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03-06-2016, 09:56 PM

Taking the ceremonial start seriously

Between super fans, bootie chants and Diphtheria Shots, mushers see fair share of festivities

Beth Bragg Alaska Dispatch News by MARC LESTER / Alaska Dispatch News Lisbet Norris, one of 85 mushers in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, waves to fans as she leaves the starting line during the ceremonial start Saturday. More photos,, one of Ray Redington Jr.’s dogs, leaps toward the starting line in downtown Anchorage. HILL / Alaska Dispatch News Superheroes and other costumed characters greet mushers nearing the end of their run during the Iditarod ceremonial start Saturday along Chester Creek. Describing themselves as a group of friends in the travel industry, the partiers pick a theme each Iditarod and meet in the Airport Heights area, which was not an option this year as the mushers concluded their runs at Davenport Fields along Lake Otis Parkway. More photos, HOLMES / Alaska Dispatch News Scott Janssen — the “Mushin’ Mortician” — was the first competitor to leave the starting line of the Iditarod’s ceremonial start Saturday in downtown Anchorage. HOLMES / Alaska Dispatch News Aliy Zirkle’s dogs run down Cordova Street during the Iditarod’s ceremonial start Saturday. Mackey

Spiderman, Jesus Christ and the Abominable Snowman walk into a greenbelt …
That’s not a set-up for a punchline. It’s a partial guest list for one of Saturday’s many Iditarod viewing parties.

At Eastchester Park near Lake Otis Parkway, a group of friends who dress in costume each year gathered to watch the dogs run. This year’s theme was superheroes.
Another festive crowd was at “Boo-tie Alley” at 16th Avenue and Cordova Street, a party now in its ninth year. C.B. Brady, Shawn Silverthorn and Jeni McDaniel set up a tent with free coffee, hot dogs, popcorn and other snacks for anyone who wanted some.

The premise of Bootie Alley is simple, Brady said: As mushers pass by, “you yell ‘bootie, boo-tie bootie!’ and they throw us booties.”
To the west of the superheroes was Trail-gate, another annual party that gets a one-day liquor license for the Iditarod start.

A few hundred people were part of this year’s Trailgate, including a guy who dispensed for-adults-only drinks he called Diphtheria Shots — a nod to the famous serum run that helped save Nome nearly a century ago.
“Have you been inoculated?” he asked potential imbibers.

One place where there wasn’t much of a crowd was Davenport Field, the finish line of the abbreviated ceremonial run through Anchorage.
Usually hundreds of people show up to party on the Chester Creek trail near Airport Heights, but this year the crowd was mellow.

“I thought it was going to be a zoo here,” said Mike Lovejoy, who lives in the neighborhood and always watches the race there. “I thought it would be crazy.”

The lack of parking at Davenport may have contributed to the smaller-than-usual crowds — that space was reserved for dog trucks coming to retrieve teams and shuttle buses for Idita-riders.
Plus, Iditarod officials urged fans to avoid Davenport, and people may have actually heeded that advice.

By the end of the day, some 1,000 dogs had visited the park, and many of them made deposits.
“The grass should grow well,” musher Cody Strathe said.

Merry Iditarod

When you care enough to send the very best, Carson Dement is your girl.
A 12-year-old from Soldotna, Dement was at Davenport Field with a fistful of handmade greeting cards for her favorite mushers — DeeDee Jonrowe, Jeff King, Dallas Seavey, Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle.
Each included a personal message. The card for Jonrowe was decorated with pink pressed-art flowers and said “Happy Iditarod.” On the inside: “You are strong and powerful, so go win the Iditarod.”
“Merry Iditarod” was the greeting on her card for Zirkle. “I am your biggest fan.” Inside was a photo of Dement and Zirkle from a previous race, plus a drawing of a sled dog.

Making a statement -— with permission

The Iditarod is one of Alaska’s biggest stages and Iditarod mushers are some of Alaska’s biggest stars, which is one reason dog driver Monica Zappa of Kasilof started running the race.
Zappa is an environmentalist, and the Iditarod has allowed her to spread the word about an issue important to her. In previous years she has driven her team through Anchorage’s ceremonial start with anti-Pebble mine stickers and a banner that says “Clean Water, Wild Salmon.”

This year, mushers must contend with a new rule that forbids them from making statements that don’t sit well with Iditarod officials or sponsors. And so Zappa had to get approval from race officials before making Saturday’s ceremonial run with her anti-Pebble mine flag waving behind her sled.

“I asked permission,” she said.

Pebble mine efforts have slowed somewhat in the years since Zappa’s first Iditarod in 2013, “and I’m really excited to have been involved in the fight,” she said.

Zappa didn’t ask permission for the other statement she made Saturday. Pinned to her parka was a Bernie 2016 button.
Zappa said the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign was looking for a progressive Iditarod musher to endorse the candidate. Zappa was approached and was happy to put Bernie 2016 buttons on her sled and parka.

She didn’t seek the Iditarod’s OK because other mushers have recently endorsed Sen. Lisa Murkowski in her re-election bid.
“Mushers are icons in Alaska,” she said. “It’s a great way to get your message out. We’re celebrities in Alaska, and celebrities endorse things.”

The Iditarod’s gag rule says mushers can’t make statements injurious to the race or its sponsors from the time they sign up for the race until 45 days after the last musher finishes. And so in a post last week, Zappa said she was suspending her Facebook page for the duration of the race and the requisite 45-day post-race waiting period.

Her final post included sad news. Dweezil, a 2-year-old dog she describes as her lead dog, soul mate and best friend, tore a muscle in his hind leg while on a training run and won’t make the trip to Nome.
“I’m gonna miss him like crazy,” she said. “”He was twitching like crazy when I left him in the truck.”
Zappa said Dweezil has a case of separation anxiety, something she traces back to the dog’s early days.
“He was near death when he was six months old,” she said. “He was paralyzed for a week and I didn’t ever think that he’d be a sled dog, but he proved everybody wrong.”
Because of his puppyhood trauma, Dweezil was a house dog. Now that he’s a sled dog, he still acts and thinks like a house dog.
“He sleeps on the couch,” Zappa said. “For several months he really lived in the house, and he didn’t want to go back to the dog lot.”

The love for Lance

Lance Mackey finished his ceremonial run through Anchorage with a sled full of beers — and an enamored fan on the runners of his second sled.
JoAnne Woolever won her prized spot in a Wednesday night raffle that was part of a fundraiser for Mackey.

“I started to cry,” she said of the moment when her ticket was drawn. “I’m about to cry right now.”
Woolever, 64, said she has long yearned to be Mackey’s Iditarider, which goes to the highest bidder in an online auction. But Mackey is a four-time champion and fan favorite, so bids run high for him in the Iditarider auction – this year, the spot in his sled went for $5,000.

“I’ve wanted to ride with him forever but I could never come up with that kind of money,” Woolever said. “I thought I was going to be able to do it this year but my husband came down with cancer, so there went that money.“

But she was able to spare enough money to buy a couple of $100 raffle tickets, and one of them was the winner.

It was quite the bargain. Woolever said crowds went wild for Mackey all along the three-mile run.
“It is like there is nobody else in this race,” she said. “I can’t tell you how many times he stopped the sled and shook a small child’s hand.”

Some fans handed beers to Mackey as he passed, leaving him with an assortment of 12-ounce beverages when he finished the race.

A hard-luck champion who has survived cancer and other health issues, Mackey hasn’t finished in the top 15 since his run of four straight titles from 2007-2010, but his fans are as devoted as ever.
“I don’t know what the heck I did to win their hearts,” he said. “The only way I know to thank them and be sincere about it is to keep racing.”


03-20-2016, 04:35 AM

NZ is just a small country, in some places it's a very small town country...

Two police officers have been assaulted in North Canterbury, with one suffering minor facial injuries.

Senior Sergeant Vaughn Lapslie said two police officers were assaulted about 2.55pm Sunday.

The assault started after police stopped three vehicles on State Highway 1, Cheviot.
"There were nine occupants in these vehicles and they immediately became aggressive towards the police staff.
"Three occupants got out of their vehicle and immediately started assaulting police staff."
Lapslie said one of the officers received minor facial injuries. The three men were arrested for "a variety of charges" and are due to appear in the Christchurch District Court.
He said police were supported by the Cheviot Volunteer Fire Brigade who assisted police in keeping the situation calm until further police staff arrived from Culverden, Rangiora and Christchurch.
Fire Service southern communications shift manager Andrew Norris said several firefighters attended the incident in Cheviot.
"We went to assist a local police officer who was being threatened and all we did was provide support and backup."
Norris said firefighters left once other police officers arrived.
"We just go as a show of force and it's far better to have six or eight people."
Police thanked the Fire Brigade for their prompt service and support.


03-20-2016, 03:01 PM

Thanks, Seanz. Interesting story. Thanks for posting it.


03-20-2016, 03:06 PM

A blur of energy

Don’t tell Ira Edwards to slow down. There’s not enough time in the day for the athlete with a paralysis to accomplish everything he has in mind.


Photos by TARA YOUNG / Alaska Dispatch News Ira Edwards works on his cross-country stride Feb. 22 on the Ski Erg machine at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson gym. Overcome is a nonprofit CrossFit affiliate that works with physically and developmentally disabled athletes in Alaska.

During a snowy day in February in South Anchorage, Ira Edwards uses a built-in crane to remove his wheelchair from the cab of his Chevy Silverado. The vehicle is hard to miss around town with its large Rossignol logo wrapping around the truck’s body. Edwards has come to Goldenview Middle School to run a ski waxing demo for Alaska’s Junior Nordic Team.
“Waxing is the least important thing about going fast. Waxing is behind your fitness, your technique, having properly fitted skis, having the right structure on your base,” Edwards says to a group of teenage skiers. “Wax is the last thing to help you guys go fast.”

Demos and lectures before young skiers are a few of Edwards’ many community outreach efforts. A Palmer native, Edwards is known within numerous circles for his many passions, including skiing, gardening, fishing, canning, home-brewing and coaching. Clearly, Edwards is the epitome of a Type A personality, and the 40-year-old says he needs two of him and 30 hours in the day to get all the things he does, done.
His output is prolific despite challenges few of us encounter. Edwards is paralyzed.


One November day in 2010, Edwards was cutting a tree as part of his work as an Alaska State Parks ranger. The tree fell the wrong way and hit him across his jaw and back.
“I knew right away … that I had broken my back. All of a sudden I couldn’t move or feel my feet,” Edwards says. Lying face down in the snow at minus 10 degrees, stranded a mile back in the woods, Edwards and his crew had to wait more than an hour for EMT paramedics to arrive and transport him to the hospital. After a month in the intensive-care unit, Edwards was moved to Denver for rehabilitation. It was a long, slow recovery, but over the past five years Edwards was driven to get back to living fully again, which meant getting back to being exceptionally productive.

“I was pretty bummed out for a while,” he says. “Obviously, it’s a life-changing experience. And I know it’s horrible to say, but when I was in the hospital, there were a lot of people that were a lot worse off than me. … So no matter how bad I felt, someone had it worse, so I was very thankful for what I had left.”

SEWING, COOKING Edwards assists Scout Gramse, 8, as she slides on the snow in a Nordic sit-ski on March 5 at Ski 4 Kids. By showing able-bodied youths adaptive gear, Edwards hopes to create an understanding of and appreciation for disabled athletes. Edwards’ community outreach program, Team Gimp Squad, has donated eight Nordic sit-skis to the Anchorage School District. Edwards completes a lap around the track Feb. 22. Edwards and Dan Beulel experiment with using an air compressor on Oct. 10 to press juice without having to hand-crank the press. Edwards and friends pressed over 85 gallons of juice, or just about 25 bushels. Many of the heirloom apples were cultivated from apple trees that former Anchorage Mayor James Delaney brought to Alaska from the Midwest in the 1920s. by TARA YOUNG / Alaska Dispatch News Ira Edwards executes modified pushups using wooden boxes on Feb. 22 as part of the CrossFit Overcome workout of the day at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson gym.

Edwards started snowboarding in junior high and got into skiing through the Palmer High School running program. He was a cross-country ski racer in high school and college, and after college in 1998 raced for Rossignol semiprofessionally.

Edwards has coached little kids, Junior Nordic and high school students since 1996. “Teaching people is fun, seeing the joy on other people’s faces,” says Edwards. In March he sat patiently in the stadium at Kincaid Park during a Ski 4 Kids event, with adaptive nordic gear he brought for the kids to try out. Edwards’ thinking is that if able-bodied youths try out sit-skis and understand that it’s just a different way to slide on the snow, they might encourage their disabled friends to give it a whirl.

Growing up in the Mat-Su, Edwards’ family didn’t have much money -- but everyone was resourceful. Edwards participated in 4-H Club, gardening, and learned to fish and hunt. Other skills he acquired along the way included sewing, cooking and canning. I’ve “always lived that survivalist mentality,” he says.
Today, Edwards sees his spinal cord injury as a setback, not a game-changer. by TARA YOUNG / Alaska Dispatch News Ira Edwards makes lavender hand balm Feb. 11 as part of his latest venture, RoosterSkier Brand Beard and Mustache Products. Edwards creates homemade haircare products from recipes he has honed over the past decade.

All of the profits from RoosterSkier products go to Edwards’ Team Gimp Squad nonprofit, which supports his community outreach efforts.

‘Every year I get to do more and more things I used to do. It’s just a matter of figuring out how
to do them.'
— Ira Edwards

He remains full of enthusiasm for his many hobbies and invites friends along on his recreational pursuits.
“It was a huge change in my life both mentally and physically. I went through a pretty painful divorce after getting out of the hospital,” Edwards says. “But life is good again.” He’s maintained some childhood friendships, has made numerous new friends and has his trusty sidekick -- an 11-year-old Chesapeake Bay retriever named Chase -- by his side.

“Every year I get to do more and more things I used to do,” he said. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to do them.”
Since his injury, Edwards has returned to Mount Alyeska, carving turns on his sit-ski and competing in races. He fishes the Kenai River from his boat and has taken up pressing homemade apple cider.

He has also become active doing community outreach, working with Challenge Alaska, the adaptive ski program at Alyeska, and his nonprofit “Team Gimp Squad,” which donates time and equipment to the Anchorage School District. Edwards visits with hospital patients who have recently become paraplegics to show them that not only does life goes on, it can be fun and fulfilling. His motivational talks on the positive power of sport in overcoming adversity can be an inspiration.

His latest project? RoosterSkier Brand Beard and Mustache Products — homemade hair-care products made with recipes he has cultivated over the past decade using Alaska-sourced ingredients. All RoosterSkier profits go to Team Gimp Squad to help other paraplegics get back to living active, healthy lives.

Tara Young is an Alaska Dispatch News video journalist.

VIDEO To watch a video profile of Ira Edwards, visit


04-03-2016, 09:08 PM

Bit of excitement out on the peninsula...

Loud explosions echoed through the Banks Peninsula valleys after 40-year-old dynamite was exploded at a rural property 45 minutes from Christchurch last week.
The New Zealand Defence Force and police crews detonated dynamite which Little River man Michael Breitmeyer said​ his father had stored in a shed on his Breitmeyers Rd sheep farm years ago.
"About 20 years ago I remember being out there in the shed and I found a box of dynamite and said to Dad 'what's all this?' and he said 'that's dynamite, that's what we used to use to top trees'.

There's a short video. It's a 'cracker'.


05-14-2016, 02:36 PM

Swamped kayaker rescued with help of saviors — and a seal

After 1½ to 3 hours in waters near Port Heiden, he was a ‘horrible blue color.’

Hannah Colton KDLG (
a Lind via KDLG After being pulled from the water, Andrew Lind had a core temperature of 92 degrees.

On April 28, Andrew Lind’s marine adventure turned into a near-death experience when he spent over an hour and a half in frigid water without a flotation device. A search-and-rescue effort launched from the Alaska Peninsula village of Port Heiden reached the swamped kayaker just in time.
Port Heiden (Meshik) Bay is partly sheltered from the ocean by a narrow strip of land that stretches north across the mouth of the bay. At the end of it is Stroganof Point, a popular subsistence hunting spot about 5 miles across the water from the village.

That’s where 36-year-old Andrew Lind was headed on a Thursday afternoon:
“Well, it was a beautiful, flat, calm day, and I wanted to go out kayaking out on the ocean and look at the wildlife.”
Lind describes himself as a “normal village guy.” Originally from Chignik Lake, he does subsistence and he’s a crew leader for the hazmat remediation project at Port Heiden’s former military base, Fort Morrow.
Lind set out just after 1 p.m. and paddled to Stroganof Point in his 8 1/2-foot plastic kayak. He took in the sights and then turned around.
“On my way back, halfway back I texted my wife and told her I’m on my way back,” he said.
Lind sent that text at 3:37 p.m. He’s not sure how long it was after that that the water got really rough.
“By that time the wind and the waves started picking up and I got caught up on the main channel and a whitecap tipped me over. It all happened (in) slow motion.”
Lind got himself out of the boat and came up for air. Then he started trying to put the kayak upright. But every time he tried to flip it, it would just scoop up water and get more swamped.
“So I just left the kayak upside-down so there was an air pocket in the bow.”
He wasn’t wearing a floatation device but was able to keep his head out of the water by hanging onto his boat. Lind said that pretty soon his arms just cramped around the kayak, holding him in place.
Based on the time of the text message, Lind and his friends and family figure he was in the water somewhere between 1 1/2 and three hours. According to NOAA, the average water temperature there this time of year is just under 40 degrees.
“It felt like I was in there forever, like nobody was gonna come.”
Somebody did come, even before the rescue crew. But it wasn’t a human someone.
“I must have passed out or something, because I heard a knock on the kayak, like somebody knocking on the door, you know?” he said. “And when I woke up, a seal was like two feet away from me, like a guardian angel, keeping me awake.”
Back in Port Heiden, Lind’s wife, Miranda, realized he was overdue. Around 5:30 she started calling people to help. James Christensen is Lind’s brother-in-law and a pilot who owns the only private plane in the village.
“(We) went out over the ocean, (checked) the islands across the bay and couldn’t find him,” Christensen said. “So we started searching between the bay side and the mainland, and my daughter saw something in the water.”
It was just 15 minutes after they took off that Christensen’s daughter spotted Lind about 2 miles offshore. They began circling low over him and radioed to people in the village who were launching two skiffs.
Bruce Bishop, a co-worker of Lind’s, drove one of the boats.
“Ironically, the first skiff went out in front of me and got almost to him and ran out of gas. Somebody had taken the gas out of his skiff.”
Luckily, Bishop’s skiff had a full tank, and he and two other men made it to Lind just after 7 p.m.
“Oh my god, he was just this horrible blue color,” recalled Bishop. “And Andrew’s a big boy, probably 260 or better. It was everything three of us could do to drag him over the side of the boat.”
The boat crew said Lind was coherent as they got him out of his wet clothes and into dry ones. Lind doesn’t remember anything from when he was pulled from the water until he came to at the clinic. His core temperature had dropped to 92 degrees by the time health aides started warming him up with heated blankets.
This is not your typical search-and-rescue story; the entire operation happened in less than two hours, with no outside help from state troopers or the Coast Guard.
Of course, plenty of luck was involved. If Lind hadn’t had cellphone service, if Jimmy Christensen had been flying elsewhere that day … so many little things could have ruined this happy ending.
But one thing that didn’t seem like luck is the way people in Port Heiden knew how to spring into action.
Bruce Bishop, the skiff driver, said that’s not an accident. He and some of the other rescuers all work at the hazardous waste cleanup site, so they all have up-to-date first aid, CPR and other training.
But, said Bishop, it’s more than just the training.
“We work together every day, so we have really good communication skills between us. That’s probably what made this all work.”
Andrew Lind said what kept him kicking was faith and his family.
“There was lots of praying to God, talking to my family, my kids and my wife. Who would take care of them if something did happen? I think that’s what pushed me to hold on,” he said.
He doesn’t know what to make of the seal’s appearance. Later, the rescuers would report that the seal lingered near the kayak until well after Lind was safely out of the water.

Vince Brennan

05-14-2016, 05:01 PM

Seal of approval?


05-22-2016, 12:09 AM

Seal of approval?

:):D :D


05-22-2016, 12:10 AM

Alaska News (

After being mauled by a brown bear, Juneau man is glad to be alive

Author: Jerzy Shedlock, Chris Klint
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 2 days ago Jcouch.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

Kenneth Steck doesn't know why a large brown bear that charged and mauled him in the thick brush near the Southeast Alaska town of Yakutat stopped its attack. Steck came to believe he may die in those brief moments, and he told God he accepted that outcome.

"I remember thinking 'My wife is losing her husband,' and then I thought 'God, if you're calling me home, I'm willing,' " said Steck Wednesday during an interview in a family member's East Anchorage home, where he is recovering after being hospitalized at Providence Alaska Medical Center for four days.

Originally from a Chicago suburb, Steck came to the state four years ago after enrolling in the outdoor studies program at Alaska Pacific University. His courses, including lessons about bear safety, have carried over into his exploration of his new home.

Kenneth and his wife, Hannah Steck, were visiting friends and family in Yakutat last week from their home in Juneau. Eight of them headed for Disenchantment Bay on May 12; the Stecks wanted to explore somewhere they'd never been. The group traveled using a 22-foot aluminum skiff and set up camp on a gravel bar on the east side of Calahonda Creek. Jhelp3-1024x683.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

After a bear mauled him last Friday, Hannah Steck helps her husband Kenny Steck on May 18, 2016. (Scott Jensen / Alaska Dispatch News)
The next morning was hot and sunny. Kenneth Steck decided around 10:30 a.m. to fill up water jugs at a snowmelt waterfall flowing nearby. He informed some of the other campers of his plans and set off, leaving behind the rifles that'd been brought along for the trip. He said he also didn't have bear mace.

He filled the water jugs and started back, he said. On the trek back to camp, Kenneth Steck heard loud snapping and cracking of branches.

"I turned around immediately after hearing that commotion and there's a brown bear in a full charge toward me," Kenneth Steck said, sitting on a coach, his right leg propped up on a stool and his right arm in a sling hidden beneath a plaid button-up. "Immediately I yelled 'Hey bear, hey bear' to identify myself as a person and hopefully he will take off the other way or bluff charge."

But the brown bear was on Kenneth Steck within seconds. Kenneth said he could hear the bear breathing as it was running toward him. At the same time Kenneth walked slowly backward and ended up falling on his back. He screamed as loud as he could.

"That's when I heard him," Hannah said.
Kenneth instinctively put his right foot up to try and distance himself from the bear, but it swiped and ripped his boot and leg "clean open." The bear moved toward Kenneth's upper body.

"I remember feeling like the bear was swallowing me. I remember feeling like I was in the bear's mouth or throat. It was very wet … In those moments, it felt like an eternity, but I'm sure it was just a few seconds," he said.

The thoughts of dying passed through Kenneth Steck's mind. Too many thoughts one would think were possible in that amount of time, he said. He believes God intervened to help him.

The bear took off.

Steck suffered numerous injuries to his scalp, chest and calf. Hannah Steck said the bear just missed Kenneth's femoral artery. The bear also wounded Kenneth's right shoulder.

Despite large gashes in his leg, the bloodied and muddied camper stood up and decided to head for help, toward his friends. Adrenaline was in full gear, he said. Soon after, Hanna Steck and Clint Ivers, the boat captain, were at his side. mage1-1024x768.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

After a bear mauling on Friday, May 13, 2016, Kenny Steck recieved treatment for his injuries at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. (Photo courtesy: Hannah Steck)
Hannah, a registered nurse of about four years, checked on her husband. He was aware and talking but it was apparent they needed to get out of the remote Alaska wilderness.

Kenneth was loaded onto a boat with four others — Hannah as well as her brother and sister-in-law Isaiah and Heidi Carlson, all three of whom are nurses. Ivers piloted the boat.

Yakutat police officer Jeff Lee said the U.S. Coast Guard was informed by radio of the attack shortly after noon on Friday. Hannah said the group boated for about 20 minutes before their marine radio got a good signal.

Lee said police monitoring the call learned that a group was still about an hour away. It was decided responders in Yakutat would intercept the boat, he said.

Kenneth arrived at Providence at 4 p.m. on Friday; doctors discharged him Monday afternoon. Family, friends and former church members from when the Stecks lived in Anchorage came to visit and wish him well in the hospital, he said.

According to Lee, the area's bears outside Yakutat proper are "a different breed," because they're not acclimatized to humans.

"These bears just don't run," Lee said. "I've had them where you're taking a photo, and they see you and they actually start coming at you."

According to Lee, nobody at the Yakutat Police Department could recall a bear mauling in the immediate vicinity — but that if a mauling was going to occur, it was most likely to happen in Disenchantment Bay.

"We have a lot of bear incidents, but we don't have a lot of bears actually getting a hold of somebody," Lee said. "It's not surprising that someone got mauled by one, given the amount of bear traffic in that area."

Ken Marsh, an Anchorage-based spokesman with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said in an email that staff had decided not to seek out and kill the bear, because a biologist who investigated the mauling found signs that the attack wasn't predatory in nature.

"The biologist was able to interview the mauling survivor at the hospital and determined that the attack was likely the result of the man (who was walking through dense brush) surprising the bear at close quarters," Marsh wrote. "The attack lasted only seconds — just long enough for the surprised bear to neutralize a perceived threat."

Marsh said that the mauling is the third reported to Fish and Game so far this year, following April attacks that injured two other men. Glenn Bohn, 77, was mauled by a grizzly bear while hunting ( off Mile 77 of the Denali Highway; his hunting partner shot and killed the bear involved. Later that month, University of Alaska Southeast mountaineering professor Forest Wagner was critically injured by a brown bear ( while leading a UAS class group on a trip near Haines.

Once things calmed down, Kenneth Steck said he spent time thinking about the mauling and how it could have gone differently. He could have brought a gun or bear spray, but he doesn't believe he had enough time to fire a steady shot with either.

He also thinks injuring the bear may have only aggravated it, potentially making the attack worse. The incident has changed him physically and mentally for the rest of his life, he said, but he's glad he was mauled and not his loved ones. He thanked everyone who helped him survive.

"I will cherish and appreciate life a little more every day from now on," he said.

Kenneth also refuses to shy away from the outdoors. He was set to start a Bureau of Land Management job next week in Glenallen, but those plans have been put on hold. For now, the focus is recovery.


05-23-2016, 12:35 PM

Wildlife (

Love in the time of climate change: Grizzlies and polar bears are now mating

Author: Adam Popescu, The Washington Post
Updated: 2 hours ago
Published 2 hours ago pwnjtQFdfRywYVMRA=%2F373x0%2Farc-anglerfish-arc2-prod-adn%2FEYCMYZ52EVATHLTJL5YN3D463I&mode=crop&w=600&q=99This bear, which was three-fourths grizzly and one-fourth polar bear, can be seen at the Ulukhaktok Community Hall in Ulukhaktok, in Canada's Northwest Territories. (Handout photo by A.E. Deroche-University of Alberta)

BARROW, Alaska -- Most Alaskans and Canadians have a bear story - tales of fearsome grizzlies, even polar bears. But a mix of the two?

They're known as pizzlies or grolars, and they're a fusion of the Arctic white bear and their brown cousins. It's a blend that's been turning up more and more in parts of Alaska and Western Canada.

Bears sharing both species' DNA have been recorded several times over the past decade. So why are these two species linking up?

It's called flexible mate choice: The bears are mating with the best possible partners as opposed to not mating at all, and they're mating because they share relatively close territories and the same branches of the same evolutionary tree.

Intraspecies mixing between the two happened thousands of years ago, thanks to the advance and retreat of glaciers, and of late, it has been boosted by climate change. Scientists say it's also probably been assisted by policies that protect both bears from culling and hunting, affording further opportunities for mingling.

The crossbreeds found in Alaska and Canada are not genetic anomalies. Scientists have found the mix in the islands off Southeast Alaska, where bears resemble grizzlies but contain polar bear DNA. That indicates decades of sporadic interbreeding, said Steven Amstrup, chief scientist at Polar Bears International.

The polar-grizzly cocktail is also far from the only recent animal hybrid. The coywolf - a coyote-dog-wolf amalgamation - and a lynx-bobcat mix have been popping up along the northern Atlantic coast. The more scientists analyze species' genomes, the more they realize that animals we label as "pure breeds" actually share DNA - and that includes us.

Many humans carry traces of DNA from Neanderthals, which means we're all hybrids. It also means there's no such thing as genetic purity. The concept is a romantic construct, an anthropomorphized take on nature. And what may be most surprising about this, researchers say, is the role interbreeding plays in the futures of endangered species - or, as the case may be with polar bears, accelerating their end.

Amstrup has studied bears in the Arctic since the 1970s and was instrumental in helping list the polar bear as a threatened species in 2008. He, like other experts, characterizes this "new" bear relationship as more beneficial to grizzlies than polar bears. That's because there are more grizzlies than polar bears and because grizzly territory is expanding while polar bear territory is contracting. What that adds up to is a good chance grizzlies could essentially dilute the polar bear population until it doesn't exist at all, they say.

Polar bears are getting the short end of the stick in this relationship, not "gaining any genetic diversity," said Geoff York, who led research on polar bears at the World Wildlife Fund for almost a decade before joining Amstrup at PBI.

Andrew Derocher, a professor of biological studies at the University of Alberta, has spent three decades studying bears throughout the Arctic. He, too, has a sobering view about where the hybridization is heading.

"I hate to say it, but from a genetic perspective, it's quite likely grizzly bears will eat polar bears up, genetically," he told me. And he says the changes are already at play.

All hybrids that have been analyzed had grizzly fathers, because grizzly males roam to establish territory and come in contact with receptive female polar bears. Female grizzlies tend not to stray far from their home ranges, and male polar bears don't usually creep into grizzly habitats.

Polar bears need the ice - that's where the seals and walruses they eat live. They don't hibernate, and they don't travel south of the tundra. Grizzlies, historically, rarely ventured north of the treeline. Permafrost is too cold for their liking, and they sink into the snow easily. (Polar bears have padded paws that act as snowshoes). Hunting is more challenging in the north, where prey is scarce. They're not really swimmers.

But shifts are afoot.

"What we're starting to see in the Canadian Arctic is three-fourth grizzlies," Derocher said, referring to the offspring of 50-50 hybrids that then mated with grizzlies. "How do they act? Probably more like grizzly bears, living on land. As climate change continues, terrestrial habitat is going to increase, and the likelihood is the habitat for grizzlies, a terrestrial bear, is going to get better. That means a longer warming period and greater food potential."

Derocher said it will not be long before we start seeing female grizzlies bump into male polar bears, further straining the polar bear's genetic variation. "I suspect at the same time that that's occurring, we'll start to see polar bears on their way out."

When will that be? Impossible to say, but some experts think that as the Arctic continues warming, it may be only a few decades, perhaps a century. There are about 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears in the Circumpolar Arctic, and "an order of magnitude higher for grizzlies in that area" and other brown bears, Derocher said. "It shouldn't be a big surprise that grizzlies are moving north - everything is."

Right now, polar bears are also threatened by polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, and other toxic pollution - primarily from eating seals and other animals affected by these carcinogens - that has been linked to brain damage, even causing some bears' baculums, or penis bones, to break off.

And those outcomes could affect polar-grizzly hybrids as badly as pure breeds. No matter what bear ends up as the Arctic's future apex predator, scientists say, if the issues up north aren't solved, it won't matter what bears are there.

Hybrids are "a normal part of the evolutionary process," Derocher said. But if the ice disappears, "we won't have grizzlies or polar bears in this area. If you roll the clock ahead another number of decades or a century, quite clearly it's going to be no bears eventually."


05-24-2016, 02:50 AM

News coming soon


05-24-2016, 03:10 AM

Donated organs kept ‘alive’ may ease transplant shortage

Instead of putting organs on ice, new approach keeps them warm, oxygenated.

Lenny Bernstein The Washington Post by MATTHEW CAVANAUGH for The Washington Post Two technicians carry the Transmedics Organ Care System at Transmedics in Massachusetts. The TransMedics system, first tested in Europe in 2006, is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration for commercial use with hearts and lungs in the United States. A liver trial is a first-level safety study. Transmedics Organ Care System takes a new approach to organ transplants. It emphasizes warmth instead of cold and maintaining an organ’s natural processes.

BOSTON — Lloyd Matsumoto awoke from his liver transplant last month to find his surgeon more than pleased with the results. The new organ had begun producing bile almost immediately, a welcome signal that it had quickly started to function well.
That may be partly because of the way Matsumoto’s liver traveled from Tufts Medical Center across Boston to Massachusetts General Hospital. Instead of being packed in ice for the 41/2 hours it was outside the abdomens of donor and recipient, the liver was essentially kept alive in a device that maintains its temperature, perfuses it with oxygenated blood and monitors its critical activity.

