink
(Laine Welch/Capital City Weekly, 9 May 2012) -- Soccer balls, motorcycles, reminders of the massive tsunami in Japan a year ago are now appearing along Alaska's coastlines. "It's safe to say that tsunami debris is here," said Merrick Burden, director of the Juneau-based Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation. Since January the MCA has been tracking where and what kinds of debris that is coming ashore, and whether it is radioactive (none so far), at Kodiak, Yakutat, Sitka and Craig where the wreckage was first likely to hit. "What we're finding are wind-driven objects like buoys, Styrofoam, and large containers, some of which contain materials that are potentially toxic," Burden said. "We're finding drums full of things that we don't know what they are yet. So we're looking at a potential large-scale environmental problem, and what we're dealing with now is just the start of it." Debris has been found in every area they've looked, Burden said, and mysterious sludge is washing up on some beaches, apparently from opened containers. Just days ago, an enormous amount of floating debris was spotted off the southern reaches of Prince William Sound, making national headlines. But the worst is yet to come. "Next year is when we expect the larger debris that is driven by currents rather than wind," he said. "That should be comprised of entirely different types of materials, and it might even follow a different trajectory through the water and end up in different locations. Part of the problem is that we don't know what we're dealing with, and it looks bad. It's obviously tragic, and it looks like it's a pretty major environmental hazard as well."
Posted 9 May 2012; 11:28:47 AM. Permalink
(OurAmazingPlanet Staff/LiveScience.com via Yahoo! News, 7 May 2012) -- Arctic sea ice has persistently dwindled over the last three decades, yet sea ice set record highs in waters around Alaska this past winter. Ice in the Bering Sea not only covered more area than usual, it also stuck around longer, bucking the downward trend in sea ice cover observed since 1979, when satellite records for the region began. The Arctic as a whole had below-average sea ice cover during the 2011 to 2012 winter season. At its maximum, reached in mid-March, sea ice covered 5.88 million square miles (15.24 million square kilometers), the ninth lowest in the satellite record. Yet Alaskan waters were choked with ice. Sea ice cover in the Bering Sea was well above normal for much of the season, and reached a record-high extent in March 2012. In addition, ice surrounded the Pribilof Islands, tiny volcanic islands in the middle of the Bering Sea, for a record number of days this winter. On May 3, ice had surrounded St. Paul Island for 103 days, up from the record of 100 days, set in 2010. The record ice numbers were fueled by two main factors: low temperatures and strong winds from the north. Persistent winds pushed ice from the Arctic Ocean down toward the Bering Strait, which acted as a temporary dam, trapping the sea ice in a bottleneck. The sea ice continued to pile up, and the icy barrier eventually collapsed, allowing the trapped ice to surge southward into the Bering Sea. Alaska's mainland spent this last winter in the grip of bone-chilling low temperatures and record-high snowfalls, the result of cyclical climate conditions that kept much of the lower 48 states at record high temperatures, while plunging Alaska into a deep freeze that helped keep the ice frozen.
Posted 7 May 2012; 5:17:02 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters, 23 April 2012) -- A soccer ball that bobbed onto the shore of a remote Alaska island is likely the first salvageable debris from last year's Japanese tsunami that could be returned to its owner, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The ball, found on Alaska's Middleton Island, bears writing that identifies its place of origin, said Doug Helton, operations coordinator for NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration, which is tracking debris from the tsunami. According to a translation provided by Tokyo-based journalists, the ball is from the Osabe School in the Iwate Prefecture, an area that was hit by the devastating tidal wave unleashed March 11 by the magnitude 9 earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast, Helton said Sunday. Beachcombers and cleanup workers in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have found debris, including sports equipment, that was likely set adrift by the tsunami, Helton said. But this soccer ball stood out because it had identifying information. The ball was found by David Baxter, a technician at a radar station on Middleton Island, a remote site in the Gulf of Alaska.
Posted 24 April 2012; 11:12:53 AM. Permalink
(Lisa Demer/Anchorage Daily News, 16 April 2012) -- Her father was a Point Hope whaling captain. Her mother taught her how to butcher the bowhead and care for the meat. The family depended on the sea and land for so much. Caroline Cannon's lifelong connection to the Arctic Ocean pushed her to become one of the state's most vocal opponents of offshore oil drilling. Now, just as Shell Oil is poised to drill exploration wells off Alaska's northern coast, her advocacy has won her a coveted environmental award. Cannon, an Inupiat mother of nine and grandmother of 26, is one of this year's winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize, described as the world's biggest for grassroots environmentalists. Cannon and the other five winners from around the world were officially announced Monday. Each will receive $150,000. Cannon is the former president of the Native Village of Point Hope, the tribal council that has been involved in a number of lawsuits aimed at stopping oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic. She lost her spot on the village council in a close election last year but expects to get back on soon. Point Hope, a village of about 700 people, is 330 miles southwest of Barrow on a gravel spit that forms the western-most extension of the northwest Alaska coast. The village is one of the oldest continuously occupied Inupiat areas in Alaska, according to the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs. Cannon has spoken up against offshore drilling countless times. At a national tribal summit with President Barack Obama in 2009, she told him "we are not prepared for this." She has sat down with environmental leaders and with Shell. She's traded barbs with Pete Slaiby, Shell's vice president for Alaska operations, and didn't quiet down after he corrected some of her assertions in a letter to the editor. "When you have something you feel strongly about, there's no turning that light off," Cannon said in an interview. "Meaning it's stronger than me."
Posted 16 April 2012; 10:11:57 AM. Permalink
(Eric Christopher Adams/Alaska Dispatch, 7 April 2012) -- An epic winter in Anchorage, became an historic one Saturday afternoon. With several inches of new snowfall, according to the National Weather Service, the city officially broke the all-time record of 132.6 inches of snow. That record snowfall came in the winter of 1954-55, before Alaska was even a state. As of 4 p.m., 133.6 inches of snow had fallen on Anchorage during the winter of 2011-12. Snow continued to fall into the evening. And while some celebrated, others lamented the unending snow. Some places in the South Anchorage Hillside neighborhood, which has a significantly higher elevation than the city proper, have recorded upwards of 200 inches of snow this winter. All that snow has caused thousands of dollars in home and commercial property damage. It became fodder for the city's mayoral election. It prompted fights and lawsuits between neighbors over snowberms. It left city "snow dumps" bulging beyond capacity while running up millions of dollars of street-clearing and other fees for city government. ... A meteorologist with Accuweather, a company providing weather data for news and TV stations across the country, recently warned that those sorts of temperatures would likely be the norm for Alaska this spring. April and May look to be chilly, wet months for Anchorage and much of Alaska, said Jack Boston of Accuweather. A weather phenomenon known as Arctic Oscillation has, in layman's terms, left a stubborn "dome" of cold air stuck over the 49th state that's blocking warm air from the Pacific Ocean from moving through. In other words, Anchorage might not just break the all-time snow record. With potential for another three or four weeks of damp weather hovering near freezing temperatures, this winter could be a once-in-a-lifetime snow season.
Posted 9 April 2012; 10:11:46 PM. Permalink
(U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release, 6 April 2012) -- ANCHORAGE — In the past two weeks, 9 polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea region near Barrow were observed with alopecia, or loss of fur, and other skin lesions. The animals were otherwise healthy in appearance and behavior. The cause and significance of the observed lesions are unknown. Alopecia has been reported in both wild and captive animals in the past. U.S. Geological Survey scientists have collected blood and tissues samples from afflicted polar bears to investigate the cause of the symptoms and determine whether there is any relationship between the symptoms observed in polar bears and those reported for arctic pinnipeds from the same geographical region earlier this year. Research scientists with the USGS made the observations at the start of their 2012 field-work season. USGS observes polar bears annually in the southern Beaufort Sea region as part of a long-term research program. This bear population ranges from Barrow in Alaska east to the Tuktoyuktuk region of Canada. Observations last summer of unusual numbers of ringed seals hauled out on beaches along the Arctic coast of Alaska, and later on, of dead and dying seals with hair loss and skin sores, led to declaration of an Unusual Mortality Event by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on December 20, 2011. Based on observations of Pacific walruses with similar skin lesions at a coastal haulout in the same region during fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the UME investigation. Most walruses exhibiting skin lesions appeared to be otherwise healthy, and whether the symptoms observed in the seals and walruses are related is unknown. Since the initial reports from northern Alaska, ice seals with similar symptoms have also been reported in adjacent regions of Canada and Russia and from the Bering Strait region. Despite extensive testing for a wide variety of well known infectious agents, the cause(s) of the observed condition in walruses and ice seals remains unknown. Advanced testing techniques for unidentified infectious agents is continuing as well as further testing for potential causes including man-made and natural biotoxins, radiation, contaminants, auto-immune diseases, nutritional, hormonal and environmental factors.
Posted 6 April 2012; 11:11:05 PM. Permalink
(Mark Thiessen/Bloomberg Businessweek, 29 March 2012) -- The measure of how challenging it can be to live in Nome, Alaska, starts with a dollar sign. There are plentiful, painful reminders all over this Bering Sea coastal community. At the grocery store, it's $39.25 for a 12-roll package of paper towels. Toilet paper costs $37.85 for a 36-roll package. Want a 2-liter of Diet Pepsi? It's on sale this week for $4.49. At a restaurant, breakfast for one will run about $16. And the price for a gallon of gas is well above the national average, at $5.96 a gallon. If there's any good news for the 3,500 residents of Nome, it's that gas is cheap compared to what it could have been. One of the two main fuel suppliers for Nome didn't have the last barge arrive before the Bering Sea froze for the winter. Bonanza Fuel considered flying in fuel from Anchorage, but the cost would have made gas prices jump to $9 or $10 a gallon. Instead, Bonanza arranged for a Russian tanker to make a 5,000-mile journey, and with the help of a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, it made the first-ever winter delivery by sea to Nome when it brought in 1.3 million gallons in early January. The painstaking delivery played out as a worldwide media drama. When the Coast Guard vessel Healy and the Russian tanker Renda sailed off, everyone waited to see where Bonanza would set the price of their fuel, fearful that Bonanza's parent company, Sitnasuak Native Corp., would pass on the costs. Sitnasauk CEO Jason Evans wouldn't disclose how much the international effort cost (they filed a $1.5 million lawsuit against the company that didn't deliver before the freeze, and have been countersued), but said market pressures dictated $5.96 a gallon, two cents below its competitor. "It could have been a lot worse," Mayor Denise Michels said from her City Hall office, located on the site where Wyatt Earp -- he of Gunfight-at-the-OK-Corral fame -- owned a bar during Nome's heady gold rush days. For the hardy residents of Nome, high prices are just a way of life.
Posted 2 April 2012; 3:53:54 PM. Permalink
(J. Pennelope Goforth/Alaska Dispatch, 1 April 2012) -- Ask any Alaskan if they have heard of the Manhattan and you’re likely to get a blank stare. Granted, it was more than 40 years ago -- but the voyage of the leviathan oil tanker Manhattan through the Northwest Passage in 1969 launched the American rush to Arctic resources. Now, a new book by Ross Coen, Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil: The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan Through the Northwest Passage, tells the story of the ship. As the biography of an extraordinary vessel, the basic story is riveting enough: massive ship built as a fluke gains worldwide attention and becomes famous. Coen takes it further, placing the Manhattan at the nexus of global oil industry competitiveness and then weaving in the age-old question of who has the right of passage over the seas. Even before her bow crushed any ice, she spun the compass on conventional ways of thinking about the technology of moving millions of barrels of crude oil while accommodating nascent ideas of environmental protection. On the political intrigue front, Coen shows how the course of the ship’s trip through the waters of the Canadian Archipelago challenged the world’s notions of the sovereignty of the fabled Northwest Passage itself. These issues still persist today. The discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay not long before the Manhattan's journey cranked up the engines of the oil industry as they puzzled out how to get millions of barrels of crude oil from the frozen north to thirsty world markets. In a completely breathtaking move, Humble Oil & Refining Co. grabbed the helm, launching the Arctic Tanker Test. Their intent was to test a model of safely and profitably shipping oil through the ice fields, a feat no other industry rival had attempted. They boldly re-forged an obscure giant cargo ship into a mammoth ice-breaking oil tanker. Coen explains this marvel of modern science with exacting detail describing hull sensors, TV cameras and a wealth of technological breakthroughs.
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:51:38 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Dispatch, 1 April 2012) -- Hundreds of doctors, optometrists, dentists and veterinarians will fan out across 16 villages in western Alaska beginning April 9 in a joint military and medical readiness exercise called Operation Arctic Care. This will be the 18th year of the program coordinated by the Norton Sound Health Corporation. “The medical care provided by the doctors and nurses is usually unavailable in the villages,” Pattie Lillie of the Norton Sound Health Corporation said in a press release. “Health aides and mid-level providers see patients in the village and treat to the degree they can, and anything beyond their scope is referred to Nome or Anchorage. Having a doctor on site for even four or five days can make a difference.” Some 250 government and military medical professionals will fan out from Nome to smaller villages. Most are only accessible by air, so the Alaska National Guard will use an array of aircraft to ferry the medical workers and supplies in and out. Among them: UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; C-23 Sherpas, a small military transport plane; C-17 Globemasters, a four-engine military transport plane able to carry large equipment; and C-130 Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft. “The military gets an opportunity to conduct deployment training in a non-threatening environment,” Lt. Col. Sharolyn Lange, task force medical commander, said in a press release. “And we have the opportunity to assist underserved citizens living in rural Alaska.”