“They say I’m going to live a normal life span,” said Matsumoto, a 71-year-old biology professor who is now back home in Darrington, Rhode Island. “I’m living proof that it works.”
For all the advances in transplant surgery in the 62 years since doctors first moved a kidney from Ronald Herrick to his identical twin, Richard, the method of transporting organs remains remarkably primitive.
A harvested heart, lung, liver or kidney is iced in a plastic cooler, the kind you might take to the beach, then raced to an operating room where a critically ill patient and his surgical team are waiting.
The new approach flips that idea — emphasizing warmth instead of cold and maintaining an organ’s natural processes rather than slowing them down. That may speed an individual heart or liver’s return to service, and it offers the eventual possibility of more: the potential to reduce the chronic shortage of organs for transplant by expanding the pool of usable ones.
Earlier clinical trials established that this technique is safe for transporting donated hearts and lungs. But Matsumoto’s surgeon, James F. Markmann, chief of the division of transplantation at Massachusetts General and head of the liver trial, cautioned that neither idea has been proven for that organ. That’s one of the reasons a study is underway. But Markmann said doctors and patients may be on the cusp of a “new start to this area.”
Many donor hearts are unavailable today because too much damage would occur when the blood supply is cut off and the organ is put on ice for hours. The big question is whether keeping them warm will increase the supply, said Michael G. Dickinson, a heart-failure cardiologist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dickinson is part of a separate heart-transport study designed to address that issue.
“Is this better overall than the standard method?” he asked. “We would hope so. But we don’t know.”
A Massachusetts company, TransMedics, founded in 1998 by a heart surgeon, developed the Portable Organ Care System being used in the U.S. trials. Competitors here and abroad also are testing alternative technology.
The TransMedics device encloses the organ in a plastic box that attaches to a wheeled cart and can be removed to fit in a vehicle or aircraft. Blood, nutrients and fluids are pumped through tubes into the liver. Heaters warm the blood. Sensors monitor critical functions during the trip, relaying them to doctors wirelessly on a control screen. Specialists can alter a number of conditions — including oxygen levels and pressure in veins — with a touch of the panel.
The TransMedics system, first tested in Europe in 2006, is awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration for commercial use with hearts and lungs in the United States. The liver trial is a first-level safety study.
In Australia and parts of Europe, the device has been approved and used about 200 times commercially, according to a company spokeswoman.
A substantial remaining obstacle is cost, including whether insurance, Medicare and Medicaid will cover the $250,000initial purchase, the $45,000 price of each organ container — which are used only once — and the staff time needed to transport an organ this way.
Nearly 31,000 organs were transplanted in the United States last year, including 2,804 hearts and 7,127 livers. But the sizable gap between demand and supply generally widens every year, leaving tens of thousands of people on waiting lists. An average of 22 people die each day waiting for transplants.
David Klassen, medical director for the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit organization that runs the U.S. organ procurement and transplantation network, agreed that devices such as the organ-care system could help ease the shortage if they make currently unusable organs available for transplant. Cost, he said, is still a barrier to widespread adoption of the devices, but with trials underway it is early for decisions on coverage.
There are two types of death in the transplant field — brain death and cardiac death. Donor hearts are useful only after brain death, because the heart continues to pump and oxygen-rich blood continues to circulate. In cardiac death, reduced circulation — known as ischemia — causes too much damage to the heart muscle to allow transplantation.
Australian doctors last year transplanted three hearts after cardiac death, waiting as little as two minutes to harvest the organs. That effort and another like it have raised ethical questions about how soon surgeons should remove any organ after the heart stops beating. In the United States, the standard is five minutes.
“We can’t have a Wild West situation where surgeons just essentially come up with their own criteria,” said Robert Veatch, a professor emeritus of medical ethics at Georgetown University’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics.
Restarting livers, lungs and other organs harvested after circulatory death raises another issue, Veatch said. “If you’re restarting a heart, can you also say the circulatory system has been irreversibly stopped?” he asked.
In a brain-dead donor, transport and harvesting time are the enemy. When Marvin Vandermolen received his new heart April 16 at Spectrum’s Fred and Lena Meijer Heart Center, the donor was 2 1/2 hours away and 7 1/2 hours passed from the time the organ was taken until it was placed in Vandermolen’s chest. That is nearly double the allowable four hours under the protocol for hearts transported on ice.
But because Vandermolen’s heart was kept beating on the TransMedics device, it was in fine shape when it arrived for transplant and functioned well, according to his surgeon, Martin Strueber.
“We can keep a donor heart out of the body longer than we would do with any cold storage method,” Strueber said. “The heart is not sitting in a box. It is sitting in a system and is perfused with warm blood.”
After a month in the hospital, Vandermolen, 63, was headed home, focused “on eating something that really sounds good to me, and that sounds like meatloaf,” he said.
Donations after cardiac death also are problematic for livers, Markmann said. Thirty minutes without circulation is the current standard. Even within that time, about 30 percent of livers suffer some scarring in bile ducts. If the study shows promise in reducing injuries, future research will probably examine how much longer livers can endure ischemia.
Markmann said he was gratified to see how quickly Matsumoto’s donated liver responded. Until the study at six U.S. sites is completed later this year, it’s impossible to know the impact of the Trans-Medics device. But Markmann said in an email that “it was my impression” that the new transport method “contributed to (the liver’s) excellent early function.”
Early signs of Matsumoto’s liver problems began 25 years ago. Doctors eventually discovered that he had a form of cirrhosis — permanent scarring and damage to liver function — that is not related to alcohol, Matsumoto said. There is no cure, and when his symptoms became severe, one primary-care doctor told him that “no one is going to give a man your age a new liver,” he said.
But that wasn’t true. He qualified as a recipient and signed up for Markmann’s study. As a test subject, he could have been randomly chosen for the current standard of care — a liver transported on ice — or the experimental procedure that uses the TransMedics apparatus. A computer chose him for the latter and he became just the third person at Massachusetts General to receive his liver that way.
The 11-hour transplant surgery began on April 27 and was completed the next day. When Matsumoto awoke, “I was told I have a new birthday,” he said, “which was the 28th of April.”

Donated organs kept ‘alive’ may ease transplant shortage


05-28-2016, 11:08 AM

Alaska News (

Two bicyclists injured by moose on Anchorage Coastal Trail

Author: Annie Za ( (

Two women were attacked by two moose while bicycling on the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail on Friday afternoon.

Anchorage Fire Chief Denis LeBlanc did not know the identities of the women but said they were both transported to Providence Alaska Medical Center, one with traumatic injuries and another with minor injuries. He said they are both Anchorage residents.

The attack happened just south of Point Woronzof, LeBlanc said, near the Asplund Wastewater Treatment Facility. The women were with other bikers.

The Anchorage Fire Department got a call about the incident a little bit after 2 p.m. Friday.

"People were biking, and I think they came around the corner and saw a couple moose off to the side," LeBlanc said. "They weren't really threatening, but when they got abreast of them, the two moose attacked and injured two women."

He said that airport police closed the trail in the area for about an hour. The Fire Department sent out ambulances, fire engines and a rescue truck, and had to remove a vehicle barricade in order to send a four-wheeler to transport the two women from the trail, one in the four-wheeler and one in a stretcher towed behind.

The animals ran off into the woods. Alaska Department of Fish and Game employees went looking for the moose, LeBlanc said, but didn't find them.

He didn't get a clear answer about whether one of the moose may have been a calf.


05-28-2016, 11:18 AM

Friday morning, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Animal Control officers responded to the upper Susitna Valley after a report of a team of nine sled dogs found without a driver. (

A sled dog team lost from its owner? Not weird, according to Kirsten Vesel, director of the borough animal shelter.

A little more weird? The sled — designed for snow and ice — was still attached at approximately Mile 12 Petersville Road.

It's safe to say there's no snow in Petersville, the remote Alaska community best known as a snowmachine destination in the upper Susitna Valley. It hit 70 degrees Friday.

A picture of the dogs posted by the Willow Dog Mushers Association ( shows the huskies resting on the dirt road next to tall green grass, the sled pushed off to the side.

Vesel said it doesn't seem like the dogs were there long and they appear to be in good health. They were slightly dehydrated, but not starving. The dogs remained hooked to the sled, but had become tangled in the gangline that kept them attached.

Vesel said animal control was working with Alaska State Troopers to locate the owner of the dogs. None of them were microchipped.

Trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said the agency was investigating the incident Friday.

"It could just be a loose dog team that got away from somebody and we just haven't found the person that was with them," she said. "But we don't want to not look and realize later that someone was injured or something."


05-29-2016, 01:18 PM

Alaska News (

Mystery solved: Musher found after rogue sled dog team appears in Mat-Su

Author: Suzanna Caldwell (, Alex DeMarban (

A woman who organized a rescue group found the musher she was looking for late Friday night, after his nine-dog team had been discovered roaming the Upper Susitna Valley — with its winter dog sled still attached.

Rebecca Charles of Wasilla said on Saturday that musher Allen Lau, a friend of hers, is in good health.

She'd become concerned after learning on Facebook his dog team had been discovered without him Friday morning. The Willow Dog Mushers Association ( posted a picture of the huskies resting on a dirt road next to tall green grass, the sled pushed off to the side.

The dogs were found at about Mile 12 of Petersville Road.

"I was making sure he wasn't dead or hurt on the trail," said Charles.

Lau has been using his team and the sled – designed for snow and ice — to haul supplies to a remote cabin off the road, over swampy muskeg in an area with bears and other dangers.

Charles organized a team of eight rescuers, complete with waders, boots, headlamps, a six-wheeler and other gear to look for Lau.

But she happened to run into him at the end of the Petersville Road late Friday night.

"He was very upset and very, very concerned" about his dogs, she said.

He'd gone to get supplies, and somehow his dogs had become untied, she said.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough Animal Control officers responded to the report of the loose dog team early Friday morning.

Kirsten Vesel, director of the borough animal shelter, said the dogs had apparently not been at Mile 12 long. They looked to be in good health, though they were slightly dehydrated, she said. The dogs remained hooked to the sled, but had become tangled in the gangline that kept them attached.

Lau could not be reached on Saturday. Apparently his cellphone was dead — gasoline for his generator was one supply he wanted to haul in, friends said.

Charles said Lau's main concern was he could not get his dogs and the gear until Tuesday. He understands they are at the animal shelter, but it's closed till Tuesday.

Jill Garnet, president of the Peninsula Sled Dog Racing Association, said she helped organize the rescue group by Facebook "networking." She lives far from Petersville — in Kasilof on the Kenai Peninsula — so she wasn't available to be part of the rescue group.

"It's been a true Alaska group effort," she said.

Lau was grateful and communicating with Garnet Saturday morning, before the battery on his cellphone began to die, she said. He was trying to figure out how to move supplies to the cabin.

Garnet said on Saturday she was trying to organize people who could help Lau haul freight, perhaps with a six-wheeler or eight-wheeler ATV that can handle the swamp.

"If they are willing to go Petersville, they can contact me," she said.

Her number is (907) (tel:%28907%29%20953-9223)xxx-xxxx


05-30-2016, 12:19 PM

Alaska News (

Bethel's old city graveyard is full and fading, but the stories live on

Author: Lisa Demer ( emetery-01-1024x655.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99Grace Hunter trims back willow and alder that sprout up every year in Bethel’s Ridgecrest Memorial Cemetery, one of three city graveyards in the Western Alaska hub. She said two daughters are buried there. She and her husband, Henry Hunter, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 110041 in Bethel, along with other volunteers help to clean up around graves every year. (Lisa Demer / Alaska Dispatch News)

BETHEL – Some names are wearing away and some handmade wooden crosses are lying on the ground, but this weekend, this Western Alaska community's old graveyard got needed attention.

Families and volunteers with Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Ladies Auxiliary clipped away willow and alder that threaten to consume parts of Ridgecrest Memorial Cemetery, one of three city cemeteries in Bethel where families still help dig graves. And it's nearly full.

As a national holiday, Memorial Day honors the country's war dead. In practice, it has become a time for relatives and friends to clean up gravesites, add new flowers — mainly silk ones in Bethel — and remember those who are gone whether they were military members or not; the daughters and grandmothers, the sons and brothers, the people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

"We just clean everybody's grave," Bethel's Grace Hunter said on Friday as she maneuvered a pair of garden clippers. She has two daughters buried in Ridgecrest and has nurtured their graves and others too. Hardy roses were about to bloom on the grave of baby Ina.

Ridgecrest is in central town. Across the highway is the Tundra Center halfway house and across a side street is Fili's Pizza, which earlier this year started selling beer and wine.

"Probably every family has someone out there," said Bethel's Dave Trantham, a World War II veteran.

'Spoke for everyone'

Hunter worked alongside her husband, Henry Hunter, commander of VFW Post 10041 in Bethel, as well as friend Margie Revet. Henry will be leading the Memorial Day program Monday at 2 p.m. at Ridgecrest, singling out Alaska Territorial Guard member and Korean War veteran William H. Riley for special honors.

"His nickname was Buddy and everyone knew him and loved him," said one of Riley's daughters, Liz Smith, who now lives in Vancouver, Washington.

Revet, who lived for years in Bethel and recently moved to Wasilla, said her husband almost didn't want to leave the community because their young daughter is buried there at Ridgecrest. She assured him she would come back to tend the grave of little Elsie, as she was doing Friday.

The weathered markers are etched with the history of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, with the names of Vietnam soldiers and World War II vets, of remarkable community leaders and those frozen in youth, the teens and children and babies. 3-1024x683.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

White wooden crosses mark most of the hundreds of graves in Bethel’s Ridgecrest Memorial Cemetery, like these seen on Friday, May 27, 2016. City clerk Lori Strickler says she hopes to get the old cemetery mapped out this summer and information logged into an electronic database over the winter. (Lisa Demer / Alaska Dispatch News)
Chief Eddie Hoffman — the traditional chief of the Association of Village Council Presidents and namesake of the town's main highway — is buried at Ridgecrest. So is Nora Guinn, the first woman and the first Alaska Native to become a district judge in the state. The Bethel courthouse is named for her.

Hoffman took on the state over conditions in the region including housing, water and sewer and schools, Henry Hunter said.

"He spoke out for everybody," Hunter said.

Guinn, who often conducted court in Yup'ik, earned a reputation for giving kids a second chance, and some of those supposed troublemakers went on to become town leaders, he said.

Eroded graveyard

Decades ago, Bethel had a cemetery along the riverfront. Summer storms eroded the graveyard, so the city found a new spot on high ground at Ridgecrest. Stones and crosses were moved along with caskets, but some of those buried there were taken by the Kuskokwim River, said Gloria Simeon of Bethel, the former leader of Orutsararmiut Native Council, Bethel's tribe.

Back when she was still a school girl, "we used to walk by that area really fast," she said of the washed-away cemetery.

Simeon's great-great grandmother Palassa Lind — married to an early trader, Ed Lind — is buried in Ridgecrest as are the Linds' three sons, who all died young on the same day in 1905. Simeon said she was told by her grandfather, Eddie Hoffman, that the three were taken onto a Russian schooner whose captain may have had a beef with Lind. The Lind boys — in their teens and early 20s — got drunk and were thrown overboard, Simeon said. When they tried to climb back on board, she remembers her uppa Hoffman telling her their hands were chopped off with a saber.

"All on the same day. Three boys," she said.

A few reserved plots remain in Ridgecrest but it's considered closed, as is Ptarmigan Memorial Cemetery. Ptarmigan, next to St. Sophia Orthodox Christian Church, was intended to serve as Bethel's new cemetery when Ridgecrest filled up but the land there is too wet for a graveyard, the city discovered. emetery-04-1024x683.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

The city of Bethel’s Ptarmigan Memorial Cemetery is seen on Saturday, May 28, 2016, by St. Sophia Orthodox Christian Church. The city had intended it to be to new cemetery when Ridgecrest Memorial Cemetery filled up but the land here was too wet. (Lisa Demer / Alaska Dispatch News)
The newest of the trio of city graveyards is Veterans Memorial Cemetery past Bethel Airport on high tundra. It opened in 2007, includes a civilian side as well as a military side, and is laid out in even rows with roads in between, unlike meandering Ridgecrest.

Bethel's Trantham won the Governor's Veterans Advocacy Award in 2015 for his work to create that cemetery along with the neighboring Alaska Territorial Guard Memorial Park.

Hand-digging a grave

The city of Bethel charges $50 for a burial permit and $150 to reserve a plot. Sometimes a family wants to reserve a number of plots all at once, and the city will work out a payment plan, said city clerk Lori Strickler.

Bethel's annual budget for cemetery maintenance is $5,000, which goes for grass seed, fertilizer, fence repair and the like, she said. She's hoping to buy some trees for Veterans Memorial. City crews do some upkeep, but Bethel municipal code specifies that the city is not responsible for the care and marking of graves.

"It's up to the family," Henry Hunter said when asked about the fallen crosses and faded names. "Some we can't distinguish who they are."

At Veterans Memorial, the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative, or AVEC, and the city typically do the bulk of the grave digging as a public service, Strickler said. Families need to be present with shovels to neaten the edges, she said.

Ridgecrest is too crowded for heavy machinery so families and friends dig graves there. With no funeral home in town, families usually either make caskets or hire it out.

Clarisse Jensen, her fiancé and their children were at Ridgecrest tending family graves on Friday. She remembered the burial in 2008 of her grandmother, Mary Frances Romer, an early famed barber. emetery-02-1024x683.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

Clarisse Jensen; son Kaizer Jensen, 7; and Maison Nathan, 3, are seen on Friday, May 27, 2016, at Bethel’s Ridgecrest Memorial Cemetery as the family works to clear the grave of Clarisse’s grandmother, Mary Frances Romer, who was a famed barber in town. (Lisa Demer / Alaska Dispatch News)
"It's hand-digging. It's hand-burying. Her casket was handmade," Jensen said. "It turned out beautifully, too." An artist did the lettering on the cross back in 2008, and it's still holding up.

This might be the last year for Memorial Day services at Ridgecrest, Hunter said, as the program may move to Veterans Memorial. That's still "quite a ways out," Hunter noted.

Strickler, who became clerk in 2008, has meticulous records on who is buried at Veterans Memorial. Ridgecrest, with its meandering lanes and eroding markers, is another story.

There is no known master list or map of who is buried in Ridgecrest or Ptarmigan, Strickler said. The burial permits only go back to the 1990s, she said.

This summer she hopes to get Ridgecrest mapped out and over the winter log information into a database. Then she'll work to document who is buried in Ptarmigan.

Bethel's history is there, in the old wooden crosses and marble stones.


05-31-2016, 01:45 PM

Alaska News (

What do you do when a 50-foot-long whale carcass shows up in a small harbor town?

Author: Michelle Theriault Boots
Updated: 13 hours ago
Published 14 hours ago DeadWhale2.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99A crowd gathers on the beach at Resurrection Bay, where a fin whale carcass was towed after being discovered on the bow of the cruise ship Zaandam when it docked in Seward on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Sorensen)

When a dead fin whale showed up slung over the bow of a cruise ship arriving in Seward yesterday, wildlife officials faced a time-sensitive problem.

What to do with a quickly decomposing, 50-foot-long whale carcass in the middle of a busy harbor?

The answer: Move it to a quiet beach and let nature take its course.

The whale discovered dead and draped over the bulbous bow of the Holland America cruise ship Zaandam Sunday morning has been moved to a beach away from town, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman Julie Speegle Monday. The whale — determined to be a juvenile male — is undergoing an extensive necropsy aimed at determining the cause of its death.

[Cruise ship arrives in Seward with dead, endangered whale draped over its bow (]

Speegle didn't say exactly where the whale was taken, describing the site only as "a suitable beach location" that met "accessibility needs for the necropsy" and is "acceptable for a permanent location" for the fin whale, the second largest animal in the world after the blue whale.

The scientists involved hope to test samples to determine whether the ship struck and killed the whale or whether it was already dead when hit. They also hope to understand whether the fin whale was exposed to harmful algal blooms believed to be related to a sudden die-off ( of whales documented last summer.

The whale's resting place at a less accessible beach means it won't be near the swarm of cruise ship passengers, campers and tourists that crowd Seward's harbor in the summertime.

Anchorage resident Andrew Sorensen was camping on a beach in what he described as a semi-industrial zone directly across the bay from the town of Seward. He stuck around to document the necropsy.
When a dead fin whale showed up slung over the bow of a cruise ship arriving in Seward yesterday, wildlife officials faced a time-sensitive problem.

What to do with a quickly decomposing, 50-foot-long whale carcass in the middle of a busy harbor?

The answer: Move it to a quiet beach and let nature take its course.

The whale discovered dead and draped over the bulbous bow of the Holland America cruise ship Zaandam Sunday morning has been moved to a beach away from town, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokeswoman Julie Speegle Monday. The whale — determined to be a juvenile male — is undergoing an extensive necropsy aimed at determining the cause of its death.

[Cruise ship arrives in Seward with dead, endangered whale draped over its bow (]

Speegle didn't say exactly where the whale was taken, describing the site only as "a suitable beach location" that met "accessibility needs for the necropsy" and is "acceptable for a permanent location" for the fin whale, the second largest animal in the world after the blue whale.

The scientists involved hope to test samples to determine whether the ship struck and killed the whale or whether it was already dead when hit. They also hope to understand whether the fin whale was exposed to harmful algal blooms believed to be related to a sudden die-off ( of whales documented last summer.

The whale's resting place at a less accessible beach means it won't be near the swarm of cruise ship passengers, campers and tourists that crowd Seward's harbor in the summertime.

Anchorage resident Andrew Sorensen was camping on a beach in what he described as a semi-industrial zone directly across the bay from the town of Seward. He stuck around to document the necropsy.

Sorensen watched as the whale was transported to the secluded beach on the opposite side of Resurrection Bay from Seward and then pulled above tideline with the aid of a forklift and bulldozer.

"It was pretty impressive seeing it kinda get dragged out of the water, how massive it was. Even though it was a juvenile it had to be 45 feet long," he said.

It was clear to Sorensen that the whale was freshly killed.

"It hadn't been rotting or decomposing yet," he said. DeadWhale1.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

Officials dissect the fin whale found dead on the bow of the cruise ship Zaandam in Seward on Sunday, May 29, 2016. (Photo by Andrew Sorensen)
The necropsy team included a veterinary pathologist, five volunteers from Seward's Alaska SeaLife Center and a NOAA law enforcement officer, according to Speegle.

Sorensen shot video and took pictures. He had braced himself for a memorable stench. But things actually didn't smell too bad until the team got to the intestines.

"And then it started smelling pretty ripe."

The team worked until 11 p.m. Sunday collecting samples, Speegle said. The necropsy is expected to be finished Monday, but results may take weeks or longer.


06-03-2016, 12:18 PM

Anchorage (

Tires slashed on dozens of planes parked at Merrill Field

Author: Annie Zak (, Loren Holmes (

A row of airplanes sit with flat tires at Merrill Field on Thursday morning. Scores of planes had tires slashed overnight at the airport. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

On Thursday morning, pilots found tires slashed and flattened on dozens of airplanes at the Merrill Field airport in East Anchorage. The tires of at least 87 planes parked there were cut and the airport doesn't know yet who might be responsible.

Chris Seaman, who lives in Anchorage, arrived around 6:45 a.m. to fly and got a shock.

"Driving into the parking area, we were like, 'Wow, there's a lot of flat tires out here,'" he said, "and realized, 'Holy s—, all the tires were slashed.'" That included his.

Paul Bowers, manager of the city owned and operated airport, said security footage is still under review. He said the slashing probably happened between 1:30 a.m. and 5 a.m.

"As you might suspect, nobody is happy," Bowers said. There are more than 800 planes parked there. "We have probably more security cameras on this field than any other general aviation airport in Alaska, but it's not a perfect system."

Merrill Field is in the middle of a $5 million security upgrade for things like gates and a camera system funded primarily through federal grants. Bowers said the tower is not staffed throughout the night. He also said "there are random security checks" at Merrill Field, some of which are done by the Anchorage Police Department. He would not say whether the airport also has private security and added the airfield looks to other airport users to help keep a lookout.

"It's a classic TSA axiom: If you see something, say something," Bowers said, referring to the Transportation Security Administration.

APD is also investigating, spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said. Merrill Field is trying to contact registered owners so they can file police reports, she said.

"We are waiting for all of the victims to file a report so we can get a total figure of the amount of planes damaged," Castro said.

Replacements will be costly. Bowers said the damage might be around $200,000.

Ben Merrill, owner of T & B Aircraft Repair, said some tire sets can cost as much as $4,000.

"I've never seen anything like this before. I've been in business 32 years here," Merrill said. He has about 25 customers at Merrill Field and said about half a dozen had their tires flattened.

At least one company is already reaching out to help ease the pain of replacing so many pricey tires.

Airframes Alaska in Chugiak is offering a 20 percent discount on tires to people who can show theirs were slashed, said COO Heather Montgomery.

As a result, it's been a hectic day for the business.

"We have gotten a ton of calls from people. … It's insane. We have completely redone our whole production schedule," Montgomery said.

By 11:30 a.m., Airframes was sold out of two tire sizes and was planning to start a waitlist for people who still need tires. On a typical summer day, the company sells about five sets of tires, and by midday Thursday it had already sold 40 sets.

Michael Schoder keeps a plane in a hangar at Merrill Field, so it wasn't harmed. But he was still floored Thursday morning by the damage to others' planes.

"That's a lot of work, just to walk up to every plane out there," he said. "They were pretty bold."

Also on Thursday morning, just before 10 a.m., a plane ran off the runway at Merrill Field, said Anchorage Fire Marshal Cleo Hill. She said there were no injuries, and fire department crews were at the scene for only seven minutes.

Hill didn't know if the incident was linked to the tire slashing, but a firefighter on the scene said it was unrelated.

Police said later Thursday evening that it's possible the suspect or suspects entered Merrill Field on foot from its south side. The police department is asking businesses along East 15th Avenue and DeBarr Road near the airport to check their surveillance video for people walking around the time the vandalism is believed to have happened.


06-11-2016, 01:33 PM

Wildlife (

That suspected bear mauling in South Anchorage? Fish and Game now says it was most likely a moose attack

Author: Tegan Hanlon (

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game said Friday that a man who medical staffers suspected was mauled by a bear in South Anchorage on Wednesday night was actually attacked by a moose — they think.

The man, who has not been identified, remained in critical condition Friday, police said. Neither police nor wildlife biologists have been able to speak with him. Without a witness, they were left trying to solve the mystery of what happened to him based on his wounds and evidence left in a wooded, bloody stretch of land next to a long, unpaved, private drive.

Over two days, the suspected cause of the man's injuries evolved from a knife attack to a bear mauling to a moose stomping. On Thursday morning, while a bear mauling was the current theory, Fish and Game biologists killed a black bear in the area, describing it as a public safety concern.

The episode started with a 911 call Wednesday and a report of a possible stabbing.

The 911 caller was driving on the gravel road running through Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area, the city's newest park, to a home on five acres at the park's eastern edge. The driver called a 911 dispatcher shortly after 9 p.m. and said that an injured man was lying on the ground with multiple wounds. The victim was "bleeding heavily," said Jennifer Castro, Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman. The driver told the dispatcher the man was unresponsive and may have been cut with a knife, Castro said.

"At that point in time, we do a search and an investigation," Castro said. "We find various pools of blood throughout the woods. Take photos." It appeared the man had crawled or rolled to the drive where police found a large pool of blood, she said. The private drive is off Selkirk Drive, a short street lined by homes that ends at the estuary park.

[Black bear killed in South Anchorage near where man was badly hurt in suspected mauling (]

An ambulance brought the man to the hospital, where medical staffers said his injuries likely came from a bear — not a knife. The man had injuries to his chest, throat and head, Castro said. On Thursday, she said the man had injuries primarily to the front of his body and did not appear to have any of the defensive wounds that might indicate a man protecting himself against a knife-wielder. She said police found markings in the dirt that "looked like he had been dragged by something large."

On Thursday morning, Fish and Game biologists went to South Anchorage to investigate the possible bear mauling. The drive where the man was found winds through thick brush and trees, partly within the Campbell Creek Estuary Natural Area. The park borders the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge where it's not uncommon to see bears and moose.

The drive is marked by "No Trespassing" signs. A gate blocks passage at the north edge of the park near the estuary trailhead.

Castro said the drive is roughly a quarter-mile long. A path off a Campbell Creek estuary trail leads toward the middle of it. Ken Marsh, a spokesman in Anchorage for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said the pools of blood were found in the woods across the drive. He said biologists did not know what the man was doing in the wooded area. Neither do the police, Castro said.

Marsh said a group of biologists had driven partly down the private drive Thursday and were investigating the scene when a man in the home at the end of the road told them he saw a black bear around 10 a.m. The man said the bear appeared fearless and he backed into the house to get away from it.

Less than 30 minutes later, biologists spotted a black bear about 100 yards from where the injured man was found the night before, off the private drive. The bear stood on its hind legs and put its paws against a tree, Dave Battle, a Fish and Game biologist, said Thursday.

The bear was killed with a single shot from a 12-gauge shotgun. Both Marsh and Battle said Thursday that they were not sure the bear was connected to the man's injuries. But because of the reports that a man was hospitalized over a suspected bear mauling and the bear appearing to be unafraid, the animal was a public safety concern, Marsh said. They had no choice but to put it down, he said.

But by Friday afternoon, biologists had reviewed the injured man's wounds and determined that they were consistent with a moose attack, not a bear mauling. Marsh declined to say Friday why the wounds appeared to be caused by a moose.

"I don't know where the mistakes were made other than it's quite possible, if not likely, that medical staff has not encountered a lot of wildlife injuries," Marsh said Friday.

Marsh said biologists also saw moose tracks near where the man was found. Biologists spoke with police who said they had spotted a yearling moose Wednesday evening near where the injured man was found and took photographs of it. Officers said the moose appeared agitated, according to a statement from Fish and Game on Friday.

[For two Anchorage women, a walk in Kincaid Park turned into a moose attack that left them hospitalized (]

"Biologists returned to their investigation at the attack scene where observations of tracks and hair suggested the injuries were likely caused by a moose," the Fish and Game statement said. "No evidence indicating the presence of a bear was found at the scene."

Marsh said Friday the biologists acted properly in shooting the bear. In addition to the circumstances of location and the belief that the victim's injuries were caused by a bear, the bear they encountered was "showing no fear," Marsh said.

"It's unfortunate any time that we have to kill wildlife in a situation like this. It's not anything our biologists like to do. It's not why they took the job," Marsh said. "It's an unfortunate set of coincidences."

Marsh said he saw a moose with two calves in the area Thursday, but not the yearling spotted the night of the suspected attack. He said biologists would likely not look for the yearling unless they received additional reports of encounters.

Wednesday's suspected moose attack comes less than two weeks after a moose stomped on two women repeatedly in an area of Kincaid Park. One woman went to the hospital with a punctured lung and broken wrist. The other woman suffered a cracked rib and a deep cut on her buttocks.

Marsh warned that if a moose flattens its ears and starts to approach, the best defense is to run and put something like a tree between you and the animal.

"When those hooves start flying, they can be deadly," he said.


06-11-2016, 01:46 PM

Outdoors (

Report of bear feeding on moose carcass prompts trail closure

Author: Chris Klint ( 2.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99The Crow Pass Trail between the Eagle River Crossing and Heidi’s Knob was closed Thursday due to a bear at a moose kill site, Chugach State Park officials said.

Chugach State Park officials have closed about a mile and a half of the Crow Pass Trail linking Eagle River and Girdwood following reports of a bear feeding on a moose carcass nearby.

Park officials announced the closure in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon. ( It extends from the Eagle River Crossing to Heidi's Knob on the Girdwood side of the river. Hikers confirmed seeing the kill site and contacted staff at the park Thursday.

"Please follow this trail closure and do not hike this section of trail!" park officials wrote. "You do not want to be in the same area of a bear protecting/feeding on a kill, it's very dangerous!"

In an email announcing the closure Friday, park officials encouraged users of all Alaska trails to "take appropriate precautionary measures, be prepared to encounter a bear, and be knowledgeable in recognizing bear behavior and how to respond to an encounter." Anyone with questions about the closure can call the park at 907-345-5014 (tel:907-345-5014).

Tom Harrison, state parks superintendent for the Chugach/Southwest region of Alaska, said Friday there were no immediate plans for staff to visit the kill site and see if the bear had left.

"Typically it's 10 to 14 days, then we'll go out and check it," Harrison said.

State parks usually see a few trail closures each year due to moose kills, Harrison said. A closure on the Turnagain Arm Trail recently ended.

The Crow Pass closure, which will remain in effect until administrators lift it, came the day after a man was injured in an attack at Campbell Creek Estuary Park that Anchorage police said was likely a bear mauling. ( State biologists shot and killed a sow black bear at the park Thursday.


06-22-2016, 03:18 AM

How a barefoot sawmill owner avoided making too much money

Author: Charles Wohlforth (
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 1 day ago ibsonIMG_3077-1024x768.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99Steve Gibson of Small Potatoes Lumber pauses from work on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at his sawmill east of Homer. (Charles Wohlforth / Alaska Dispatch News)

HOMER — As he has sawed up logs over the last 40 years, the ground has risen up under Steve Gibson's bare feet. Sawdust and wood chips grow ever deeper on his three acres in the woods east of Homer, like the friendships and conversations that fill the day.

Gibson sells lumber. He gives away philosophy, political observations, good advice and knowledge about how to work with wood.

"As you kind of approach the look-back period of your life, you know the W-2s are not all in United States currency. There's all the joy and satisfaction you got," Gibson said.

He said Small Potatoes Lumber makes hardly any money, and that's how he likes it.

"It's one of the nicer perks of this job, to tell you the truth," Gibson said. "If you had a high-paying job — let's say you were a high-priced lawyer, say you're making $200 an hour — how long can you sit around and bulls–t? You're constrained. And you know, I'm a sociable individual, and so that's automatically a deficit for me on the W-2. But the less you make, the more free you are to allocate a significant amount of time to bulls–tting."

Gibson taught me how to build with green wood so it won't crack or open gaps when it shrinks. He shared observations on the insecurity of growing up the son of a freelance writer, which made me think about how to talk to my kids about the wobbles in my own career. He celebrated my older son's budding interest in architecture and looked at his pencil-sketched design for a greenhouse when he was a teenager. ibsonIMG_3085-1024x768.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
Steve Gibson’s sawmill business works on the honor system if he’s not around. Clients pick up orders and drop off money. (Charles Wohlforth / Alaska Dispatch News)

To buy lumber from Gibson you call his cellphone. He stops working and writes down what you want — the amounts, dimensions and when — in a pocket notebook and checks up on your life. Then he saws the order out of local logs and stacks it with your first name written on a scrap board. If he's not around when you pick up the lumber, the shop is open to leave payment on the counter.

Once, Gibson refused to sell me boards for a walkway. He didn't want his lumber wasted on an application where it would rot. He sent me to find treated wood.

As we talked last week a car pulled up with a former customer who greeted Gibson with a southern drawl and informed him that, although now retired and moved away, he had once built a house in Fritz Creek with Small Potatoes lumber. He proudly recalled the trim he installed. When you buy wood here and put it in your house, you remember where the boards came from and who sawed them for you. Gibson can tell you where the trees grew. 618GibsonIMG_3079-1024x683.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
Steve Gibson works shoeless on the soft sawdust at his Small Potatoes Lumber business east of Homer on Saturday, June 18, 2016. (Charles Wohlforth / Alaska Dispatch News)

"The only time I seen Steve with shoes on was when we both got called for jury duty," the visitor said.

Gibson had already tried to talk me out of my Xtratuf boots as we walked around the saws and shop. He didn't care if I wore them, he just knew my feet would be happier, as his are, working all day cushioned in soft, fluffy sawdust.

Wood formed the grain of life from the first job he loved, cutting down trees in Oregon while he fought an indictment — successfully — over conscientious objector status to serving in the Vietnam War.

"The trees were big, God help me, six feet across on the stump, and there was a lot of craft in it, if not art," Gibson said.

But felling the big trees was hot work and Gibson and his wife Suzie began to wonder what it would be like to live farther north. When they finally left for Alaska, in 1974, they'd collected a caravan to drive up the highway, including a brother each and the mechanic who had fixed their car at a Midas Muffler shop and his family.

In Homer, Gibson worked as a longshoreman and started Small Potatoes. He raised sons, including one who got a philosophy degree at Dartmouth College and came back to help him run the sawmill. Gibson said philosophy is an excellent degree for this work.

"I think he would agree that it's quite useful. Placing priorities, reassessing, judgment," Gibson said. "To have your mind opened."

Gibson speaks like a well-educated man, but said academia would have limited him too much to a single specialty. He listens to recorded books under his ear protection.

"The earbuds are telling me stories about this, stories about that," Gibson said. "You can do it all day long sawmilling. There are very few functions that you need to focus on using the same channel in your cognition that you need to do a book on tape, and then you can press the pause button when you need to make a calculation."

Over the years, Gibson and his son have added new equipment to kiln dry wood and shape and plane it into various products, such as tongue-and groove-paneling of local cottonwood that shows a dramatic and sinuous grain. The compensation comes in satisfaction in producing these beautiful products. Although they sell for more than rough-cut wood, they require that much more time to make, so the money comes out the same. ibsonIMG_3088-1024x768.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
Steve Gibson of Small Potatoes Lumber pauses from work on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at his sawmill east of Homer. (Charles Wohlforth / Alaska Dispatch News)

In fact, Small Potatoes has slowed down of late. Suzie died last year of breast cancer after having the disease for 10 years. Last week, Gibson suffered bronchitis and the sawblades were quiet. Instead, the gentle sound of surf wafted over the sawdust from the beach beyond a meadow.

These days, he turns away at least half the business that comes in, lacking the time, energy or wood to produce everything people need. He doesn't care to raise his prices or hire help.

"This is a darn nice business, but I wouldn't want you to think it's economic," Gibson said. "You definitely could run it smarter than I run it, but it's really doubtful you could run it with more satisfaction than I've had."

Charles Wohlforth's column appears three times weekly.


06-23-2016, 02:55 PM

^Nice. :)

Modern life.... 1cg9sy.png/1466704748338.jpg JONATHAN LEASK/FAIRFAX NZ
The new Teenagers crossing sign outside Kaiapoi High School on Ohoka Rd.

A new road sign outside Kaiapoi High School is catching the attention of passing motorists.
The unique 'teenagers crossing' road sign was a collaborative effort between the Waimakariri District Council and Kaiapoi High to slow down traffic around the busy intersection outside the school.
The sign, depicting a boy and girl crossing the road with their heads angled at their mobile devices, has so far served its purpose of catching the attention of passing motorists.
Principal Bruce Kearney said that with "at least three or four near misses a year", they approached the council to help solve the major safety risk their students faced.
Situated near the Northern Motorway and Ohoka Rd, there were major issues outside the school's front gate as hundreds of students tried to navigate the busy roads each day.
"The problem has always been it's only for a 15-minute window," Kearney said.
"We actually wanted traffic lights or a zebra crossing but the council was concerned about the impacts on traffic flow outside of that 3pm window."
The council came up with the idea of widening footpaths, installing a stop sign and a traffic island, and creating the bespoke teenagers road sign.
"Each problem has a different solution. This was a case of trying to put up something a little different so people do take notice of it," council roading manager Ken Stevenson said.
Kearney said the traffic island was a "band aid" solution, but was a start for solving the ongoing safety issues.
As for the signage, he said it was serving its purpose.
"We haven't just put the sign up to put the onus on drivers. We just wanted drivers to be more aware."


06-26-2016, 10:16 AM

^Nice. :)

Modern life.... 1cg9sy.png/1466704748338.jpg JONATHAN LEASK/FAIRFAX NZ
The new Teenagers crossing sign outside Kaiapoi High School on Ohoka Rd.

A new road sign outside Kaiapoi High School is catching the attention of passing motorists.
The unique 'teenagers crossing' road sign was a collaborative effort between the Waimakariri District Council and Kaiapoi High to slow down traffic around the busy intersection outside the school.
The sign, depicting a boy and girl crossing the road with their heads angled at their mobile devices, has so far served its purpose of catching the attention of passing motorists.
Principal Bruce Kearney said that with "at least three or four near misses a year", they approached the council to help solve the major safety risk their students faced.
Situated near the Northern Motorway and Ohoka Rd, there were major issues outside the school's front gate as hundreds of students tried to navigate the busy roads each day.
"The problem has always been it's only for a 15-minute window," Kearney said.
"We actually wanted traffic lights or a zebra crossing but the council was concerned about the impacts on traffic flow outside of that 3pm window."
The council came up with the idea of widening footpaths, installing a stop sign and a traffic island, and creating the bespoke teenagers road sign.
"Each problem has a different solution. This was a case of trying to put up something a little different so people do take notice of it," council roading manager Ken Stevenson said.
Kearney said the traffic island was a "band aid" solution, but was a start for solving the ongoing safety issues.
As for the signage, he said it was serving its purpose.
"We haven't just put the sign up to put the onus on drivers. We just wanted drivers to be more aware."

Thanks for posting this interesting story.


06-26-2016, 10:20 AM

Wildlife ( Denali bears injure 1, prompt trail and parking lot closures

Author: Jeannette Falsey (
Updated: 13 hours ago
Published 13 hours ago

Aggressive grizzlies have prompted officials in Denali National Park and Preserve to close trails and parking lots.

The Savage Alpine Trail, the Savage River Loop Trail and both Savage River parking lots were closed indefinitely as park wildlife technicians tried to teach a bear in the area to avoid approaching humans. The park has also stopped issuing backcountry permits for the Savage River area.

The small grizzly early in the week charged vehicles near the Primrose area and chased visitors near Savage River along the Denali Park Road.

The same bear also charged hikers on the Savage Alpine Trail on Wednesday and consumed two candy bars and bottles of soda from a daypack one hiker threw as a distraction.

Dave Schirokauer, resources and science team leader for Denali National Park, called the situation "very serious" because the bear was rewarded for aggressive behavior and may have learned to associate humans with food. 60518-012.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
A grizzly sow and an older cub walk down the road in Denali National Park in May. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)
Wildlife technicians hope to find the bear and lure it into a similar scenario, but instead of providing treats, they plan to fire paint balls, beanbags and rubber bullets at the animal to make it wary of people.

"The bears of Denali are wild creatures, free to behave as they wish. If annoyed, these solitary animals can be very dangerous to intruders," park officials said in a statement.

In another bear encounter Thursday, a grizzly sow with cubs bit a park bus driver on the left calf as he was hiking in thick brush near Mile 8 of Denali Park Road.

Phil Buchanan said he heard one of the cubs shriek and the mother grizzly charged him almost immediately.

[Uncertainty surrounds fate of pups from fabled, dwindling Denali wolf pack (]

Buchanan said he stood his ground and the sow dived at his leg. He curled up and played dead, then remained there for five minutes. Buchanan was also injured below his left ribcage.

He hiked about two hours before reaching the main park road and flagged down a visitor in a vehicle.

Buchanan was treated for his injuries at the Denali Canyon Clinic and later transferred to a hospital in Fairbanks.

Schirokauer said the sow was likely surprised and threatened and was acting to protect her cubs.


06-26-2016, 05:45 PM

Bear downs 36 beers, passes out at campground

The Associated Press
BAKER LAKE, Wash. — When state Fish and Wildlife agents recently found a black bear passed out on the lawn of Baker Lake Resort, there were some clues scattered nearby — dozens of empty cans of Rainier Beer.

The bear apparently got into campers’ coolers and used his claws and teeth to puncture the cans. And not just any cans.

“He drank the Rainier and wouldn’t drink the Busch beer,” said Lisa Broxson, bookkeeper at the campground and cabins resort east of Mount Baker.

Fish and Wildlife enforcement Sgt. Bill Heinck said the bear did try one can of Busch, but ignored the rest. The beast then consumed about 36 cans of Rainier.

A wildlife agent tried to chase the bear from the campground but the animal just climbed a tree to sleep it off for another four hours. Agents finally herded the bear away, but it returned the next morning.

Agents then used a large, humane trap to capture it for relocation, baiting the trap with the usual: doughnuts, honey and, in this case, two open cans of Rainier.
That did the trick.

“This is a new one on me,” Heinck said. “I’ve known them to get into cans, but nothing like this. And it definitely had a preference.”


06-27-2016, 01:27 AM

A Scientific Look at the Safety of Microwave Ovens (
Almost every first world kitchen is home to a microwave oven, but a growing percentage of people are beginning to question whether this appliance is an invaluable convenience or a dangerous source ( of biological and nutritional damage. Holistic health experts are united in their opposition to microwaves.
Microwaves actually change the molecular structure of food. They emit electromagnetic energy (a form of nonionizing form of radiation) and cause an inner rotation of the water molecules inside the food. This rotation precipitates a friction between the molecules, resulting in a rapid increase in temperature. The super-fast particles created by microwave ovens literally radiate the water content inside food, bringing it to a boil. This process denatures many of the essential proteins in food, rendering them nearly indigestible.
Unlike animals, which will only eat food in its natural state, human beings now process their food to the point it is virtually nutritionally worthless before we eat it. Microwaving food is simply another step in the same direction.
Microwaves affect physical, biochemical and physiological changes in foods, producing ions and various free radicals that destroy viruses and bacteria, but they do not eliminate toxins and microtoxins. Food cooked in microwave ovens lose between 60 and 90 percent of its vital energy as the process of structural disintegration accelerates.
No organic system can withstand the destructive power of microwave ovens, even in the low energy range of milliwatts. The appliances quickly destroy the molecules of vitamins and phytonutrients present in food. One study showed that up to 97 percent of the nutritional content in vegetables is destroyed during microwave cooking. We need these vitamins and other plant-based nutrients to maintain health, stave off disease and boost our immune function.
A study conducted some years ago by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University of Biochemistry studied the effects of microwaved nutrients on the blood and physiology of human beings. The researchers demonstrated that microwave cooking changed the nutrients in the food, and stated that the changes in the participants’ blood could cause deterioration in the human body.
The adverse health consequences associated with microwave ovens include infertility in men. Digestive disease can result from the changes to the molecular structure of microwaved food. Also, microwaves increase the number of cancerous cells in the blood, stomach and intestines.
Leaking radiation is another serious problem with microwave ovens, and it is known to cause cataracts, birth defects, cancer and other serious health conditions. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set legal limits on the leakage permitted, but the only way to truly eliminate the dangers from radiation in microwaves is not to use one.


07-21-2016, 12:07 PM

Utah teen launches consumer drone that can fly over 70 mph founder and CEO George Matus Jr. believes we've only seen five percent of what drones can do.
Image: TealA new drone company called Teal came out of stealth mode on Wednesday, offering preorders of a consumer drone that can fly at racing speeds straight of the box.
When he was 11 years old, the company's founder and CEO, George Matus Jr., started flying drones in a field behind his Utah home. At 12, he became a test pilot for a drone company, where he honed his technical skills. Soon, he started modifying drones, developing apps, and competing in races and hackathons. At 16, he decided it was time to start his own company.
In an interview with ZDNet, he said "I was able to fly all the products on the market and learn about the technology, and throughout that time, I built this wish list of everything that I would want in a drone if I were to professionally build one of my own."
While he was tinkering in his high school robotics lab, George earned a $100,00 fellowship from the Theil Foundation, which PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel started to encourage young innovators to skip or postpone college so they could focus on becoming entrepreneurs.
At 17, George -- still sporting a full set of braces -- had his dad give him a ride to meet with investors, since he didn't have his driver's license yet. He quickly raised $2.8 million in funding to launch Teal.
"After spending an hour with George, I was overwhelmingly impressed by his vision for a drone platform as well as his presence as an entrepreneur," wrote Ben Lambert, from Pelion Venture Partners, in a post ( on Medium. George clearly has an engineering mindset, but he's also a savvy businessman. When he was a kid (which wasn't that long ago, after all), he always had lemonade stands or some other way to make a few bucks. "I was always an entrepreneur at heart," he told me.
In these early days, Teal has been operating out of Pelion's Salt Lake City office. George says he's managing to stay grounded while handling large responsibility at such a young age with the support from his family and school, but he also mentioned "half-jokingly" that spending quality time with his investors has helped. "Ben tells me every day that I suck," George said.
Teal can fly over 70 mph, which is double the maximum speed of typical consumer drones ( . Racing drones ( can hit 50 mph, and DIY drones (including some that George has built) can reach higher speeds, but this is the fastest drone to be offered to the mass market.
Hardcore drone enthusiasts will be able to fly Teal year-round, because it is built to withstand just about any weather condition, including rain, snow, hail, and even 40 mph winds. A built-in Inertial Navigation system provides GPS and sensors that ensure controlled flight performance and accuracy. can fly over 70 mph, which is double the maximum speed of typical consumer drones.
Image: TealNewbies shouldn't be intimidated by the powerful drone, since it has an optional beginner setting that lets the drone fly 20 feet in the air with a virtual bubble that prevents users from smashing their new drones into trees or other objects.
The drone's camera supports 4K video recording and 3-axis electronic stabilization. Teal is powered by Nvidia TX1, a mini supercomputer that can handle machine learning, autonomous flight, and image recognition. There are a couple of downsides: the high performance battery only lasts 10 minutes, and at this time, there is no integrated obstacle avoidance.
Users only need their smartphones to get started. Teal is launching with three basic apps:

Command and Control: A basic flight-and-control app that gets the user flying. It has an Inertial Navigation System, speed and pitch governing, geofencing, and the "beginner bubble" feature.
Follow*Me: An app that allows you to have the drone follow a specific person or object based on advanced image recognition software, which was originally developed by Boston-based Neurala for NASA and the US Air Force.
Racing: This app will allow racers to log flights, challenges, awards, and rank up through leader boards.

It was important to George to launch an SDK and open API so that developers can build unlimited apps for anything from gaming and augmented reality to commercial uses like inspections and agricultural monitoring. He explained:
Even though it's geared toward consumers, what we're able to do is take it to commercial, start building apps for it, and because it has this incredible capability built in -- the supercomputer, the inertia navigation system, the modularity, and upgradability -- it can be used for something like search and rescue. Somebody can send a swarm of these, and with machine learning, it can autonomously find a human and distinguish them versus a rock or a tree and alert somebody.
George believes we've only seen five percent of what drones can do. He predicted that in the next few years we'll continue to see more commercial drone use, plus a gamification of drones, with more racing and augmented reality similar to Pokemon Go ( that will continue the trend of taking video games outdoors.
"Drones will become as ubiquitous as a smartphone," he said. "They'll be smaller, more powerful, and less intrusive."
Preorders from Teal's website ( start July 20, for $1,299, with plans to ship before Christmas. The first 500 people to order Teal will get the Signature Series, which come with a free Endurance Package that doubles the battery life, plus one rather unusual perk for extra support: the CEO's direct phone number.


07-23-2016, 10:36 AM

With bear danger rising, biologists urge park users to steer clear of Rover's Run

Author: Mike Campbell (

With spawning salmon luring hungry brown bears to Campbell Creek in Anchorage, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game is warning recreationists in Far North Bicentennial Park to be particularly wary on trails near the creek.

"We've had reports of at least one brown bear fishing near the BLM Science Center recently," Anchorage area wildlife biologist Dave Battle said. "We've had a fishery crew doing a survey that saw lots of bear sign. Of course, you can run into a bear anywhere in Alaska bear country. But around salmon streams, you'll get a concentration."

King, red and silver salmon all spawn in Campbell Creek. A mid-July Fish and Game survey of the South Fork of Campbell Creek counted 296 king salmon and 297 reds. A North Fork survey showed 60 kings, 513 reds and 2 silvers, which are just starting to move upstream now.

"There is always a high concentration of brown bears near Rover's Run — also known as Mellen's Way — this time of year," Battle said. "It's a dangerous time."

Rover's Run has a history of maulings. d-2-1024x683.jpeg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
FILE — A brown bear sow and cubs walk down the Rover’s Run trail in an undated trail cam view. (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

Eight years ago, a woman on a mountain bike was badly injured by a bear ( Six weeks later, Clivia Feliz, a 51-year-old massage therapist and avid trail runner, was mauled in the same area ( by a brown bear that left her with a ripped-up arm, a collapsed lung and puncture marks on her head and neck.

"It was my fault," she told a reporter from her Providence hospital bed at the time. "I shouldn't have been on that trail." She had misread a warning sign that she thought was more than a month old.

This year, state biologists say, signs of bear have been thickest from the Campbell Airstrip trailhead bridge downstream to Piper Street. Danger persists into October.

Any trail closure would come from the city, not the state. That hasn't happened since 2009, when Mark Begich was Anchorage mayor. His successor, Dan Sullivan, declined to close the trail (, and another person was mauled ( in June 2010 near the intersection of Rover's Run and the Gasline Trail.

"We will not be closing the trail but we did post new signage alerting people to increased bear activity," said Anchorage Parks Superintendent Josh Durand.

Asked why the city wouldn't close the trail when salmon are in the creek, Durand said: "If you do put a sign saying it's closed, people do still use it. We don't have the ability to enforce such things through the parks and recreation department." un.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

A city park of 4,000 acres, Far North Bicentennial attracts mountain bikers, runners, hikers, dog walkers, anglers and others to an array of trails, some of which parallel Campbell Creek. The Bureau of Land Management estimates 80,000 users a year in the park.

Like Durand, Battle doesn't have much faith that trail users will heed any warning.

"It depends on the person," he said. "There are so many users concentrated in there this time of year, and their reaction is very individual.

"Some people will say, 'Hey, I want to see a brown bear,' and will go over there looking for them. Others will stay away. Anchorage has so many trails, there's really no reason to take a risk."


07-23-2016, 10:47 AM

Police seek suspects in major gun theft from Mountain View Sports

Author: Chris Kling ( 13-1469157344-media1.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99Anchorage police say two suspects who stole guns from Mountain View Sports during a break-in early Thursday apparently escaped in this pickup, seen in surveillance video. (Courtesy APD)

Police are asking for public help finding two men who broke into a South Anchorage outdoor-goods store and stole every handgun in stock, before driving away in a white pickup early Thursday.

According to a police statement, officers responded to an alarm at Mountain View Sports, 11124 Old Seward Highway near O'Malley Road, at about 3:45 a.m. Thursday. A glass door at the store, as well as a number of glass display cases, had been shattered.

Dan Jordan, the gun manager at Mountain View Sports, said the thieves took the store's entire inventory of pistols — more than 20 weapons — and nothing else.

"There was thousands and thousands of dollars' worth," Jordan said. "I had a $1,500 pistol in there; I had a $3,000 pistol in there that was on consignment, a rare antique gun."

A surveillance video posted on Mountain View Sports' Facebook page ( shows the suspects picking up a rock, which Jordan said they had just thrown through a side door, and using it to break open display cases for the pistols. The guns had been cabled together to deter theft during business hours, but one of the suspects seen in the video uses the cable to lift all of the guns from a case simultaneously.

"They knew exactly what they wanted," Jordan said. "These guys were in here perhaps 45 seconds, tops, and out."

Police said no suspects were found during an initial search of the area. .jpeg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
Anchorage police say two suspects who stole guns from Mountain View Sports during a break-in early Thursday apparently escaped in this pickup, seen in surveillance video. (Courtesy APD)

Because more than 10 guns were taken, Jordan said, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is also investigating the break-in. The store has provided a list of the weapons' serial numbers and descriptions to police and the bureau.

Anyone with information on the suspects or their whereabouts is asked to contact police at 907-786-8900 (tel:907-786-8900) or Anchorage Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP or its website. (

Mountain View Sports is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the break-in suspects.


07-23-2016, 03:27 PM

The VCR is officially dead. Yes, it was still alive.

By Steven Overly
July 22, 2016 at 4:12 PM Images)
The videocassette recorder that revolutionized home entertainment by allowing television audiences to capture their favorite shows on tape and watch them at their leisure will die later this month after a decade-long battle with obsolescence. It is roughly 60 years old.
Known to every child of the 1980s and ’90s as the VCR, the machine became a fixture under the television sets in households across the United States, and indeed the world, as a means for watching movies with terrible resolution, forced viewing of grainy family milestones, and recording your grandmother’s daytime melodramas.
The VCR’s demise may come as a shock, mostly because many thought it was already dead. But Japan-based Funai Electronic Co. has continued to manufacture the machines even as several generations of superior entertainment technology have come to market. Now, executives say that a lack of demand and difficulty acquiring parts has convinced them to cease production at the end of July.

Funai Electric Co. declined to comment on the passing.
Though the VCR will soon be gone, its legacy cannot be forgotten. Its influence is evident today in the binge-watching and time-shifting habits that have become a norm in home entertainment. Television and film were once by appointment only; stations would air your sitcom at a slated time, and studios would release movies during set windows. You watched when they wanted.
All that has changed. Viewers today increasingly watch TV programs on their own schedule and bulldoze through new episodes back-to-back-to-back in rapid succession. But that phenomenon really began with the rise of VCRs and those black, stackable VHS tapes they played. The technology paved the way for digital video recorders, such as TiVo, and streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, to gain traction with consumers.
“If you were to chart this as a family tree, you would put the VCR at the top and you would see all of these things sprouting out of it,” said Pete Putman, a consultant to digital display companies and member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.
But the life of the VCR, like all things, was one of complication and mystery. Why, for example, was the machine hellbent on eating every favorite VHS cassette? How did your cat manage to unspool 1,000 feet of tape from that black plastic box? And what do you mean you accidentally taped over our wedding video? Now, we may never know the answer.
The birth date and birthplace of the VCR depend on how far back you want to look. Video recording technology itself dates to the early 1920s, but the company Ampex is credited with developing the first commercially viable videotape recorder in 1956. The machine was bulky, expensive and designed primarily for professional broadcasters.

A variety of home video recorders from Phillips, Telcan and Sony, among others, came to market over the next two decades, but widespread consumer adoption remained elusive. In fact, VCRs found their earliest customers in hotel chains during the 1970s, said Mark Schubin, a technology consultant and member of the Emmy Engineering Committee.
The heyday came in the 1980s and and ’90s, when VCRs exploded in popularity. The number of households with VCRs climbed from 14 percent in 1985 to 66 percent in 1990, according to Nielsen data. VCR penetration peaked at about 90 percent of households in 2005.
But waiting in the wings was a young and powerful rival itching to take the spotlight. In December of 2006 Nielsen reported that more homes already had DVD players than VCRs.
It’s been a slow death ever since.
We should also bow our heads in remembrance of the VCR for popularizing the concept of file sharing and expanding the consumption of adult films.
People started to share the earlier and most expensive VHS tapes in a rent-for-use scheme that would eventually see mass commercialization in the form of Blockbuster and Hollywood Video. The practice was invigorated in 1984 when the Supreme Court ruled that recording TV shows for home use was not copyright infringement.
Movie studios, which once staunchly opposed the idea, turned VCRs and home recording technology into a lucrative rental business. Movies that did not perform well in theaters or that were more suited for, ahem, private viewing often found a second commercial life on America’s flickering TV sets.

cash cow for them and generated lots and lots of revenue,” said C. Samuel Craig, director of the entertainment, media and technology program at New York University’s Stern School of Business. “And then it slowly began to disappear, and it was supplanted by the DVD.”
And though other vintage technologies have experienced a hipster renaissance — think Polaroid cameras and vinyl music — when it comes to VCRs there are likely to be no survivors.
“Unlike vinyl and turntables where audiophiles do have a nostalgia in that it’s a richer, deeper sound, the VCR offers really no advantages over new technology,” Craig said. Plus “aesthetically it’s nice to see an old phonograph with a wax cylinder, but there’s nothing terribly aesthetic about an old VCR machine.”
May it rest in peace.


07-24-2016, 11:03 AM

Nature happens: Bees, bears and moose join Crow Pass Crossing race

Author: Doyle Woody ( Leonetti steps through a creek as runners reach Crow Pass, a high point on the Crow Pass Crossing. (Sarah Bell / Alaska Dispatch News)

Denali Strabel practically hopped across the finish line Saturday morning, but it wasn't strictly because the elation of her fourth-place debut took the sting out of the agony that is the Crow Pass Crossing backcountry marathon.

Things got reversed in the 22.5-mile race: The sting — make that stings, actually — literally got put in the runners.

"I got stung so many times on my butt!'' Strabel announced as her husband, men's runner-up Eric, approached. "I have a Kardashian butt.''

Strabel was one of many runners stung by bees or wasps on the journey from the trailhead near Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center.

Her post-race report: Six stings on one cheek. Her left one, if you must know.

Strabel said she had never before been stung in her 26 years, so she didn't know if she was allergic.

"What better way to find out, I guess?'' she said.

Turns out she was fine. Well, at least not allergic.

[Christy Marvin topped women for the third straight year] (

[Scott Patterson bagged his fourth career men's win at Crow Pass] (

One nest was actually in the trail, racers reported, with a sign nearby warning them. Still, nature happened.

Matt Waliszek paid in pain for his personal-best time of 4 hours, 30 minutes, 15 seconds, which beat his previous best by about 15 minutes.

He was running along, cheered by some fans along the trail when he became victim to the buzzy ones, who got him in the calves.

"(Fans) were hooting and hollering, and then I was hooting and hollering,'' Waliszek said. "It felt like six nabbed me.''

Women's runner-up Caitlin Patterson, who said she is slightly allergic to bees and took a supply of antihistamines with her on the trail, ran down the list of her stings.

"Elbow, quad, collarbone, shin, both calves,'' she reported. "There was just a swarm. It was just one more thing to monitor.''

[See more Crow Pass photos] (

Bee and wasp stings aren't unusual in the Crow Pass race, where nature runs wild.

Men's eighth-place finisher Forrest Mahlen reported one sting, but said he was more alarmed by a report from fans about a half-mile from the finish. Mahlen said he was zoning out, simply looking forward to finishing, when spectators alerted him to a black bear and two cubs 10 meters away.

Mahlen's interior dialogue: "That's concerning.''

Still, he got past the critters.

Some other runners thought they might not be as lucky with a bull moose they encountered.

John Nagel said he was running in a train of men just past Raven Gorge in the first half of the race when the group saw the moose running in the brush off the trail. Shortly after that, a man in the back of the line reported the moose was running on the trail behind them.

"Fifty yards back, and starting to close,'' came the report.

"Twenty yards.''

"Ten yards.''

"What do we do?''

The group, which was catching another group of runners, ducked into some alders. The moose stopped on the trail. Eventually, the runners got back on course, no longer pursued by Bullwinkle.

"It was insane,'' Nagel said. "It was the coolest thing ever.''

And very Crow Pass Crossing.

"Very Alaskan,'' Mahlen said. "An Alaska race wouldn't be complete without some animals.''

[Watch Crow Pass runners at Raven Glacier] (


07-24-2016, 11:12 AM

Who do you call when you need to mount a daring rescue mission to Antarctica? This Alaskan

Author: Suzanna Caldwell (
Published 19 hours ago Verzone stands in front of a plane at Rothera Research Station on Adelaide Island. (Courtesy of Thai Verzone)

If you're going to head to the South Pole to attempt a risky, rarely attempted winter medical rescue, it probably helps to find a mountaineer-turned-physician assistant who also happens to have experience working in Antarctica.

Think it's an impossible set of qualifications to find? Then you haven't met Anchorage's Thai Verzone.

"It's a pretty unique skill set," Verzone said in a recent phone interview.

Verzone was part of a small crew that traveled to the South Pole last month as part a mission to rescue two sick workers at the Amundsen-Scott research station during the height of Austral winter.

Verzone and the crew successfully completed the flight June 23, making them only the third team in history to fly to the South Pole during winter.

Verzone's role was key: to serve as a medic for the two patients on their flight back to Chile and, if necessary, serve as a mountaineer in the event of an emergency landing.

"They wanted someone able to live in Antarctica in case something went wrong," Verzone said.

[Rescuers succeed in evacuating sick workers from the South Pole in winter (]

Constant darkness, temperatures dropping to minus 100 degrees and extreme weather are all normal conditions for Antarctic winters. If the rescue crew had to make an emergency landing, it would be Verzone's job to set up camp and keep people safe.

"And most people aren't typically camping in Antarctic winter," he said.
Verzone's skill set is especially rare, according to Mike Tayloe. Tayloe is the owner of Katabatic Consulting and Technical Services, a Colorado-based remote area medical mountaineering and logistics firm that recommended Verzone for the rescue mission.

There are plenty of midlevel medical providers with mountaineering experience. Tayloe said. But Antarctic experience?

"There just ain't many people out there that can do that," Tayloe said.

[Related: A rare, risky mission to rescue sick scientists from the South Pole] (

When he's not out adventuring — Verzone spoke to Alaska Dispatch News in-between paragliding competitions in Washington state — Verzone, 41, works as a physician assistant at Alaska Native Medical Center and often flies to remote Alaska locations to help transport patients back to the Anchorage hospital. He's also worked as a mountain guide in Denali and the Himalayas and done several stints as an Antarctic guide, leading scientists on research missions.

The Twin Otter aircraft flying an Antarctic medical-evacuation mission in late June prepares to depart.(Robert Schwarz, National Science Foundation)
But even with all his experience, the rescue mission was beyond anything he's experienced.

"It was crazy," he said.

Contingency planning

When it came to the flights from Chile to the Rothera Research Station (a British outpost off the continent's coast) and on to the South Pole station and back, Verzone said he "didn't do a whole lot."

On the way back he cared for the two patients — whose identities and medical conditions Verzone wouldn't identify for privacy reasons — and administered oxygen to both them and crew (the Twin Otter planes the rescue mission used weren't pressurized and were flying at altitudes between 12,000 to 15,000 feet)
Verzone, his biggest role came in the emergency planning.

"I had to think ahead of all the contingencies of what could go wrong," he said.

Verzone said whenever he travels in Antarctica he carries a survival bag equipped with three days of food and supplies. But in this case, due to the possibility of lingering bad weather, he brought survival supplies for each person to last for seven days. Each crew member had multiple sleeping bags to keep them warm in temperatures down to 40 below. Everyone had a pair of extreme cold weather down jackets and pants — essentially "a huge sleeping bag that you wear," Verzone said.

And that was just for the crew. Verzone also had to prepare to care for the two patients. He carried several jump kits, essentially a mobile emergency room in a bag.

"It's like what's in an ambulance and then some," Verzone said.

But even with the supplies he had to prepare for complicated situations. Trying to keep IV fluids from freezing, for example, required extra coolers and hot water bottles.

Thai Verzone made a self portrait in front of a snowcat that was used in the transfer of the patients on Antarctica. (Courtesy of Thai Verzone)
The flight itself was a success and Verzone didn't have to use his mountaineering skills. There were still stressors, though. Verzone said space in the airplane was small and crowded because of the amount of fuel they had to carry. Time zones switched continually, making sleep a challenge for the crew.

Ice built up on the plane during the flight, breaking off and thumping violently along the side. Traveling over the Drake Passage — the body of water between Cape Horn and the Antarctic continent — was especially nerve-wracking, since there was nowhere to land.

But there was also beauty. A sliver of sunlight before they descended into the total darkness of the Antarctic winter. Flying over icebergs 100 feet high and the size of small shopping centers.

Verzone said his experience as a 20-year resident of Alaska helped with the rescue mission.

"The Alaska mentality of having to be flexible and work with the conditions that you have, versus everything being totally routine or planned out," he said. "You can only do your best to be prepared and constantly think of contingencies before, and have it thought out before it happens."


07-25-2016, 12:46 AM

'Rolling Wake': Southeast woman kept husband's body in truck and drove it around 'for a couple days'

KETCHIKAN — Ketchikan Police Chief Alan Bengaard has seen a lot in his decades-long law enforcement career. But he’s never seen anything like this.

Ketchikan police around 3:15 a.m. Wednesday received a third-party call from the area of the Potlatch Bar. When they arrived on scene, officers discovered an aluminum transport casket with the body of a 78-year-old man inside, according to Bengaard.

The man had died from natural causes over the weekend on Prince of Wales Island, and his wife brought the body to Ketchikan, Bengaard said in a phone interview to the Ketchikan Daily News.

“The body was in that and supposed to be destined for the mortuary, but for some reason she decided to not go directly to the mortuary and had been driving around with him for a couple days,” Bengaard said. “... My understanding is kind of — leading up to the events of the last couple days — there’s been a rolling wake or viewing. It was pointed out to me that, evidently, she had stopped at a couple of the canneries and got ice and filled the bed of the truck with ice to keep the body chilled.”

“... You can’t make this stuff up,” the chief added.

The wife did not break any laws that Bengaard was aware of.

The mortuary took custody of the body after police responded to the scene. The family can make arrangements for how it wants to take care of the body.

“Hopefully it won’t go back on the road again,” he said.