Posted 2 April 2012; 2:12:00 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Native News, 29 March 2012) -- The Alaska House yesterday acted to help the state better prepare and position itself for growing Arctic activity and policy, passing a resolution forwarded by the House Finance Committee to create the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission. The idea comes from a recommendation by the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force, which met over the past two years to examine how the state can work with stakeholders, other governments and interested parties to protect the state's Arctic interests.
Posted 30 March 2012; 4:29:11 PM. Permalink
(Ben Anderson/Alaska Dispatch, 23 March 2012) -- Sitting in a room listening to a lecture doesn’t sound like a good time for a lot of people. But the TED -- that’s short for Technology, Entertainment and Design -- lecture series has made a name for itself by providing riveting discussions on cutting edge science, technology, aesthetics and ethics and has attracted big personalities like filmmaker James Cameron and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Anchorage is home to its own TED series, one of many offshoots of the main program known as TEDx, signifying an independently organized, usually local event capturing the spirit of the larger TED series. On Saturday, the third-annual TEDx Anchorage event will take place with a full day of free lectures from a variety of Alaskans looking for ways to make the 49th state a better place. The event this year is being held in the Wilda Marston Theater at Anchorage’s Loussac Library, and much of the time and logistics have been donated by willing volunteers. Speakers have been nominated and then voted on by committee to find a variety of subjects and voices, all of which fall under the broad theme of “Finding our Voices.” According to event coordinator Carolyn Kinneen, there’s been more interest in this year’s event than in year’s past, especially at the event’s Facebook and Twitter pages. “When I put out the call on Twitter and Facebook for potential speakers, people responded, and a lot of our speakers eventually came from folks in the community who talked to me about them,” Kinneen said. “Multiple people proposed each one of (the eventual speakers).” Once a speaker has been nominated, a committee votes on each, eventually whittling the field down. There will be 19 speakers this year, giving talks of about 15 minutes apiece, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with periodic breaks. The event is free, so audience members are permitted to wander in and out depending on which speeches pique their interest.
Posted 25 March 2012; 5:03:56 PM. Permalink
(Bill Bowen/Dallas News, 20 March 2012) -- What do you do when your name becomes linked with one of the most horrific environmental disasters in American history – and no one wants you around anymore? In the case of the Exxon Valdez, arguably the most famous ship of modern times, you move and you change your name. Twenty-three years after the oil supertanker became synonymous with what its Irving-based owner at the time calls "one of the lowest points in ExxonMobil's 125-year history," the ship is slated for the scrap heap. After six name changes and several ownership shuffles – and a 2010 collision in the South China Sea - the ship has been sold as scrap for $16 million and was under her own power Tuesday afternoon to Singapore and a coming date with one of the several "ship breakers" along the shores of the Indian Ocean. That will mark the end of the most well-known ship afloat. The Valdez, (pronounced val-deez) was only 3 years old when it ran aground in Alaska's Prince William Sound on March 24, 1989, spilling at least 11 million gallons of crude into the fragile ecosystem of the bay, killing tens of thousands of seabirds and other marine life and damaging 700 miles of coastline. "It was a tragic accident and one we deeply regret," Alan Jeffers, an ExxonMobil spokesman said on Tuesday. The disaster cost ExxonMobil, more than $4 billion in cleanup costs, civil settlements and damages and incalculable harm to its reputation. ... The disaster in Prince William Sound caused Exxon Mobil to re-examine its operating practices. "As a result of the accident we took a number of reforms and adopted a system that is now industry-leading for environmental and safety performance," ExxonMobil's Jeffers said Tuesday, citing the company's maritime safety record since. "That is really the result of an effort that came out of the Valdez accident." The company is now building two double-hulled tankers at the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard for delivery in 2014. They are smaller than the Exxon Valdez and will replace two others in the SeaRiver Maritime Fleet.
Posted 21 March 2012; 10:48:33 AM. Permalink
(Alexandra Gutierrez/KUCB - Unalaska, APR, 16 March 2012) -- The state legislature is making progress toward establishing an Arctic policy commission. At a hearing of the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, Rep. Reggie Joule explained that even though Alaska is the country’s only Arctic state, it’s often left out of conversations about federal policy concerning the region. He thinks that having a body responsible for developing an Arctic strategy would give the state more credibility with regulators in Washington. “When we went and addressed the State Department, the Department of the Interior, it is amazing what people do not know about our state that should be basic,” said Joule. “And they get to make budget decisions. And I think it’s imperative that the legislature stay involved in this process.” The idea for the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission came out of the Northern Waters Task Force, a state body that had a similar mission but was only meant to exist for two years. If established, the Alaska Arctic Policy Commission would pick up where the task force left off. It would also be expanded to include representatives from industry, academia, conservation groups, and the state’s tribes.
Posted 18 March 2012; 1:16:54 AM. Permalink
(U.S. Department of the Interior press release via PennEnergy, 17 February 2012) -- Building on the Obama Administration’s record of taking steps to expand safe and responsible development of our nation’s oil and gas resources, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the next steps toward energy exploration activities in shallow waters in the Arctic during a limited period this summer. Today’s announcement is informed by the latest science, and continues to be guided by important new safety standards as well as lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Those steps include: today’s approval by DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) of Shell Gulf of Mexico, Inc.’s (Shell) Oil Spill Response Plan (OSRP) for the Chukchi Sea; coordinated exercises and emergency response planning by U.S. agencies in the Arctic; expanded scientific work, information collection and data sharing among agencies, industry, and research institutions to inform Arctic planning; and undertaking long-term, landscape-scale planning for the Arctic. These steps are the latest in a series of initiatives in line with President Obama’s commitment to an all-of-the-above energy approach, which includes a focus on the safe and responsible production of homegrown oil and natural gas resources by American workers.
Posted 20 February 2012; 4:23:01 PM. Permalink
(Wall Street Journal, 16 February 2012) -- ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A film opens Friday about two Eskimo teenagers from Barrow, Alaska, who try to cover up a tragic killing brought on by a drug-fueled fight during a seal hunt. On the Ice was filmed in Barrow in 2010 with novice Inupiat actors. It was an entry at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and has won several awards at other venues, including best first feature at the Berlin film festival. On the Ice will make its theatrical premiere Friday in New York and the Alaska cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, then expand to other cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco. The film is the work of New York-based director and screenwriter Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, who is part Inupiat and spent much of his youth in Barrow.
Posted 16 February 2012; 4:12:36 PM. Permalink
(Michelle Theriault Boots/Anchorage Daily News, 14 February 2012) -- With more than 100 inches [2.54 m] on the ground and more falling, Anchorage is running out of places to dump its snow. According to Marcel Warmilee, who owns a business hauling snow from condominium properties and business properties, six of the seven private dump sites he usually uses are full. The seventh is getting close. "You go to a condo, you pick up some snow and take it down (to a private snow disposal site) and realize the dump is closed," said Warmilee of Arctic Green LLC. "And maybe you have five or six dump trucks full of snow you don't know what to do with." In an unusual move, the city is responding by proposing an ordinance, scheduled to be introduced to the Assembly Tuesday, to streamline the permitting process so new temporary sites can quickly open. The idea is to create a "speedy permit process that might allow a few more sites to open if necessary," said municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler. New sites "are needed to keep driving on city and state roads, parking on private properties ... and other activities from becoming unduly problematic or even dangerous" to the general public, according to the text of the proposed ordinance. Part of the problem is huge amounts of snow, Wheeler said. Another problem is scarcity: As the city has grown, the number of vacant lots available for snow dumping has diminished. The city's own snow disposal sites for use by road crews are doing fine, says Alan Czajkowski, the head of the municipality's maintenance and operations department. "They're getting full but we still have plenty of capacity," Czajkowski said. "Unless we get a ton more snow we should be fine to the end of the year." It would take 30 to 40 inches [76 to 101 cm] more for the city-owned dumps to reach capacity, he said.
Posted 14 February 2012; 10:47:03 AM. Permalink
(Alaska Volcano Observatory via Alaska Dispatch, 11 February 2012) -- Alaska's Cleveland volcano keeps grumbling away, with a lava dome continuing to grow, and the alert level remaining at "watch," according to the Alaska Volcano Observatory. A status update on Saturday said that the volcano continued to show activity, but that no elevated temperatures or ash emissions were evident from satellite imagery. Cleveland, about 45 miles from the nearest community of Nikolski, was raised to "watch" status on Jan. 31. At that time, the lava dome was observed at a diameter of about 130 feet. "The current lava dome is estimated to be 50 meters across and occupies only a small portion of the approximately 200 meter (650 foot) diameter summit crater," the update from the AVO said. "There have been no observations of ash emissions or explosive activity during this current lava eruption. The previous lava dome that formed throughout the fall-winter of 2011 was largely removed by the explosive activity on the 25th and 29th of December, 2011." That eruption spewed an ash cloud about 15,000 feet into the air. The mountain has no real-time monitoring, allowing for updates only when satellite imagery is available.
Posted 13 February 2012; 10:46:28 AM. Permalink
(Suzanna Caldwell/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 11 February 2012) -- DAWSON CITY, Yukon - There are a lot of problems that can befall trail markers — treacherous conditions, dangerous overflow, deep snow and trails littered with fallen brush. But an unexpected challenge for the Canadian Rangers who broke the Yukon Quest trail in Canada? Wolves stealing trail markers. “Pups, they like playing,” Canadian Ranger trail coordinator John “Mitch” Mitchell said. “Mainly they start chewing on them, showing off.” Rangers hold off on putting in markers until mushers get close to that section of trail. Mitchell said a few years ago Lance Mackey complained about a missing marker at a critical junction that led him into someone's driveway. Mitchell suspects a wolf or fox got hold of the marker. “It's enough to screw up someone's race,” he said. “We can get the trail in, but we can't control the wolves.”
Posted 12 February 2012; 9:35:10 PM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 10 February 2012) -- What's up with this winter? Fresh off the heels of record cold and snow, an Arctic heat wave is melting Alaska’s icebox while producing record warmth. The wild swing follows a recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that contrasts Alaska's frigid January and the Lower 48's mild month. This week, Alaska weather forecasters on Facebook noted the state's suddenly see-sawing temperatures. Few locations have swung as widely as the Interior community of McGrath. On Thursday, the town of 350 set a Feb. 9 record high of 43 degrees, said Michael Lawson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage. Just five days earlier, McGrath's temperature was 85 degrees lower, when the mercury dipped to minus-42. It was even colder during some January days, said Phil Graham, acting city clerk. The weather service says on Jan. 28 the low was minus-54. That's a 97-degree swing in a dozen days. "Anybody who's been here a while said no one has seen anything like it before," Graham said. The change is welcome in McGrath. Residents weren't wearing shorts on Thursday, but "they were walking around with smiles on their faces." Juneau also set a record high of 48 degrees yesterday, beating the old 1968 record by one degree, said Lawson.
Posted 12 February 2012; 9:09:08 PM. Permalink
(Suzanna Caldwell/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 6 February 2012) -- Six mushers have left the Circle checkpoint and are heading up the Yukon River toward Slaven's Cabin. Hugh Neff of Tok is in the lead, followed by Brent Sass, Abbie West, Allen Moore, Sonny Lindner and Jake Berkowitz, according to the Yukon Quest SpotTracker site. Four mushers, Lance Mackey, Kristy Berington, David Dalton and Joar Leifseth Ulsom were reported in Circle this morning. All other mushers were reported out of Central this morning, with the exception of Misha Peterson, who was delayed after one of her dogs got loose on the trail over Eagle Summit. Veteran musher Sebastian Schnuelle, who is reporting on the race from the sidelines, said on the Yukon Quest Facebook page that another musher found the dog and brought it into Central and Peterson should be clear to continue. ... As of 9 p.m. Sunday, 15 mushers had arrived in Central. Most had taken their mandatory four-hour stop at Mile 101 and many were back on the trail, starting on the 75 miles toward Circle.
Posted 6 February 2012; 3:44:52 PM. Permalink
(Alaska Volcano Observatory press release via RedOrbit, 1 February 2012) -- The Alaska Volcano Observatory raised a warning level for a remote Alaskan volcano on Tuesday, indicating a possible eruption. The center elevated the alert status for Cleveland Volcano after a new lava dome was spotted in the summit crater. Officials said the dome was about 130 feet in diameter as of Monday. The volcano is a 5,675-foot peak on an uninhabited island, 940 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska. Authorities say sudden eruptions could occur at any time, and ash clouds 20,000 feet above sea level are possible. The observatory did say that there have been no observations of ash emissions or explosive activity “during this current lava eruption.” Cleveland had one of its first explosive eruptions since 2001 on December 25 and 29 last year, destroying the dome that had grown in the crater over the year. “The volcano’s most recent significant eruption began in February, 2001 and it produced 3 explosive events that produced ash clouds as high as 39,000 feet above sea level,” the observatory said Tuesday. “The 2001 eruption also produced a rubbly lava flow and hot avalanche that reached the sea.” The volcano lies directly below the commercial airline path between North America and Asia, meaning a major eruption could disrupt international air travel. About 90 percent of all air freight from Asia to Europe and North America flies over Alaska air space, and hundreds of flights fly through Anchorage’s air space on a daily basis.