07-27-2016, 11:41 AM

Good Samaritans rescue 46 people who abandoned fishing ship off Aleutians

Author: Jerzy Shedlock (, Annie Zak (
Updated: 2 hours ago
Published 13 hours ago Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew approaches the fishing vessel Alaska Juris to conduct a medevac of a fisherman from the vessel June 21, 2013, less than 100 miles southeast of Dutch Harbor. On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, the Alaska Juris was dead in the water more than 150 miles northwest of Adak. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Air Station Kodiak)

Forty-six people abandoned a sinking fishing vessel shortly before noon Tuesday and were rescued by merchant ships that responded to a U.S. Coast Guard emergency broadcast, an official said.

There were no reports of injuries.

The 229-foot trawler Alaska Juris was taking on water Tuesday evening in the Bering Sea, said Lt. Joseph Schlosser of the Coast Guard District 17 command center in Juneau. The boat's occupants, all 46, were equipped with survival suits and abandoned ship in three life rafts, he said.

Alaska Juris was dead in the water more than 150 miles northwest of Adak, the official said.

Two of the life rafts were secured to the sinking vessel, an effort meant to keep them from drifting, Schlosser said. A third raft with 18 occupants was not able to get secured or the line broke, he said.

The merchant vessel Spar Canis responded to the scene and recovered 28 people from two rafts, according to Schlosser.

"The life raft that went adrift, all 18 members in that raft, have been successfully recovered by a good Samaritan vessel by the name of Vienna Express," he said.

All crew members were aboard the two ships as of 8:20 p.m. and on their way to Adak, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson.

It was unknown if the Alaska Juris was fully submerged. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation in Adak told the Coast Guard it would monitor the vessel, Steenson said. Conditions on scene were reported as calm seas and limited visibility, according to the Coast Guard.

Preliminary information suggests mechanical problems in the ship's engine room led to the sinking, Schlosser said.

Public records show the vessel was owned by the late Karena Adler, who also owned the Fishing Co. of Alaska of Renton, Washington, before she died in January. The company's Alaska Ranger sank in the Bering Sea in 2008 with the loss of five lives, including its captain. The Coast Guard concluded in 2011 that Adler's company failed to properly maintain the Ranger.

Also in 2011, a crew member on the Alaska Juris was killed at sea when he was struck by a snapped cable.


07-28-2016, 12:49 PM

Officials at Denali National Park opted to kill a young problem bear when they learned it was injured and deformed

Author: Jerzy Shedlock (

Denali National Park rangers have killed a problem brown bear apparently conditioned to human food, but the decision was based on the bear's health and not just its behavior, officials said.

The rangers euthanized the bear in the park's Savage River area Wednesday morning. The bear's aggressive run-ins with visitors prompted recent closures around the river and other areas, officials said.

Park management last killed a bear conditioned to food in 1980, the release says.

Wildlife staff initially planned to collar and condition the bear to stop its dangerous tendencies of charging visitors and seeking out human food. Despite previous issues, the bear had not been spotted for two weeks; officials said a reasonable course of action would be keeping and eye on and working to change the bear's behavior, what they referred to as a "hard release."

That means biologists would have shot the bear with beanbag ammunition upon release in an attempt to teach the bothersome beast that approaching humans was a bad idea, said park spokesperson Kathleen Kelly. They threw out the idea as the rounds would have further injured the bear.

Park officials decided to "destroy the bear" based on its physical condition, the release says. Before being captured, the bear had broke its left front leg and nose. The leg became infected, officials said.

Park officials are unsure how the bear was injured, Kelly said.

"The bear was in terrible physical condition and had a deformity," an extra upper-left canine tooth, said Dave Schirokauer, the park's resources and science team leader.

The bear was also severely underweight.

"A typical healthy 3-year-old male grizzly should weigh about 200 to 250 pounds, whereas this bear weighed only 130 pounds," the release says. The lack of girth around the neck of the bear prevented staff from properly fitting it with a collar, and officials said they decided it was unlikely the collar would have stayed on for long.

National Park Service employees were first altered to the bear's behavior early in the week of June 20. It was reported a small grizzly charged vehicles near the Primrose Ridge area and chased visitors near Savage River along the Denali Park Road.

[Read more: Aggressive Denali bears injure 1, prompt trail and parking lot closures (]

On June 22, the bear approached and charged several hikers on the Savage Alpine Trail. One of the hikers threw a daypack, hoping to distract it, and the bear got its paws on human food, park officials said.

The area was closed and the bear was shot with beanbags. The trail was reopened July 1, as the bear had not been spotted for five days, and it appeared biologists had successfully conditioned the bear to stay away.

Issues persisted, however.

"The area was closed again that day when the bear bit and scratched a hiker on the Savage Alpine Trail. Two days later, the bear was observed in the Savage River Campground where wildlife staff hit it with bean bags. The bear ran from the area. Later that day it was discovered that the bear had damaged two tents in Savage River Campground and the campground was closed to tent camping," the release says.

Several soft openings were planned for the closed areas starting July 18 but were delayed when a bear was spotted. It took until Tuesday night to identify the problem bear, locate it and put it down, the release says.

The decision to kill the bear wasn't made lightly, officials said.

"We are all emotionally impacted and physically and emotionally drained by this series of events," said Schirokauer. "Denali wildlife staff and rangers … pride themselves on managing the park in a manner that is least impactful to wildlife."

"We take the loss of the bear personally. We are also not accustomed to it; it's been 36 years since the park has killed a food-conditioned bear," he added.

Biologists initially chose to try and condition the bear due in part to its age. The subadult bear was experiencing the first year away from its mother, said Kelly. The hope was they "could teach it a lesson," she said.

"It was like a teenager pushing its boundaries," she said.

[Read More: Do wild animals that attack people always need to die? (]

The Park Service said it knows of at least seven other bears currently in the Mt. Healy, Savage River and Primrose Ridge areas. Officials say visitors should continue to exercise caution.


07-29-2016, 07:34 PM

Oregon adds pot to its state fair crop lineup. Alaska isn't following suit - yet.

Author: Laurel Andrew (

The Alaska State Fair has no plans to include cannabis judging in its annual lineup this year, a fair official said Thursday, but it expects to take a "serious look" at the possibility in the future.

Responding to a report in Oregon Live ( that the Oregon State Fair will, for the first time, include prize-winning cannabis plants as an attraction, Dean Phipps, director of marketing and communications for the Alaska State Fair, said the state's own annual event isn't following suit, at least for now.

"That's not happening here," Phipps said.

The fair currently features exhibits for a wide variety of crops (, from berries and mushrooms to herbs and vegetables.

Phipps said the inclusion of cannabis in the fair would likely "get a serious look this year, but so far we don't have any big plans."

State and local policies are still taking shape, Phipps said, so the fair is still waiting to see how everything shakes out. "I think it's in the early stages in Alaska so it's pretty hard to sort out what the norm is," he said.

Board officials will likely discuss the issue during the fair's annual meeting in February, Phipps said.

"I think that's something that somebody will come forward with," Phipps said.

In Palmer, where the fair takes place, voters have banned commercial marijuana, Phipps noted. He also noted the fair passed a smoke-free policy this year.

"I haven't heard anything that I could share with you that's going to happen this year. Other than Cheech and Chong. That's irony, right?" Phipps said, referring to the infamous marijuana-smoking duo performing at the fair this year.


07-30-2016, 10:38 AM

Here's how many cannabis plants Alaskans can now legally possess at home

Author: Laurel Andrews (
Updated: 3 hours ago

Alaska law now explicitly defines how many personal-use cannabis plants a household can have, doubling the number of plants assumed legal under the state marijuana board's definition.

Up to 12 plants per household are now legal under state law — if at least two adults over the age of 21 are living in the residence.

The language was included in House Bill 75, which passed the Legislature in May. It was signed into law Thursday by Gov. Bill Walker and took effect Friday.

Bill sponsor Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said Friday that law enforcement had asked legislators to establish an explicit number of plants in law. They wanted a "bright line of where (a grow) went from a personal use to a commercial use establishment," Tilton said.

Under Alaska's 2014 initiative, each person can possess up to six plants, three of which may be flowering. But the initiative said nothing about how many plants were legal in one household.

Regulators worried ( that people would try to create illegal commercial grows by amassing a number of residents' plants under one roof in a so-called "community grow" or "cultivation center."

To avoid this, the Marijuana Control Board voted to define "possession" ( as having the plants under one's physical control, which effectively set the legal plant limit at six per household.

The passage of HB 75 changes that, making it explicit that households can have up to 12 plants, six of which may be flowering. Two adults over the age of 21 would have to be living in the home.

In their homes, Alaskans can possess as much marijuana as those plants produce. In public, people can possess up to an ounce legally.

Legislators arrived at the 12-plant limit based on the average number of adults per household in Alaska, Tilton said. They also analyzed how much cannabis one plant could produce, and tried to compare ounces of marijuana to the legal amount of homebrew a person can possess — 100 gallons — in an attempt to stay true to the oft-repeated campaign slogan of regulating marijuana like alcohol.

The second major piece of the bill adds language that allows established villages to opt out of the commercial marijuana industry — language that was lacking from the 2014 law allowing other types of local government to opt out.

Municipalities had asked to include this language, giving villages the same powers as boroughs and cities – some of which, like Wasilla and Palmer, have already opted out of the industry.

Tilton said the bill came together with input from voters, attorneys, law enforcement, municipalities and the marijuana industry.

Paul Pless

07-30-2016, 10:40 AM

how many do you have spin? ;):D


07-30-2016, 10:08 PM

how many do you have spin? ;):D

None. How about you, Paul?? ;):)


08-01-2016, 01:38 PM

18 rescued from sinking whale-watching boat near Juneau

Author: Michelle Theriault Boot rescued from syncing whale watching boat near Juno

A whale-watching boat sank near Juneau Sunday afternoon, but all 18 people aboard made it safely to shore with the help of two other vessels in the area, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The 35-foot-long whale-watching vessel Big Red started taking on water in Favorite Channel, near Juneau, early Sunday afternoon, said Petty Officer 3rd Class Lauren Steenson. A crew member called the Coast Guard at 12:13 p.m., she said.

The boat was operated by Dolphin Jet Boat Tours (, the Juneau Empire reported.

Before the Coast Guard could get to the scene, the See You, a recreational boat, and the St. Herman, an Allen Marine Tours boat, made it to the sinking whale-watching ship. The St. Herman took the 16 passengers and two crew members back to Juneau, Steenson said.

One passenger reported a knee injury.

Investigators are trying to determine what caused the whale


08-02-2016, 03:49 AM

Two bear-viewing planes crash at Chinitna Bay
Homer News

Two Cessna 206 airplanes operated by bear viewing tour companies crashed while taxiing on a Chinitna Bay beach the same afternoon on July 19. No one was hurt in the incidents.

Pilots reported the incidents at 4 p.m. last Tuesday. National Transportation Safety Board air crash investigator Shaun Williams said it was only a coincidence the events happened about the same time. The planes weren’t near each other while taxiing and there was no safety issue involved, Williams said.

In both cases, the planes were on wheels and pilots were taxiing to move the planes to a harder surface. A plane owned by K-Bay Air hit nose first while a plane owned by Cook Inlet Aviation tipped over onto its nose and right wing.

Williams called the crashes “events.” Because the Cook Inlet Aviation had no intent to start the flight, it is not a matter for the NTSB, Williams said.

K-Bay Air was transporting passengers. In an interview on July 20, Williams said the K-Bay Air event was being monitored, and he did not know if damages were severe enough for it to require an NTSB investigation.

The Cessnas are part of a fleet of planes and even a helicopter transporting visitors from Homer across Cook Inlet to popular bear viewing sites in Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks.

Some planes land on wheels on beaches or airstrips leased from private land owners. Others land on state land or waters near the parks. If permitted by the Park Service, companies also can offer guided tours into the parks.

A K-Bay Air plane, left, and a Cook Inlet Aviation plane, right, are bothe nose down on the beach in Chinitina Bay on the west side of Cook Inlet. Both planes hit soft sand while taxiing.

A K-Bay Air plane, left, and a Cook Inlet Aviation plane, right, are bothe nose down on the beach in Chinitina Bay on the west side of Cook Inlet. Both planes hit soft sand while taxiing.


08-03-2016, 03:47 AM

US Government Wants To Microchip All Kids “Sooner Rather Than Later”

By Brianna Acuesta (

The U.S. government intends to further their control over the lives of Americans by introducing microchipping for children in the near future.
As time goes by, the government seems to want to regulate the lives of Americans ( more and more. Sometimes these decisions for further regulation actually help the American people, but this is still up for debate depending on who you are, and sometimes, the reasons behind these decisions are dubious and must be called into question. (

The latter scenario has been occurring recently as news of the future of tracking people has been spread around.
The concept is simple but the implications behind it are serious: the U.S. government intends to introduce microchipping for children ( in the near future in an effort to better keep track of them.
Though it’s easy to say that this technology would simply protect children from being kidnapped or getting lost, it goes much deeper than that. Proponents of microchipping (, such as mother of three Steffany Rodriguez-Neely, have pointed out that, (
Credit: Mirror Spectrum

“If it’ll save my kid, there’s no stuff that’s too extreme. Microchipping would be an extra layer of protection, if something bad does happen.” She added, “If a small chip the size of a grain of rice could have prevented a tragedy, I think most parents would have said, ‘I think I would have done it.’”
Rodriguez-Neely doesn’t seem to take into account what having a microchip could mean for the child once they grow up or what else the microchip might be used for without the parent’s or child’s permission.
Electronics expert Stuart Lipoff attempts to compare microchips in humans to barcodes ( on products in the store, but also falls short. He told NBC,
“When barcodes first came out in the late 1960s, people were appalled. They were wary of them and did not understand the concept. Today, it is so commonplace, we don’t even notice it. A microchip would work much in the same way.”

There is a significant difference between barcodes that identify and hold information about products and tracking devices that store records inside of people. Some microchips may only work when they are scanned, but others used in pets can also track the location of the pet at all times using GPS, and that’s where the true concern lies.
If parents are able to gain access to their child’s location, there’s a likelihood that this information could be hacked ( and complete strangers could also track them.
In addition, the children are stripped of their freedom ( to choose whether they want the chip implanted in them and must live with the decision their parents make for them for the rest of their lives.
One argument in favor of the microchip is the ease with which information about a person can be stored and retrieved, such as important medical records, bank accounts, and much more. However, is the convenience of the chip worth the unforeseen troubles that would accompany the introduction of this device?

The idea behind the microchip conjures up thoughts of science-fiction ( tales gone awry, but the choice would ultimately, or at least hopefully, be given to citizens. If they embrace it with open arms, microchips could become the norm, but if they reject it, the idea would fade away like many others.
If NBC reporter Melanie Michael (, who interviewed several people to uncover facts and opinions about the future of the microchip, is right, then this technology could be introduced “sooner rather than later.”
What are your thoughts on microchipping children? Please comment on, like, and share this article!
Source: True Activist (


08-09-2016, 11:34 AM

Alaska Life (
One of the first cars to be driven up the Alaska Highway is going up for auction

Author: Mike Dunham (
Updated: 2 hours ago
Published 14 hours ago ion-01-1024x715.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99Duane Hill of Alaska Auction Co. previews an estate sale which includes a 1930 Packard that is documented to be the eighth civilian vehicle to drive up the Alcan Highway when it opened in 1946. A blue 1948 Buick convertible with a red interior, right, will also be auctioned. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

A piece of Alaska history will go up for auction on Thursday: a 1930 Packard roadster said to be the eighth civilian vehicle to drive the Alaska Highway.

The pedigreed "Deluxe" convertible coupe is part of the estate of Marco Spezialy, a long-time Anchorage businessman who died last August. According to documentation that comes with the car, Spezialy bought the car from Roger McDonald, a Palmer farmer, in 1961. McDonald had bought it from "Cappy" Roach, son of Anchorage judge L.D. Roach, in 1951.

The younger Roach bought the car in Seattle in the spring of 1946 and drove it up the Alaska Highway, which had just been opened to the public. The trip took some weeks on account of the car's going off the road at least once. When Roach came through the checkpoint at the Alaska border, he was informed that only seven other civilian cars or trucks had crossed it ahead of him. ion-03-1024x803.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
Historical photo of the 1930 Packard on the Alcan Highway when it opened in 1946. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)
In 1930, Packard made more luxury cars than any other manufacturer in America. The coupe originally cost $3,350, around $48,000 in today's money. It featured wooden-spoke wheels, a rumble seat, a wooden rack over the rear bumper that could be lowered to hold luggage, external rear-view mirrors chained to the spare tires mounted at the front of the foot-wide running boards, and the famed "Goddess of Speed" hood ornament. ion-02-1024x678.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99
1930 Packard “Goddess of Speed” hood ornament on a car with an Alcan Highway history will be sold to the highest bidder at Alaska Auction Co. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)
The two-day estate auction, which will start on Wednesday, features Alaska pieces including a child's Chilkat dancing robe, artwork and antiques, like assorted revolvers dating as far back as the Civil War. It also includes several other cars, mostly Spezialy's.

"We get antique cars a couple of times a year," said auctioneer Duane Hill with Alaska Auction Company. "But this is by far the most significant collection we've had to sell in recent history."

Spezialy, who arrived in Alaska in 1948, was best known to locals as "Mike." He owned Mike's Chevron at Sixth Avenue and Ingra Street when gas stations doubled as mechanic shops. When his garage crew wasn't working on customers' cars, they were working on restoring Mike's treasures.

"He loved those cars," said Hill, who estimates that Spezialy might have owned as many as 17 at one time.

Other rigs at the auction are a 1926 Model T sedan, a Model T truck, a 1964 Thunderbird, a well-used Studebaker flatbed truck from the 1950s and a gorgeously art deco-styled 1948 Buick Roadmaster convertible that may be as coveted as the Packard among automobile fanciers.

But antiquity is a big consideration in the collectible-car world. Similar Packards from that era are listed at $180,000 or more on internet sites and Hill confirms at least one auction sale of $160,000.

Since the auction will be carried live on the internet, Hill is expecting a lot of out-of-state interest.

"We've had an inquiry from Norway," he said. "We've had calls from Seattle."

But given the Packard's role in Alaska's past – it is surely the oldest running vehicle to have driven the Alcan in the year it opened to civilian traffic – Hill would really like an in-state buyer to call out the winning bid.

"I hope it stays in Alaska," he said.

More information about the auction is available at (


08-09-2016, 12:07 PM

DNA scientists claim that Cherokees are from the Middle East.


DNA tests create a bombshell
There are currently no DNA tests that can accurate label someone a descendant of a particular Indian tribe in eastern North America. The people, calling themselves full-blooded Native Americans, from the eastern United States, are not the same people, genetically, who greeted early European explorers. A few reputable laboratories are now attempting to create reliable DNA markers for individual tribes, but the obstacles are monumental.

Perceiving a vast potential market from the millions of Americans, who proudly claim that their great-grandmother was a Cherokee Princess, DNA Consultants, Inc. initiated comprehensive DNA testing of the Cherokees living on the Qualla Reservation in western North Carolina. The North Carolina Cherokees were chosen because after 180 years in the west, Oklahoma Cherokees are so thoroughly mixed with other ethnic groups, that any DNA test marker obtained would be meaningless.

The laboratory immediately stumbled into a scientific hornet’s nest. That Cherokee princess in someone’s genealogy was most likely a Jewish or North African princess. Its scientists have labeled the Cherokees not as Native Americans, but as a Middle Eastern-North African population. Cherokees have high levels of test markers associated with the Berbers, native Egyptians, Turks, Lebanese, Hebrews and Mesopotamians. Genetically, they are more Jewish than the typical American Jew of European ancestry. So-called “full-blooded” Cherokees have high levels of European DNA and a trace of Asiatic (Native American) DNA. Their skin color and facial features are primarily Semitic in origin, not Native American.

There is a major inaccuracy in most articles about this controversy. Both DNA Consultants and journalists are stating that the research results from the Qualla Reservation apply to all Cherokees. Genetic research associated with the filming of the History Channel’s “America Unearthed” found separate populations of Cherokees outside the reservation with very different genetic profiles. In several counties, the “Cherokees” had profiles identical to Georgia Creeks, and often carried Maya DNA like the Georgia Creeks. In one county, the “Cherokees” were predominantly Quechua from South America, or else mixed Quechua, Maya and Creek. Many of the residents of the Snowbird Cherokee Reservation in Graham County, NC look like the Zoque of Mexico, who created the Olmec Civilization. They are called “Moon Faces” by the Cherokees on the main reservation.

At present, the researchers at DNA Consultants seem unaware that throughout the 1600s Iberian Sephardic Jews and Moorish Conversos colonized the North Carolina and Georgia Mountains, where they mined and worked gold and silver. All European maps show western North Carolina occupied by Apalache, Creek, Shawnee and Yuchi Indians until 1718. Most of these indigenous tribal groups were forced out in the early 1700s. Anglo-American settlers moving into northeastern Tennessee and extreme southwestern Virginia mentioned seeing Jewish speaking villages in that region until around 1800.

How the occupants of the North Carolina Mountains became a mixed Semitic, North African, European and Native American population, known as the Cherokees, remains a mystery. Slave raids may have been a factor. The 18th century Cherokees were the “biggest players” in the Native Americans slave trade. Perhaps young Sephardic females were captured by slave raiders to be concubines and wives.

It is also known that around 1693, the British put together an alliance between eight small Native towns with Creek names in northwestern South Carolina and the powerful Rickohockens of southwestern Virginia to thwart the expansion of French colonies. The modern Cherokee language seems to be a mixture of Rickohocken, Shawnee and Creek. There is obviously much that anthropologists and historians do not know about the early history of the Southern Highlands.
source (


08-11-2016, 01:07 PM

Kenai (
Satanic invocation opens Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting

Author: Annie Zak (
Updated: 1 hour ago
Published 13 hours ago

Members of the Kenai Borough Assembly stand during the invocation, featuring a satanic prayer from a guest, at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. (From Kenai Borough video)

The invocation that started the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly's Tuesday meeting ( was a little different than usual: Instead of espousing the ideals of Christianity, it carried a message of Satanism.

It was the culmination of recent discussion at the Assembly around whether to keep up with the tradition of opening meetings with prayers, or whether doing so was excluding those who hold different beliefs.

In June, the Assembly discussed an ordinance aimed at doing away with invocations before meetings, but not enough members voted in favor of introducing it.

Instead, the borough has decided to make the reading of invocations more equitable. In the past, said Assembly President Blaine Gilman from Kenai, a group of pastors would usually give the names of members who would give the invocation. Now, it's on an open, first-come, first-served basis: someone who wants to give an invocation can contact the borough clerk and sign up to do so.

The woman who gave the invocation at Tuesday's meeting, Iris Fontana, called up Satan for Assembly members and the audience.

"Let us embrace the Luciferian impulse to eat of the tree of knowledge and dissipate our blissful and comforting delusions of old," said Fontana, who the Assembly identified as a member of the Satanic Temple. "Let us stand firm against any and all arbitrary authority that threatens the personal sovereignty of all or one. That which will not bend must break, and that which can be destroyed by truth should never be spared its demise. It is done. Hail Satan."

During Fontana's invocation, one Assembly member walked out of the room and returned when she was finished speaking. But others remained, listening, not much different than any other meeting. One staff member sat down during the prayer, and another staffer stood with hands on hips.

Dale Bagley, an Assembly member from Soldotna, took issue with the satanic remarks later in the meeting.

"It's kind of irritating that that's what we got there," said Bagley, "and I think that if a pastor had been here doing the same type of political statements on something, we wouldn't be letting them back here. But anyway, that just my 2 cents on this issue."

In July, an atheist read an invocation before an Assembly meeting.

"Only when we calm our minds and let our dogmas dissolve in the face of evidence can we show true wisdom," Lance Hunt said at the start of a meeting. "I urge you to try and walk a mile in the opposition's shoes, and let reason and logic guide your compassion to a decision."

Gilman said the local government started to get complaints about religious invocations making some people uncomfortable two or three months ago.

"I thought it was kind of politically distracting myself, and filed an ordinance to remove the invocation," he said. But when it came up for discussion in June and he heard from community members in support of invocations, he voted against introducing it. The vote was a tie, so it was tossed out.

Now, Gilman sees those who have invoked during the last two meetings as trying to make a political point.

"I think it's more a political strategy, to try to force the invocation to be removed from the Assembly," he said. "Personally, I found it sort of offensive, the Satanic Temple lady who was speaking there, but even if I find it personally offensive, it's still important to protect the right to freedom of speech and the right for religion."

In the meeting Tuesday, he said, "I think if we just kind of relax a little bit, listen to people, things will calm down on the invocation front and we can just go forward with our meetings."

The change in the process for signing up to give an invocation has also attracted attention. Gilman said just about every meeting from now through December is booked up with someone who wants to give opening remarks.

And he said this isn't the first time the prayers have been the subject of a debate.

"I think it pops its head up every four or five years," he said.

You can watch video of the meeting on the borough's website (

Correction: This article has been edited to reflect that staff members, not Assembly members, sat down and stood with hands on hips during the invocation.


08-11-2016, 01:09 PM

Alaska Air Guard saves rafters stranded in Susitna Valley for 5 days

Author: Jerzy Shedlock (
Updated: 10 hours ago
Published 12 hours ago

Rescuers with the Air National Guard from two states rescued two rafters Wednesday afternoon. They'd been stranded for five days in a tent on the bank of Lake Creek in the Susitna Valley, an official said.

The area is about 30 miles southwest of Talkeetna.

"The father and son, 55- and 25-years-old, were rafting with a third-party when the raft overturned. Most of their gear was lost," Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, Alaska Air National Guard spokesperson, said in a release.

Their plan was to raft to a lodge in the area, but the father and son were injured, so the third person took the raft alone to get help, Olmstead said. But help didn't arrive for days due to terrain and water conditions, she said.

"The rapids were much stronger than usual, and due to excessive rain recently, water was in a flood state," Olmstead said.

LifeMed and Alaska State Troopers were unable to reach the rafters. That's when the state's Air National Guard stepped in, which sent an HC-130 King aircraft and a HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter with a pararescue crew. Regal Air, a local bush air taxi and flightseeing company, also assisted with the rescue effort, Olmstead said.

The father and son were separately hoisted to the aircraft and taken to Mat-Su Regional Hospital, she said.

The 130th Rescue Squadron out of Moffatt Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California flew their aircraft and provided communications and refueling support during the mission. The Outside crew is in Alaska participating in Red Flag-Alaska exercises.


08-11-2016, 01:14 PM

Alaska cruise visitors to top 1 million for first time since 2009

Author: Jeannette Falsey (
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Published 15 hours ago

Cruise ship passengers disembark from the Holland America ship MS Maasdam at the Port of Anchorage on Monday, May 30, 2016. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

For the first time in seven years, the cruise industry is set to send more than a million visitors to Alaska.

The surge in passenger numbers for the 2016 season comes even as major cruise companies Carnival Corp. ( and Royal Caribbean Cruises ( price increases for their Alaska itineraries in their earnings reports.

"Pricing is holding up in Alaska. It's one of the more stable pricing regions that the operators are deploying in right now," said Jaime Katz, an analyst who tracks the leisure industry at investment research and management firm Morningstar (

The numbers indicate the industry has emerged from a slowdown in Alaska. Passenger numbers rebounded from a 10-year low of 878,000 in 2010 to a projected 1,014,000 this year. passengers1.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

Passenger numbers stayed above 1 million annually throughout the late 2000s, when cruise companies slashed fares worldwide to keep as many berths full as possible during the worst years of the global recession, and the introduction of a state head tax in 2007 cut into bottom lines.

In 2010, cruise companies cut capacity ( by about 14 percent, saying the $50-per-passenger head tax was too much to bear. A lawsuit filed by the cruise industry association in Alaska resulted in a reduction of the tax in time for the 2011 season. Since then, the companies have been adding berths to their Alaska itineraries nearly every year with the exception of 2014, when they diverted capacity to the fast-growing China cruise market.

"If they're more profitable, they'll bring more ships," said John Binkley, president of Cruise Lines International Association Alaska.

Between May and September of 2015, 56 percent of Alaska's 1.78 million visitors were cruise ship passengers, according to the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program ( pdf). The vessels bring with them air pollution, sewage waste and crowds. But they also bring tax revenue, inject outside money into local economies and provide jobs to Alaskans and non-Alaskans alike.

Bob Bartholomew, finance director for the city and borough of Juneau, said Alaska's capital city has seen a 3 percent increase in passengers as of July 31 over the same period in 2015. Sales tax revenue generated by cruise passengers is on pace to hit $7.7 million this year. The head tax will likely bring in the same amount, he said.

Juneau sees more cruise ship passengers than any other Alaska community, but Bartholomew said their $250,000 additional contribution to local government coffers this year will not make up for the loss of close to $4 million in state funding resulting from budget cuts.

"The cruise revenue is helpful, but not going to make up for it," he said.

The state collects a very small share of revenue from cruise ships through a head tax that added an average of $2.4 million annually over the past four fiscal years to the general fund. A tax on gambling aboard cruise ships brought in about $6 million annually, according to the Alaska Department of Revenue ( an-150701-011.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=99

Cruise ships are docked in downtown Ketchikan on July 1, 2015. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)
Worldwide, cruises have grown ( in popularity since 2009, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, but while the absolute number of Alaska cruise visitors has recovered, Alaska's market share dropped from 8 percent in the mid-2000sto 4 percent in 2016.

Alaska is competing on a global scale against tried-and-true routes in the Caribbean and newer itineraries in Asia and Antarctica ( River cruises in Europe are also increasingly popular.

Sarah Leonard, president and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association ( worries cuts to the state's marketing budget will have an adverse effect on overall visitor traffic to Alaska. Funding for tourism marketing stood at $1.5 million in fiscal year 2017, down from $18.7 million in 2013.

"Alaska is riding a wave of strong marketing campaigns from the past few years," Leonard said. "This year, with severely reduced dollars for tourism promotion, it will be challenging to keep Alaska top of mind for travelers."

But there are some positive signs for growth in Alaska's cruise market. With cruise companies building bigger and bigger ships, the Port of Juneau Cruise Ship Terminal Project ( recently installed a new dock that accepts ultra-large marine vessels.

The dock went into operation this tourist season. A second is set to be completed by 2017.


08-13-2016, 02:31 PM

Thieves Tried to Siphon Gas but They Sucked Out Sewage by Accident... (

They say that life is full of lessons, and many of us find that we are going from one lesson to the next. At times, they are relatively easy to learn but at other times, they can be a hard lesson, indeed. That was the case for some thieves who were trying to make a hasty retreat with some petrol in Australia.

Apparently, they felt that they needed petrol enough that they would go to a tour bus in the middle of the night and siphon out the tank. That’s exactly what they did, but when they started sucking on the siphon hose, they got more than what they bargained for.

It turns out, they put the siphon hose in the wrong place and instead of siphoning petrol, they were siphoning straight out of the sewage tank!

An investigating police Sgt. had this to say.

“We can infer they [made] a very hasty retreat, with a somewhat bitter taste in their mouth.”
The police are still trying to track them down but they are probably not trying too hard. After all, they have already been punished enough!


08-19-2016, 12:02 PM

EFF rips Microsoft for "blatant disregard of user choice and privacy" in Windows 10 over Microsoft's privacy practices aren't going away.
In a blistering editorial (, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has criticized Microsoft's strategy for rolling out Windows 10.
The EFF, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that bills itself as "the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world," accuses Microsoft of "disregarding user choice" in its year-long free upgrade campaign for the new operating system.
The author of the signed editorial, Amul Kalia, also accuses Microsoft of disregarding user privacy. "By default," Kamil writes, "Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft...."
The editorial is especially critical of Microsoft's telemetry collection:
A significant issue is the telemetry data the company receives. While Microsoft insists that it aggregates and anonymizes this data, it hasn't explained just how it does so. Microsoft also won't say how long this data is retained, instead providing only general timeframes. Worse yet, unless you're an enterprise user, no matter what, you have to share at least some of this telemetry data with Microsoft and there's no way to opt-out of it. [emphasis in original]

"The tactics Microsoft employed to get users of earlier versions of Windows to upgrade to Windows 10 went from annoying to downright malicious," the editorial says. "Time after time, with each update, Microsoft chose to employ questionable tactics to cause users to download a piece of software that many didn't want."
In an emailed statement, a Microsoft spokesperson responded:
Microsoft is committed to customer privacy and ensuring that customers have the information and tools they need to make informed decisions. We listened to feedback from our customers and evolved our approach to the upgrade process. Windows 10 continues to have the highest satisfaction of any version of Windows.
The Microsoft statement included links to the company's privacy policy (, to a separate Windows 10 and your online services ( page, and to a September 2015 blog post, Privacy and Windows 10 (
The post's author isn't a member of EFF's legal staff. Kalia's bio ( him as an Intake Coordinator, an EFF staffer with two years of experience whose role is to work with lawyers and activists in identifying issues that are "worthy of advocacy - especially when legal action is not necessarily the best approach."
The timing of the post is odd. If the issue of aggressive upgrades is really worth addressing, that section might have had a greater effect months ago. As of today, the Get Windows 10 program is over and there is no indication that any other Microsoft projects are engaging in the same tactics.
The EFF's characterization of some Windows 10 features is also incorrect. For example, the editorial says most of the data collected is used to power Cortana, and it criticizes Microsoft for not giving users a choice before collecting that data: "[M]any users would much prefer to opt out of these features in exchange for maintaining their privacy."
In reality, Cortana's feature set requires opting in. If you never click in the Cortana search box, or if you decline the consent request when it's offered, none of that personalized data is collected. See for yourself.
On the left is the what a user sees when using Cortana for the first time in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update: Cortana default Right: Cortana consent request
Clicking "Cortana can do much more" opens the consent screen on the right. Arguably, "No," would be clearer than "Maybe Later," but still, this is unquestionably an opt-in process.
The EFF's criticism of telemetry collection also faults Microsoft for setting the default to the highest level and for offering the "no telemetry" option only to enterprise customers. The aggressive default is indeed worthy of criticism, but limiting the fourth level to enterprise customers has a sound technical underpinning: Some basic data collection is absolutely essential for Windows Update, a critical security feature, to work properly.
Microsoft can't deliver security updates, bug fixes, and driver updates to a device without knowing some information about the hardware and installed software on that device. Enterprise customers can work around this issue using management tools like Windows Server Update Services, which aren't available to consumers.
The EFF also acknowledges that some media criticism represents "misinformation and hyperbole," with a link to my article calling out a particularly terrible example from Forbes.
Still, the fact that a highly regarded organization like the EFF is weighing in on this issue is a sign that Microsoft has, at a minimum, serious trust issues.
Over the past year, when these issues have arisen, the company has consistently delayed its response and then hidden behind legalese and vague statements about policy.
Ironically, privacy should be a competitive advantage for Microsoft, given its competitive position with Google, whose entire business is built on collecting data from its users and turning it into advertising profiles.
These issues aren't going to go away. If Microsoft wants to address the issue head-on, it should do so from the office of the CEO. And maybe it could invite experts from the EFF and other organizations in to audit its practices and procedures instead of just expecting its customers to trust that it's doing the right thing.

(Video) LIVE: Watch Very Orlando by WESH 2 NOW! Orlando news, weather and more.


08-30-2016, 12:19 PM

A single lightning strike killed 323 reindeer in Norway

Author: Karin Brulliard, The Washington Post
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 1 day ago Y-LIGHTNING-REINDEER-DEATH-1024x576.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=75&token=bar

Dead wild reindeer are seen on Hardangervidda in Norway, after lightning struck the central mountain plateau and killed more than 300 of them, in this undated handout photo. (Havard Kjoentvedt/Norwegian Nature Inspectorate/NTB Scanpix via REUTERS)

The macabre images released Monday by the Norwegian Environment Agency look like something out of a wildlife zombie apocalypse movie or the aftermath of a cervid "Game Of Thrones" battle: a treeless landscape dotted with hundreds of reindeer corpses.

The 323 reindeer were killed by lightning on Friday, the agency said, in a rare natural massacre that counts as the deadliest lightning strike ever recorded. It took place in a private hunting area of the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in central southern Norway, a verdant and frigid tableau of streams, rocks and glaciers that is home to one of the largest reindeer herds in Europe.

Officials told AFP that a gamekeeper stumbled upon the eerie scene on Friday and that 70 young reindeer were among the victims. Five animals had to be euthanized, said officials, who told the news service that they weren't sure what they would do with the bodies. The gamekeeper told NTB, the Norwegian news agency, that samples of the carcasses were sent to a state veterinary institute, which would officially determine the cause of death.

"We've never seen anything like this on this scale," said agency official Kjartan Knutsen."There were very strong storms in the area on Friday. The animals stay close together in bad weather and these ones were hit by lightning."

Dead wild reindeer are seen on Hardangervidda in Norway. (Havard Kjotvedt/SNO/Miljodirektoratet/NTB Scanpix via Reuters)
Death by lightning isn't terribly unusual, of course. According to the National Weather Service, 32 people in the United States have been unlucky enough to die that way so far this year. About 350 people here have been killed by lighting since 2006, the agency says. Guinness World Records says the "worst lightning strike disaster"occurred in 1971, when a bolt took down a commercial airplane in Peru, killing 91 people.

So it follows that animals, most of which spend the majority or all of their lives in the great outdoors, also meet their end this way, though the record-keeping on those fatalities is assumed to be spotty at best.

Cattle and sheep are common victims. Guinness reports that the largest recorded number of livestock killed by a single lightning bolt is 68; they were Jersey cows struck in Australia in 2005. (Three cows were briefly paralyzed but recovered.)

In March, 21 cows in South Dakota were killed when lightning struck the metal bale feeder they were eating from, leaving their hulking dark carcasses frozen in an eerie circle.

Sea lions, caribou and wild turkeys have also been documented lightning victims, as have elephants, antelope, a sort-of-famous TV giraffe and a flock of 52 geese in Canada in 1932. The fowl were collected for "wild goose dinners," according to a news account turned up by science blogger Darren Naish. Naish wrote that most animals are killed by currents that run through the ground, not from direct strikes.

Among the more well-known animal lightning strike victims is a bison who resides at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge in Iowa. A wildlife biologist discovered the bull, bloodied and emaciated, in the summer of 2013. The reserve decided to "let nature take its course," according to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife account — and against the odds, the bison's tale had a happy ending. Nearly three years later, he seemed to be doing just fine, one large hairless patch of shoulder notwithstanding. And he had been given a fitting name: Sparky.

John of Phoenix

08-30-2016, 01:41 PM

A dog is able to learn up to 250 words and gestures. A dog can count up to five and can perform simple math.
Equivalent human age: 3

A cat doesn't give a **** and is sick of your stupid ****.
Equivalent human age: 43

That said, here's an interesting study about how smart dogs are.

When you praise a dog, it's listening not just to the words you say but also how you say them.

That might not be huge news to dog owners. But now scientists have explored this phenomenon by using an imaging machine to peek inside the brains of 13 dogs as they listened to their trainer's voice.

The reward pathway in the dogs' brains lit up when they heard both praising words and an approving intonation — but not when they heard random words spoken in a praising tone or praise words spoken in a flat tone, according to a report in the journal Science.

"Dogs process both what we say and how we say it in a way which is amazingly similar to how human brains do," says Attila Andics, a neuroscientist at Eötvös Loránd University in Hungary.

When dogs hear speech, he explains, they seem to separate the meaning of words from the intonation, and each aspect of speech is analyzed independently. The left hemisphere of the brain processes meaning, while intonation is analyzed in the right hemisphere.

More here> (

So even if you use a very excited tone of voice to tell your dog he’s going to the vet, he’ll probably see through you and be bummed about going.


08-31-2016, 10:47 AM

Thanks for that very interesting bit of news, John. Our dog is bi-lingual. He understands both English and Finnish.


08-31-2016, 10:50 AM

Gardening ( Check out the 1,469-pound pumpkin that just broke the Alaska State Fair record

Author: Suzanna Caldwell (
Updated: 1 hour ago
Published 13 hours ago iantPumpkinDSC_5428.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=75&token=barPumpkin fairies dance around a giant pumpkin to bless it before it is weighed at the Alaska State Fair. The pumpkin went on to set a new state record of 1469 lb. for Dale Marshall of Anchorage. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)

After five years of chasing the Alaska State Fair giant pumpkin record, Anchorage's Dale Marshall finally won the heavyweight title once again.

At the 11th annual state fair pumpkin weigh-off Tuesday, Marshall's 1,469-pound gourd beat the previous record of 1,287 pounds set in 2011 by J. D. Megchelsen of Nikiski.

It was a comeback of sorts for Marshall, who held the record in 2010. Marshall said warm weather and good seed selection led him to victory this year. Grown in a greenhouse at his Sand Lake home, the champion pumpkin weighs roughly as much as a large bull moose. iantPumpkinDSC_5473.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=75&token=bar

Dale Marshall’s giant pumpkin comes up clean as it is inspected at the Alaska State Fair pumpkin weigh-off. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)
"(I did) pretty much what I do every year," he said. "And it panned out."

Marshall was also the lone entry in the 2015 competition, but was unable to compete when the crane hoisting his pumpkin broke during delivery to the fair (, smashing the giant gourd into pieces.

Marshall said it was a relief to hold the record again. In previous years he's named the pumpkin prior to the weigh-off, but not this year.

"Right now we're just calling it the winner," he said. iantPumpkinDSC_2463.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=75&token=bar

Emcee Mardie Robb, right, gasps as grower Dale Marshall reads off the weight of his new state record pumpkin. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News) iantPumpkinDSC_2443.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=75&token=bar

Onlookers cross their fingers as a giant pumpkin is placed on the scales at the fair Tuesday. It went on to weigh in at a new state record of 1469 lb. for Dale Marshall of Anchorage. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News) iantPumpkinDSC_5343.jpg&mode=crop&w=600&q=75&token=bar

One of five pumpkins raised by Dale Marshall of Anchorage is wheeled into the Farm Exhibits building for the Alaska State Fair pumpkin weigh-off on Tuesday. The pumpkin weighed in at 791 lb., but was disqualified for having a large hole at its stem. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News)


09-29-2016, 01:35 PM

Pain 'was like a 10,' says Pioneer Peak climber impaled by ice ax

Author: Chris Klint (
Updated: 1 hour ago
Published 1 day ago – A cap of snow graces Pioneer Peak after a September storm. (Stephen Nowers / Alaska Dispatch News archive)

The woman flown off Pioneer Peak near Palmer after a climbing tool stabbed her in the back during a fall Tuesday night said she was still recovering Wednesday, but thankful to have escaped more serious injury.

Alaska State Troopers said in a dispatch that an Alaska Air National Guard helicopter crew rescued the 23-year-old Australian, Shawnee Whitehorse, after word of her predicament came in around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Whitehorse said in Facebook messages Wednesday that she is originally from Melbourne, Australia, but has been living in the U.S. for the last two years. She spent the first year of that time in Palmer, at a home below Pioneer Peak; she returned to Alaska just two weeks ago from her most recent address in New York City, with a climb on her mind.

"I just wanted to do Pioneer Peak ever since I lived under it," Whitehorse said.

She asked 46-year-old Lisa Pierimarchi, a friend and much more experienced climber, to accompany her on the hike Tuesday. Whitehorse brought an ice ax with her to help traverse snow and ice the two thought they might encounter near the summit; they didn't make it all the way to the top but took photos before they headed back down.

Shawnee Whitehorse, the climber who was impaled on an ice ax during a fall on Pioneer Peak Tuesday, made selfies from near the peak’s summit. She and climbing partner Lisa Pierimarchi got close, but didn’t reach the actual peak. (Shawnee Whitehorse)
Sometime between 8 and 9 p.m. Tuesday, as they were descending on muddy ground at an altitude of about 6,000 feet, Whitehorse fell and was impaled by the ax, which she referred to as an "ice pick."

"(The ice ax) was in my backpack and went into my back next to my spine," Whitehorse said. "I fell to the ground screaming; Lisa pulled out the pick out and called 911."

"The pick was over an inch into my back touching bones and got my lung," Whitehorse said. "(The pain) was like a 10."

Whitehorse said the evening chill didn't register with her.

"We had lots of layers, but after the injury I wasn't cold or at least didn't feel it at all from the adrenaline," Whitehorse said.

Troopers said Pierimarchi provided their GPS coordinates during her 911 call. As temperatures dropped, the Air Force's Rescue Coordination Center in Anchorage was contacted for help due to the ruggedness of the terrain. At the same time, Butte paramedics began hiking toward the women's location to provide additional assistance on the ground if needed.

Guard spokesperson Tech. Sgt. Nancy Halla said Wednesday an HH-60 Pave Hawk launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson with an HC-130 aircraft for support. The helicopter hoisted Whitehorse and flew her directly to Mat-Su Regional, returning to Anchorage by 11 p.m.

Whitehorse said she was treated and released after the fall, although she has follow-up appointments scheduled. She expressed thanks to the guard members who rescued her.

She said the fall hasn't affected her plans to climb Pioneer Peak — she hopes to try again next summer — or her feelings about Alaska.

"I love it so much," Whitehorse said. "It's my favorite place in the world."

S/V Laura Ellen

10-11-2016, 10:25 PM

Police looking for owner of 100 goats spotted wandering Ontario road


Posted Oct 11, 2016 2:26 pm EDT
Last Updated Oct 11, 2016 at 3:35 pm EDT

GEORGINA, Ont. – Police in southern Ontario say they’re looking for the owner of a wayward herd of about 100 goats.
York Regional Police say officers responded Tuesday to a report that approximately 100 goats were on Frog Street in Georgina, Ont., a community about 80 kilometres north of Toronto.
They say that when the officers arrived, the herd had moved off the roadway.
Police say the officers are now trying to determine where the goats escaped from.


11-30-2016, 10:40 PM

Veterans to serve as 'human shields' for Dakota pipeline protesters

Author: Christopher Mele, The New York Times
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 1 day ago

In an undated handout photo, Loreal Black Shawl on the Veterans Bridge in Mandan, N.D. Black Shawl is one of as many as 2,000 veterans organizers said plan to gather at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota in December to serve as “human shields” for protesters. (Loreal Black Shawl via The New York Times)

As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as "human shields" for protesters who have for months clashed with police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said.

The effort, called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is planned as a nonviolent intervention to defend the demonstrators from what the group calls "assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force."

The veterans' plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they would begin blocking supplies, including food, from entering the main protest camp ( after a mandatory evacuation order from the governor. But protesters have vowed to stay put.

Opponents of the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline have gathered for months at the Oceti Sakowin camp, about 40 miles south of Bismarck. The Standing Rock Sioux and other Native American tribes fear the pipeline could pollute the Missouri River and harm sacred cultural lands and tribal burial grounds.

The evacuation order issued on Monday ( by Gov. Jack Dalrymple cited "anticipated harsh weather conditions." It came before a winter storm dumped about 6 inches of snow and brought strong winds to the area on Monday, making roads "nearly impassable at the camp sites," according to Doualy Xaykaothao of Minnesota Public Radio, who was cited by NPR.

The governor's statement said, "Any person who chooses to enter, re-enter or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk." The order was effective immediately and was to remain in place indefinitely.

[North Dakota officials hope to quell pipeline protests with fines (]

The veterans' effort will also run up against a plan by the Army Corps of Engineers to close off access to the protesters' campsite and create a "free speech zone." Federal officials said anyone found on the land after Dec. 5 could be charged with trespassing.

"Yeah, good luck with that," Michael A. Wood Jr., a founder of the veterans' event, said in an interview.

Wood, who served in the Marine Corps, organized the event with Wesley Clark Jr., a screenwriter, activist and son of Wesley K. Clark, the retired Army general and onetime supreme allied commander in Europe for NATO.

Wood said he had initially hoped to attract about 500 veterans; he had to stop sign-ups when they reached 2,000. He said volunteers are from diverse backgrounds: "We have every age, we have every war."

An online fundraiser has drawn over $570,000 in pledges as of Tuesday afternoon to pay for food, transportation and supplies for the veterans' "muster," which was planned for Dec. 4-7.

One veteran, Loreal Black Shawl, said the mission to support the protesters was intensely personal.

Black Shawl, 39, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, is a descendant of two Native American tribes, the Oglala Lakota and Northern Arapaho. She served in the Army for nearly eight years, finishing her career as a sergeant.

"OK, are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in the same way as you have those water protectors?" Black Shawl said, referring to the protesters. "We're not there to create chaos. We are there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated as non-humans."

Authorities have used rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannons against demonstrators, hundreds of whom have been injured, according to protest organizers. The clashes have been highly contentious, with police and demonstrators leveling accusations of violence at each other.

Police use a water cannon on protesters during a protest against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, on Nov. 20. (Stephanie Keith / Reuters)
Some protesters filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday against the Morton County police and others, alleging excessive use of force and seeking a court injunction to prevent authorities from using rubber bullets, explosive grenades and water cannons, according to The Atlantic. One woman was injured and in danger of losing her arm ( after an explosion at the protest site this month.

[A Dakota pipeline's last stand (]

By spotlighting issues such as the use of force by police, national energy policies and the treatment of Native Americans, the protests have garnered national headlines and widespread attention on social media.

Black Shawl acknowledged that the operation could prove problematic because the veterans and police both have military or tactical training. She said she had a "huge, huge nervousness and anxiety" about possibly being injured and what could happen to other veterans.

An "operations order" for participants outlined the logistics with military precision and language, referring to opposing forces, friendly forces and supporting units. Organizers encouraged attendees to wear their old uniforms.

Wood said they were discouraging active-duty service members from attending. "There's no reason for them to get into hot water," he said.

In a break from military custom, the gathering will have a "chain of responsibility" instead of a chain of command, he said. There are no ranks, and participants will refer to one another by their given names.

Wood said the early stages of the event will be logistical: setting up tents and organizing food supplies. The first arrivals are expected Wednesday.

The premise is for the veterans to be fully self-sufficient, he said. "There will be civilian and tribe members watching us from behind but nobody supporting us," the operations order said. "We are the cavalry."

A spokesman for the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, Lt. Thomas O. Iverson, said in an email on Monday, "Law enforcement is aware of the upcoming event planned for December 4-7." He added, "If the group remains lawful and refrains from blocking the roadway, there will be no issues."

Some officials expressed the hope that the demonstrators would move on.

"The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are willing to commit acts of violence," Sen. John Hoeven, a Republican, said in a statement Friday, The Associated Press reported.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, said in an email that he had no concerns that tensions could escalate.

"Everyone that comes knows our intent — to remain in peace and prayer," he said.


12-10-2016, 01:18 AM

Texas Lowe's hires veteran and his service dog

Lauren Wolfe, KXVA-TV, Abilene-Sweetwater, Texas

3 days ago

ABILENE, Texas - An Abilene home improvement store has two new employees: one with two legs, another with four. (

Clay Luthy, an Air Force veteran and his service dog, Charlotte, are working side-by-side at Lowe's in Abilene, Texas.

An Abilene home improvement store has two new employees: one with two legs, another with four.
Provided to KXVA-TV

“I got her as a puppy. And she was never supposed to be a service dog. I found out a couple years ago she was alerting me and I didn’t even know it,” Luthy said.
Luthy said he was trying to find a job after serving in the Air Force, and wanted to find an employer who wouldn't mind his side kick.

“I was trying to figure out where I could go that would be a good fit and it wouldn’t mind having Charlotte, and my wife said I was at Lowe’s so much anyway, I might as well get a job there,” he said.
Charlotte – a 10-year-old yellow lab – is by his side in and out of the work zone. Jay Fellers, Lowe’s human resources manager, said it was a no-brainer to hire the pair.
“They were the best person for the job," he said. "So, we went through the interview process and Clay and his own merit won the job. And we knew he was gonna make a great employee – we just got the benefit of getting Charlotte right along with him."
Luthy and Charlotte became a viral sensation after a photo the pair took the Internet by storm.

Luthy said he still can't believe all of the attention he’s getting.
“By the time I looked at it, there was 1,000 comments on it. Oh my gosh, it was ridiculous,” Luthy said. “I found a way to have a productive life and my prescription is four-legged.”
Luthy says having a service dog has truly changed his life and more veterans should consider getting a service dog too.
And Luthy is training another service dog, Lola, to take Charlotte’s place.


12-10-2016, 01:31 AM

Alaska moose locked antlers in a fight, then froze together in a slough

Author: Karin Brulliard, The Washington Post two moose froze to death in what would be their final battle. (Jeff Erickson via The Washington Post)

The sight of hulking moose isn't uncommon around Unalakleet. But Brad Webster had never seen moose like this before.

Webster, a social studies and science teacher, was showing a friend around the grounds of the Bible camp he helps maintain. It was early November, cold enough that the slough at the site was covered in a sheet of ice thick enough to walk on and clear enough to see through.

The men rounded a bend, and there, Webster said, they saw it: a large set of antlers and a hairy brown hump protruding from the ice. They got closer, and saw another hump — and another set of antlers, entangled with the first set.

The two bull moose were lying on their sides, apparently locked in a fight to the death, and now perfectly preserved in 8 inches of ice.

"We were both kind of in awe," Webster, 33, said in an interview on Wednesday. "I've heard of other animals this had happened to, but I've never seen anything like this."

Nearly two weeks later, Brad Webster and friends went to recover the two moose heads. (Jeff Erickson via The Washington Post)
Neither have most people. Another friend of Webster's, Jeff Erickson, posted photos of the moose on Facebook last week, and the remarkable sight promptly shot around the globe (sparking, predictably, metaphorical jokes about politics). Erickson said even elders in the Western Alaska village on the Norton Sound coast had never seen such a thing.

Kris Hundertmark, chair of the biology and wildlife department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said in an email that the antlers of male moose competing for females can become so entangled the animals cannot dislodge themselves from their opponents.

"These two fellows were unfortunate in that they probably fell into the water while locked together and drowned," Hundertmark said. "Then again, that is a much quicker way to go than by getting locked together in some forest and slowly starving to death."
Last weekend, Webster, Erickson and a few other friends — including a taxidermist — went back to the site to retrieve the two moose heads, which Webster said he wanted to mount and use as unique wall hangings with a heck of a backstory at the Bible camp.
It took a few hours, a chainsaw and an ice-pick to get through the ice, under which was about 2 feet of water, he said. They left the carcasses, which he said some people in town are talking about using to feed sled dog teams.

When they examined the heads, it looked like one moose might have pierced the other's skull, Webster said, leading him to believe one might have died midbattle, then pulled the other down into the water with him.

"After that one's dead, it's kind of like you won the battle but you lose the war, because you've got a whole other moose attached to your head right now," he said.

Erickson, 57, said in an email the sight of the drowned moose will stay with him.

"Life in Northwest Alaska can have a stark reality and brutal consequences," he wrote. But, he added: "I was just happy to be part of the recovery. … The view of the antlers protruding from the ice with the soft layer of snow on the carcasses not encased in the ice was such a stark and eerily beautiful scene."


01-17-2017, 01:52 PM

Village mushers ready for their toughest race: The Kusko 300

Author: Lisa Demer (

ANIAK – Two mushers in their 30s from the Kuskokwim River village of Aniak live maybe a mile apart by road and keep an eye out for each other during training runs across the tundra and on old mining trails. But mostly, it is a sport they do alone, running ever harder into the frosted wild country. Richie Diehl crosses the Aniak Slough during a training run on Jan. 11, as he prepares his dog team for the upcoming Kuskokwim 300. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Richie Diehl, 31, and Isaac Underwood, 35, are preparing their own teams for the same big end: the upcoming Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race.

The main event starts at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Bethel on the frozen river alongside town, a scene of excited dogs and energized mushers, rumbling trucks and cheering fans, snowmachines and four-wheelers. Once the dogs clear out, fireworks explode.

The forecast is for below-zero temperatures but racers have seen much worse. Fresh snow dusted Bethel over the weekend. Aniak is the turnaround spot.

The Kusko 300 is the region's biggest sled dog race and, organizers say, offers the richest purse of any 300-miler in the world. This year, there's $150,000 in prize money for a field that as of Monday featured 22 teams.

They will travel up the frozen and nearly snowless Kuskokwim River and over tundra past the villages of Kwethluk, Tuluksak, Kalskag, Aniak and back again, an old mail route. Just after Kalskag, they veer off for a loop to Whitefish Lake that adds miles to a course that typically is a bit shy of 300 miles.

Diehl is a professional, competitive musher with 46 dogs and eight puppies. Last year marked his best racing season to date, with a fourth-place finish in the Kuskokwim 300 and 12th in the Iditarod (, bringing in $35,000 in prize money combined. musher Isaac Underwood gets his dog team ready for a training run. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Underwood's operation is more modest, with 31 dogs. But he too trains full time in the winter. He came in 19th in last year's Kusko 300, one of the last to finish, but still won $3,100.

Both have been winnowing down to the team that will be on the Kusko 300 start line.

"This is the 12, right there," Underwood said in his dog yard one recent afternoon. He was pointing to an ever-moving chart of his top dogs, with Sassy and her younger brother Chaga in lead. A salvaged dryer lid serves as his planning board. He shifts around dog names written on wooden rectangles that hold tight with magnets. musher Isaac Underwood’s team planning board. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Diehl took off earlier, in the bare light of midmorning. He mushed down his street and over a dike onto the Aniak Slough as three moose hurried across nearby. He wouldn't return until some eight hours and 70 miles later.

Conditions are better that way, down an old mining trail, than on the hard-frozen river. He encounters shallow snow, windblown bare spots and stretches of ice.

"It's the best we've had in Aniak in probably four or five years," said Diehl, who some years leaves the region to find snow for training.

Biggest purse in the world

The lives of Diehl and Underwood unfold mainly outdoors, a rarity in the modern world. They along with other Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta residents embody why organizers started the Kusko 300 back in 1980 to begin with.

"We are trying to get the guys in who are watching and thinking 'That looks like fun,' " said Myron Angstman, the race founder, a musher, a lawyer and president of Kuskokwim 300 Race Committee Inc., which also runs a variety of shorter races in the region.

The race runs almost solely with volunteers. The race director, Madelene Reichard, is full time, but also works as a Bethel junior high math teacher. The Aniak checkpoint is run by the Kuspuk School District's acting superintendent.

Race organizers still are looking for volunteers including Bethel drivers with trucks to move dog teams. Mushers stay with local hosts in Bethel.

"We believe we have the largest cash purse of any volunteer community event in the world," Angstman said in a text message when asked about the prize money. "Skiing. Golfing, you name it. For the size of our town this event is hard to imagine."

Bethel's population is just over 6,300. This weekend there is also the Bogus Creek 150 as well as the Akiak Dash, a 70-miler with a madcap mass start and a local field of competitors.

Sled dogs need care and feeding twice a day even when they are not running, Angstman said.

"The winters can get to you here," he said. "Even for me, I need a little reason to go out when it's cold. If we are providing that incentive, we are doing a service."

The Kusko 300 attracts a mix: locals pushing themselves, those rising up like Diehl and Bethel's Pete Kaiser, who has won it the last two years, and superstars including Jeff King, a four-time Iditarod winner and nine-time Kusko 300 winner, the most of anyone.

Absent from this year's roster: Martin Buser and son Rohn, both of whom have won it twice. The elder Buser, another four-time Iditarod winner, was penalized last year after getting off course and also for allowing children in a village to give a snack to his dogs.

Mushing may not be for everyone, Angstman said. Not that many young people are taking it up, but maybe the local races will inspire some, the way Diehl and Underwood were lured as kids, he said.

Fathers and sons

Both Diehl and Underwood are sons of mushers and both rely on their families to do what they do. Underwood, left, helps his son Aniak musher Isaac Underwood put booties on dogs prior to a training run in preparation for the upcoming Kusko 300 sled dog race. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Underwood's father Nathan ran the Kusko 300 many times and in 2015 they tried it together though both scratched. Nathan, who just turned 59, is marking trail for the race this year but not running it.

One recent day, Underwood was getting a late start on his training run. He and his father spent the morning in the living room building a new sled. It will have a seat on a cooler, like the one Jeff King fashioned years ago for the Iditarod. Tools and parts were everywhere. It was his father's birthday and also the day that the family was preparing to host Orthodox church members for a Slaviq celebration.

Underwood first raced when he was 8 in a one-dog event in the village. He won. But he didn't really get into sled dog racing until he hit his 20s. He has finished two Kusko 300s.

One time on the final leg to Bethel, Akiak musher Mike Williams Sr. was just ahead of him out of sight. The chase was on.

"I wasn't sure I was going to catch him, but I did in the last couple of miles," Underwood said. He came in four minutes faster than the veteran.

Experience is the key to success in sled dog racing, he said. Underwood speaks with his wife Jarraine as he builds a race sled that his son Isaac Underwood will use during the Kusko 300. (Bill Roth / ADN))

He feeds his dogs kibble and fish, mainly salmon, that his family catches in big numbers with a fish wheel. A friend gave them beaver, an excellent protein and fat source for the dogs

During racing season, Bethel doctors Bill Eggimann and wife Jane McClure sponsor his team by providing kibble, a big help, Underwood said.

He's worked the last couple of summers for the state Department of Fish and Game, netting salmon for a test fishery that gauges the timing of various runs

From the family's own stock, Underwood is building his pool of dogs. This year, he is running 4-year-olds and 7-year-olds but has some strong yearlings that he is looking forward to bringing in

He will haul his team to Bethel Wednesday. At first he planned to go by snowmachine with dogs in crates on a long wooden toboggan. But the truck road on the Kuskokwim is so good he may do that instead


01-17-2017, 01:59 PM

Continuing from above story:

To preschool by dog team

Back in the late 1970s, Dave Diehl hauled firewood by dog team to the upriver village of Stony River, where he was a schoolteacher. He got into competitive racing but mainly ran dogs for fun.

When son Richie was a toddler, he refused to go to preschool except by dog team so that's how his mom got him there. His transportation to elementary school was by sled pulled by his dog Smokey. One year he had to keep a journal for school and wrote all about dogs, says his mother, Esther Donhauser.

Diehl considered becoming a commercial pilot. He has his general aviation license and his own Cessna. He went to University of Alaska Anchorage and graduated with an aviation degree.

But what he really wanted to do was mush.

"I like the quiet. I like being by myself," Diehl said. "I like Aniak and I like the village life." musher Richie Diehl prepares for the upcoming Kusko 300 sled dog race. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

He lives in his own little blue house with girlfriend Emerie Fairbanks next door to his parents' home and business by the airport. His mother runs a takeout restaurant, the Hound House, with burgers, sandwiches and pizzas that pilots often grab and go. Emerie is a kindergarten teacher working on her master's in applied linguistics.

After college, his father asked if he wanted to do the Kusko 300.

"If you're into it, I'll do it," Diehl answered.

He scratched that first time in 2009, in his hometown.

"I was in way over my head," he said. He knew he needed to train more and also build his own team.

He had bought a dog named Tater from a litter bred by Jeff King. Diehl's dad at first didn't understand paying top dollar for husky mixes but came around.

"It was probably the best $750 I ever spent," Diehl said. Tater fathered most of the dogs in his kennel and has been one of his best leaders. He's 10 years old and a sweet house dog now. One of Tater's sons, Willie, is an even better all-around dog and leader, Diehl said. musher Richie Diehl visits with Termite as he prepares for the upcoming Kusko 300 sled dog race. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Now Diehl has finished six Kusko 300s and four Iditarods. His operation costs in the range of $75,000 a year. He works construction during the summers in Bethel installing siding and roofing and building houses and school playgrounds. His father helps clean up the dog yard and also helps hook up the dogs for runs.

Diehl also benefits from an array of sponsors including his mother's restaurant, Alaska Commercial Co., Aniak Light and Power and main backer The Kuskokwim Corp., an Alaska Native corporation for 10 villages along that stretch of river. ACE Air Cargo gives him a deal on bringing in food for his dogs. Ryan Air donates the cost of flying his dogs home from Nome after the Iditarod.

Diehl uses his father's meat saw, bought for cutting moose, to slice Kuskokwim River salmon, slabs of chopped beef and a specialized high-protein, vitamin-rich mixture that he buys from musher Aaron Burmeister's Eureka Meats. musher Richie Diehl has frozen salmon ready to snack his dogs on the trail on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

Every day in winter, he goes through 65 to 70 pounds of meat plus almost a bag of dry kibble. He stores meat and fish in a big, walk-in freezer that he unplugs once it's cold enough.

Warming up to 30 below

Diehl has had wild times on the trail. The year the temperature with windchill for the Kusko 300 was 65 below. The time the race was delayed as a storm ripped through, flipping planes and taking out a wall of a Quonset hut in Bethel. The 2014 Iditarod with a hair-raising ride on glare ice down Dalzell Gorge.

Once, Diehl and Bethel's Kaiser geared up for a long training run from Aniak to Bethel when the temperature rose — to 30 below. Then it dropped again. They took off anyway.

"It was a cold night," Diehl said.

The summer of 2015, he was working in Bethel when wildfires near Aniak led to evacuations of some village residents. He worried for his dogs, being cared for by his father. The smoke was too thick for him to fly there. Kaiser brought him by boat up the Kuskokwim. They prepared to evacuate the dogs on the river, but the fire was controlled in time.

Diehl says his hometown race is tougher than the Iditarod because of the long runs with limited rest, just 10 hours during 40-plus hours on the trail. And mushers are caring for their dogs during their allotted rest time.

"In the Iditarod you can slowly lead them into a rhythm. The Kusko is kind of go-as-fast-as-you-can without having everything fall apart," Diehl said. "The Kusko to me is the toughest race that I have run and will probably run."

Could he one day win it?

"I wouldn't do it if I didn't think so," he said. He has promising young dogs that are big, strong and durable, that move easily. He has the support of family and the community. He has what he thinks might be the biggest part, a work ethic.

"The Kusko is what triggered everything for me," he said. "If I could win the Kusko at some point in my career, that would be huge." musher Isaac Underwood crosses a road as he leaves on a training run. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

About this author

Lisa Demer (

Lisa Demer is based in Bethel and covers rural Alaska stories. She has been a reporter more than three decades. Reach her at 907-543-3555 (tel:907-543-3555).


01-18-2017, 02:54 PM

Polar bears' path to decline runs through an Alaska village

Author: Erica Goode, The New York Times
Updated: December 19, 2016
View Photos

KAKTOVIK, Alaska — Come fall, polar bears are everywhere around this Arctic village, dozing on sand spits, roughhousing in the shallows and attracting hundreds of tourists who travel long distances to see them.

At night, the bears steal into town. They leave only reluctantly, chased off by the polar bear patrol with firecracker shells and spotlights.

On the surface, these bears might not seem like members of a species facing possible extinction. Scientists have counted up to 80 at a time in or near Kaktovik; many look healthy and plump, especially in early fall, when their presence overlaps with the Inupiat village's whaling season.

But the bears that come to Kaktovik are climate refugees, on land because the sea ice they rely on for hunting seals is receding.

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and the ice cover is retreating at a pace that even the climate scientists who predicted the decline find startling.

Much of 2016 was warmer than normal and the freeze-up came late. In November, the extent of Arctic sea ice was lower than ever recorded for that month. Though the average rate of ice growth was faster than normal for the month, over five days in mid-November the ice cover lost more than 19,000 square miles, a decline that the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado called "almost unprecedented" for that time of year.

In the southern Beaufort Sea, where Kaktovik's 260 residents occupy 1 square mile on the northeast corner of Barter Island, sea ice loss has been especially precipitous.

The continuing loss of sea ice does not bode well for polar bears, whose existence depends on an ice cover that is rapidly thinning and melting as the climate warms.

The largest of the bear subspecies and a powerful apex predator, the polar bear has become the poster animal for climate change. Even as the polar bear's symbolic role has raised awareness, some scientists say it has also oversimplified the bears' plight and unwittingly opened the door to attacks by climate denialists.

"When you're using it as a marketing tool and to bring in donations, there can be a tendency to lose the nuance in the message," said Todd Atwood, a research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Alaska Science Center.