Posted 3 February 2012; 12:56:38 AM. Permalink
(Vladivostok Air press release, 4 January 2012) -- Vladivostok Air is proud to announce the resumption of seasonal service between Anchorage, Alaska, and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Russia, this coming summer. This weekly service will run from July 12 to September 13, 2012, with departures on Thursdays. Flights arrive in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in the morning, allowing for fishermen to get to their rivers the day of arrival and for transit travelers to make connections to other Russian cities. See full details on our Kamchatka page. Commencing late February, 2012, tickets for these flights will go on sale via all major ticketing reservations systems, and may be booked through any quality travel agent. Vladivostok Air is also working with travel partner Kamchatintour in Russia and US travel agents to create exciting travel packages to Kamchatka. Business travel services will also be offered. FAM trips for North American trip operators are also being coordinated. Details will be available soon.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:27:09 PM. Permalink
(Matthew Smith/KNOM - Nome, 23 January 2012 ) -- The tanker Renda and the Coast Guard cutter Healy are 115 miles south-southwest of Nome after beginning their return journey through the ice two days ago. Ice conditions have been easier when compared to their initial trip north, but the ships are not yet halfway: they still have more than 300 miles of ice to go. Kathleen Cole, the Sea Ice Program Leader with the National Weather Service, says the ice has continued to expand in the days since the ships first traveled through it: the ice grew by 60 miles during their weeklong anchor in Nome, and could grow by another 60 to 90 miles over the next ten days. Guiding the Renda through the ice is an experienced Russian captain who says this kind of fuel delivery mission is no big deal in his home country.
Posted 26 January 2012; 6:24:36 PM. Permalink
(Jill Burke/Alaska Dispatch via Eye on the Arctic, 20 January 2012) -- Just before 6 a.m. on Thursday, the last drops of fuel flowed through two hoses stretching 700 yards from ship to shore in Nome, Alaska. It took more than 60 hours of continuous pumping to transfer an estimated 1.3 million gallons of fuel from a Russian fuel tanker to the Alaska fuel buyer's storage tanks. Crews continue working to clear about 7,000 gallons that remains in the hoses. During the day Thursday, crews were also planning to detach the hoses and clear the safety zone that had been established around the ships and begin preparations for a Friday departure back through 395 miles of Bering Sea pack ice, said Stacey Smith, project manager with Vitus Marine, which hired the Renda to bring the fuel to Nome. The U.S. Coast Guard's ice-breaking cutter Healy will break itself and the Renda free of their parking spots outside Nome's harbor. Then, just as it did for the trip to Nome, the Healy will lead the convoy south in search of open water. According to the Coast Guard, the ships are aiming for a Friday "bon voyage!" Renda's crew has been at sea, busting through ice, for nine months. Healy's crew has been under way for eight. After it leaves the Bering Sea ice pack, Healy will return to Seattle, her home port. "I am extremely proud of the way our partners and the marine industry worked as a collaborative team along with the Coast Guard to get the needed fuel to the residents of Nome." Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, Coast Guard District 17 commander, said in a prepared statement Thursday.
Posted 23 January 2012; 10:47:53 PM. Permalink
(Mary Pemberton/Anchorage Daily News, 10 January 2012) -- Shifting ice in the Bering Sea is dramatically slowing a Russian tanker's mission to deliver fuel to the iced-in community of Nome. A Coast Guard spokesman said Monday that an icebreaker and a fuel tanker are encountering "some really dynamic ice" that is slowing the mission and sometimes forcing both vessels to come to a complete stop. But, "As long as we're making progress, we're going to Nome," said Anchorage Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley. A worst case scenario would be that the ice becomes too much for any progress. But Mosley doubts that would be the case since the Coast Guard cutter Healy has the ability to make it all the way to Nome. Jason Evans, chairman of Sitnasuak Native Corp., the company arranging for the fuel delivery by Russian tanker, had no qualms Monday. "I think we are getting to Nome," he said, adding he will be there for the arrival. Nome is in need of diesel and unleaded gasoline after a fall fuel delivery by barge was delayed by a storm that swept western Alaska. By the time the weather had improved, Nome was iced-in and a barge delivery was impossible. ... The Healy, an icebreaker designed to move through ice several feet thick, is leading the 370-foot Renda, a Russian tanker loaded with 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products. The plan was for the two ships to deliver fuel to Nome on Monday, but because of the icy conditions, that arrival date is off. Coast Guard officials are not saying when they expect the vessels to arrive, but it could be later this week. "The dynamics of things make it a pretty intense transit," Cmdr. Greg Tlapa, the executive officer of the Healy, told The Associated Press by satellite phone Monday afternoon as the icebreaker was about 111 miles south-southwest of Nome. ... The ships are in constant communication, with the Healy relaying over VHF radio any speed or propulsion changes and what they are seeing ahead. There's an active duty Coast Guardsman on the Healy who is fluent in Russian, Tlapa said. There's an Alaska marine pilot on board the Renda, and the vessel agent speaks English. "It's slow and steady, but we're making good progress," Tlapa said.
Posted 12 January 2012; 10:15:03 AM. Permalink
ANCHORAGE, Alaska, January 6, 2012 (ENS) - This weekend, on its way to deliver more than a million gallons of emergency fuel to the town of Nome, Alaska, the Russian tanker Renda will move through an area used by wintering spectacled eiders, a federally threatened sea duck. To protect the ducks and their habitat, resource managers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and navigators from the U.S. Coast Guard are using satellite telemetry information from the U.S. Geological Survey to plot a route for the tanker that minimizes its impact. "Protecting America's fish and wildlife resources is a shared responsibility. It is satisfying to see agencies working together to protect threatened and endangered species, while meeting the needs of our communities," said Ellen Lance, the Endangered Species Branch chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Alaska Region. The arctic nesting sea ducks are now wintering south of St. Lawrence Island in the northern Bering Sea, where sea ice and abundant prey make their winter survival possible. But in Nome, a fuel shortage is creating an emergency. Fuel delivery to the town of 3,600, located on the edge of the Bering Sea on the southwest side of the Seward Peninsula, was delayed by what AccuWeather's Vickie Frantz calls the "snowicane" conditions that struck during the first week of November. A fuel barge carrying 1.6 million gallons of fuel was en route to Nome when the storm hit. The barge was delayed and was unable to reach the town before winter sea ice closed in. Nome is now surrounded by foot-thick ice. In early December, the Sitnasuak Native Corporation of Nome signed a contract with the Alaska company Vitus Marine to deliver more than a million gallons of diesel fuel and 400,000 gallons of gasoline to Nome via a double-hulled Ice Classed Russian tanker. The vessel is certified to travel through four feet of ice and recently traveled through five feet of ice for extended distances while delivering fuel to communities in the Russian Far East.
Posted 8 January 2012; 8:00:50 PM. Permalink
(AP via Anchorage Daily News, 7 January 2012) -- A Russian tanker carrying much-needed fuel for iced-in Nome was about 190 miles from its destination late Saturday afternoon and making slow but steady progress, a company official said. The city of about 3,500 people on the northwest Alaska coastline didn't get its last pre-winter fuel delivery because of a massive storm and could run out of crucial supplies before spring without the delivery. The 370-foot tanker was carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel and was being shepherded through hundreds of miles of sea ice by the U.S. Coast Guard's only icebreaker. "They're navigating through ice right now, taking a direct route for now," said Jason Evans, the CEO of Sitnasuak Native Corp., one of the companies undertaking the delivery. "They considered going through patches where there might be thinner ice, but determined that would have taken them on a longer route." Evans estimated the ship traveled another 20 or 30 miles after a Saturday morning report. The ship is scheduled to arrive late Monday or perhaps Tuesday. If the mission is successful, it will be the first time fuel has been delivered by sea to a Western Alaska community in winter. The Russian tanker came upon ice about a foot thick very early Friday near Nunivak Island in the eastern Bering Sea, the Coast Guard said. The tanker is following the Healy, the Coast Guard's only functioning icebreaker -- a ship of special design with a reinforced hull made to move through ice. "It's going basically as planned," Evans said.
Posted 8 January 2012; 2:01:53 PM. Permalink
(Alison Weisburger/The Arctic Institute Center for Circumpolar Policy Studies, 6 January 2012) -- Anyone following Alaskan news in the past few weeks has undoubtedly heard about the saga of the Russian fuel tanker Renda and its journey to deliver fuel to ice-bound Nome. For those who are not up to date on the story, it began back in November when a massive storm prevented Nome from receiving its last barge delivery of home heating fuel, diesel and gasoline for the winter. By the time the weather calmed down, Nome was already iced-in and it was confirmed that there would be no final fall delivery. At that time, it looked certain that the community would run out of fuel in the spring. The only proven method to deliver fuel to Western Alaska in the winter is with aircraft hauling the fuel one airplane load at a time, consuming a vast amount of time and money. In response to the impending crisis, Sitnasuak Native Corporation, the native village corporation of Nome, was able to negotiate a deal with Vitus Marine LLC, an Alaskan-based shipping company, to secure the double hulled Russian tanker Renda to pick up and deliver the fuel. This will be the first-ever winter fuel delivery from the water in Western Alaska. The tanker will be accompanied by a U.S. Coast Guard’s icebreaker, the Healy. After traveling around 250 miles a day from a diesel fuel pickup in South Korea, then stopping in Dutch Harbor, Alaska to collect gasoline, the Renda is now on its way to Nome with the cutter Healy. Although the fuel delivery mission is not yet complete, there are already several lessons to take away from this incident about the realities of the Arctic environment, the necessity for advanced Arctic shipping capabilities, and the importance of multi-level cooperation. First, the storm in November that prevented a routine barge delivery to Nome serves as a reminder that the Arctic environment continues to be not only harsh, but also extremely volatile. ... First, the storm in November that prevented a routine barge delivery to Nome serves as a reminder that the Arctic environment continues to be not only harsh, but also extremely volatile. ... Perhaps the most important lesson from this story, although subtle, is the successful cooperation that occurred between private and public entities, internationally, and intergovernmentally, that enabled the mission to go forward. ... If the Renda reaches Nome and delivers the fuel successfully, as is planned by late Sunday or early Monday, it will be a cause for celebration. Not only is this delivery critical for the community of Nome, but it also marks an historic accomplishment of winter shipping in Alaska. However, it should also serve as a time of reflection on the lessons that can be taken away from the mission and a reminder of what factors need to be taken into consideration in the future as activities in the Arctic region intensify.
Posted 8 January 2012; 1:33:36 PM. Permalink
(Laine Welch/Anchorage Daily News, 7 January 2012) -- The Bering Sea snow crab fishery is picking up earlier than usual as the fleet scrambles to pull up the catch before encroaching sea ice shuts them down. About 25 boats are out so far, soon to be joined by 60 or so more, with a weather forecast calling for frigid weather and high winds.Although the fishery opens by regulation Oct. 15, most crabbers usually wait until mid-January to begin dropping pots. The snow crab catch quota was boosted 64 percent this season to nearly 80 million pounds. Boats left the dock without settling on a price, and the increased supply is depressing the market. "The problem we have in the snow crab market is that before the catch share program began in 2005, the fishery started on the 15th of January, so that is when the market formed, and negotiations were typically done about a week before. Although the fishery has been starting earlier and earlier, negotiations are still taking place at the traditional time period. "There's negotiations taking place between the packers and the Japanese and domestic buyers as we speak," said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange, which represents a majority of the crab fleet. There also is quite a bit of Canadian snow crab in freezers that buyers are trying to sell before that fishery begins in April. Jacobsen said it all adds up to lower crab prices.
Posted 8 January 2012; 12:40:20 PM. Permalink
(Mary Pemberton/Anchorage Daily News, 1 January 2012) -- A Russian tanker's mission to deliver petroleum products to an iced-in Alaska city cleared a large hurdle when a waiver was granted allowing the loading of hundreds of thousands of gallons of gasoline at a port in the Aleutian Islands. The 370-foot tanker is due to arrive in the fishing port of Dutch Harbor at 6 p.m. Monday, the Coast Guard said Sunday. The waiver of the federal Jones Act granted Friday was crucial to the tanker completing its mission of delivering petroleum products to Nome, a city of about 3,500 residents on Alaska's western coastline. A huge storm this fall delayed delivery by barge and by the time the weather had improved Nome was iced-in. There are a variety of petroleum products on hand in Nome, but it doesn't have enough gasoline and diesel fuel to last until spring. The
Posted 2 January 2012; 1:16:03 PM. Permalink
(Hannah Heimbuch/The Arctic Sounder, 29 December 2011) -- Alaska's mushing community can add a new race to their to-do lists in the coming year, as the Norton Sound Sled Dog Club ushers in the Paul Johnson Memorial - Norton Sound 450. The race begins in Unalakleet on the morning of Feb 8 and finishes a few days later in Nome. Race organizers, like Middy Johnson of Unalakleet, are working on making the race a qualifier for the Iditarod, which kicks off from Anchorage a month later on March 3. "It'll give us something to add to our region during that time when you're just coming out of the dead of winter, and give people something to look forward to," Johnson said. The race is dedicated to the memory of beloved Alaska musher and Unalakleet resident Paul Johnson – Middy Johnson's brother – who died unexpectedly in October from surgery complications. Paul Johnson was a lifelong member of the Norton Sound Dog Sled Club and had planned to run the 2012 Iditarod. The club wanted to establish a major qualifying race in the Norton Sound region that is accessible to local mushers – both financially and geographically. Aaron Burmeister, a veteran of 12 Iditarod races, splits his time between Nenana and Nome. He is one of a number of mushers already planning to hit the trail for both the Paul Johnson Memorial race and the 2012 Iditarod. "I think it's fantastic. It's a great way to promote the sport on the coast and get the community and villages back involved with it," Burmeister said. "(It) will be a big benefit to the rural mushers in that area that have goals of running the Iditarod. It's so expensive for mushers in the Bush to travel out to races to get qualified." Burmeister also pointed out that because the race covers nearly a third of the Iditarod trail, it is excellent training ground for any musher serious about Alaska's longest sled dog race.