Few scientists dispute that in the long run — barring action by countries to curb global greenhouse gas emissions — polar bears are in trouble, and experts have predicted the number will decrease with continued sea ice loss. A 2015 assessment for the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List projected a reduction of more than 30 percent in the number of polar bears by 2050, while noting there was uncertainty about how extensive or rapid the decline of the bears — or the ice — would be.

But the effect of climate change in the shorter term is less clear-cut and a populationwide decline is not yet apparent.

Polar bears hold each other in waters near the village of Kaktovik on Sept. 5. Polar bears roam the town during the fall as climate refugees, on land because the sea ice they rely on for hunting seals is receding. (Josh Haner / The New York Times)
Nineteen subpopulations of polar bears inhabit five countries that ring the Arctic Circle — Canada, the United States, Norway, Greenland and Russia. Of those, three populations, including the polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea, are falling in number.

But six other populations are stable. One is increasing. And scientists have so little information about the remaining nine that they are unable to gauge their numbers or their health.

The researchers who conducted the Red List assessment concluded that polar bears should remain listed as "vulnerable," rather than be moved up to a more endangered category.

Even a few decades ago, most polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea remained on the ice year-round or, if they did come to shore, stopped only briefly. The sea ice gave them ready access to seals, the staple of their high-fat diet.

But as the climate has warmed, the spring thaw has come earlier and the fall freeze later. The pack ice that was once visible from Kaktovik even in summertime has retreated hundreds of miles offshore.

As a result, researchers have found, a larger proportion of the bears in the southern Beaufort region are choosing to spend time on shore: an average of 20 percent compared with 6 percent two decades earlier, according to a recently published study by Atwood of the Geological Survey and his colleagues that tracked female bears with radio collars. And the bears are staying on land longer — this year they arrived in August and stayed into November.

"It's one of two choices: Stay with the pack ice or come to shore," Atwood said of the southern Beaufort bears. "If they sit on that ice and those waters are very deep, it will be harder for them to find nutrition."

The proliferation of polar bears in Kaktovik in the fall has drawn wildlife photographers, journalists and climate-change tourists to the village, filling its two small hotels or flying in from Fairbanks for the day on chartered planes.

About 1,200 people came to view the bears in 2015, and the number is increasing year by year, said Robert Thompson, an Inupiat guide.

The increasing tourism has been a financial boon for some people in Kaktovik but it has upset others. Tourists take up seats on the small commercial flights in and out of the village during the fall months when the bears are there, crowding out residents who need to fly to Anchorage or Fairbanks. Some visitors wander through town snapping pictures without asking permission.

But as the Arctic ice continues to shrink, bears are arriving in poorer condition and are staying longer. Interaction between bears and humans is becoming more common, exposing the polar bears to more stress and the people to more danger.

The biggest threat to the polar bear is something no regulatory authority involved in wildlife conservation can address: the unregulated release of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

This bowhead whale was caught near Kaktovik in September. In the fall, polar bears devour leftover whale meat and roam the town as climate refugees, on land because the sea ice they rely on for hunting seals is receding. (Josh Haner/The New York Times)
For many researchers, the most pressing question is how many days a polar bear can survive on land without the steady source of high-fat nutrition that seals usually provide.

Some scientists have suggested the bears might learn to survive on other types of food — snow geese, for example — or that they might learn to catch seals in the water, without relying on the ice as a platform.

But most researchers say that is unlikely.

Such changes usually evolve over thousands of years, said David Douglas, a research wildlife biologist at the Geological Survey. But the loss of sea ice "is taking place over potentially a very rapid time frame, where there may not be a lot of time in polar bear generations to home in on behaviors that could give some advantage," he said.

Much depends on how much of the ice disappears. Under some climate models, if steps are taken to control greenhouse gas emissions, the species could recover.

In Kaktovik, at least for now, whales are providing bears with an alternative source of food.

But "the bears are not here because we hunt whales," said Thompson. "They're here because their habitat has gone away and it's several hundred miles of open water out there."


01-18-2017, 06:45 PM

As temperatures dip, lessons from Jack London's 'To Build a Fire'

Author: Christine Cunningham (
Updated: 6 hours ago
Published 19 hours ago Cunningham warms herself by a fire while on a fishing trip in western Alaska. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

As we flew over the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, I stared through the window at the earth below. Floating lichen carpets tore open, revealing winding streams and ponds over duck flats as far as I could see.

In places, abandoned snowmachines rusted to the color of the environment — circles of gray lit in places to reveal purple hues, lime green and orange. The channeled rivers lined with the darker foliage of stunted willow wound mindlessly and wild to the coast. I wanted to get down to each of those rivers and discover them the way they could only be discovered once. After that, they are never the same.

I was aiming to fish waters long considered infeasible for fly fishermen that channel through a canyon, dropping 18 feet per mile out of the Ahklun Mountains before connecting with the world-class fishing waters of the Goodnews River before flowing another 35 miles to the Bering Sea.

I had not yet experienced the immeasurable dynamics that make one body of water more difficult than another. My expectations of the trip came from the information contained on U.S. Geological Survey maps and Google Earth images, plus the assurances of gear manufacturers, weather predictions and the idealized accounts of guides and backcountry adventurers.

The first rise in the landscape appeared ahead just as the pilot banked to the right and flew through a canyon once before coming back around and landing on the mountain lake. The gravel beach looked perfect for camping, and a spot of sun broke out over the water.

Surprise fear

That night, we sat around a driftwood fire with only the sound of the wind, the water and the fish jumping. Now and then, one of us would go to the lake and cast a few streamers, catch a green lake trout in a raft of blood-red sockeye and return to our seat by the fire content. The surrounding hills were tundra-covered knolls with snow that would never melt before winter.

It was a trip of a lifetime, but my thoughts, upon reflection, were much like those of the man in Jack London's short story, "To Build a Fire." I was ready for a week of adventure but not the surprise fear I felt in those final few hours along the river when overcome by hypothermia.

[Read "To Build a Fire" (]

My trouble was rain and water, rather than extreme cold, but I was so blinded by possibility of great fishing, I was incapable of perceiving the actual risks of my adventure.

This week — with temperatures forecast to sink below minus 40 in the Interior — will be extremely hazardous in the backcountry, especially if one is traveling alone on foot.
The difference between minus-10 cold and minus-75 cold was best described to me when I first moved to a remote village south of McGrath. "Cold is cold," one of the townspeople told me. "The difference between minus 10 and minus 50 or minus 75 is the speed at which you lose your ability to do simple tasks."

The time you have to build a fire determines whether or not to gather ample wood to keep the fire going once it's started or build a proper base to allow for melting snow to drain away. If you are wet or alone in minus-50-degree weather, your fingers may stop working before you can strike a match.

The lessons in "To Build a Fire" come (and are ignored) in order of importance. First, the wolf dog knows that real cold is no time for traveling. Second, an old man had told him that, after 50 below, he should travel with a companion. Third, at 75 below, the man knows he cannot fail in his first attempt to build a fire.

Cautionary tale, true story

Perhaps the best lesson in London's story about a man who dies of hypothermia after breaking through ice comes in the story's first lines: "The trouble with him was that he was not able to imagine." The ability to be prepared for things to go wrong in Alaska is more important than in less remote and warmer places.

[Tips on building a fire in miserable weather (]

"To Build a Fire" is a cautionary tale, which brings to mind a similar, but true, story of survival.
In "Alaska's Wolf Man" by Jim Rearden, Frank Glaser is crossing the Tanana River in freezing cold. He uses a stick to test the overflow ice but throws it away when he appears to be on dry ice. When he falls through the ice, he thinks fast and locates dry tinder to build a fire from dead spruce trees. Using an ax, he piles dry spruce boughs and retrieves dry matches from his pack.

When the fire is blazing, he stands on a small green spruce and strips down to his moccasins, mittens and fur cap. He sprints between the fire and a nearby tree to cut branches to hang his clothes and gather wood. Once his clothes are warm, he dresses and stays by the fire instead of continuing to where he planned to camp. He makes a pot of tea, boils sheep meat and sleeps on a spruce bough bed.

Instead of "hearing his own judgment of death," as London's character did when his fire goes out and his dog abandons him to die, Glaser survives because of his ability not just to build a fire but to imagine the circumstances he found himself in beforehand and know what to do.

No matter how much I want to experience the outdoors — whether to escape civilization or test myself in the wild — the call of the wild has a pitch of unapologetic danger. The stories of those who have gone before remind us it's sometimes worth staying indoors and reading on a cold, cold day.

Christine Cunningham of Soldotna is a lifelong Alaskan and avid hunter. On alternate weeks, she writes about Alaska hunting. Contact Christine at


01-20-2017, 04:22 AM

Mythbusting 'the place where two oceans meet' in the Gulf of Alaska

Author: Ben Anderson ( Bruland photo)

A picture from the Gulf of Alaska that has been making the rounds on the Internet for the last few years -- though particularly in recent weeks ( -- shows a strange natural phenomenon that occurs when heavy, sediment-laden water from glacial valleys and rivers pours into the open ocean. There in the gulf, the two types of water run into each other, a light, almost electric blue merging with a darker slate-blue (

Informally dubbed "the place where two oceans meet," the explanation for the photo is a simple one, though there are many misconceptions about it, including that catchy title. In particular on popular link-sharing website Reddit, where users have on multiple occasions erroneously attributed the photo's location as "Where the Baltic and North Sea meet (" and the two types of water as being completely incapable of ever mixing, instead perpetually butting against each other like a boundary on a map.

You also may have seen a variation on the photo ( the same phenomenon, taken by photographer Kent Smith while on a July 2010 cruise in the Gulf of Alaska. That photo too has been circulating the web for some time, though the misconceptions about it seem to be less thanks to Smith's explanation of the photo ( on his Flickr page. That one has also been making the rounds on Reddit and social media for years, and had racked up more than 860,000 views by early 2013 on that one page alone, Smith said.

(Kent Smith photo)
That original photo, however, originates from a 2007 research cruise ( of oceanographers studying the role that iron plays in the Gulf of Alaska, and how that iron reaches certain areas in the northern Pacific.

Ken Bruland, professor of ocean sciences at University of California-Santa Cruz, was on that cruise. In fact, he was the one who snapped the pic. He said the purpose of the cruise was to examine how huge eddies -- slow moving currents -- ranging into the hundreds of kilometers in diameter, swirl out from the Alaska coast into the Gulf of Alaska.

Those eddies often carry with them huge quantities of glacial sediment thanks to rivers like Alaska's 286-mile-long Copper River, prized for its salmon and originating from the Copper Glacier far inland. It empties out east of Prince William Sound, carrying with it all that heavy clay and sediment. And with that sediment comes iron.

"Glacier rivers in the summertime are like buzzsaws eroding away the mountains there," Bruland said. "In the process, they lift up all this material -- they call it glacial flour -- that can be carried out."

Once these glacial rivers pour out into the larger body of water, they're picked up by ocean currents, moving east to west, and begin to circulate there. This is one of the primary methods that iron -- found in the clay and sediment of the glacial runoff -- is transported to iron-deprived regions in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.

As for that specific photo, Bruland said that it shows the plume of water pouring out from one of these sediment-rich rivers and meeting with the general ocean water. It's also a falsehood that these two types of water don't mix at all, he said.

"They do eventually mix, but you do come across these really strong gradients at these specific moments in time," he said. Such borders are never static, he added, as they move around and disappear altogether, depending on the level of sediment and the whims of the water.

There is much study being conducted on how this iron influences marine productivity, in particular its effects on the growth of plankton, which Bruland referred to as "the base of the food chain."

But rivers aren't the only way that glacier sediment finds its way into the Gulf of Alaska -- occasionally strong winds can whip up enough silt to create a cloud of dust that's visible even from space ( as its being carried out to sea.

So next time somebody shares a "really cool photo" of "the place where two oceans meet," feel free to let them know the science behind the phenomenon. After all, in this Internet age, nothing spreads faster than misinformation.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at) (


01-20-2017, 04:35 AM

With Alaska temperatures headed well below zero, be prepared. Very prepared.

Author: John Schandelmeie ( clings to bushes and trees along Eklutna Tailrace on Old Glenn Highway near Palmer. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

The gravedigger was tired after all of his digging, so he lay down in his newly dug hole for a nap. Soon afterward, he was awakened by a call: "Hey down there, you OK?"

"Yeah, yeah," he replied, "just a little cold."

"Well," came the call from the top, "course you cold — you done kicked all your dirt off!"

Folks, don't be kicking any of your covers or dirt off this next week, because it is going to be cold. Anchorage forecasters are warning ( highs of 10-below by early next week. McGrath is expected to see temperatures sink as low as minus-40. Fairbanks should be only a few degrees higher.

[Michael Carey: Why 40 below is no laughing matter (]

Not many Anchorage residents have seen real cold weather. A significant portion of the Southcentral population has lived in the area for less than five years, and since the record-setting snowfall of the 2011-12 winter, when Anchorage received more than 11 feet of powder, no serious cold and very little snow has graced the Anchorage Bowl. One of the few serious cold snaps arrived in January of 2012, when the temperature hit minus-15 in Alaska's largest city. Fairbanks was minus-51 on Jan. 29.

Heck, when I was a kid growing up on the south side of Anchor-town, it was 30-below every time I trudged through the three miles of snow on my way up the mountain to school. It was worse coming home because it usually snowed a couple of feet while I was in school.

So all of you outdoorsmen and women out there, consider staying inside. Polish up your gear, make plans for upcoming trips, ready the snowmobile. We haven't had much snow this season, so doublecheck the slide rails on your machine — there might be extra wear and tear. I'd bet the ski skegs have spit some carbide. Clean up the plastic skis; rough plastic will get you stuck in overflow.

Women, toss the pretty scarf. Yes, you look cute with it wrapped around you, but the air leaks may lead to frostbite on your neck. That is not so attractive. Buy a good balaclava; they work. Lose the ski gloves. Gloves separate the fingers, which results in cold hands. Instead, find some nice roomy mittens. The military supplies the best. And remember, warm is beautiful.

When encountering frigid weather, our body abandons its extremities as the core cools. So keep your core warm by starting with a good base layer. My recommendation is to stay away from expensive "wicking" under-layers. They are great for hotrod athletes who love to sweat, but old ice fishermen and snowmobile sitters need cotton/poly-pro blends.

Follow this layer with a blocking layer. The old standby is cotton based. I'd opt for polar fleece over that, though wool is also good, just heavier. Over all of this wear a snowsuit. One can wear bibs and a parka, or just a single piece and carry a parka along. Your parka needs a good fur ruff. I've not seen many cold coyotes.

Your feet are farthest from the body core, so they need the most attention. Pack boots are common and the better ones work OK, as long as one takes care to dry them every day. Mukluks are better, but also require considerable care. Military vapor-barrier boots (bunny boots) work the best and are virtually trouble-free, but they're not for everyone. If you use bunny boots; get Bata or U.S., not one of the imitations.

I'm not a big fan of chemical hand and foot warmers, but they do have their place. Chemical warmers can be placed in boots before going outside. Many of the warmers found in stores today are air-activated — no shaking or mixing is necessary.

Remember, these won't work properly unless they start warm. Don't expect positive results if you open one and insert it into boot with a cold foot at minus-20. Opt instead for a chemical warmer that needs to be mixed.

Of course, if you are staying in the garage and working on your gear, as I suggest, you don't need to think about cold. It gets a bit more complicated if one needs to go downtown. I would keep under layers the same through the polar fleece layer. Some of your buddies may also be downtown when you're there. It will be necessary to stand outside talking to them and you want to appear tough and unbothered by the cold.

The trek from truck seat to the sporting goods counter doesn't require much besides hot coffee. Coffee tastes better in a stainless cup, but these containers are cold when left in the truck. Choose the styrofoam ones instead.

Should you be one of the brave ones who is going to go fishing or camping regardless of the weather (perhaps next week is the only vacation time you could get), there is an old adage you might take to heart:

"The closer the knit, the tighter the fit and the chills stay away." In lay terms, that means six guys in a four-man tent.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, where the temperature regularly hits minus-30 and lower.


01-21-2017, 03:23 AM

:) I wish someone else had some news to post here.


01-21-2017, 11:04 AM

Never mind the blizzard and subzero cold -- $150,000 is on the line in Kuskokwim 300

Author: Tegan Hanlon (
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 1 day ago

BETHEL — Twenty mushers and most of their sled dog teams are set to race into below-zero temperatures on a wind-scoured trail Friday evening as the lucrative Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race gets going amid wind chills that could reach 45 below.

The whims of Mother Nature left two nervous mushers without dogs Thursday afternoon.

Kusko 300 rookie Roger Lee and veteran Paul Gebhardt weren't sure their animals would make it to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta's biggest city. First a western Alaska volcanic eruption delayed flights. Then a near-blizzard hammered Bethel.

Both mushers eventually made it into Bethel on an early Thursday morning Alaska Airlines flight, but their dogs were flying separately on Northern Air Cargo. By late Thursday afternoon a cargo jet had taken off from Anchorage with the dogs aboard.

"We can get them at 5," said Lee, who is eager to run the Kusko as preparation for his first Iditarod in March. "It's a relief."

Expect Lee, Gebhardt and the other 18 teams to leave Bethel starting at 6:30 p.m. Friday, departing on the frozen Kuskokwim River alongside town and headed northeast to Aniak, the turnaround point.

If it's anything like last year, the fastest teams should begin crossing the Bethel finish line, where they started, early Sunday.

The mushers are each vying for a slice of $150,000 in prize money ( — $20,000 more than last year's race and the richest purse of any middle-distance race in the world. The winner will earn at least $25,000 and the runner-up will get at least $16,000.

Temperatures for the region were expected to remain well below zero over the weekend. Snow and strong winds had canceled some flights to Bethel on Thursday and put the community under a blizzard warning.

Musher Brent Sass of Eureka posted a video on Facebook Thursday afternoon of his dogs in Bethel, snow falling and wind blowing.

"This Bethel weather has got us all smiling," said Sass, a former champion of the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest who placed second in last year's Kusko 300. "Let it snow."

The National Weather Service forecast a 30 percent chance of snow in Bethel Friday night and a low of minus 24, with wind-chill values as low as 45 below.

In Aniak, some 150 miles into the race, mushers should expect a high of 26 below and a low of 27 below with 5 mph winds Saturday, according to the weather service. Sunday's finish line in Bethel could see temperatures as chilly as 20 below.

Myron Angstman, the Kusko 300 founder, a musher and the president of Kuskokwim 300 Race Committee Inc., said below-zero readings aren't unusual for the race, which can see temperatures swing more than 80 degrees from one year to the next. The race can serve up bitter cold one year and melting river ice the next.

Before Thursday's storm, Angstman said there was a light coating of snow on top of the river ice and the trail conditions were "fairly good, with a few bumpy stretches."

"Generally speaking, I would call it a very fast trail," he said.

The Kusko field includes racers from Bethel, Aniak, Willow, Fairbanks, Napaskiak, Nenana, Tok and more. Among them are Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and Yukon Quest champions as well as Bethel's Pete Kaiser (, the two-time defending Kusko 300 champion.

Bethel will also host two other sled dog races with fat purses this weekend. The Bogus Creek 150, with a $50,000 purse, will start at 5 p.m. Friday, before the Kusko 300. The Akiak Dash will start at 2 p.m. Saturday and has a $20,000 purse — exactly what one of Alaska's other big middle-distance races, the Copper Basin 300, offers.

Reporter Lisa Demer in Bethel contributed to this report.


01-21-2017, 11:15 AM

Alaska News (

So cold at Kusko that 9-time champ King busts out new floor-length parka

Author: Lisa Demer (
Updated: 10 hours ago
Published 16 hours ago Kaiser said he could win the Kusko 300 again but isn’t making any bold predictions in such a competitive race. He and other competitors attended the musher’s meeting Thursday. (Lisa Demer / Alaska Dispatch News)

BETHEL — The pressure is on Bethel musher Pete Kaiser, the back-to-back winner of the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race.

He thought the tension on the hometown hero would let up once he won, but this year he is feeling it more than ever. The night before Friday's race start, he said he felt well-prepared with a strong dog team — yet nervous, too.

Just about everyone is. Fresh snow from a near-blizzard Thursday is making some of 20 starters change their strategy for the race from Bethel to Aniak and back. It's also biting cold, with a temperature of minus 23 — minus 44 with the wind chill — in Bethel on Friday morning.

[Never mind the blizzard and subzero cold — $150,000 is on the line in Kuskokwim 300 (]

Jeff King, a four-time Iditarod winner and nine-time Kuskokwim 300 winner from Denali Park, will try out his new, floor-length custom parka, a creation of Apocalypse Design in Fairbanks.

"I have been cold and I have been warm. I'd rather be warm," King wrote on Facebook with a picture of the coat, playing off a Mark Twain quote about having been rich and poor.

"Is that a yurt?" fellow racer Tony Browning of Nenana joked.

Jackie Larson is a veteran of both the Kusko 300 and the shorter Bogus Creek 150, which he has won the last two years. He said he was going to start the Kusko 300 with 10 dogs, leaving behind two less-powerful ones who might slow the team slogging through fresh powder. Racers can start with up to 12 dogs and must finish with at least five.

"The best endurance dogs will win the race," said Larson, 46, who lives near Bethel in the village of Napaskiak. His goal is to gain experience in longer distances and run the 2018 Iditarod, a longtime dream.

"It's time to step it up," Larson said. His older brother, Alexander Larson, is the Orthodox Church priest in the village of Kwethluk, and he is running the Bogus Creek 150, where the winner earns $7,500 of the $50,000 purse.

[Village mushers ready for their toughest race: The Kusko 300 (]

Kaiser said his dogs are as well prepared as in the past, with good training runs out of Bethel after December's snowfall. But after a New Year's Eve rain, he flew his team to Fairbanks for two weeks of training on snow. Thursday's storm is par for the Kusko 300.

"I'm not surprised something crazy happened," said Kaiser, 29. "Whether it's 40 below or rain or snow."

The dry snow will be blowing around, and the first mushers out of the chute after the 6:30 p.m. start may have to break trail. When mushers picked their bib numbers — and start order — the higher numbers with later starts went first.

Blowing snow could be a challenge if mushers can't see too far ahead, said King, 60.

But "these guys mark the trail good," he said.

The lone woman in this year's Kuskokwim 300 is Bethel dentist Victoria Hardwick, 31, who is running a team that includes her own dogs, some from race founder Myron Angstman's kennel and some borrowed from fellow racer Paul Gebhardt of Kasilof.

"I just really hope my dogs do OK," she said. She plans to put her dog Cajun and an Angstman dog named Rufus in lead. She's the only race rookie, which under Kusko 300 rules means a musher who hasn't completed a 300-miler before.

If she finishes, she'll be rookie of the year, Angstman noted.


01-22-2017, 02:11 AM

Winter climbing wizard Dupre's bid to scale Mount Hunter rebuffed

Author: Mike Campbell (
Updated: January 10
Published January 9 Dupre prepares to leave base camp on the Kahiltna Glacier during his December of 2014 winter bid to climb Denali alone. (John Walter Whittier)

Almost exactly a year after he became the first person to climb North America's highest peak in January, Minnesota mountaineer Lonnie Dupre has been rebuffed by Denali's shorter – but no less fierce – sister, Mount Hunter.

About 8 miles south of Denali, the 14,573-foot Mount Hunter can be harrowing, and most climbers consider it the most difficult of the big three of Denali National Park. Until Fred Beckey and Heinrich Harrer reached the summit in 1954, it was unclimbed. The first ascent of what was then known as Mount McKinley came 41 years earlier.

Only once has Hunter been climbed in winter. In 1980, Paul Denkewalter, Gary Bocarde and Vern Tejas teamed up for the only winter ascent.

Dupre may be lucky to have survived his bid.

On Sunday, according to his blog, Dupre "climbed some steep, technical pitches, but did not have sufficient rock protection to continue. On his (descent), he broke through a bergschrund (a crevasse created where the glacier meets the mountain). He arrested his fall at shoulder level, but both feet were dangling in the void. With great effort and time, he managed to get himself and his backpack out of the crevasse. He was pretty shook up."

[Dupre's blog — photos expected soon (]

The climber's brush with disaster was followed by days of frigid subzero temperatures, stout winds and deep powder. Enough was enough. He retreated to the Kahiltna Glacier base camp to catch a flight back to Talkeetna.

"The conditions on the mountain, a dense crust on top of unsupportive snow, made it impossible to travel safely," his blog reported. "All good things take time."

Dupre, 55, is living proof of that. His successful winter climb of Denali ( last year was his fourth attempt at the 20,310-foot peak during the coldest, darkest months.

[Wind slows Denali climb (]

According to National Geographic (, Dupre, a veteran explorer and mountaineer who weighs just 150 pounds, packs exceptionally light — a mere 60 pounds for his Mount Hunter bid.

"Fuel is the number one priority. You can go a little while without adequate food, but only two or three days without water, and you need white gas fuel to melt snow," he told National Geographic ( "In an extreme environment, what you have can mean whether you live or die."

A descendant of French explorer Jacques Cartier, Dupre has compiled a dossier of notable adventure trips over the last three decades that includes the first non-motorized circumnavigation of Greenland and the first human-powered expedition to the North Pole in the summer by sled and canoe.

On Friday, Talkeetna Air Taxi dropped him off at the Kahiltna Glacier base camp at 7,200 feet, the frequently used jumping-off point for climbs up Denali, Mount Foraker, Hunter and Mount Cross.

On Saturday, Dupre headed east up the glacier after a night interrupted by the regular sounds of ice falls. Before long, the steepness of the terrain forced him to switch from his skis to post-holing in waist-deep powder, an exhausting task that slowed him to a crawl.

Dupre began his climb Wednesday (Jan. 4), encouraged by "a decent weather window on the horizon," according to his blog.

Correction: An earlier version of this story said that Mount Hunter had never been climbed in winter. In 1980, Paul Denkewalter, Gary Bocarde and Vern Tejas completed the only winter ascent.


01-22-2017, 02:31 PM

Defending champ looms as top 3 Kusko mushers head toward finish

Author: Mike Campbell (
Updated: 7 hours ago
Published 14 hours ago musher Pete Kaiser relaxes in the Kalskag checkpoint during the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race early Saturday morning, Jan. 21, 2017. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)
As the trio of mushers at the front of the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race prepared Saturday night for a stretch run to the Bethel finish line, who could blame Brent Sass of Eureka, Jessie Holmes of Nenana and Ray Redington Jr. of Wasilla if they glanced nervously over their shoulders.

Right there they'd find Pete Kaiser, the two-time defending Kusko champion, the Bethel racer who's particularly tough on his home turf, and the musher who's given his dogs a little more rest earlier in the world's richest middle-distance race.

Last year, Kaiser left the Kalskag checkpoint, about 100 miles from the Bethel finish line, trailing Sass by 30 minutes — only to run him down and win by eight minutes.

But this year, Kaiser may need those eight minutes.

Sass pulled into Kalskag at 5:19 p.m. Saturday, 37 minutes ahead of Holmes, with Redington another four minutes back and Kaiser 45 minutes behind Redington.

But Kaiser has a couple of things in his favor. His dogs made the 30-mile run from Kalskag to Aniak 24 minutes faster than any other musher, perhaps an indicator of more raw speed. Plus, Kaiser banked an extra hour of rest for his team in Kalskag — meaning he's not required to take as much as the others on the return trip to Bethel.

"There's no lack of competition (here)," noted Kaiser.

Brutally low temperatures persisted, with Aniak reporting minus 33 degrees early Saturday night.

"I kind of figured it wouldn't warm up that much — it was probably 40 to 50 below all the way up from Bethel last night," Kaiser told KYUK radio of Bethel ( ( in Aniak. "But it's nice to have snow. I'd take snow every day over glare ice — or water."

Richie Diehl of Aniak, one of Kaiser's closest friends, said he usually expects ice or overflow during the Kusko, and this year's below zero temperatures weren't awful. They just meant he had to swing his arms in circles or jump up and down when he started to go numb.

"It is what it is," Diehl said. "Not much you can do about it, just deal with it."

Holmes, 34, is the new name in the lead pack. A native of Alabama, Holmes said he moved to Alaska and started using sled dogs on his trapline before becoming interested in competitive mushing about six years ago.

After winning last year's Yukon Quest 300 — the middle-distance companion of the ultramarathon between Whitehorse and Fairbanks — in record time, Holmes, 34, focused on the world's richest middle-distance race, which offers a much fatter $150,000 purse.

"I started from the ground up," said Holmes, who also runs ultramarathons and has appeared on the National Geographic show "Life Below Zero ("

He called the Kusko 300 as "the toughest race out there.

Nineteen of the 20 mushers who started Friday night remained in the race; only Rob Cooke had scratched.

Bogus Creek 150

Earlier Saturday, Lewis Pavilla, 40, of Kwethluk delivered a ferocious closing kick to pass rookie Maurice Andrews and make history as the first four-time winner of the Bogus Creek 150, a companion race to the Kuskokwim 300.

Pavilla came from 18 minutes behind at the final checkpoint of Tuluksak to pass Andrews during the four-hour run to the finish line.

Pavilla earned $7,500 for his victory, and passed three-time champion Jackie Larson to become the winningest musher in Bogus Creek history.

"It feels good, a little frostbitten all over my face, I lost my dry face mask somewhere back there," Pavilla told KYUK Radio in Bethel ( ( "It was challenging trying to cook with propane because the propane (stoves) were frozen up so we had to cook with fire," said Pavilla.

Tegan Hanlon in Bethel contributed to this report.


01-22-2017, 06:55 PM

At 45 below, Kusko 300 mushers defrost in Kalskag

Tegan Hanlon Alaska Dispatch News by LOREN HOLMES / Alaska Dispatch News Ramey Smyth, left, passes Victoria Hardwick as he leaves Kalskag and she arrives during the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race on Saturday morning. Steeves prepares akutaq at the Kalskag checkpoint during the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race early Saturday morning. More photos:

KALSKAG — At 3 a.m. Saturday, Willie Pitka sat on a folding chair in front of a desktop computer here, battling a slow internet connection and waiting for the Kuskokwim 300 website to update.
Pitka, 58, stayed overnight at the tribal office next to the village airstrip and the location of a checkpoint for the fast-paced, sleepless Kusko 300 that started Friday evening, sending 20 mushers and their sled dog teams into temperatures that dropped to 45 degrees below zero. HOLMES / Alaska Dispatch News Jason Mackey arrives at the Kalskag checkpoint during the Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race early Saturday morning.

The teams dashed from Bethel and up the winding, snow-covered Kuskokwim River in frigid darkness, competing for their slice of $150,000 in prize money. All had passed through Tuluksak by about 1 a.m. Saturday, 50 or so miles from the Kalskag checkpoint, according to the online race tracker Pitka watched.
“I’m so excited, I don’t know what to say,” Pitka said in the building decorated with large sheets of yellow paper for mushers to sign that included children’s drawings of moose, fish and trees.
Pitka stayed awake through the night watching the mushers’ progress. For him, the Kusko 300 is another winter holiday.
“There’s Christmas, then New Year’s Eve, then Russian Christmas and then the Kusko 300,” said Pitka, wearing a Kusko 300 hat pulled tight over his ears. Most people in town, he said, know him as “boss man.”
By 3:30 a.m. the race judge and volunteers from Bethel and Anchorage joined Pitka as he announced the status of incoming mushers — 15 miles out, 10 miles out and eventually only minutes away.
The tiny crowd of volunteers stood outside in bulky boots and puffy jackets as the first musher, Jessie Holmes, of Nenana, pulled in at 4:18 a.m., illuminated by generator-powered floodlights. A thick layer of ice coated Holmes’ eyelashes. At one point during the race his eyelids had frozen shut, he said, sending him off course.
“It’s just cold,” Holmes said as he dished out a mixture of hot water, high-fat meats and kibble to his team of 12 dogs, many wearing jackets.
The Kusko 300 can see huge swings in temperature from one year to the next. Ross Boring, a longtime race volunteer, said he had witnessed temperatures as high as 40 degrees on the race trail that goes from Bethel to Aniak and back. In some years, water flowed over the river ice, prompting people to call it the “Kusko Swim,” he said.
Boring rode his snowmachine the 100 miles from Bethel to Kalskag this week to break the trail for the race. He said his goggles had frozen over several times and told mushers that if they noticed a track that went in circles on the trail, it might be because he couldn’t always see well.
“This is the coldest year that I’m aware of,” he said of the temperatures during the race.
Low temperatures have gripped Interior and Southcentral in recent days, as well as Western Alaska.
On Thursday, a near-blizzard hammered Bethel, but mushers said Saturday that it left the trail with a good base of hard-packed snow. Some called it the best and the most well-marked trail they had seen in a long time, despite the below-zero temperatures.
“The trail is good. The weather sucks,” said musher Brent Sass, of Eureka, a former Yukon Quest champion who placed 20th in last year’s Iditarod. “It’s bitter cold, just to the bone.”
Sass checked in at Kalskag at 4:33 a.m., amid a steady flow of arriving mushers. Many chose to rest a few hours in the village — a third of the way into the race. (Race rules require mushers to rest a total of six hours between the checkpoints of Kalskag and Aniak. They must also take a four-hour layover at Tuluksak on the return trail).
Sitting at tables in the quiet tribal office building, the mushers talked about the trail and the weather, swapping their subzero travel stories about their first 100 miles of the 300-mile race.
Wade Marrs, of Willow, said the zipper on his insulated snow pants broke in Bethel, leaving him without a layer for the race and wearing fleece pants under thin wind pants.
“It was very cold. I wasn’t very happy,” said Marrs, who placed fourth in last year’s Iditarod.
Jeff King, four-time Iditarod champion from Denali Park and the winningest musher in Kusko history, walked into the checkpoint carrying his camouflage, floor-length parka. Thick icicles hung from his mustache.
Tony Browning, of Nenana, said his watch, GPS unit and cellphone stopped working in the cold. He said he had wanted to call his wife when he got to Kalskag to let her know he “hadn’t frozen to death.”
Pitka shook hands with the mushers and kept an eye on the race website from early morning Saturday into the afternoon. Only a few residents trickled into the checkpoint and Pitka suggested that the cold weather had kept them at home. He said the checkpoint was typically crowded.
About 250 people live in Kalskag, located 2 miles upriver from the village of Lower Kalskag, where a similar number of people reside. The two villages are connected by a road.
Loreen Steeves, 62 of Kalskag, said she started cooking for the mushers at 3 a.m. Saturday. Steeves is also cook at the high school here, the mother to four and grandmother to 21.
On Saturday she piled a table high with moose soup, chili, Akutaq, fish, cupcakes, pancakes, bacon and more. She said she asks the community for donations each year so she can feed those at the checkpoint.
“I like watching them being happy because of the food,” she said, wearing a floral apron in the large, industrial kitchen.
Pitka called her the “backbone of the checkpoint.”
As it approached 1 p.m. Saturday, a bulk of the mushers had left and Pitka remained by the desktop computer.
Pitka said he wanted everyone to finish, but he was also rooting for the “local guys” to win, including Richie Diehl and Isaac Underwood, both of Aniak.
Diehl, Underwood and the other 18 mushers will travel out to Aniak and then turn around, passing through Kalskag again Saturday evening — and Pitka could not wait to see them again.
By nightfall, perhaps, he would have a better sense of who would win.

Online video: Check out mushers coming into Kalskag.


01-23-2017, 10:51 AM


Kaiser wins 3rd straight

Musher and his team first at finish line of ‘hometown race’ on the snowy and frozen river.

Tegan Hanlon Alaska Dispatch News by LOREN HOLMES / Alaska Dispatch News Pete Kaiser gets a kiss from his lead dog Palmer after Kaiser won his third straight Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race Sunday in Bethel. His other lead dog is Mosley.
Richie Diehl waves to race fans as he comes in for a third-place finish.

BETHEL — Bethel’s Pete Kaiser has done it again.
Kaiser, 29, claimed his third consecutive Kuskokwim 300 sled dog race title Sunday morning, crossing his hometown finish line just after 10:30 a.m. for an elapsed time of 40 hours and eight minutes — 28 minutes faster than last year.

“I felt a lot of pressure this season to try to keep this going and my nerves were kind of shot before the race, so I’m glad we pulled it off,” said a frost-covered Kaiser, who earned at least $25,000 for his victory and retains the title of “King of the Kuskokwim.”
Kaiser and his team of nine sled dogs arrived to a cheering crowd Sunday and were greeted by hugs and kisses from his 4-year-old son, Ari, and wife, Bethany. Dozens of trucks and cars were parked near the finish line on the snowy, frozen Kuskokwim River, where temperatures had plummeted to 30 degrees below zero, with the windchill reaching minus
50. It was cold weather that had followed the mushers since the race started in Bethel Friday evening.
At Sunday’s finish, people stayed warm in their running vehicles and hurried outside to watch as Kaiser pulled in. A few people in the crowd held signs that read “3 Pete,” marking Kaiser’s Kusko 300 successes.
“It’s a hometown race for me,” Kaiser said, “so it has a lot of history in our family and all of that. It’s a really special deal to come home to this kind of crowd.”
Jordan Klejka, 10, braved the weather and stood outside with a handmade sign for Kaiser, a family friend. She wore several jackets and a blue Kuskokwim 300 hat fastened tight underneath her chin.
“I wanted lots of mushers to win but I put my money on him,” said Klejka, of Bethel. “I think he is an awesome musher and deserves it.”
Brent Sass, of Eureka, and his team of eight dogs pulled over the finish line about 45 minutes after Kaiser, and Sass claimed his second consecutive second place in the Kusko 300. Sass had led the pack of mushers out of Aniak, the halfway point, on Saturday but Kaiser quickly caught up and left the next checkpoint in Kalskag 34 minutes ahead. Sass was able to hold onto second place in the end, and with it, he earned at least $16,000.
“It’s music to my ears. I’m not totally broke anymore. That’s wonderful,” said Sass, 37, punctuating his sentences with laughter. A spectator greeted Sass with a breakfast burrito wrapped in tinfoil and another yelled, “Welcome to Bethel.”
“I love it here. I’ll be back every year,” Sass called back.
As Sass pulled up to the finish line Sunday around 11:20 a.m., he looked behind him at the trail and said he was watching for Richie Diehl, of Aniak, who he thought “was right on my tail.”
About 20 minutes later, Diehl, 31, arrived at the finish line with eight dogs pulling his sled and one in his sled bag. Diehl walked down the line, petting each of his dogs. Someone in the crowd handed him a mug of hot chocolate and a burrito. Diehl placed third, beating his fourth-place finish of last year and pleased to have reached the end of the race after 41 hours and 16 minutes on the frigid trail. His bones ached, he said.
“It’s been pretty brutal,” said Diehl, a close friend of Kaiser and another crowd favorite. “With the cold weather, it just seemed like it was never going to end, but it ended.”
The 300-mile, fast-paced race is known for big swings in weather and for its lucrative purse, this year reaching $150,000, split between finishing mushers. The race drew big names from across the state in 2017, including Iditarod and Yukon Quest champions.
The mushers and their teams departed from Bethel Friday evening and followed the snaking, frozen Kuskokwim River to Aniak, turning around in the village and heading back. Temperatures throughout the race remained far into the negatives, though in the past they have reached as high as 40 degrees above zero, with overflow on the river.
“It was nice to have snow. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a really wintry race with the cold and the snow,” Kaiser said. “It probably could have been 20 degrees warmer, would have been a little more comfortable, but I think everyone fared OK.”
Mushers continued to race into Bethel throughout the day Sunday. Twenty teams started the race and by late afternoon Sunday, two had scratched: Rob Cooke and Victoria Hard-wick.
Taking fourth place was Ray Redington Jr., of Wasilla, followed by Jessie Holmes, of Nenana, and Tony Browning, also of Nenana.
Mike Williams Jr., of Akiak, placed seventh, putting three Yukon-Kuskokwim mushers in the elite top 10 group. Those locals were ahead of a pack of mushers that included four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King, former Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff and Ramey Smyth and Paul Gebhardt, both former Kusko winners.
Kaiser’s wife, Bethany, said the Kusko 300 was special for her family. Both she and Pete Kaiser grew up in Bethel, watching the race.
“Year after year this has always been a big event, coming down to the river, watching the finishers,” she said. “It’s really awesome that Pete and I were fortunate enough to meet up in life and we both really enjoy the sport.”
Mushers said at the finish line Sunday that they planned to spend the rest of their day taking care of their dogs, relaxing, drinking coffee and maybe napping after many sleepless hours on the trail that only requires 10 hours rest. They also planned to warm up.
When asked if he learned any lessons out on this year’s Kusko 300 trail, Kaiser said, “I’ll probably figure something out here in the next few days once my brain thaws out and I can think a little bit.”
Kaiser walked over and shook Sass’ hand near the finish line Sunday as Sass loaded his dogs into a truck bed.
“One of these days,” Sass told Kaiser, “I’m gonna get you.”
Sass, Kaiser, Diehl and many of the other mushers in this year’s Kusko 300 will meet again soon for March’s Iditarod, facing off in a 1,000-mile race to Nome.
Contact Tegan Hanlon at›


01-23-2017, 11:11 AM

For a solitary winter fisherman, otters are the competition

Every few days, John Parka checks his net, which the animals tore a hole through.

Lisa Demer Alaska Dispatch News ROTH / Alaska Dispatch News John Parka hauls a large pike out of the water as he checks his subsistence gillnet under the ice at the confluence of the Aniak and Kuskokwim rivers earlier this month. Parka caught three northern pike and planned to have the largest two for dinner that night.
Parka chips ice as he checks his subsistence gillnet. by BILL ROTH / Alaska Dispatch News John Parka heads back to Aniak after checking his subsistence gillnet beneath the ice at the confluence of the Aniak and Kuskokwim rivers earlier this month.

Parka caught three northern pike in his subsistence gillnet.

ANIAK — John Parka chips away with a barbell at his frozen-over fishing hole near where the Aniak and Kuskokwim rivers meet. He is checking his subsistence fishing net. He hopes those thieving otters don’t return.
Earlier in winter, he stretched out the gillnet under the ice, nudging it along to full length with a long branch that he maneuvered through a series of holes cut into the ice.

No one else has a setnet in this stretch of river. Parka, 38, is from the downriver village of Napakiak, where there’s more of a winter setnet tradition. He learned subsistence fishing from his father and first set a net when he was maybe 11 or 12.
In that lower stretch of the Kuskokwim River, lots of people fish and pull in whitefish, lush and pike.
Parka moved to Aniak about a year and a half ago with his girlfriend, Maria White, who had inherited a house and land from her grandmother. He is raising his two girls there. His son is in boarding school in Galena.
Every two to four days, he snow-machines onto the ice to check his net. He has pulled in whitefish, grayling and one errant silver salmon. But lately, he has been getting pike, which are tasty but bony.
He earlier set a smaller whitefish net under the ice. Otters found it. During freezeup, there was open water in spots and cracks in the ice that they could slip into.
“Otters were eating my fish and tore a big hole in my net,” Parka says while chopping ice at his new fishing hole. “This one is bigger mesh but I can still catch fish with it.”
He must have caught the otter too. He finds the net half torn up.
“He escaped,” Parka says. He brought a neighbor over to trap any otters left but they seemed to have moved on.
Faint footprints of fox, lynx and moose can be seen in the snow atop the ice.
On this January day it’s about minus 10. It soon will get much, much colder in Aniak.
A few days earlier, Parka had to chop through 2 feet of ice to get to his remaining net. He uses a barbell because a friend dropped his ice pick into the river a couple of years earlier.
Once the net is set, he ties each end to wooden branches stuck into the ice. That keeps it in place.
He prevented the fishing holes from freezing up all the way by shoveling snow on top for insulation.
He hacks away for a few minutes, then gets to slush that he shovels out.
Soon he starts pulling the net out of one hole.
“Here we go!” Parka says, pulling up a pike. “Oh man, he’s really tangled.”
Parka works a few minutes bare-handed to get the fish out, then pulls out another, then one more. Three fresh pike and no whitefish nor otters. Two fish are still alive.
“Got to watch for the teeth,” he says.
He reaches the end of his net. He washes his hands off in the icy water, then pulls the net back through. He takes off on his Ski-Doo with fish that he will fry up for dinner and share with his dogs.
He leaves his net reset for another day.
Contact Lisa Demer at


01-23-2017, 11:21 AM

Snowstorm drops foot of snow on Anchorage in 24 hours

Michelle Theriault Boots Alaska Dispatch News
BILL ROTH / Alaska Dispatch News Jesse Busha walks home from work through knee-deep snow along DeBarr Road on Sunday.

A fierce storm that walloped Southcentral Alaska over the weekend dumped a foot of snow on Anchorage in 24 hours, causing havoc on the roads and even leading to the collapse of a sports dome in Alaska’s most populated city.

But it was the tiny community of Moose Pass, 30 miles north of Seward, that got the most snow: Some 32 inches, according to the National Weather Service’s initial storm accumulation totals, which measured totals from Friday afternoon to Saturday afternoon. Seward got about 30 inches during the same period.

Areas north of Anchorage didn’t see as much snowfall, with just 6 inches recorded for Eagle River based on what the weather service calls “spotter reports” from citizens.

The initial storm totals released by the National Weather Service didn’t include light snow that fell over much of Southcentral Alaska on Sunday. In Anchorage, Sunday’s snow amounted to less than a half an inch as of Sunday evening, according to weather service measurements.

The Chugach National Forest Avalanche Center in Girdwood issued a bulletin Saturday warning of dangerous avalanche conditions on Kenai Peninsula mountains, such as the Lost Lake area.

The bulletin warns that dangerous avalanche conditions are expected through Monday because of the “2-5 feet of snow that has rapidly loaded mountain slopes.”


02-03-2017, 12:24 PM

Frozen Portage Lake seems to be getting more visitors. Is it safe?

Author: Suzanna Caldwell (
Updated: 2 hours ago
Published 16 hours ago

Cyclists, skiers and walkers visited Portage Glacier on Jan. 2. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News file)

It was a clear, cold Sunday afternoon when Jenny Jones and her boyfriend decided to hike out on frozen Portage Lake to the glacier. It was not their first visit, and they were not alone.

The parking lot was full, even though the temperature had dipped into single digits. Jones thinks there were 80 to 100 people on the lake. Jones, 32, and her boyfriend, Nathan Frerichs, went there the weekend before — also when it was cold and clear — and built a bonfire near the face of Portage Glacier.

The pictures were stunning and other friends wanted to go, so they decided to make another trip.

But on Jan. 7, things were different. As the couple approached the glacier, a massive piece of ice — about 100 feet wide by 100 feet long — calved into the lake, shooting out big chunks of lake ice and water. Jones estimates the event lasted about 10 seconds.

For a moment, she thought it was beautiful. Then she heard a loud crack and watched the ice begin to splinter all around her.

The couple stayed still as cracks several inches wide opened up around them, spitting water onto the ice. People closer to the glacier began to run.An underwater wave pushed up the ice and dislodged parts of it from shore.

"It was insane," she said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

The lake in winter has long been popular with skaters, skiers and fat-tire bikers, but according to some people who recreate there, it seems to be getting more activity this winter. With sustained cold weather, it's been consistently frozen for the first time in years.

Only a one-hour drive south of Anchorage, Portage is one of the most accessible glaciers in the area.

Chugach National Forest Public Affairs Officer Alicia King said the U.S. Forest Service does not monitor the lake in winter and there's no data on whether use is up. Rangers don't regularly patrol the lake.

"There's no lifeguard," she said.

Both the glacier and the lake are on public land and there's no restriction on access. But the lake has a complex dynamic, influenced by both the thickness of the ice and the unpredictable glacier.

Glaciers move, even in the winter, according to Shad O'Neel, glaciologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage. While lake ice can create some stability at the base of a glacier, it won't stop it from calving.

"Calving is thought to be random," he wrote in an email last month. "We think of calving a bit like earthquakes, where we can say which glaciers are susceptible to large events, but a predictive capacity of when or how large the next event will be is impossible."

King said people should be cautious and aware that Portage Glacier can calve at any time. If a chunk of ice is large enough, it can cause a ripple effect on the lake ice.

King said she's received no reports of people falling through the ice this year.

In 1964, a group of scientists were on Portage Lake ice during the Good Friday earthquake. The 9.2-magnitude quake caused ice on the lake to ripple and crack, and avalanches crashed down in the surrounding mountains. Despite the fragmented ice, the group made it to shore safely.

Girdwood Volunteer Fire Chief Will Day said the department, which would respond to a water rescue at the lake, has no record of having to rescue anyone in the winter since at least 2000, which is as far back the department's records go.

He said the fire department does respond to incidents at the lake but they are usually minor, like car accidents on the road leading to the visitor center or to check on people who report falling on the ice and hurting themselves.

Day said he was at the lake a few weeks ago. He found the parking lot full, with approximately 40 to 60 people on the ice.

He uses it himself and said the lake can be safe if you're prepared for weather and possible rescue if you fall through the ice.

"It's like most outdoor activities in Alaska: There's always an inherent risk there," he said. "And if you're smart about it and mitigate the risk the best you can, it can be a fun and safe activity."
Jenny Jones, right, her boyfriend Nathan Frerichs (pulling the load of firewood) and a group of friends, along with several dozen other outdoor enthusiasts were on the ice of Portage Lake when a large chunk of ice calved off of Portage Glacier, hitting the lake ice. The Jan. 8 calving caused the lake ice to rattle and crack. Everyone on the lake got off the ice safely. (Nichole Conti)
On that frightening Sunday afternoon, Jones said, she and Frerichs were about 300 feet from the glacier when it calved. Frerichs knew that in the cold, the cracks would freeze quickly, and the two decided to stay on stable ice.

After a few minutes, they carefully made their way to land, navigating choppy ice that had dislodged nearshore.

Jones said they took the firewood they hauled out and started another bonfire onshore before hiking back to the parking lot.

Jones said she would still go back on the frozen lake. She'll just keep her distance from the face of the glacier.

"I do feel lucky," she said. "Had our winter had more freeze-thaws, like the last few winters, it could have been a different story for 80 different people."


02-05-2017, 03:04 PM

Boston bombing survivor will marry the firefighter who rescued her

Author: Jacey Fortin, The New York Times
Updated: 2 days ago
Published 2 days ago

Roseann Sdoia, who lost her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing, and Michael Materia, the firefighter who took her to a hospital, in New York for the annual race up the Empire State Building on Wednesday. (Benjamin Norman/The New York Times)

NEW YORK — When Roseann Sdoia was gravely injured in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Michael Materia, a firefighter, was the responder who took her to the hospital. They were strangers at the time, but he has rarely left her side since.

In December, the two decided to get married. And on Wednesday, they took on an entirely different kind of challenge together: walking up the 1,576 steps to the observation deck of the Empire State Building in Manhattan to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation — an organization that has played a major role in Sdoia's recovery.

Just as he had on the day they first crossed paths, Materia wore all of his firefighting equipment, including a heavy oxygen tank on his back. She wore a prosthesis, which has replaced the leg she lost on the day of the bombing.

The day they met was among the darkest in Boston's modern history. After two bombs were detonated on April 15, 2013, smoke billowed across the finish line and the scene erupted into chaos.

Hundreds of people were injured that Monday, and three people lost their lives. Had it not been for Materia, it might have been four.

Sdoia's right leg was severely injured in the explosion. A bystander rushed over and fashioned a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Materia, responding with his fire brigade, was put in charge of escorting Sdoia to the hospital. With no ambulance immediately available, she found herself lying on a metal bench in the back of a police transport vehicle.

Despite her injury, Sdoia was fully alert as they drove toward the hospital. "He was kneeling on the ground, trying to hold me from sliding, trying to hold himself, and trying to hold the tourniquet," she said. "And then here I am, telling him to hold my hand! So the poor guy had a lot going on."

Materia stuck with her until they reached the hospital, where Sdoia's right leg had to be amputated above the knee.

He visited again a few days later to offer assistance, and then again the day after that.

After a couple of months, a friendship between the two bloomed into a romance. "There was an interest growing in each other, kind of quietly, until we talked about it," Sdoia said.

Materia popped the question on Dec. 4 during a trip to Nantucket, Massachusetts. They intend to marry in October or November, according to The New York Post, which reported on the couple this week.

But before they get married, Sdoia, 48, and Materia, 37, decided to take on New York City. On Wednesday evening, Materia pulled on his fire equipment while Sdoia explained her strategy for the climb: Go slow and steady, and lead with the left leg.

The couple were among hundreds of runners who made the arduous climb on Wednesday for an annual event called the Empire State Building Run-Up, which is in its 40th year and benefits the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

For months, Sdoia trained on the steps of Bunker Hill Monument, a towering obelisk just north of Boston commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill, among the defining moments in the Revolutionary War.

The event at the Empire State Building was a fitting milestone in Sdoia's own battle. Along with Materia, the lifelong Red Sox fan has become something of a hero for Boston, where friends and family have followed her recovery, celebrated her engagement, and supported her efforts to climb New York City's third-highest building.

The race ended at the observation deck on the 86th floor of the skyscraper, where Sdoia smiled and stopped to chat with photographers in the chill winter air while Materia, camera-shy, stayed mostly quiet under his firefighter's helmet.

Sdoia said she was happy to have his support, which hasn't wavered since that ride to the hospital nearly four years ago. "We've spent a lot of time together,'' she said, "and from that we got to see each other's characters and really just bo


02-05-2017, 03:12 PM

Scientists use light to turn mice into stone-cold killers

The scientists used optogenetics to manipulate neurons, to help understand how large brain networks work. a technique called optogenetics, a lab manipulated neurons using light to make mice go all Hulk on their prey.(TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)
By DARRYL FEARS The Washington Post
Sun., Jan. 15, 2017

You’ve never seen such a sight in your life.
A team of scientists used brain control to turn about a dozen ordinary mice into killing machines. They employed a technique called optogenetics that manipulates neurons using light to make the fluffy critters go all Hulk on their prey.
With the light switched off, the mice were mostly chill, sometimes even scurrying around their cages to avoid prey or toys made to resemble prey. But when the switch was on, things got ugly. Crickets in cages were attacked and beheaded, and plastic toys that looked like prey received powerful bites that would have been lethal.
The scientists are not trying to create a monster. “Basically, we are trying to understand how large brain networks work,” said Ivan de Araujo, an author of the study, published Thursday in the journal Cell. Araujo, an associate professor of psychiatry and physiology at Yale University, and his co-authors, Wenfei Han of Yale and Newton Canteras, a neurobiologist at the University of Sao Paulo, sought to answer a long-standing question in their field: what parts of the brain trigger certain motor responses?
In neurobiology, studying the complex brain functions that govern predatory behaviour is a good way to do that.

Predatory behaviour involves complex motor actions, and studying it can help neurobiologists determine how different parts of the brain organize the see-how-they-run impulse to hunt, track, pounce, bite and kill. Over the three years of the study, Araujo observed signals that controlled the necks of the mice, their head positioning and the movement of their jaws.

“We … targeted the groups of neurons that control predatory hunting, pursuit, capture and killing,” Araujo said. The team attached a sensory device to the rodents’ heads and pulsed blue light that activated neurons that had been engineered to respond to light, triggering the killing instinct. 814.jpgThrough experiments, scientists wanted to study what parts of the brain trigger certain motor responses.A question had to be asked: Was there a broader purpose to this research, such as expanding the technique to humans to, say, create better warriors? Araujo said the question was perfectly understandable, then flatly answered no. While humans have brain regions analogous to those in other animals such as mice, optogenetics doesn’t appear to have a military application.
“We didn’t see mice attacking other mice,” he said. “It produced very strong, aggressive behaviour toward other animals.”
And mice didn’t appear willing to bite off more than they could chew. “They didn’t attack other mice or something too large to be reasonable prey. There are some constraints,” Araujo said.
But heaven help the bite-size prey of a mouse that has seen the blue light. Not only were they more vicious than mice whose neurons were not manipulated, but they also were more eager hunters. Mice usually paw at their insect prey, seeking the head before delivering a fatal bite. The lab mice didn’t seem to care about the head — they wanted to rip out the first body part they touched.
Even toys weren’t safe when the light was on, whether they were motorized or lying still. When the researchers left the light on, “(the mice) changed completely from avoidance to motor behaviour displayed when they naturally hunt an insect.”
It was the kind of “you won’t like me when I’m angry” transformation that Bruce Banner underwent when he became a raging green monster.
“Their bite force is kind of powerful and pretty sufficient,” Araujo said of normal mice. “When we stimulated these neurons, we observed that the muscles were contracting much more strongly, the bite force was more powerful.”


02-05-2017, 03:18 PM

At 100, Fairbanksan Al Weber finds himself looking ahead, not back

Author: Dermot Cole (

Tara Woolery, who shows she is 4, attends the 100th birthday of her oldest friend, Al Weber, last Sunday in Fairbanks. (Dermot Cole / Alaska Dispatch News)

FAIRBANKS — Al Weber doesn't hold back, even when the discussion wanders onto the topic of a "cutoff date" and what the future holds.

When he was 95 (, he told the people making music with him that they might want to look for a recruit of more tender years. "I've got a cutoff date at 107," he would say. "That's a good number."

At 100, he's still looking ahead.

Last Sunday, when about 75 of his family members and friends gathered at the Palace Saloon to celebrate his first century, Weber stood up without his walker and launched into what sounded like a stand-up routine, saying if had had known he would live this long, he would have taken better care of his knees.

"I look around and I see a face and it's vaguely familiar," he told the birthday crowd. "I think back, oh my God, that must have been 100 years ago. Probably was."

Hoisting a piece of cake on a plate above his head, he thanked everyone for coming and said, "I think I'm gonna probably shoot for another 100."

More than two dozen musicians gathered near the stage with guitars, harmonicas, banjos, violins and other instruments, with Weber playing along on his autoharp and singing. For a couple of hours, almost everyone in the room took a turn sitting next to him and Weber would put an arm around each person, exchanging a joke or a greeting.

There was only one person in the room born in 1917.

I think the youngest was Tara Woolery, who held up four fingers, but said she is really "four-and-a-half." Her dad, Patrick Woolery, serenaded Weber on the bagpipes and it was her grandmother, Tamar Stephens, who taught Weber how to play the bagpipes.

Thanks to such connections made through music, work, ham radio, sports and chance encounters, the room was packed with friends of Weber.

The first thing that many people notice about Weber is his Jersey City accent, which a hitch in the Coast Guard, starting in 1935, did little to erase.

"I was a Depression kid. We didn't eat much. 'Ya hungry? Take a drink of water.' I heard that so much that I can even pronounce it Jersey style," he once told an interviewer. (

Weber said he bailed out of his hometown at 18 and has been back twice, for a grand total of about 24 hours. Jersey's loss was Alaska's gain.

He's had decades of adventures here, working in radio and communications and touching down all over the state. He trained bomber pilots to use radios in World War II, was a radio engineer, worked at the Gilmore Creek satellite tracking station, repaired and sold radios and tinkered with electronics.

The second thing people notice about Weber — and this is a lesson for which his friends will be forever grateful — is that he doesn't act his age. That is, if you believe that acting his age means turning inward, dwelling more on the past than the present and counting everything that has been lost.

Advancing years have taken a toll on his health and staying power, but what he can do is entertain himself and have fun in the presence of others, an attitude that spreads faster than any virus.

If you saw him singing and playing at the Pioneers Home, where he lives, you would take him for a gregarious social worker getting paid to try to boost morale.

Fairbanksan Tim Quintal tells a story about an incident 45 years ago that illustrates the Weber way. Quintal was a young guy fresh out of college who happened to be driving a Volkswagen Beetle on College Road one day in 1972.

Suddenly, a stranger driving in the other direction did a 180-degree turn and came up in a hurry to the VW. Quintal pulled over to see what the trouble was. The stranger marveled at the great whitewater canoe atop the VW and just had to know more about it. That was how Quintal became friends with Al Weber.

Others at the birthday party worked with Weber in radio, played music with him, learned music from him or went on outdoor adventures together. The outdoor adventures are a thing of the past for Weber, but the music goes on.

Weber breathes with an assist from an oxygen tank, which has hampered his playing of the bagpipes and the didgeridoo, though he can still handle the violin, autoharp, washboard, harmonica, ukulele and anything with strings. He doesn't need to be asked twice to break into "Show Me the Way to Go Home" or "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?"

His room at the Pioneers Home has space for his amateur radio, his instruments and a library's worth of sheet music supplied by his friend Theresa Reed.

Weber's wife of nearly 60 years, Florence, lives in the Pioneers Home in another room a short walk away and is incapacitated. Florence authored or co-authored more than 100 publications and is one of the outstanding geologists ( in the history of Alaska. She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1987.

Apart from their work lives, Al and Florence took part in many activities together and traveled the world. "On my 60th birthday, I chased a woman up a hill and caught her," Weber said of a bicycle trip with Florence in New Zealand.

I stopped by the Pioneers Home on a day when Al and his friend Courtney Linkous led a sing-along. The nurses brought Florence to the activities room to join the audience. Al smiled and said, "Hi ya kid," as he bent over to kiss her.

I asked him that day why he thinks he has lived to reach 100. "Because I kept breathing," he said.

Other than that, "I haven't a damn clue. None."

"I've wondered that too because many times I have written me off," he said. "I am not what you would call a religious person, but there's such a helluva lot more about life than I know. There's got to be more somewhere. It ought to be pretty interesting if we have any awareness of it."

"I've been damned lucky. That is for sure. Luckier than I deserve," he said.

The crowd that broke into "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" to cap off his 100th birthday party would dispute that.

Columnist Dermot Cole can be reached at


02-08-2017, 06:30 PM

Doctors discover live cockroach inside woman's skull

An Indian woman told doctors she felt a "crawling sensation" in her right nostril. Doctors pulled a live cockroach out of her skull. (Newslions)

The 42-year-old Indian woman was in deep slumber last Tuesday night until she awoke around midnight to a “tingling, crawling sensation” in her right nostril.
At first, the woman, a domestic worker named Selvi, brushed the feeling off, assuming she might be catching a cold, the Times of India reported. ( But she soon felt something move.
She spent the rest of the night in discomfort, waiting for the sun to rise so she could go to the hospital.
“I could not explain the feeling but I was sure it was some insect,” she told the New Indian Express. ( “Whenever it moved, it gave me a burning sensation in my eyes.”
As dawn arrived, with her son-in-law in tow, the woman visited the clinic closest to her home in Injambakkam, in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
She was soon referred to a second hospital, where doctors suspected she might be suffering from a nasal growth. At a third hospital, doctors recommended a scan, and told her the discomfort may be coming from “a foreign body that seemed to be mobile,” the Times of India reported.
Finally, in her fourth doctor visit — at Stanley Medical College Hospital — doctors used an endoscope to find the culprit: a blob with a pair of antennae.
“It was a full grown cockroach,” M.N. Shankar, the head of the ear, nose and throat department, told the Times of India. “It was alive. And it didn’t seem to want to come out.”
The insect was sitting in the skull base, between the eyes and close to the brain, Shankar said.
Doctors first tried to use a suction device to remove the cockroach, but the insect clung to the tissues. After a 45-minute process, using suction and forceps, doctors were able to extract the bug, still alive.
Because of the critter’s location, doctors had to first drag it to a place from which it could be extracted. It had been lodged inside for about 12 hours, the Times of India reported.
Doctors placed the insect in a container, its wing spread and its legs moving rapidly.
“If left inside, it would have died before long and the patient would have developed infection, which would have spread to the brain,” Shankar added.
Shankar said this was the “first such case” he has seen in his three decades of practice, the New India Express reported. In the past, the hospital’s ENT department has removed a leach, houseflies, and maggots from patients’ nasal cavities.
“But not a cockroach, said S Muthuchitra, one of the doctors, “especially not one this large.”
This is by no means the first time a cockroach has crawled and nestled into a human body. A 1994 story in The Washington Post ( described a similar local case involving a one-inch cockroach that crawled into a George Washington University graduate student’s ear.
Shannelle Armstrong, the student, woke up screaming before dawn with a piercing pain in her left ear. She was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, where doctors flushed out the live cockroach.
One ear specialist quoted in the story said hospital doctors are sometimes called upon to remove different kinds of bugs from patients’ ears, especially in the summer. In urban areas, he said, roaches are the most common.
The graduate student’s medical report added the following advice: “Consider sleeping with hat on.”



02-18-2017, 03:06 PM

8 people flee U.S. border patrol to seek asylum in Canada

Author: Christinne Muschi, Reuters
Updated: 15 minutes ago
Published 18 hours ago

CHAMPLAIN, N.Y. – Eight asylum-seekers, including four children, barely made it across the Canadian border on Friday as a U.S. border patrol officer tried to stop them and a Reuters photographer captured the scene.

As a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer seized their passports and questioned a man in the front passenger seat of a taxi that had pulled up to the border in Champlain, New York, four adults and four young children fled the cab and ran to Royal Canadian Mounted Police on the other side.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers assist a child from a family that claimed to be from Sudan as they walk across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Canada, from Champlain in New York. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
One by one they scrambled across the snowy gully separating the two countries. RCMP officers watching from the other side helped them up, lifting the younger children and asking a woman, who leaned on her fellow passenger as she walked, if she needed medical care.

The children looked back from where they had come as the U.S. officer held the first man, saying his papers needed to be verified.

The man turned to a pile of belongings and heaved pieces of luggage two at a time into the gully — enormous wheeled suitcases, plastic shopping bags, a black backpack.

"Nobody cares about us," he told journalists. He said they were all from Sudan and had been living and working in Delaware for two years.

The RCMP declined on Friday to confirm the nationalities of the people. A Reuters photo showed that at least one of their passports was Sudanese.

The man then appeared to grab their passports from the U.S. officer before making a run for the border. The officer yelled and gave chase but stopped at the border marker. Canadian police took hold of the man's arm as he crossed.

The man runs for the border after taking his family’s passports from a U.S. border patrol officer as he was detained after his family crossed the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford, Canada, from Champlain in New York. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
The border patrol officer told his counterpart that the man was in the United States illegally and that he would have detained him.

Officers on both sides momentarily eyed the luggage strewn in the snow before the U.S. officer took it, and a walker left on the road, to the border line.

The RCMP carried the articles to their vehicles, and the people piled in to be driven to a nearby border office to be interviewed by police and to make a refugee claim.