Posted 30 December 2011; 6:05:25 PM. Permalink
(Alex de Marban/Alaska Dispatch, 20 December 2011) -- A federal agency said Tuesday that tests indicate a virus did not cause the deaths or illnesses of more than 100 Arctic Alaska ringed seals found with skin sores, ulcers on internal organs, patchy hair loss and other symptoms. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists announced via press release that despite numerous tests, it still does not know what's causing the illness. Deaths in the Arctic and Bering Strait region of Alaska have been declared an unusual mortality event, a status that provides additional resources to investigate the cause, including access to more expertise and a contingency fund, the agency said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering making a similar declaration for Pacific walrus in Alaska. "Since mid-July, more than 60 dead and 75 diseased seals, most of them ringed seals, have been reported in Alaska, with reports continuing to come in," the NOAA press release said. "During their fall survey, scientists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also identified diseased and dead walruses at the annual mass haul-out at Point Lay (in Northwest Alaska)." The disease has caused skin ulcers that usually appear on the animals' hind flippers or face. Some of the sick animals have had difficulty breathing and appear lethargic. Also, some necropsies have revealed "fluid in the lungs, white spots on the liver, and abnormal brain growths." Scientists suspect that those internal wounds may be caused by bacteria entering the animals' bodies through the ulcers, said Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist and working group member of the Provincial Veterinary Diagnostic Lab in British Columbia. Testing continues for causes related to "immune system-related diseases, fungi, man-made and bio-toxins, radiation exposure, contaminants, and stressors related to sea ice change," the agency reported.
Posted 21 December 2011; 2:26:13 PM. Permalink
(Lisa Demer/Anchorage Daily News, 6 December 2011) -- A longtime Shell contractor has nearly completed a massive, customized icebreaking ship for the company's drilling projects in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. The icebreaker is part of a specialized fleet Shell hopes to deploy for exploration drilling next summer, if it can clear all the legal and regulatory hurdles. Named the Aiviq, the Eskimo word for walrus, the $200 million, 360-foot steel vessel's main job will be to move anchor lines that will attach drilling rigs to the sea floor in the shallow Arctic. But it's also on standby in case of an oil spill -- it could recover about 10,000 barrels of spilled crude. The ship was designed to cut through ice a meter thick and likely will be able to move through thicker ice, its builder says. It can operate at minus 58 degrees. Shell points to the ship as evidence that it's serious about drilling in -- and protecting -- the fragile Arctic. Edison Chouest Offshore is building the ship at its Larose shipyard, North American Shipbuilding.
Posted 17 December 2011; 7:05:11 PM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 5 December 2011) -- A Native corporation's decision Monday to ask a Russian icebreaker to deliver an emergency shipment of fuel added an exclamation point to Alaska demands that the U.S. Coast Guard boost its Arctic presence as climate change opens ice-locked regions to development. "This is an example where we have to increase our icebreaking capability and have the ability to receive fuel in these ports, because we're going to have a lot more activity up north," said Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska. The Coast Guard has reported an increase in vessel traffic through the Bering Strait and expects more as tourism, Arctic shipping and petroleum development ramp up in coming years. The Renda, a 371-foot double-hulled vessel that recently muscled through five-foot thick ice, was the only ship the Sitnasuak Native corporation could find to break through Nome’s sea ice and deliver 1.5 million gallons of fuel to the town of 3,600, said Jason Evans, Sitnasuak chairman. The unusual fuel delivery, apparently unprecedented in Western Alaska, arose because sea ice around Nome recently prevented a fuel barge operated by an Alaska company from delivering the fuel. ... ...only the privately owned Renda, one of eight marine tankers in Russia that can punch through thick sea ice, said Evans. He couldn't find similar ships in the U.S. There are none in the North Pacific or Arctic seas, though they do exist in the Great Lakes, said Mikhail Sheshtakov, supply and logistics manager for Vitus Marine. Evans said his company's search highlighted the nation's limits in the high Arctic. "We're definitely behind in terms of how many vessels we have and their abilities, and it's something we might want to look at with proposed offshore oil and gas development and new vessel routes opening in the Arctic," said Evans. "The Russians have known this is coming and have developed Arctic shipping expertise. The U.S. should also."
Posted 8 December 2011; 4:18:58 PM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 30 November 2011) -- The coming decades will thaw a growing expanse of permafrost in Alaska and across the Arctic. What will that mean? Any Alaskan who’s spent time in trekking over summer tundra knows part of the answer -- a ripe-smelling slurry of boot-sucking muck will deepen and liquefy. It will smell rotten in the summer sun, and for good reason. The sudden decay of organic matter deposited over centuries has the potential to dribble vast quantities of carbon dioxide and the super greenhouse gas methane into the air, boosting climate change and contributing to warmer temperatures throughout the region. But no one has ever been sure how much of the region’s stored carbon will be spewed as this process unfolds. Now, 41 permafrost specialists have taken a new stab at adding up the potential of this pending Arctic belch, and it’s much worse than anyone thought. The thawing of permafrost over the century will dump up to five times more carbon into the air than some previous estimates -- warming the Arctic by at least 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, according to a survey of international scientists working together as the Permafrost Carbon Network. Under the worst-case scenario, the scientists predicted that the Arctic region could heat up even faster, with increases in the average annual temperature of 4.5 degrees by 2040 and 13.5 degrees by 2100.
Posted 30 November 2011; 11:31:20 AM. Permalink
(Phil Taylor/Environment and Energy Publishing, 22 November 2011) -- First comes the abbreviation. Then comes the drilling. That's the fear of environmental groups fighting to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas drilling and the reason they are quietly waging a battle over how the 19-million-acre area is branded to the public. As the House moves closer to passing a bill that would open a portion of the refuge's coastal plain to drilling, environmentalists and their Democratic allies warn the term "ANWR" fails to convey a place rich in wildlife, cultural values and wilderness. "ANWR" -- pronounced ANN-warr -- connotes a landscape of mineral wealth ripe for development, some refuge advocates argue. Groups also oppose calling the refuge's 1.6-million-acre coastal plain the "1002 area," a nickname that came from Section 10, Paragraph 2 of the 1980 bill that named the refuge and drew its modern boundaries. "It's the bane of my existence," said Emilie Surrusco, communications director for the Alaska Wilderness League, a Washington, D.C.-based group that is fighting plans to drill in the refuge and offshore in the Arctic Ocean. ... An aide to Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has sponsored a bill to designate the coastal plain as wilderness, corrects reporters who use the acronym over the phone. Conservationists, too, have excused themselves when accidentally using the term in front of like-minded peers. Even lawmakers who oppose drilling in the refuge continue to sometimes call it by its acronym, said Cindy Shogan, executive director at the wilderness league. "We've definitely failed in convincing members to not call it ANWR," she said. "ANWR is what the oil industry wants you to think of it." ... Doug Brinkley, a historian from Rice University, also accused the oil lobby Friday of using the acronym to win public support for drilling. "Do you want to drill ANWR? Yes," he told the House Natural Resources Committee at a hearing titled "ANWR: Jobs, Energy and Deficit Reduction." "Do you want to molest [President] Eisenhower's great wildlife reserve? No." But while major oil companies did lobby on ANWR in the 1990s, companies began pulling out of the debate at least 10 years ago when the issue started becoming politically caustic, said Adrian Herrera, who manages Arctic Power, an Anchorage-based lobbying firm with a Washington office funded primarily by the state of Alaska.
Posted 24 November 2011; 1:34:15 PM. Permalink
(Jill Burke/Alaska Dispatch via Eye on the Arctic, 14 November 2011) -- The jet stream feeding the wintery sea-spun tempest that sideswiped Alaska's western coast wasn't the only worldwide conveyer belt in motion this week. As howling winds whipped up and crashing waves pounded beaches, the people who live in the remote, isolated villages along the storm's path stayed connected via a web of global radio frequencies. When other communications failed, ham radio operators came to the rescue. Throughout the storm, they were the eyes for scientists in Fairbanks and Anchorage who otherwise would have been blind to weather conditions they could predict but not see. "They were providing critical observations. We don't have a lot of meteorological observations in the west. We don't have the instruments out there," Carven Scott, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said Thursday as messages sent via the amateur radio network zapped into his inbox. The messages were deceptively simple: how fast the wind was blowing and from what direction; sea level; wave height; whether it was snowing or raining; and the temperature. These seemingly small details from various villages made a big difference for the weather service -- enough so, Scott said, that a lead forecaster told him, "Whatever you do, don't cut it off because this stuff is really helping us."
Posted 14 November 2011; 1:55:26 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Alaska Dispatch, 8 November 2011) -- When paleontologist Tony Fiorillo made one of the most stunning dinosaur discoveries in Alaska, a NOVA television crew was there to capture the moment. But it now turns out that the skull he unearthed in front of the cameras in 2006, a highlight of the 2008 NOVA documentary “Arctic Dinosaurs,” was more significant than previously thought. The skull and associated bones from a steep bank of the Colville River in Alaska's Arctic are from a species of horned dinosaur that has not been documented anywhere else. Years of research by Fiorillo, curator of the Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, and painstaking reconstruction by Ronald Tykoski, the museum’s chief fossil preparator, confirmed that this was a type of pachyrhinosaurus -- a relative of triceratops -- that had not been found anywhere else. “Obviously, it’s a tremendous thrill to have that level of photo-documentation at the moment of discovery. And this enhances it. This is the wildest dream possible,” he said. They have named the dinosaur species Pachyrhinosaurs perotorum, in honor of former presidential candidate Ross Perot and his family, major benefactors of the Dallas museum. Fiorillo and Tykoski detailed their findings in a scientific journal, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, and over the weekend in Las Vegas at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting.
Posted 11 November 2011; 11:29:09 PM. Permalink
(Jill Burke/Alaska Dispatch, 4 November 2011) -- As winter begins to settle in, a few villages in Alaska remain without the fuel they will need to heat and power homes and businesses during the state’s harsh months ahead. Many of the state's remote communities are accessible only by boat or plane. Once bays and coastlines freeze up, or rivers become too low, boats and barges are no longer available as transport options, forcing often cash-strapped communities to pay an even higher price per gallon to have their fuel supplies flown in. Edna Bay, a small, isolated island village in southeast Alaska's Tongass National Forest is one of three communities that, as of Nov. 4, doesn't have the reserves it needs to get through an entire winter, according to Alaska's Division of Community and Regional Affairs, which in July began monitoring community fuel preparedness statewide in advance of the 2011-2012 winter season. The status of five other villages -- Nunam Iqua, Red Devil, Port Alexander, Karluk and Kasigluk -- remains unknown, despite efforts by the division's Fuel Watch program to get in touch with people in those communities to find out whether they are stocked up or need assistance.
Posted 11 November 2011; 10:33:41 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters via Chicago Tribune, 11 November 2011) -- Anchorage, AK - The worst was over on Thursday for an "epic" winter storm that pounded Alaska's west coast with wind and snow and left one man missing after a 10-foot surge of seawater into Nome, officials said. The storm, considered the strongest to hit western Alaska in several decades, has largely moved northwest toward the Russian Arctic, said Don Moore, a National Weather Service meteorologist. A second, smaller Bering Sea storm is now brewing, and will send additional surges into the coastal towns and villages during high tide later in the day, said Moore, who has been working at the state's emergency operations center. The surges will not be as dramatic as those from the first storm but could cause more flooding, he said. "If the water levels were not elevated from the storm that had just passed, this other storm would not be a major issue," he said. "Once this passes off, this is when we'll see conditions start returning to normal." One person was missing in the storm. Authorities in Teller, a small community north of Nome, were searching Thursday for 26-year-old Kyle Komok, said the Alaska State Troopers. Komok was last seen Wednesday evening driving a four-wheel vehicle toward a small local jetty, trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said. At the time, waves eight to 10 feet high were hitting the local seawall, Peters said.
Posted 11 November 2011; 2:24:00 PM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News, 10 November 2011) -- A giant Bering Sea storm with hurricane-force winds roared up the Western Alaska coastline Wednesday, sending waves over storm barriers, knocking out electricity, flooding parts of some villages and leading to evacuations. But as of late Wednesday, officials had heard no reports of injuries nor massive damage.
Posted 10 November 2011; 10:07:04 AM. Permalink
(Kyle Hopkins, Casey Grove and Mike Dunham/Anchorage Daily News, 8 November 2011) -- Villages and towns across Alaska's western and northwest coasts braced Tuesday for a winter megastorm that the National Weather Service says could be among the worst on record. Forecasters warned of life-threatening surf, wind and snow clobbering villages along the Bering and Chukchi sea coasts Tuesday night and today. Some villagers moved to higher ground. Officials in Nome evacuated half of the city's Front Street, the famous finish line of the Iditarod Trail. "These things get named hurricanes down south and get a category. It's that magnitude," said Jeff Osiensky, regional warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service. The storm was expected to hit across hundreds of miles of coastline, with the worst expected from the Yukon River Delta all the way north to the Arctic Coast. The wind was forecast to reach 50 to 75 mph for much of the coast, with gusts of 90 to 100 mph in some areas, according to the Weather Service. A lack of protective, shore-fast sea ice worsened the high-water danger compared to a similarly powerful storm in 1974, forecasters said. Severe shoreline erosion was forecast, as was a storm surge of up to 9 feet that was expected to cause coastal flooding.
Posted 9 November 2011; 12:11:11 AM. Permalink
(William Yardley and Erik Olsen/New York Times, 16 October 2011) -- BARROW, Alaska - The ancient whale hunt here is not so ancient anymore. “Ah, the traditional loader,” one man mumbled irreverently. “Ah, the traditional forklift.” That morning, the first of the annual fall hunt, a crew of Inupiat Eskimos cruising the Arctic Ocean in a small powerboat spotted the whale’s spout, speeded to the animal’s side and killed the whale with an exploding harpoon. By lunchtime, children were tossing rocks at the animal’s blowhole while its limp body swayed in the shore break like so much seaweed. Blood seeped through its baleen as a bulldozer dragged all 28 feet of it across the rocky beach. At one point, one man, not Inupiat, posed beside the whale holding a small fishing rod, pretending for a camera that he had caught it on eight-pound line. Eventually the heavy equipment gets the job done, and the whale is lowered onto the snow — and the shared joy is obvious. Big blades emerge and the carving commences. Steam rises when the innards meet the Arctic cold. Within an hour, nice women are offering strangers boiled muktuk — whale meat. People mingle. “Congratulations,” they tell the family of the crew. ... Here in Barrow, the snowy flats by the beach where the whales are butchered (the snow covers an old runway used by the former Naval Arctic Research Laboratory) are splashed with patches of blood and guts until more snow falls. Some blubber ends up in the trash, no longer prized as fuel for heat and light when a drill rig nearby makes natural gas cheap and easy. The whale hunters know what some people think of all of this, and many are wary when news crews show up with cameras. They know what the animal-rights people will say — and insist they will misunderstand. “We’ll never stop doing this,” Fenton Rexford, a candidate for mayor of the North Slope Borough, the northernmost municipality in the United States, said as he watched the festivities. “No one can stop what our fathers and forefathers have done for thousands of years. But we’re highly adaptable people. We use what tools are available to us to make life easier.”
Posted 26 October 2011; 11:38:25 AM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 18 October 2011) -- A Russian sailing ship -- said to be the world's fastest frigate — has found the leading edge of tsunami debris from the devastating Japanese earthquake in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles southeast of Japan and 2,600 miles southwest of Cook Inlet. And this Alaska-size patch of flotsam appears to be on schedule for its Pacific Northwest debut in 2014. The bizarre sightings of bobbing TV sets, refrigerators, wash basins, boots and at least one small boat from Japan offer the first confirmation of a computer simulation developed to track the trajectory of millions of tons of garbage on its multi-year trip toward the beaches of Hawaii and Alaska. Once snarled on shore or fouled on reefs, this immense litter of plastics, wood, metal and fabric might set in motion a second tragedy — the entanglement and poisoning of North Pacific marine life.
Posted 21 October 2011; 1:28:19 PM. Permalink
(Alex DeMarban/Alaska Dispatch, 13 October 2011) -- A mysterious and potentially widespread disease is thought to have contributed to the deaths of dozens of ringed seals along Alaska's Arctic coast. Scores more are sickened, some so ill that skin lesions bleed when touched. The animals are an important subsistence food for Alaska Native hunters and their families, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed listing them as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act. In July, biologists with the North Slope Borough's Department of Wildlife Management began receiving reports of ringed seals hauled out on beaches, an unusual behavior since the animals usually prefer the water or ice. Since then, they've found at least 100 seals with telltale mangy hair and skin lesions, mostly while traveling by four-wheeler along 30 miles of Beaufort and Chukchi sea coastline outside Barrow. At least 46 of those seals have been found dead, and experts aren't sure if the disease is killing them or if other infections and polar bears are proving fatal once the seals become feeble. "Right now we're leaning toward it being a virus, and that could weaken their immune system," said Jason Herreman, a borough wildlife biologist studying seals and polar bears. The Department of Wildlife Management has never documented a similar outbreak in the North Slope region, Herreman said. Scientists don't know the scope of the problem because since ringed seals are difficult to track and haven't been counted for decades. Hundreds of thousands are thought to live in the region.
Posted 14 October 2011; 11:12:30 AM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News via The News Tribune, 15 September 2011) -- How about some Yup'ik language rock? Maybe you missed the fledging Bethel-based band Frozen Whitefish at the state fair -- and on Discovery's "Flying Wild Alaska. There's still time to catch up on the group's MySpace and Facebook pages before their full-length album hits next year. I asked frontman Mike McIntyre to tell the group's origin story. Here's what he had to say: Frozen Whitefish is a Bethel based Alaskan Native Yupik Rock band formed in 2010 and all lyrics are written in the Yupik Eskimo language. Frontman Mike McIntyre was raised in the small village of Eek and spoke Yupik as his first language before moving to Bethel as a young child. Frozen Whitefish was first a project started by Mike after he returned from a trip to Greenland where he played drums for the Kuskokwim Fiddle Band in the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in 2010. He was inspired by the influence of their Native language in their own music and wanted to do the same here in Alaska. Soon after he started recording his music in his home studio, he got a request from a Native radio station in Washington to send his songs over to a TV producer with the Discovery Channel, which was gathering Native music for the "Flying Wild Alaska" TV show.
Posted 16 September 2011; 1:56:30 PM. Permalink
(Bob Freeman/Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, NNS110816-17, 16 August 2011) -- WASHINGTON - The Navy released an Arctic environmental assessment and outlook Aug. 15 that will be instrumental in developing future strategic plans and investments in a region that is becoming increasingly accessible to exploration and commercial enterprise. "In the past the Arctic was largely inaccessible, but increased seasonal melting of the sea ice is opening the region and creating opportunities for oil and gas exploration, maritime shipping, commercial fishing, and tourism," said Rear Adm. David Titley, director of the Navy's Task Force Climate Change. According to the assessment, the Arctic region is experiencing "increasing air and water temperatures, loss of volume in ice sheets and glaciers, melting of permafrost, and the poleward migration of ecosystems and fishing stocks from warmer regions." "The geography of the Earth is changing," Titley said, "We are confronted by a new ocean for the first time in 500 years." The assessment notes that the U.S. has close to a thousand miles of Arctic coastline in Alaska and significant coastal waters for resource exploitation.
Posted 9 September 2011; 4:29:42 PM. Permalink
(Dan Joling/Anchorage Daily News, 29 August 2011) -- In a windowless convention center room more than a thousand miles from polar bears roaming on sea ice, marine mammal biologists gathered last week in Anchorage to work on a recovery plan for the Arctic Ocean's most famous fauna.The Interior Department three years ago listed polar bears as threatened because of the alarming rate at which sea ice, their primary habitat, is projected to disappear each summer. In the same announcement, then-Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said endangered species law would not be used to set climate policy or limit greenhouse gas emissions, a rule affirmed by the Obama administration. The determination that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will not be allowed to address the culprit for warming -- greenhouse gases emitted worldwide -- means the recovery plan will be like no other since the Endangered Species Act was signed by President Nixon 38 years ago. "The best we can do is work with our domestic and international partners to address symptoms of climate change," said wildlife biologist James Wilder, who heads the recovery plan effort, on Thursday. ... Rosa Meehan, the USFWS marine mammals manager in Alaska, said recovery plans traditionally have dealt with a very specific threat that causes habitat loss. "We don't have that," she said. "We're dealing with a projected change and it's not a directed feature, it's this climate change that all of us ... is in some way contributing to." Figuring out how much greenhouse gas melts what amount of ice, and how that equates to an effect on a particular bear, would require near impossible connections, she said. "At the end of the day, you can't say, 'Well, someone driving an SUV down in California on the highways is going to make polar bear cub 'A' live two years less," Meehan said. "There's just too many huge steps in there to make those direct connections." So instead, wildlife managers are focusing on what they can control, such as assessing the condition of polar bear populations through habitat and demographic reviews, which present their own challenges.
Posted 29 August 2011; 2:42:41 PM. Permalink
(The Dutch Harbor Fisherman, 22 August 2011) -- Twenty-five of the 36 rural Alaska post offices that have been under consideration for closure are no longer under consideration for closure. Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, had that good news today in a meeting with officials for the U.S. Postal Service, rural health care providers and other community groups. Last month postal authorities announced that 36 post offices in Alaska were among the nearly 3,700 post offices nationwide targeted for possible closure as a way to reduce costs and expenses. Begin and three other senators wrote to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe requesting more information on the issues related to the closures. Begich also spoke with Donahoe to express his concern about the impact of closing post offices in rural areas. The names of the 25 post offices taken off the list were not immediately available. USPS District Manager for Alaska Diane Horbuchuk said letters to the 25 communities no longer targeted for possible closure are going out this week, and that a review of the remaining 11 sites continues and should be completed by week's end.
Posted 29 August 2011; 2:39:05 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 15 August 2011) -- ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The designation of Wild and Scenic Rivers and a new National Wilderness Area are central to a new 15-year draft conservation management plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Friday. The Obama administration's plan comes as the State of Alaska is preparing to open millions of acres of state-owned arctic lands on the western border of the refuge to an oil and gas lease sale. The Fish and Wildlife Service's draft Comprehensive Conservation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement contains six alternatives for long-term management. One alternative recommends that Congress designate the Hulahula, Kongakut, and Marsh Fork Canning rivers as Wild and Scenic Rivers. ... But, the plan says, refuge staff have received visitor reports of group crowding at boat launches; user conflicts; excessive over-flights; fire rings, tent rings, and human waste accumulations at concentrated access points and popular camp areas; hardening or impairment of fragile riparian and tundra habitats; and increased footprint of aircraft landing areas. or further protection, the Service is considering designating three areas, including the Arctic Refuge coastal plain and the Brooks Range of mountains, for inclusion within the National Wilderness Preservation System. None of the proposals under consideration would change existing protocols for subsistence harvest. To get public opinion on the six options, the agency is conducting a series of public meetings and reviewing public comments before finalizing the plan, which will ultimately identify a preferred alternative.
Posted 21 August 2011; 9:21:52 AM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 16 August 2011) -- You are what you eat — and that maxim may include the shape and geometry of your jawbone. A lifetime of strenuous mastication on muktuk and tough wild meat harvested near the Chukchi Sea gave a group of pre-contact Inupiat Alaskans rounder and tougher jawbones, a finding that may offer physical anthropologists another method to sort out the dietary habits of other prehistoric peoples, says a research paper published this summer in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. It turns out that what people eat, and whether they they used their teeth to prep hides, gradually alters the structure of their mandibles in predictable ways, according to a study that used the X-ray guns and the principles of engineering stress to analyze 63 jawbones from Inupiat people who lived near the modern village of Point Hope 300 to 400 years ago. Scientists from the Johns Hopkins Center for Functional Anatomy and Evolution compared these Alaskan remains to the jawbones from 42 Arikara Indians who lived in what is now South Dakota about the same time. They found dramatic differences that could be traced back to known differences in diet and lifestyle of the two groups.
Posted 18 August 2011; 12:45:36 PM. Permalink
(Anchorage Daily News, 10 August 2011) -- A volcano on a remote Aleutian island has begun erupting but is not yet generating large ash plumes that would pose danger to aircraft, officials said Tuesday. The eruption at Cleveland volcano is a slow effusion of magma that is forming a lava dome, and not an explosive eruption that generates large ash plumes, said John Power, the scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. "So far, it's just lava as far as we can tell from our satellite imagery and the people who have managed to see it from passing airplanes," he said. The volcano is in a very remote area, on uninhabited Chuginadak Island in the Aleutian Islands, and that lowers the danger level.
Posted 10 August 2011; 5:27:46 PM. Permalink
(US Department of Homeland Security, 15 July 2011) -- the Arctic is critical to U.S. commercial and homeland security interests. In 2009, President Obama issued National Security Presidential Directive 66 / Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25, outlining the administration's Arctic Region Policy. The U.S. Coast Guard, a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), plays a critical role in implementing this policy. Their mission includes securing international commerce, protecting the environment, defending America's maritime borders, and saving those in peril at sea or on other navigable waterways. "In the near future, the Coast Guard will face challenges posed by increased commercial shipping, resource exploration, and recreational activity in that part of the world," says DHS program manager Theo Gemelas, who oversees two Centers of Excellence at the Department's Science and Technology Directorate (S&T). The Coast Guard's research planners are examining the future capability and technological needs of its operators. To ensure that tomorrow's Arctic guardians will get the tools they'll need, the Coast Guard must devise innovative solutions today.
Posted 18 July 2011; 1:58:35 PM. Permalink
(Jake Neher/ The Arctic Sounder, 16 July 2011) -- Biologist Craig George has an unusual job. He counts whales. It's actually a very complex, dangerous, and important job. Under an international treaty, the United States is a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and must conduct a census every ten years to keep track of the size and trends of the stock of whales being harvested by hunters. That's easier said than done. But after 30 years doing it, George seems to have developed a fairly workable process. It's a three-plus mile snow machine ride out on the sea ice to get to where researchers are busy counting whales. ... As of May 30th, they had spotted nearly 3,400 bowheads. They also possibly saw up to 630 additional whales, but weren't able to determine if they were duplicate sightings. George says that's very close to the all-time record for whales seen in a year. That's good news for researchers, the North Slope Borough, and native whalers, because the census actually failed two years in a row in 2009 and 2010. The last successful count was back in 2001. In addition to the ice-based count out on the perches, they teamed up with the National Marine Fisheries Service to successfully pulled-off an aerial photo survey of the bowhead migration this year. They also placed several audio recording devices in the water to get acoustic data of the migration to help calculate missed whale correction factors. George says all these things will make for a better confidence-level in the final survey estimates.
Posted 17 July 2011; 11:10:04 PM. Permalink
(Dan Joling/Anchorage Daily News, 16 July 2011) -- Polar bears in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast face an uncertain future because of the warming climate. A U.S. and Russia commission aims to address short-term threats.The four-person commission, made up of national and Native representatives from each country, will meet for three days in Moscow starting July 27 to discuss subsistence hunting and other issues for the polar bear population shared by the two countries in the waters north and just south of the Bering Strait. The commission last year set a harvest limit of 58 split between the two sides. A main topic for the meeting will be how each side will make that work, said Eric Regehr, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife service biologist who serves on the commission's science advisory board. U.S. commissioners will present a draft harvest management plan proposed to begin the quota Jan. 1, 2013. The commission was created by a treaty signed in 2000 and is significant for representing co-management across countries and cultures, said Rosa Meehan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's marine mammals manager in Alaska. "It's the first effort in Russia that formally recognizes the Native people of Russia and involves them in a governmental process," she said.
Posted 17 July 2011; 10:53:12 PM. Permalink
(Yukon River Gold LLC press release, 12 July 2011) -- KALTAG, ALASKA - Yukon River Gold LLC has announced the suspension of fish buying operations this summer in the remote Alaskan village of Kaltag, pending review for a permanent closure of the facility. This closure results in elimination of 70 jobs this summer, in this remote village of less than 800 people, where jobs are scarce. The closure is the result of inadequate supplies of harvest opportunities to supply the plant with salmon. With record numbers of Keta salmon returning, this plant stands idle while the fish swim by. The primary problem facing Yukon fisheries, is how to separate the abundant Keta salmon, from the Chinook salmon that are needed for conservation. How to harvest one, and not the other? Kaltag’s answer; harvest with fishwheels. Fishwheels are an old technology, that is being rediscovered wherever salmon return, because they are so environmentally friendly. Fishwheels are a revolving series of dip nets powered by the river, hence no energy needed. Fisheries scientists worldwide, utilize this technology to capture and release fish for research purposes. The salmon are carefully captured alive and returned to the river unharmed within seconds; guaranteeing a 100% subsistence priority for Chinook salmon. A perfect solution to the mixed salmon in the Yukon River. ... Kaltag cooperating with Alaskan authorities began using their fishwheels to release the Chinook salmon alive. ... As a consequence of this program, leading global magazine Seafood International has named the tiny Alaskan village of Kaltag, as one of the world’s 11 greenest fisheries. Environmentally sensitive customers lined up to buy the product. Karlberg said “Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG) notified us that we would not be able to harvest abundant Keta salmon, until all the Chinook salmon have left the area. These fish travel together, so that marked the end of the fishery for us with nothing to harvest. We pointed out that we had proven to ADFG that over the last two years we could harvest Keta salmon, without killing a single Chinook salmon. We asked; How do you close a fishery that does not kill Chinook salmon, … to save Chinook salmon? We simply do not know what the issue is. ... Historically there have been dozens of salmon processing plants on the Yukon. Last year there were two left. With today’s closure of the Kaltag plant, there is only one plant left standing, and it is struggling to survive. With no processing plants, there can be no fishing. These centuries’ old isolated communities will have been walled off from the very resource that the villages were specifically located to survive upon over centuries. ... Plant manager Doug Karlberg says, “Closing this plant was a painful decision. It simply did not have to happen. This closure was caused by politics, not science. Kaltag is a wonderful community, but it is economically challenged, isolated with a small voting population, and being asked to pay the ultimate price in order to save a species which it does not even harvest.”
Posted 13 July 2011; 12:17:35 PM. Permalink
(Our Amazing Planet/MSNBC, 13 July 2011) -- A ship expedition is under way to conduct the first modern-day survey of seafloor depths along a vast region of the Arctic Ocean. Water depth in the Kotzebue Sound, off northwestern Alaska, hasn't been studied in more than a century — since the United States bought Alaska in 1867. The 230-foot Fairweather, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) survey vessel, set off from Kodiak, Alaska, on July 7 and will spend two months at sea, measuring ocean depths across roughly 530 square miles in a region that is seeing a marked increase in ship traffic. Satellite measurements that began in 1979 show that Arctic sea ice cover has been declining steadily. As sea ice has disappeared, ships have taken advantage of the open water. "The reduction in Arctic ice coverage is leading over time to a growth of vessel traffic in the Arctic, and this growth is driving an increase in maritime concerns," said NOAA Corps Capt. David Neander, commanding officer of the Fairweather, in a statement. "Starting in 2010, we began surveying in critical Arctic areas where marine transportation dynamics are changing rapidly. These areas are increasingly transited by the offshore oil and gas industry, cruise liners, military craft, tugs and barges and fishing vessels," Neander said. The Fairweather and its survey launches are equipped with state-of-the-art acoustic technology to measure ocean depths, collect 3-D imagery of the seafloor and detect underwater hazards that could pose a danger to surface vessels. The ship itself will survey the deeper waters, while the launches work in shallow areas. Recent expeditions to the Arctic are attempting to better understand the processes that are fueling the loss of the region's ice.
Posted 13 July 2011; 10:57:44 AM. Permalink
(Mike Dunham/Anchorage Daily News, 13 July 2011) -- A centuries-old Haida canoe has been discovered near the Prince of Wales Island village of Kasaan, Sealaska Corp., announced Tuesday. Work on the nearly 34-foot vessel may have stopped around the same time that Columbus sailed from Spain. A surveyor with Sealaska's subsidiary, the Sealaska Timber Corporation, spotted the canoe under a heavy layer of moss while working on forested land owned by the Alaska Native regional corporation last winter. "(Engineers and field personnel) are instructed to immediately secure the area" when they recognize potential historical objects, Sealaska Executive Vice President Rick Harris said in a written statement. "(To) stop any activities that may negatively affect the cultural resource, and contact Sealaska Heritage Institute, which oversees these matters." Steps were quickly taken to protect the area until a full investigation could take place. Following the spring snowmelt, Sealaska leaders and tribal members from Kasaan visited the site. Daniel Monteith, an anthropology professor at the University of Alaska Southeast helped with the inspection. Of particular importance was the fact that the work on the canoe appeared to have been done with pre-contact hand tools. "Other abandoned canoes have been found in Southeast Alaska, but it is rare to find canoes crafted with traditional tools," said Dr. Rosita Worl, president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute. The present-day village of Kasaan was founded in 1900, at which time tribal members had access to modern, metal tools. The visitors also noted that at least five cedars in the vicinity had been harvested using traditional tools. Equally important was the age of the cedar forest that had grown up around the canoe site after it was abandoned. Wade Zammit, President and CEO of Sealaska Timber Corp., put the age of that growth at around 500 years.
Posted 13 July 2011; 10:51:29 AM. Permalink
(Ben Anderson/Alaska Dispatch, 5 July 2011) -- The Pacific Northwest has a rich literary tradition. While it may not carry the weighty history of regions like the American South and New England, authors like Ken Kesey, Raymond Carver and Sherman Alexie have forged a distinct, modern style for Northwest writers. Now, a young literary magazine, armed with a unique online presence, looks to tap the market of aspiring and established Northwest writers. Cirque is a biannual literary journal that had its inaugural edition just over two years ago and recently published its fourth volume. The submissions for the magazine are limited to writers who hail from or who have previously lived in the Pacific Rim: “Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Yukon Territory, Alberta, British Columbia, or Chukotka,” according to the journal’s guidelines. ... Cirque is the brainchild of Mike Burwell, a former professor of creative writing at UAA (since retired) and a published poet who originally conceived of the journal when the University of Alaska Press temporarily discontinued its “journal of circumpolar poetry,” Ice Floe. “I started Cirque to fill the void that Ice Floe created when it stopped publication a few years ago,” Burwell said. “I decided, OK, I’ll start my own literary magazine.” ... While Burwell admits he has a particular fondness for poetry, he said he makes a conscious effort to play up the fiction and nonfiction sections of Cirque, cycling through which section leads the journal in a given edition. The journal releases every six months, on June 21 and Dec. 21, the days of the summer and winter solstices, and also typically features a play or two within its pages. Aside from the writing itself, perhaps the most interesting thing about Cirque is its business model -- the magazine is published primarily online, available to read for free.
Posted 12 July 2011; 12:12:38 PM. Permalink
(Lisa Demer/Anchorage Daily News, 4 July 2011) -- When Sarah and River Bean cleared old timber to start their farm near Palmer more than two decades ago, one of their first chores was recruiting customers for the coming harvest. It was a way to build a base of buyers and make their love of farming a viable business. Their customers, in turn, got fresh vegetables all summer long. Turns out the Beans were on the leading edge of what's now a hot trend in Alaska. In a state once known for dreary produce aisles and few fruit options, customers from Adak to Anchorage are turning to a growing number of farm-to-table delivery services. Some are spending hundreds of dollars a year in exchange for boxes packed with local or organic produce. ... Business is growing fast in Alaska, say subscription produce operators, who charge anywhere from $35 to more than double that for a weekly box of fruits and veggies. One outfit, Washington state-based Full Circle, is targeting customers beyond the urban core with regular shipments of organic produce to villages and hubs from Bethel to Barrow and beyond.
Posted 12 July 2011; 12:02:39 PM. Permalink
(Mike Dunham/Anchorage Daily News, 11 July 2011) -- Anchorage is home to more Athabascans than Fairbanks, more Yup'ik than Bethel and more Inupiat than Barrow, the U.S. Census shows. The city has long been known as "Alaska's biggest Native village." With new numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau it can now claim, more specifically, to be home to both the largest Yup'ik and largest Inupiat communities. According to information from the 2010 Census released on June 30, Anchorage has a Native American population of 23,130. That's about one in 13 residents. Yup'ik remain the single largest Alaska Native group in the state, followed by Inupiat and Athabascans, the figures show. The new numbers offer a closer look at where members of different Alaska Native groups live around the state. The previous Census, in 2000, made no distinction between Yup'ik, who have historically resided along the Bering Sea coast from the Alaska Peninsula to Norton Sound, and Inupiat, who occupy the coast north of Unalakleet and along the Arctic Ocean. In 2000, the two ethnic groups were lumped together as "Eskimo" and 5,607 were reported as living in Anchorage. That changed with the 2010 Census. In answering the survey, a respondent could identify himself or herself as belonging to a single tribe, as having two or more Native American tribes in their background, or in any combination with non-Native groups.
Posted 11 July 2011; 4:15:49 PM. Permalink
(ENS, 30 June 2011) -- WASHINGTON, DC - A federal judge today upheld a 2008 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to protect polar bears under the Endangered Species Act because climate change is threatening their survival. The polar bear was the first species added to the Endangered Species List due solely to the threat from global warming. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed challenges to the listing brought by the state of Alaska under the leadership of then-Governor Sarah Palin, and hunting groups, who argued that the listing was unnecessary. They contended that the bear is protected by other laws and that the science does not allow prediction of what effects climate change will have on the species. Judge Sullivan ruled that the Service's decision to protect the bear due to the melting of the Arctic sea ice was well supported. Scientific studies show that, due to the rapid melting of its Arctic habitat, two-thirds of the world's polar bears, including all the bears in Alaska, are likely to become extinct within the next 40 years. Despite finding the evidence of the severity of the polar bear's plight "troubling," Judge Sullivan declined to raise the threat level of the species from threatened to endangered. "It is not this Court's role to determine, based on its independent assessment of the scientific evidence, whether the agency could have reached a different conclusion with regard to the listing of the polar bear," the judge wrote in his ruling. Instead, he wrote, the court's job is only to determine whether the Fish and Wildlife Service's process to reach its own decision was "rational." The plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the agency's determination "rises to the level or irrationality."
Posted 1 July 2011; 12:06:20 AM. Permalink
(Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage via APRN, 6 May 2011) -- The United Nations Environment Project is looking at a report that suggests a short-term fix for climate warming – controlling black carbon and ozone. The report say that unlike controlling carbon dioxide, which appears to be politically difficult and would take years to make a difference, dealing with black carbon would have an immediate effect on climate warming.
(Jake Neher/KBRW – Barrow via APRN, 4 May 2011) -- Whalers in Northern Alaska are off to a strong start for the 2011 spring season. Crews have been in full gear since the first leads opened up in the Arctic Sea ice. [mp3]
(Craig Medred/Alaska Dispatch, 4 May 2011) -- The tribal leaders of the small village of Perryville on the Alaska Peninsula in a far corner of Southwest Alaska believe the wind has saved them $66,000 to date. The wind in Perryville does not blow particularly hard, but it comes steady off the Gulf of Alaska to spin 10 Skystream 3.7 wind turbines. Villagers hoisted them into the air in November of 2008 using a winch mounted on a Ford F-250 pickup truck. Then they wired them into the grid connecting the village’s power to three, existing diesel turbines. The entire project cost $150,000. All of this comes at a time when other small communities are spending millions to harness the wind. The federally funded Alaska Village Electric Cooperative plans to spend more than $3 million to bring wind power to the Bering Sea coastal village of Shaktoolik and more than $4 million to hook up turbines in Mekoryuk on Nunivak Island in Southwest Island. Mekoryuk is a community of slightly more than 200 people about 400 miles northwest of Perryville, a community of about 100. Both communities, like others all across rural Alaska, are struggling with the ever rising costs of diesel to power generators. Diesel -- the tax-free kind for home heating and power generation -- was going for about $4.50 a gallon in the regional hub of Bethel on Friday.
Posted 5 May 2011; 10:56:48 AM. Permalink
(The Arctic Sounder, 29 April 2011) -- Carl Crum of Brazos Film said he and his wife have just posted the Barrow episodes of their documentary series One Square Mile. You can watch the episodes at: http://onesquaremile.tv. In an email, they thanked everyone that helped them make this project a reality. "The community of Barrow was very supportive of our project and we are very happy with the stories we captured. We will be sending out a formal release in the following day or two, but we wanted to send out a quick 'teaser email, ' " they said. "We want to get as much feedback from people in Barrow as possible. We are also looking for Barrow residents to add their voice to the Barrow - One Square Mile by filling out this questionnaire on the website http://www.onesquaremile.tv/1sqMile/Barrow_8_form.html.
Posted 30 April 2011; 1:46:12 PM. Permalink
(The Arctic Sounder, 27 April 2011) -- Dozens of graduates walked between pieces of whale baleen and across the stage at a local school Friday night, making history as part of the largest tribal-college graduation in Alaska history. Seventy students received a degree, certificate or GED from Ilisagvik College this term. Administrators say that's the biggest graduating class they've ever seen, almost tripling last year's class. New President Brooke Gondara, who took over the top spot at Alaska's only tribal college in January, credited "tons of workforce development courses" for part of the growth. "I mean, things are really robust and going really, really well at the college right now. I'm very excited," she said. The registrar's office says enrollment is up only slightly compared to past years. Officials at Ilisagvik, the only tribal college in Alaska, said more students are coming back to finish programs instead of dropping out. They couldn't explain why students are more determined. ... Ilisagvik officials say about a dozen students earned GED diplomas this term. More than 40 earned certificates. Eleven earned associates degrees. Besides being the largest graduating class to date, this was also the commencement ceremony with one of the highest ever participation rates from graduates, with nearly 40 walking across the stage.
Posted 27 April 2011; 3:16:22 PM. Permalink
(Jacob Resneck, KMXT via APRN, 18 April 2010) -- Kodiak- Flagship cutters from the U.S. and Russian coast guards are in Kodiak this week as the two nations meet to strengthen cooperation in enforcing in each other’s fishing grounds in the Bering Sea. The U.S. Coast Guard’s National Security Cutter Bertholf is in port preparing for its first patrol in the North Pacific. Moored alongside is its Russian counterpart, the cutter Vorovsky which arrived from Russia on Sunday.
(The Arctic Sounder, 6 April 2011) -- At a community meeting on March 28, the Native Village of Point Lay was presented with an "Outstanding Partner" Award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Region, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in a written statement. Here's the rest of the release: The honor was conferred as part of the annual Regional Director's Excellence Awards, which recognize the work of FWS staff and partners across Alaska. Presented by Service Marine Mammal Management program biologist Jim MacCracken, the award cites the work done be residents of the village to protect walruses in September 2010. At that time, tens of thousands of migrating Pacific walruses hauled out on the Chukchi Sea barrier beach within sight of the small Inupiaq community of Pt. Lay Alaska. see a video of the gathering here. It was an event unprecedented in living human memory and soon became a worldwide media attraction. Residents of Point Lay community took the initiative to protect the resting walruses from disturbance that could have resulted in stampedes that can injure or kill young and weakened animals. Community leaders took an Incident Command approach to protecting the walruses. They issued a news release and walrus photographs to inquiring news media organizations, but also requested that media crews not travel to Point Lay. When media did arrive, the leaders participated in interviews and showed North Slope hospitality, while advising visitors on how to get the stories they needed without disturbing the animals. Point Lay has a distinguished history of working closely with wildlife scientists, especially on beluga and bowhead whales. In this instance the entire community also took the initiative to effectively demonstrate respect, and provide respite, for the thousands of weary Pacific walruses resting near the village. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Regional Director Geoff Haskett said, "Partners are at the heart of much of what we do as an agency, and this recognition appropriately honors the Native Village of Point Lay for taking the initiative to protect walrus during this almost unprecedented haul-out event."
Posted 6 April 2011; 3:19:32 PM. Permalink
(Rachel d'Oro/Anchorage Daily News, 3 April 2011) -- Alaska Natives have established a solid foundation in the state's tourism industry, captivating visitors with their dances and songs, their art and a history as varied as the tribes themselves. Much of the cultural boom is found at cruise ship ports, Alaska's large cities and points along the state's minimal road system. But travel experts say independent travelers are increasingly venturing to isolated villages to experience life with descendants of the continent's first inhabitants on their ancient grounds, a trend that could be confirmed by a summer visitor survey planned by the Alaska Travel Industry Association. Whatever the venue, Alaska Natives represent an "authentic experience" for many travelers, said association president Ron Peck. "Yes, they come to see the beauty that is Alaska," he said. "But the truth of the matter is, as they come here, they want to be more experiential. They want to learn about these cultures."
Posted 4 April 2011; 4:21:30 PM. Permalink
(Margaret Bauman/The Arctic Sounder, 24 March 2011) -- A continuing modest decline of Alaska's largest caribou herd is being carefully watched by state wildlife biologists, who see the animals as important not only for hunters, but the environment as a whole. "It has our attention," said Jim Dau, a biologist at Kotzebue for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. "We are not ignoring it. This is important not just for subsistence users, but for the whole ecology of the region." Dau said in an interview today that a couple of detailed health analyses conducted by ADF&G veterinarian Kimberly Beckman in Fairbanks concluded that the Western Arctic caribou herd is among the healthiest of the caribou herds in Alaska. There is no indication that disease is causing the decline, he said. A recent further analysis of aerial photos of a July 2009 Western Arctic caribou herd census had prompted state biologists to revise the population estimate down to 348,000 caribou in a continued modest decline. The previous estimate of 401,000 caribou indicated an increase in the herd over the 377,000 animals identified in a 2007 census. "The herd is still vey large, individual caribou appear to be healthy, the rate of decline is still modest, and harvests are not thought to be affecting its status," Dau said in a statement released a day earlier. "The revised estimate will not result in any immediate changes to management activities or hunting opportunities. The revised total is within a range of acceptable count variation and the herd is still considered stable, though slowly declining." Biologists intensified monitoring of this herd after the 2007 census suggested the onset of a decline. The revised 2009 count of 348,000 caribou indicates that the Western Arctic herd has declined 4-6 percent annually since its peak of 490,000 caribou in 2003,. Dau said that after exceeding a population size of 400,000 caribou for over 20 years, a period of slow decline is probably preferable to continued growth and the possibility of an eventual, abrupt decline. Caribou herds fluctuate naturally due to a variety of factors.
Posted 31 March 2011; 3:28:19 PM. Permalink
(Annie Feidt/APRN – Anchorage, 16 March 2011) -- Alaska received its 2010 census numbers today. Overall the state’s population grew, but many areas of rural Alaska lost residents.
(The Arctic Sounder, ) -- From the Tundra to Tinseltown, the Ray Mala Story, by Lael Morgan, a biography of Alaska's first and only movie star, will kick off the Ray Mala Film Festival this spring with screenings planned in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Kotzebue, Nome, Point Hope, and Bethel, a press release said. The festival is part of a statewide celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Alaska Native land claims settlement and recognizes emergence of an Alaska movie industry. The new biography from Epicenter Press tells the story of Ray Mala, an Inupiat Eskimo from Candle, Alaska, who in 1933 at the age of 27 became the first non-White actor to play a leading role in a Hollywood film. He became a matinee idol after the release of Eskimo from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), the first major studio film made in Alaska. The charming, handsome Mala had a long career, appearing in 25 Hollywood films over three decades, but he never forgot his roots on the tundra of Alaska. Mala was also an accomplished cinematographer. Yet Mala is little known in Alaska today. He died in 1952 at age 46. A book-launch for Eskimo Star will take place the evening of Tuesday, March 29, at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, featuring a star-studded guest list, paparazzi, and a traditional red carpet for dramatic entrances. Screenings will include excerpts from Robinson Crusoe of Clipper Island, the delightfully entertaining 14-part serial in which Mala starred in 1935, and How Death Was Cheated in the Great Race to Nome (Pathé News). Lael Morgan will sign copies of her new book. The film festival begins in Anchorage with a gala premier at the Bear Tooth Theater on March 30-31. Movies to be screened include Eskimo, Red Snow (Columbia Pictures), Last of the Pagans (MGM), and Igloo (distributed by Universal Pictures). Admission to Igloo will be free, compliments of Universal.
Posted 7 March 2011; 10:51:08 AM. Permalink
(Mike Dunham/Anchorage Daily News, 3 March 2011) -- Former state poet laureate, homesteader and Alaska literary lion John Haines died Wednesday in Fairbanks. He was 86. Born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1924, Haines came to Alaska after serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II. He homesteaded on the Richardson Highway, north of Delta, in the 1940s. He returned to Washington, D.C. to study art. But back on the homestead, the cold made it hard to use watercolors or even oil paints. He switched to poetry in the mid-1950s and, after 10 years, some of his work was picked up by important literary journals. In the 1966 he gained national attention with his first book of poetry, "Winter News," now considered a classic of modern American literature. The Russian poet Yvgeny Yvteshenko made it a point to stop by Haines' cabin and share shots of vodka with him when he visited the state that year. His writings about nature particularly caught the attention of readers in the emerging environmental movement. He was seen as the contemporary voice of a line of American frontier philosophers stretching from Benjamin Franklin to John Muir. But his voice was never preachy or condescending. Retired University of Alaska Fairbanks philosophy professor John Kooistra, a long-time friend, said the everyman nature of Haines' perspective was one reason for his popularity.
Posted 3 March 2011; 10:29:23 PM. Permalink
(Jake Neher/The Arctic Sounder, 21 February 2011) -- The Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC) is calling on Alaska's Congressional delegation to introduce subsistence whaling legislation before 2012. Officials say legislation is needed in case an international regulatory body fails to pass a harvest quota renewal for subsistence hunters. AEWC members and officials passed this and four other resolutions last week during the commission's two-day Mini-Convention in Barrow. The current five year block quota for native subsistence whaling is ending in 2012. At that time, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will decide whether or not to renew or adjust the quota for another five years. But AEWC officials say the international body is dysfunctional, and has used the quota as a bargaining chip in negotiations on other issues unrelated to Native subsistence whaling. They fear political gridlock in 2012, which could leave the 11 communities in the AEWC without a set quota. A subsistence quota renewal needs the approval three-quarters of IWC member nations to pass. Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission Vice President George Ahmaogak says it's time to start considering all options to protect against a quota denial from IWC. "It's getting harder and harder to work with the International Whaling Commission," Ahmaogak says, "even though we abide by all their rules, do the census work, a lot of the requirements and mandates by the IWC. Unfunded mandates, if you will. It's getting harder and harder. In 2012, it's going to be a challenge. So, I think we're better off going for domestic legislation. That's why we pushed this resolution on the floor." According to the AEWC resolution, the International Whaling Commission does allow subsistence whaling without a set quota "to meet cultural and nutritional need" under domestic national legislation. It says such legislation needs to correspond with IWC requirements.
Posted 21 February 2011; 11:19:53 PM. Permalink
(CBC News, 16 February 2011) -- A 23-year-old rookie musher from Alaska has won this year's Yukon Quest International Sled-Dog Race, crossing the finish line late Tuesday night. Dallas Seavey of Willow, Alaska, crossed the finish line in Fairbanks at 11:05 p.m. Alaska Time, just 33 minutes ahead of veteran musher Sebastian Schnuelle. Veteran mushers Ken Anderson and Brent Sass, both from Alaska, crossed the finish line at 1:36 a.m. and 6:14 a.m., respectively. Seavey previously came in eighth place in the 2010 Iditarod. "The Yukon Quest is 1,000 miles of trail I haven't run yet," Seavey stated in a musher's profile on the race's website. Seavey said he is also preparing his dogs for this year's Iditarod, which begins March 5 in Anchorage, Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News reports that Seavey is the youngest winner in the race's history, which began in 1984. The paper said he earned a paycheque of $28,395 for his efforts. Twenty-three teams began the race on Feb. 5 from Whitehorse, running on a 1,600-kilometre trail that traces the routes of prospectors during Alaska's gold rush in 1899.
Posted 16 February 2011; 9:59:03 PM. Permalink
[Found lodged in the crevices of my web site] (Shane Iverson/KYUK – Bethel via APRN, 22 December 2010) -- Animal attacks are simply part of life in many parts of Alaska, but an extremely rare attack occurred over the weekend near the village of Russian Mission. A musher from the Lower Yukon village says an animal he’d never seen on the trails, ran through his dog team, killing two of his best dogs.
Posted 15 February 2011; 3:25:59 PM. Permalink
(Alex Demarban/The Arctic Sounder, 8 February 2011) -- A federal disease-fighting program in Alaska recently doubled its laboratory space, a move designed to further protect residents from deadly pathogens, including bioterrorism threats. Officials with the Arctic Investigations Program in Anchorage, part of the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unveiled the $2.3 million renovation and addition in Anchorage, near the Alaska Native Medical Center, late last month. For decades, the CDC has played a critical role in preventing the spread of disease in Alaska. More labs will lead to more advances, especially in rural Alaska, said officials attending the ceremony. "This lab is really our eyes and ears for any kind of infectious problems that come up in Alaska," said Dr. Ted Mala, head of the traditional healing clinic at Southcentral Foundation, after the ribbon-cutting. "They survey all our villages and all our lands and give us early warnings of what's going on and what to look for, along with the state divisions of epidemiology and public health." "What's important here is this lab will mean more testing, more surveillance, more early warning," said Mala, an Inupiaq enrolled in Buckland's tribal government. "The more they know, the more they'll tell all the doctors and nurses and clinicians in the state. It's all a win-win." The CDC has been fighting disease in Alaska with the Indian Health Service since 1948, said Mala. One of the biggest victories may have come in the war against Hepatitis B. Alaska Natives once suffered the country's highest rates of the liver disease, as well as Hepatitis A, but now have the lowest rates thanks to vaccines introduced in the 1980s and 1990s, said Brian McMahon, a liver specialist at the Alaska Native Medical Center.
Posted 9 February 2011; 4:56:07 PM. Permalink
(Yereth Rosen/Reuters, 9 February 2011) -- The Pacific walrus, hampered by vanishing sea ice in Arctic waters, deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act but must wait in line behind more imperiled animals, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman said on Tuesday. The decision dashed environmentalists' hopes that the lumbering, long-tusked marine mammal would soon join the polar bear as a federally protected icon of global warming. But it also drew criticism from Alaska's Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski, who sided with the oil industry and other commercial interests in opposing new safeguards for either animal. In a move that seemed to satisfy no one, the agency determined that listing the walrus as a threatened or endangered species was warranted but "precluded," in part because higher-priority species, including a sea bird that feeds near coastal glaciers, need protecting first. Agency spokesman Bruce Woods said difficulty in obtaining an accurate walrus population count and lingering uncertainty about how their numbers may have declined also were factors in the "warranted but precluded" recommendation. The decision comes nearly two months after the government proposed listing two types of seals -- ringed and bearded seals -- as threatened species because the Arctic ice and snow they depend on is shrinking due to climate change. They became the second and third animals, after polar bears, to be recommended for protection under the Endangered Species Act because of ice loss in Alaska.
Posted 9 February 2011; 4:49:12 PM. Permalink
(Craig Medred/Alaska Dispatch, 2 February 2011) -- Once more ice coats the brush and snow of Northwest Alaska, and Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jim Dau wonders how the caribou will fare this time. Twice since 2005, the animals of the Western Arctic caribou herd have been hit hard by ice storms that threatened to lock their forage away beneath a layer of white pavement. After the first of those storms, large numbers of caribou suffered from starvation. Dau described them as dying "in droves." They have not been the only animals to struggle with winter ice in Alaska's volatile climate in recent years, either. In the Chugach and Kenai mountains, Tom Lohuis, a Fish and Game biologist studying Dall sheep, has begun to examine icing as a possible cause of significant mortality. Lohuis is early in his studies but he has already found evidence in the Dall sheep population of Southcentral that is analogous to what Dau has seen in the Arctic -- animals hard pressed to survive because of a layer of ice coating the ground or the snow. Neither caribou nor sheep are well equipped for chipping through frozen surfaces to get at their food. Both Dau and Lohuis have seen ice related deaths and use the phrase "bags of bones" to describe the animals that manage to survive winters with serious ice events..
Posted 5 February 2011; 11:07:31 PM. Permalink
(Alex Demarban/The Arctic Sounder, 4 February 2011) -- A missionary couple in Kotzebue is looking for Inupiaq voices to create a digitally recording of the New Testament. Once passages have been recorded in the Kobuk dialect, the tracks will be sent to a studio where music and other sound effects, such as thunder during Jesus' crucifixion, will be added for dramatic flair, said Kay Finley. The dramatized track will eventually be downloadable in MP3 format and available on CD. It will open the Bible and the recovering Inupiaq language to new audiences, said Lorena Williams, language coordinator at Aqqaluk Trust in Kotzebue, whose mission includes language preservation. "For me, it's a two-fold benefit," she said. "First, it's the Bible, so it's spiritual, but you can also listen to Inupiaq at the same time." Problem is, only a few volunteers have signed up. Kay and her husband, Dan, hope to recruit many more. The effort is non-denominational, so Inupiaq speakers of all churches are welcome to help, Kay said. The Finleys also need proof-listeners, a critical role utilizing experts in Inupiaq to ensure words aren't butchered or left out. "They will catch the mistakes, because my husband and I do not speak Inupiaq. I know aariga, which means like, 'great' or 'wow,' " said Kay. The Lutheran couple from Ohio do the work for an Albuquerque, N.M., group called Faith Comes By Hearing [http://faithcomesbyhearing.com], which has recorded the New Testament in hundreds of languages.
Posted 5 February 2011; 2:49:51 PM. Permalink
(Ella Davies /BBC Earth News, 25 January 2011) -- A polar bear swam continuously for over nine days, covering 687km (426 miles), a new study has revealed. Scientists studying bears around the Beaufort sea, north of Alaska, claim this endurance feat could be a result of climate change. Polar bears are known to swim between land and sea ice floes to hunt seals. But the researchers say that increased sea ice melts push polar bears to swim greater distances, risking their own health and future generations. In their findings, published in Polar Biology, researchers from the US Geological Survey reveal the first evidence of long distance swimming by polar bears (Ursus maritimus). "This bear swam continuously for 232 hours and 687 km and through waters that were 2-6 degrees C," says research zoologist George M. Durner. "We are in awe that an animal that spends most of its time on the surface of sea ice could swim constantly for so long in water so cold. It is truly an amazing feat." Although bears have been observed in open water in the past, this is the first time one's entire journey has been followed. By fitting a GPS collar to a female bear, researchers were able to accurately plot its movements for two months as it sought out hunting grounds. The scientists were able to determine when the bear was in the water by the collar data and a temperature logger implanted beneath the bear's skin. The study shows that this epic journey came at a very high cost to the bear. "This individual lost 22% of her body fat in two months and her yearling cub," says Mr Durner. "It was simply more energetically costly for the yearling than the adult to make this long distance swim," he explains. Mr Durner tells the BBC that conditions in the Beaufort sea have become increasingly difficult for polar bears.
Posted 26 January 2011; 2:08:09 PM. Permalink
(Estes Park Trail-Gazette, 25 January 2011)** -- Estes Park resident Dr. Robert Krear was one of the speakers for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Dr. Krear was invited to the headquarters of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service near Washington, D.C., the week of Jan. 17-21 to speak at the anniversary ceremony. In Washington, he was reunited with Dr. George Schaller. Along with Krear, they are the only surviving members of the famous Murie Arctic expedition. The two were among the featured speakers at this symposium involving numerous Alaskan biologists, refuge managers and other members of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Among the other speakers was former president Jimmy Carter. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest wildlife refuge in the United States. It is an area of great natural beauty that has been called the Serengeti of North America because of the wildlife populations that exist there. Dr. Krear considers his participation in the creation of the Arctic refuge the greatest contribution of his life. It all began in 1956, when Dr. Krear, a local retired biology professor and scientist, received a phone call from Dr. Olaus Murie of Jackson Hole, Wyo., who invited him to join Murie`s expedition to the northeast corner of Arctic Alaska for the purpose of assisting in ecological studies during exploration of that primitive area. It had been determined by the nation`s top environmentalists following World War II that that area of Alaska was the last pristine Arctic wilderness area remaining on the entire planet. There was an urgent necessity to preserve it from commercialization.
Posted 26 January 2011; 1:47:19 PM. Permalink
(APRN, 24 January 2011) -- The federal Marine Mammal Commission has recommended that Pacific walrus be listed as threatened or endangered. The commission oversees marine mammal conservation policies carried out by federal agencies. The three-member panel says walrus face threats from the loss of sea ice that they rely on for foraging and giving birth. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is under a court-ordered deadline to decide by the end of this month whether to recommend walrus for the endangered species list.
(Kyle Hopkins/Anchorage Daily News, 20 January 2011) -- And now an Inupiaq language lesson. Qaqasauraq. Noun. The modern Inupiaq term for a computer. Loosely translated, it means "little brain." Ready to learn more? Fire up the qaqasauraq for the latest of three new computer programs designed to teach variations of the fading Alaska Native language. The North Slope Borough and Rosetta Stone software company plan to unveil a program this spring specially designed to teach the North Slope Inupiaq dialect, using the photos and voices of Inupiaq people recorded in Barrow. There are as few as 1,500 fluent speakers of Inupiaq in Alaska, estimates Fairbanks linguist Michael Krauss. Once, it was the primary language of the northern and northwest regions of the state. Barrow-born Edna MacLean, a former Inupiaq professor for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, spent two years working on the Inupiaq program. She translated thousands of words and phrases from English to the North Slope Inupiaq dialect of the Inuit language. The job is nearly done. Soon the program will be available to schools and households. Just in time for Inupiaq language experts like MacLean, 66.
Posted 20 January 2011; 10:10:01 AM. Permalink
(Rachel D'Oro/Anchorage Daily News, 17 January 2011) -- Gordon Brower has been hunting bowhead whales for most of his 47 years, forgoing life jackets because no one made them in white, the only color that would work as camouflage on Alaska's icy Arctic coast. Now the whaling captain from the nation's northernmost town of Barrow and other Eskimo whalers have begun to wear personal flotation devices, custom-made in the white they've traditionally used to make them more invisible to their massive prey. When the subsistence whaling season arrives this spring, more Alaska Native hunters from coastal villages will be outfitted with the white float coats being distributed through a safety program that's been greatly expanded since its debut last year. A couple dozen whalers also will receive white float pants. ... The coats are the result of efforts by the Coast Guard, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and Burnaby, British Columbia-based Mustang Survival Corp., which makes flotation and extreme climate protection products. The whalers' coats have a nylon shell and flotation foam filling, which also offers protection against the frigid conditions faced in the Arctic. There is no federal or state requirement to wear a life jacket in a recreational boat unless the person is under 13, although life jackets on board are required, he said. The Coast Guard can't purchase equipment to give to the public, so Folkerts turned to the tribal health consortium. The organization tapped $12,000 of its own funds and ordered 52 coats from Mustang, distributing them among whalers in Barrow and two other villages. It was an apt connection. One of the consortium's areas of interest is reducing the disproportionate rate of drownings among Alaska Natives. Between 2000 and 2006, Alaska Natives accounted for 179 drowning deaths in the state, or 45 percent of the 402 such deaths in that period, although they represented less than 18 percent of Alaska's population at the time, according to Hillary Strayer, the organization's injury prevention specialist. ... For the upcoming spring whaling season that begins in April when bowheads are heading north, the consortium is distributing 96 coats among crews from the remaining villages that are members of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, which represents 11 communities. Four crews ... will get the float pants. The funds for this year's effort came from a $15,000 donation from Shell Oil and almost $11,000 from Conoco Phillips, an oil producer on the North Slope, where some of the whaling villages are located. Shell has offshore oil exploration projects in the region.
Posted 18 January 2011; 1:17:40 AM. Permalink
(AP via Anchorage Daily News, 8 January 2011) -- UNALASKA - Alaska seafood organizations are suing to stop a ruling by the National Marine Fisheries Service that would protect fish on which the endangered Steller sea lions feed. Alaska Public Radio Network reported the ruling by the fisheries service has closed an area to fishing Atka mackerel and Pacific cod. The Alaska Seafood Cooperative fishes in the closed area, and takes about 90 percent of its Atka mackerel quota. Linda Larson, an attorney for the cooperative, said the ruling is misguided and unfairly blames overfishing for the decline of the Steller sea lion population when other factors might be to blame. Larson said the cooperative doesn't view the situation as a "conservation emergency." The fisheries service said it had to close the area to be in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
Posted 10 January 2011; 10:22:24 PM. Permalink
(Doug O'Harra/Alaska Dispatch, 2 January 2011) -- Alaska grew at the slowest rate seen in eight decades and remained the least densely populated state in the nation during the 10 years that ended April 1, according to the first batch of data published by the 2010 U.S. census. The 49th state's headcount rose by slightly more than 83,000 new residents since the last federal census in 2000, swelling the state's official overall population by 13.3 percent to 710,231. This increase vaulted Alaska past North Dakota to become the 47th most populous state. Our growth rate was larger than the 9.7 percent reported for the country as a whole. Only 14 states grew faster. Sound impressive? Think again. Alaska's population increase over the past decade was almost entirely homegrown, according to the state calculations (PDF) that don't yet include figures from 2010. Between 2000 and 2009, Alaska's natural increase (births minus deaths) added more than 66,000 residents, while the state lost about 1,368 people over the same period to net migration (those fleeing for greener pastures minus those motoring up the Alaska-Canada Highway with hope in their hearts.) The Great Land may be vast, but its human capital is sized for a town. Move every current resident to a single location, and we would collectively rival Charlotte, N.C., in raw people power, according to 2009 city estimates. Seventeen other American cities were home to more people than Alaska, as were 85 counties and 46 states. Only Wyoming, Vermont and North Dakota reported fewer residents. To put it another way, Alaska's total population is about the same size as your average Lower 48 congressional district — of which there were 18 shoehorned into Los Angeles County this past election. Alaskans as a group comprised about 0.23 percent of the 308,745,538 million people counted in the United States.
Posted 8 January 2011; 6:37:15 PM. Permalink