People seeking refugee status have been pouring over the Canada-U.S. border as the United States looks to tighten its policies on refugees ( and illegal immigrants. Asylum-seekers sneak across because even if they are caught, they can make a claim in Canada; if they make a claim at a border crossing, they are turned away.
A man who told police that he was from Sudan is taken into custody by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers after arriving by taxi and walking across the U.S.-Canada border into Hemmingford. The photographer witnessed one refugee attempt the border crossing twice turning back when confronted by the RCMP. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi


02-24-2017, 10:29 PM

A Paid Hour a Week for Sex? Swedish Town Considers It

February 23, 2017

A local official in Sweden ( has a novel proposal to improve work-life balance and lift the local birthrate: give municipal employees an hourlong paid break each week to go home and have sex.
Sweden is already celebrated for its generous welfare state (, including 480 days of paid parental leave (, universal health care and a common ritual of coffee and pastry, known as fika (, which is considered sacrosanct.
Per-Erik Muskos, ( a 42-year-old councilman from the northern town of Overtornea, wants to add to those benefits, by offering the municipality’s 550 employees the right to subsidized sex. In introducing his proposal this week, he told fellow members of the town council that it would give a nudge to the dwindling local population, add spice to aging marriages and improve employee morale.
The idea quickly got attention all over Sweden, where for at least some, it was a welcome distraction from President Trump’s vague reference to problems ( the country was having with immigration, which were strongly denied by baffled Swedes.
Noting that “sex is also a great form of exercise and has documented positive effects on well-being,” Mr. Muskos suggested that local municipal employees could use an hour of the workweek already allotted for fitness activities to go home and have sex with their spouses or partners instead. The motion, which is expected to be voted on in the spring, needs a simple majority to be passed by the 31-member council. As of now, opinion on the council is divided.
“We should encourage procreation. I believe that sex is often in short supply. Everyday life is stressful and the children are at home,” Mr. Muskos explained in his motion in Overtornea, ( town ( of about 4,500 in the picturesque and remote Torne Valley. “This could be an opportunity for couples to have their own time, only for each other.” photo: New York Times

His proposal has generated praise, ridicule and criticism. Some critics fear single workers could while away their working hours on the dating app ( ( trying to find a date for their weekly interlude.
When Mr. Muskos introduced the motion on Monday, some council members giggled while others said they were not amused. But befitting a progressive country which has long been perceived as a beacon of sexual enlightenment — including blissfully kitsch performances at the Eurovision ( Song Contest — the proposal was taken in stride.
It made headlines ( across Sweden and beyond. “Suggestion: Let the staff have sex during working hours,” a headline in the newspaper Expressen ( declared, under a photograph showing a couple in bed.
Mr. Muskos told colleagues the proposal was no joke, though he acknowledged practical problems like enforcement. It would be difficult to tell, for example, if an employee eschewed sex in favor of a walk in the country.
The proposal comes as countries across Europe are grappling with how to balance the rigors of modernity and work with the desire for better quality of life. In France, which already has a mandatory 35-hour workweek, subsidized health care and long vacations, the Socialist government recently passed legislation granting employees the “right to disconnect (” The measure calls for companies with more than 50 employees to help ensure that work does not intrude into days off.
Sweden has been at the forefront of European countries seeking to engender employee satisfaction. An experiment with a six-hour workday ( in the southern city of Gothenburg was recently scrapped after it was deemed too expensive. But proponents of the experiment, which was carried out over two years in a city-run retirement home, said it made employees happier, healthier and more productive. The six-hour workday has also proved successful in the private sector, including at a Toyota vehicle service center, where it helped improve business (
Demographic pressures have been worrying countries across Europe, including Spain, Italy and Germany. In recent years in Denmark, policy makers have been so concerned about the birthrate ( that they started to offer sex education classes focused on procreation rather than contraception. One travel company even introduced a “Do It for Denmark (!” campaign, encouraging couples to take romantic holidays to try to procreate, claiming that Danes had 46 percent more sex while on holiday.
Sweden has among the highest fertility rates in the European Union, according to Eurostat (,_1960%E2%80%932014_%28li ve_births_per_woman%29_YB16.png), the bloc’s statistic agency, in part because of the country’s generous parental leave systems and immigration. But the fertility rate has nevertheless been decreasing recently.
Malin Hansson, 41, a sexologist and specialist in reproductive health in Gothenburg, applauded the initiative, arguing that sex reduced stress, improved sleep and strengthened immunity, while enriching intimacy between couples. “If it was up to me, I would introduce this across the country,” she said, adding: “In Sweden, sex is considered just another activity.”
Lotta Dellve, a professor in the sociology department at the University of Gothenburg (, said that her research showed that short bursts of physical activity during office hours had many benefits, including productivity. “This activity could include sex, why not?” she asked.
But Professor Dellve, who is married and has two daughters in their 20s, said it would be ridiculous for employers to mandate when employees should become intimate. “It is wonderful to see your spouse during the workday, but you don’t necessarily want to have sex,” she said.
Stefan Nilsson, a Green Party member who sits on the health and welfare committee of the Swedish Parliament, said he was skeptical that taxpayers would want their money to finance work-hour sex, but allowed that the idea might be a canny investment in physical activity, noting that healthier workers cost the government less.
Others were less persuaded.
Tomas Vedestig, 42, a left-leaning municipal councilman in Overtornea, said that when Mr. Muskos made his pitch, his colleagues were so taken aback that they thought they had misheard him. Mr. Vedestig said the proposal was intrusive and threatened to embarrass people who do not have sexual partners; do not want to have sex; or had medical conditions that precluded sex.
“I don’t think it’s the employer’s business to say, ‘Go home for an hour and make babies,’” he said. And some proponents worried the proposal was too stingy: “I spoke to a couple of older gentlemen who said, ‘One hour? That is not enough time.’”


02-26-2017, 02:55 PM

Just drooling to get into this club

(c) 2017, The Washington Post.

WASHINGTON - He had bounded, tongue lolling, past chalk-white headstones and weathered obelisks and poked his snout into the pool of still water on Mausoleum Row. But when he came at twilight to Congressional Cemetery's south end, a lonely bottomland packed with the remains of dead children, even Oliver the dog slowed his gait to a contemplative stroll.

"It just makes me really happy to be able to see him run around like this," said Claudia Rauch, a 36-year-old resident who works in marketing. "My mom's from New Orleans, and there's just sort of a tradition there of cemeteries being really cool places."

Rauch and her brindle lab mix had just been admitted to what in recent years has become one of Washington's most exclusive clubs: Congressional Cemetery's K9 Corps, a group of about 600 people and 770 dogs with privileges to freely roam the cemetery's 35 acres. The pair had come off a waiting list of 500 with an average wait time of three to four years.

Congressional Cemetery was established in 1807 on the west bank of the Anacostia River. Its permanent occupants - including J. Edgar Hoover, Marion Barry and Vice President Elbridge Gerry, namesake of gerrymandering - lack the luster of the presidents and astronauts buried five miles away at Arlington National Cemetery.

But if it is still not a top-tier destination for the dead, Congressional has become fashionable among the dog-loving living to an extent its founders could not have dreamed.

In a city where a booming economy and population have brought demographic changes, it is perhaps a sign of changing tastes that the K9 Corps has instituted a $75 wait-list fee to thin out applicants while some elite social clubs of old Washington are atrophying.

Once admitted, members pay between $285 and $385 annually, depending on how many dogs they own and must periodically volunteer, said Paul Williams, president of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Congressional Cemetery.

"I can walk my dog here at 7 o'clock at night, in the dark, and I feel perfectly safe," said Susan Urahn, 60, a member of the K9 Corps who serves on the cemetery's board. "I mean, where can you do that?"

Some of these dog walkers, like parents who apply to ultra-competitive preschools before their children are born, have reserved spots before adopting a dog. Such was the strategy for Brynn Barnett, who anticipated how her neighborhood cemetery would eventually appeal to her Cavachon, Harley.

"I knew I was getting a dog," said Barnett, who joined in 2011. "I didn't want to miss my opportunity, so I went ahead and signed up."

Today, facing extended waits, applicants sometimes opt to repeatedly pay a $10 entrance fee that allows nonmember dogs access for the day.

These hopeful souls can be found wandering in the gloaming at Congressional Cemetery, following the flitting shapes of dogs between the cenotaphs, unsure of how much longer they must dwell in wait-list limbo.

"I get the feeling we didn't make it this year," Wes Ammerman, a 29-year-old employee of a health-care consulting firm, said as Skylla, his Australian Cattle Dog mix, padded into the darkness ahead. "My last hope was that it maybe got sent to our spam filter if they emailed me."

This month, K9 Corps members - including a few fresh off the wait list - were gathering in the cemetery chapel for their annual orientation session.

The crowd, ranging from lower-to-late middle age, was what one might expect at an independent film festival or farm-to-table restaurant; the agenda included vaccination rules and protocols for reporting dogfights.

K9 Corps Committee head Stephen Brennwald, a criminal defense lawyer, admonished the crowd to play it straight on the latter front. "I tell my clients, 'Just tell the truth,' " Brennwald said. "Tell the truth, tell us what you know about it and we will be fair."

The K9 Corps originated in the late 1970s, when a small group of residents began walking their dogs as a kind of informal citizens' patrol in what was then a derelict property owned by Christ Church, Williams said. The church still owns the cemetery, which is managed by the nonprofit.
The group began tending grave sites and donating money for the cemetery's upkeep. But it has only been over the past several years that its popularity exploded.

Other offbeat initiatives have been launched to gin up interest in Congressional Cemetery, such as an on-site beekeeping operation that generates the "Rest in Bees" line of honey and a "Notes from the Crypt" series of chamber music concerts.

But the dog club is the most prominent - and lucrative - component of the cemetery's renaissance. Last year, club dues and wait-list fees totaled $216,000, nearly one-quarter of the cemetery's annual revenue and almost as much as was brought in by the sale of grave plots.

Williams said cemetery caretakers from across the country approach him at industry conferences, perplexed and fascinated by the unusual coexistence of dogs and the dead.

"They're initially very skeptical. They're like, 'We ban dogs. We don't even allow photographs. No way,' " Williams said. "And then they see the finances, and their heads start spinning."

The arrangement at Congressional Cemetery could scarcely have been foreseen by our ancestors, who took a very different view of graveyard propriety, according to Raymond Coppinger, a professor emeritus of biology at Hampshire College who has studied the evolution and history of domestic dogs.

Indeed, some aspects of burial rituals were probably developed to prevent canine scavengers from digging up and feasting on corpses, thus impeding the passage of the deceased into the afterlife, Coppinger said.

"The reason our religious ancestors had us buried six feet underground, and put us in vaults or boxes, is so that dogs couldn't eat us," he said. "They're famous all over the world for eating dead bodies."

The fear of being eaten by dogs is something of a fixation in ancient literature: Priam, king of Troy, spends many lines of the Iliad giving vent in vivid terms to anxieties about being devoured by his pets when his city falls to the Greeks.

"Homer was obsessed with dogs," Coppinger said.

More than 3,000 years later, some still side with the blind bard in disapproving of dogs on the loose near our mortal remains. Even leashed dogs are banned from 300-year-old Rock Creek Cemetery in Petworth, cemetery manager Carlton Carpenter said.

"Do you want somebody's dogs to do their business on the graves of your children or parents? Because that's what's unfortunately happening, or being allowed to happen," said Joe Davis, national spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which last year weighed in on a successful push to ban dogs from Rhode Island's veterans cemetery. "It comes down to judgment. It comes down to character."

Even at dog-friendly Congressional Cemetery, rules are in place to preserve its identity as hallowed ground. Humans must pick up after their pets. Balls and Frisbees are not allowed. Since 2015, when several dogs romped through a memorial service, animals have been barred entry during funerals.

"It's not a dog park. It's a cemetery," Barnett said.

The K9 Corp's four-legged members sometimes seem alert to that reality. As Rauch and Oliver walked past the section of Congressional known informally as "Babyland" - where children who died during the 1918 influenza pandemic were buried - the dog stopped to survey the grave markers, his form silhouetted by the winter skyline's burnt-orange glow.

But memento mori have little hold on the mind of an unleashed canine, and Oliver soon loped into the next field, stopping to lift a hind leg along the way.


03-11-2017, 04:47 AM

Have You Ever Heard The Term ‘Piss Poor?’ I Had No Idea It Comes From THIS! Fascinating!We can learn a lot about ourselves by looking to the past. History not only provides us with a nostalgic glimpse at how things used to be — like with these classic childhood toys — but its lessons can still teach us things today.Many of us fondly refer to “the good old days” when times were purer and life was simpler. (
They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot. Once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery.
If you had to do this to survive, you were “piss poor.”
But worse than that were the really poor folks who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot. They “didn’t have a pot to piss in” and were considered the lowest of the low. (
Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June.
However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.
Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married. (
Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.
The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women, and finally the children. Last of all the babies.
By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water!” (
Houses had thatched roofs with thick straw-piled high and no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof.
When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed.
Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence. (
The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the term, “dirt poor.”
The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on the floor to help keep their footing.
As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way.
Hence, “a thresh hold.”



03-11-2017, 04:52 AM

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day, they lit the fire and added things to the pot.
They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day.
Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”
Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off.
It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests, and would all sit around and “chew the fat.” (
Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death.
This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.
Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the “upper crust.” (
Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days.
Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial.
They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up.
Hence the custom of holding a “wake.” (
In old, small villages, local folks started running out of places to bury people.
So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave.
When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside, and they realized they had been burying people alive.
So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell.
Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (“the graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell.
Thus, someone could be “saved by the bell,” or was considered a “dead ringer.”
Now, whoever said history was boring? (
Source: (


03-11-2017, 09:27 PM

Drowsy Iditarod mushers who couldn't keep their eyes open rest up in Galena

Author: Tegan Hanlon (
Updated: 7 hours ago
Published 22 hours ago

GALENA — Pete Kaiser, of Bethel, fell asleep on the way to the checkpoint here while putting on one of his mittens, waking up with it dangling off his hand.

Karin Hendrickson, of Willow, dozed off while eating a piece of cheese and standing on her sled runners, waking up with the cheese still in her mouth.

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King, of Denali Park, has a neon cord, with one end attached to his sled and one end he can wear on his wrist. If he falls asleep and slides off his sled, the "leash," as he calls it, will jerk him awake.

Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King shows the neon “leash” that he wears to jerk him awake if he falls off his sled while sleeping. (Tegan Hanlon / Alaska Dispatch News)
Linwood Fiedler, of Willow, fell off his sled after dozing ( He reached Ruby early Thursday, about an hour after his driverless sled dog team pulled into town.

"I had just been fighting demons to stay awake. I was just fighting and fighting to stay awake. And I would nod off and force myself to open my eyes," Fiedler said here after a night of sleep.

"In one of those little catnaps I fell totally asleep and we caught a rut or something in the trail and I went flying. The funny thing was I'm sure I was still asleep in the air because I did not wake up until I planted my face firmly into the frozen river."

On the Iditarod Trail, sleep deprivation isn't pretty.

All four of the drowsy Iditarod veterans and their sled dog teams chose to take their mandatory 24-hour breaks at this Yukon River checkpoint — about 400 miles into the race — to recharge.

After hardly any sleep for days, Kaiser noted, "You can fall asleep in any position" on the trail.

"You can try to do stuff to stay awake, but I've fallen asleep running and wake up still running," he said. "There's not much you can do. It just happens over and over again."

Iditarod musher Martin Buser leaves the Galena checkpoint while a full dog yard of teams rests in the warming temperatures Friday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)
On Friday morning, Kaiser and other mushers toiled in the dog lot under a bright sun and significantly higher temperatures, rising to 20 degrees above zero. That's about a 70-degree swing from the temperatures earlier in the race that dropped as low as minus-50.

[Frostbitten hands, chilled feet from Iditarod cold snap test mushers' resolve (]

The general consensus from mushers interviewed in Galena on Friday after spending the night at the checkpoint: They felt better now compared to when they got here.

At Galena, Kaiser said he slept at least 10 hours. Before that, he'd slept a total of about 90 minutes since Monday's race start in Fairbanks, he said.

"It's amazing after so many days of not sleeping much, how little rest will actually refuel you," Kaiser said. "But in a couple days, we'll be right back down to zero."

Hendrickson changed out her sled runners Friday morning. After about 300 miles on the Iditarod Trail, she said her sled runners are usually pretty beat up and need changing. This year, she said the runners she stripped off her sled "looked almost brand-new" because of the endless snow and river ice.

While river running helped her sled, it didn't help keep her awake. She called it "a little boring."

"The trail has been great other than running rivers is A) it's cold and B) a lot of times it's really windy, though we lucked out this year and C) it's just mind-numbing, you know, I keep falling asleep," she said. "I can't stay awake. Because you're a little sleepy and there's nothing to pay attention to. On a trail through the trees, at least there's something to pay attention to."

Once in Galena, she said she slept about seven hours.

"You have no idea how amazing I feel," she said. "It just feels good to be a little recuperated."

Fiedler said here Friday afternoon that after a night's sleep, he was "ready to rock 'n' roll."

"This is the first time I've gotten any real sleep. Up until now, I think I've had 3 1/2 hours," he said.

Ryan Redington talks about his frostbitten face in the Galena checkpoint Friday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)
One musher was still working on recuperating in Galena on Friday afternoon. Ryan Redington, of Willow, sat inside the checkpoint here with white ointment covering his face. Frostbite from the beginning of the race had started to blister.

Still, after several hours of sleep in Galena, he said, "I might look rough but I feel good."


04-03-2017, 01:46 AM

He found a sick bear cub and faced a choice — let it die or risk his life to save it

Peter Holley The Washington Post
The bear cub was emaciated, soaking wet and barely breathing, its stuffed-animal-sized body lying face up in a meadow. It would almost certainly die within minutes.
As Corey Hancock stood over the cub on a remote trail near Oregon’s Santiam River Monday evening, the 41-year-old father didn’t see a bear - he saw a baby in distress.

A feeling of panic descended as Hancock realized he had minutes to make a decision. He could watch the cub die in the rain, or he could scoop the animal up, risking the wrath of a raging mother.

“I thought about my 2-year-old son, and I saw a baby that deserved to live,” Hancock told The Washington Post. “If I would’ve walked away from that bear, it would’ve haunted me the rest of my life.”

After 10 minutes of waiting for any sign of the mother, Hancock chose to act. He wrapped the cub in his flannel shirt and a rainproof sack and ran the mile and a half to the trailhead, where his car was parked. After posting a plea for help on Facebook, he rushed the cub to Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center in Hancock’s hometown of Salem, performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation along the way when it appeared the animal had stopped breathing.

Once at the center, Hancock said, the bear was placed on a heating pad and given electrolyte fluids. The next morning, already improved, it was turned over the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hancock’s story was shared widely on social media, where it provoked strong reactions. Most people praised Hancock and some called him “a hero” and “a rock star,” but he also incurred a backlash from those who thought he should have stayed out of nature’s way. Some pointed out that he likely consigned the animal to a life of captivity.

For some, Hancock’s actions brought to mind the infamous baby bison in Yellowstone Park that died last year after tourists worried that it looked cold and put it in the back of their vehicle. The calf was eventually euthanized when its mother then rejected it as a result of the “interference by people,” according to park authorities.

After reviewing Hancock’s story, Sylvia Dolson, executive director of Get Bear Smart Society, said she didn’t think his actions exemplified the sort of extreme anthropomorphism that often accompanies humans overstepping their bounds in the wild.

“The rescuer, in this case, did the only thing any caring person should do,” she said, noting that the cub “would have almost certainly died” without help. But that doesn’t mean people who discover bear cubs in the wild need to rescue them, she cautioned.


04-16-2017, 12:26 PM

Nonstop skier Gary Mashburn is Alyeska's 6-million-feet man

Author: Beth Bragg (
Updated: 14 hours ago
Published 15 hours ago
Gary Mashburn, 66, recorded more than 6.2 million vertical feet of skiing at Alyeska this winter. (Bill Roth / ADN archive 2015)

After 121 ski days, 4,346 chairlift rides and more than 6.2 million vertical feet of skiing, Anchorage's Gary Mashburn is ready to call it a winter.

And why not? His winter tale is quite the winter tally, one that maybe no one else in the world can match.

Mashburn has exceeded the Guinness World Records mark for the most vertical feet of skiing in a single winter. For the sixth time in seven seasons, he skied more runs than anyone else at Alyeska Resort. He even won a national contest for logging the most vertical feet in a three-month span this year.

On Sunday, he will rest. It will be his 15th day away from the slopes since Dec. 1.

"I'm on my gentle descent," Mashburn said Friday, after returning home from yet another day in Girdwood.

Mashburn, a 66-year-old with two artificial knees, has been Alyeska's most frequent shredder for years. He moved his family to Alaska from California in 1975 so he could pursue his downhill obsession, and when he retired a few years ago he became an every-day skier, fulfilling the dream he had since he first strapped on skis while in his 20s.

[64-year-old skier is Alyeska's ironman] (

In the several years since Alyeska began using a computer program to track the vertical feet skied by season pass holders, Mashburn has set a pace no one has been able to match.

"I'm at 30 million the last seven seasons," he said. "I've been the top guy six times. Last year I fractured my ankle and only came in third."

Mashburn's mania hit new heights this winter. He skied 26 days in December, 27 days in January, 26 days in February, 30 days in March and 12 of the first 15 days in April to hit the 6-million mark for vertical feet for the first time in his life.

The Guinness record is 6,025,751, set in 2014-15 by a British Columbia skier. Mashburn's total of 6,201,094 — recorded by Alyeska's tracker — tops that, but Mashburn said he can't meet the verification process required by Guinness.

From January through March, Mashburn logged 4,838,279 vertical feet to win a national contest co-sponsored by Freeskier magazine and Snocru, the creator of a tracking app for skiers and snowboarders.

Mashburn was in second place after January, which turned him into a man on mission in February.

"A girl in Utah was in first, about 300,000 feet ahead of me," he said. "In February I just decided I was going to ski bell to bell, although I took off for the Super Bowl, and one day the mountain closed. So in those 26 days I did a million-seven. I just creamed it, and I beat this girl by about 900,000 feet.

"… When I won the month of February, they sent me back a letter saying, 'Can you send screen shots of the app? Your vertical is just off the hook.' "

He clinched his victory in March. The month was bitterly cold, but that didn't hinder him a bit. He went skiing every day but one.

Mashburn's prize for winning the Freeskier/Snocru contest is a trip to British Columbia to go heliskiing, a pair of skis, gloves and a helmet. So far, however, he has never won a prize from Alyeska for being its most prolific skier.

"They gave me a whole lot of 'You're illegally parked' stickers the year I hit 5 million," he said.

That aside, Mashburn said Alyeska is the perfect place to pile up big numbers.

The key, he said, is the speed of the chairlift and the area it serves. Alyeska's Chair 4 and Chair 6 are perfect for the skier looking to rack up a lot of runs. On a couple of occasions this winter, Mashburn tallied 70,000 feet in a single day.

"I've skied all around the world," he said, "and Alyeska for vertical is really an easy place to get it because the best runs are serviced by two high-speed quads, enabling you to get 11,000 feet an hour. Which is unheard of.

"I went to Jackson Hole, and after seven hours of skiing you can only get 30,000. The chairlifts are slower, and to get to where you want to go takes several chair lifts."

Mashburn is one of the first people to arrive at Alyeska every day, and once there he skis practically nonstop, making run after run after run. He skis for five, six, seven hours a day and rarely takes a break. He keeps lunch in his pocket and often darts into the trees for bathroom breaks.

"If I had a relief tube to run down my leg, I'd do that," he said.

But as the days get longer and the snowpack thins, Mashburn's mania is waning. He said he's taking Easter Day off because his wife, Suzette, wants him to help with dinner. Truth be told, Mashburn is ready to slow down. At least for this winter.

"The rumor is the vertical counter will stop on Sunday," Mashburn said. "I won't be credited for any skiing I do after Sunday, so I'm like, well, the weather's got to be nice. I'm not going out if it's crappy.

"… I've had enough, and my wife has really had it with me by April."

Gary Mashburn’s epic winter, MONTH BY MONTH

Month Days Runs Vertical feet

December 26 724 1,071,905

January 27 871 1,232,265

February 26 1,175 1,659,154

March 30 1,187 1,681,670

April 12 389 556,100

Total 121 4,346 6,201,094

A look at Mashburn's last 5 winters

2016-17 — 6,201,094 (through April 15)
2015-16 — 2,222,562 *
2014-15 — 4,167,510
2013-14 — 5,123,839 **
2012-13 — 4,125.423

* Mashburn fractured an ankle in December, which limited him to 84 days of skiing — about 30-40 fewer than his average winter.

** Mashburn skied 4,827,839 vertical feet at Alyeska and another 296,000 at Wyoming's Jackson Hole.

About this Author

Beth Bragg (


04-28-2017, 03:25 AM

Weed on a plane: How Alaska businesses get pounds of pot on board, with police blessing

Author: Laurel Andrews (
Updated: 1 day ago

2,500 prerolled joints in a bag with odor control bags for an Anchorage to Sitka flight. (Michelle Cleaver / Weed Dudes)

The first time Michelle Cleaver arrived at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport with 5 pounds of marijuana in her carry-on, she was understandablynervous.

"I was so scared, and I learned that I needed to find a new antiperspirant, because mine failed miserably," Cleaver said.

Cleaver, owner of Weed Dudes, a marijuana store in Sitka, was taking the commercially grown cannabis from Anchorage to her shop in the Southeast Alaska community.

Thatfirst trip was Dec. 30. In the months since, she says she has carried marijuana, thousands of joints and many pounds of edibles onto commercial aircraft numerous times.

Other cannabis businesses have started following her lead. And it's all done with the blessing of airport police

Flying with marijuana seems to solve issues unique to Alaska's cannabis industry: It allows communities accessible only by sea or air, like Sitka, to bring commercial marijuana into the city.

But like many aspects of the cannabis industry, flying with marijuana comes with inherent risk and opaque, ever-evolving policies.

The federal government still considers marijuanaa Schedule I substance, right alongside heroin. It's not supposed to cross federally regulated airspace or waterways, and once you enter those areas, you face federal law enforcement, instead of state police enforcing state law.

Cleaver believes she found a way around this conundrum. She says it took months to put together the pieces and make the leap to fly with marijuana. Her strategy rests on full disclosure — except for one thing.

'We haven't had any problems'

Airports in states with legalized marijuana have adopted different policies. In Portland, Oregon, marijuana is allowed on in-state flights. In Denver, it's not.

Anchorage airport police have been allowing small amounts of marijuana ( through security for years. In November, police at the Fairbanks International Airport adopted the same policy.

Those two airports also let marijuana businesses carry through much larger quantities of cannabis, so long as the passenger is following state law.

Cleaver says she has developed a system. She lets police know beforehand when she'll be there. When she gets to the security checkpoint, she alerts TSA.

TSA is a federal agency, but its focus is on security threats. Its agents don't search for marijuana. If TSA agents see marijuana, they call law enforcement, according to TSA spokesperson Lorie Dankers.

Law enforcementdecides what to do, according to Dankers.

The rest goes as follows: Airport police show up. They check the required travel manifest and other state documents.

"As long as they have all of their proper Marijuana Control Board documentation … they can continue to travel at their own risk," said Deputy Chief Aaron Danielson with the Fairbanks International Airport Police and Fire Department.

Jesse Davis, chief of the Anchorage Airport Police and Fire, says they've been alerted a handful of times to businesses traveling with marijuana, and police follow the same procedure as Fairbanks.

So far the policy seems to be working.

"We haven't had any problems," Davis said.

Juneau police have not adopted this policy, instead saying officers would alert the airlines if TSA allowed marijuana through a checkpoint. Juneau Police Department Lt. David Campbell called it a "fluid situation."

Mike Emers, owner of Rosie Creek Farms, a Fairbanks marijuana cultivation facility, picked up Cleaver's lead. Emers traveled from Fairbanks to Anchorage with 5 pounds of marijuana in late February. He was nervous, too.

"Of course I was. I hadn't done anything like that before. It was, yeah, it was a little nerve-racking," Emers said.

But the winter roads were bad, Emers said, and he was already heading to Anchorage for his daughter's soccer tournament. Flying served as both a time- and cost-saver.

Like Cleaver, his bags were inspected by airport police, and he was free to go.

"As long as you let people know what you're doing, and that you're within the law … I don't see a problem," Emers said.

Carry-on only

Alaska's Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, which oversees the state's cannabis businesses, knows some businessownersare flying with marijuana in their carry-on luggage, AMCO Director Erika McConnell wrote in an email.

The state office's primary concern is to make sure businesses are following Alaska law, McConnell wrote.

To follow state rules, Cleaver made the call to keep the commercial marijuana in her possession at all times while she travels, although that's not explicitly defined.

Michelle Cleaver holds 5 pounds of hydrogrown bud. (Michelle Cleaver / Weed Dudes)

That means Cleaver flies with carry-on bags only. She's discovered that in her one large carry-on, she can carry 5 pounds of bud, or about 6,000 joints, or 65 pounds of edibles.

Odor is another consideration.

"If it smells like pot, the whole deal's off," Cleaver said. So she purchased thick packaging. Sometimes she has a friend do a smell-check.

Emers said odor wasn't a problem during his trip.

"It's in a sealed bag, inside a sealed bag, inside a sealed bag," he said. "Just make sure you wash your clothes."

To disclose, or not to disclose?

Alaska Airlines is clear that marijuana is not allowed on its flights. On its website (, marijuana is listed as a prohibited item alongside flammable liquids and explosives.

Alaska, like all other airlines, follows Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Under those regulations, an airline is at risk if it knowingly carries marijuana.

But there is no rule prohibiting passengers from bringing marijuana onboard, wrote Allen Kenitzer, FAA spokesperson.

If someone did bring marijuana onto a plane, the FAA would investigate whether the certificate holder — the airline or pilot — complied with the law, Kenitzer wrote.

So this is the part of the disclosure that Cleaver omits — she doesn't tell the airline about the marijuana. She figures if the airline doesn't know, it's not violating those FAA laws.

If a person does fly with marijuana, it actually makes sense not to tell the airline, but that decision leaves the business between a rock and a hard place, said marijuana attorney Jana Weltzin.

When marijuana businesses travel with weed, they have to document every detail of the journey in order to stay within the state rules. But disclosing the marijuana triggers the airline's response.

Airlines can deny a passenger from boarding. And there's still a risk — even if it doesn't appear to have played out in Alaska — that federal law enforcement could seize your marijuana and charge you, Weltzin said, since you'd be flying in federal airspace.
Alaska Airlines says it wants travelers to know its no-marijuana policies.

"I don't think we can search every bag. All we can do is let the customer know what the rules are," said Marilyn Romano, regional vice president.

Cleaver says it can still be scary to travel with marijuana. But airport officials have now started to recognize her when she flies.

"It has gotten easier," Cleaver said.


06-07-2017, 11:02 AM

Inside the dramatic, 14-hour rescue that freed a climber from a deep crevasse on Denali

Author: Michelle Theriault Boots (
Updated: 1 hour ago
Published 13 hours ago

The radio message came in at around 1:30 a.m. Monday, in the endless daylight of Denali in June: A Slovakian climber had fallen deep into a crevasse ( the mountain's West Buttress Route, into a coffin-like chute so narrow it was impossible for him to even turn his head.

Over the next 14 hours an extraordinary rescue unfolded, with a group of rangers, guides and volunteers mounting a painstaking, frustrating effort to rescue a man encased 60 feet deep in a tight shaft of snow and ice.

It worked.

At 3:30 p.m., the climber, identified by the National Park Service as Martin Takac, 38, was pulled, severely hypothermic but alive, from the crevasse. On Tuesday, he was listed in serious condition in the intensive care unit of Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. (
Kahiltna Glacier near the National Park Service Denali mountaineering camp on April 24, 2016. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

In Denali's peak mountaineering season, conditions this year have been prime for crevasse falls, said National Park Service mountaineering ranger Chris Erickson, who described the rescue by phone after returning to Talkeetna on Tuesday.

"We had a low winter snowpack combined with recent snow about a week ago. There are thin snow bridges over big crevasses," Erickson said.

Officials believe Takac, descending off the mountain, fell into the crevasse while unroped. Erickson arrived at the scene of the fall, close to a camp at 7,800 feet on the West Buttress Route, at 4 a.m. Monday. From the top, the crevasse looked like "a hole in the snow. Blank, flat snow. No slope," Erickson said.

At the very top, it was maybe 3 feet wide. By the lowest point, a "false floor" of snow and ice where Takac was wedged, it was "10 or 12 inches across," he said.

The hole in the ice wasn't straight down. It "arced a little bit." Takac had fallen 60 feet down, deeper than originally believed.

An experienced group of rescuers on the surface quickly realized they were in a desperate situation.

"We had seven guides and four rangers and five volunteers and several bystanders, and basically none of us had ever been in a position like this," Erickson said.

The narrowness of the crevasse made the rescue uniquely complicated.

"We've dealt with much further falls. But the narrowness and the tightness, and the fact that he was still alive …," he said.

The man was so stuck that he was having trouble breathing. It took eight to 10 hours just to get close enough to touch the climber.

Rescuers were able to hook a sling through his backpack and break it, giving him enough room to help him breathe.

Eventually they realized there was no getting the man out without widening the hole by hand, which meant chipping away at the ice.

One by one, the five National Park Service rescuers began taking turns lowering themselves into the hole to try to chip away at the ice and make room to lift Takac to safety.

It was so narrow that if you pointed your toes one way, Erickson said, there was not enough room to point the other foot a different way.

They tried everything they could think of.

Breaking away ice by hand, with an ax. Boiling water to melt the ice. Using a blowtorch in an attempt to expand the hole.

Nothing worked.

"It was completely impossible to remove him without removing the ice around him first."

It required extreme patience, and the ability not to panic in the most claustrophobic of environments. Roped up, deep in the crevasse and using power tools like chain saws, the rescuers had to be vigilant not to accidentally cut their own lines.

The climber was fading. At first he was able to speak to his rescuers, saying, "Snowshoes, snowshoes."

(Video) Panic Attack on Live Television | ABC World News Tonight | ABC News

He became quieter.

Then began a painstaking process in which one person would be lowered into the crevasse at a time, using an air chisel to chip away at the walls of the chute.

Eventually the rescuers cleared enough room to get underneath Takac and to free his legs from the snow and ice. He was cut free from the snowshoes.

"At that moment it was like, hallelujah, he's actually free, which seemed impossible hours before that," Erickson said.

When Takac reached the surface, he was "way past severe hypothermia."

A waiting helicopter rushed him to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.


06-07-2017, 11:08 AM

Measured in dollars, hunting makes no sense. Otherwise, it's priceless.

Author: Christine Cunningham (
Updated: 13 hours ago
Published 13 hours ago

When I grabbed my hunting vest, Hugo leapt from his dog bed toward me with the stealth speed of a crouched English setter suddenly sprung. Before I could make another move, he jumped into my arms without a care about falling to the floor.

Cogswell heard the ruckus and rounded the corner of the kitchen with a more deliberate speed. Both dogs pushed me into the pantry as I struggled to keep my footing while peering into their wide, pleading eyes. The other dogs were alerted, and soon 10 voices joined in a hellish choir of barking. Everyone wanted to go.

Forty clawed feet scampered across hardwood floors. They knocked items off of the counter. The barking, howling racket reached a frenzy as I tried to clarify in a vocabulary no one could hear or understand that I was just doing laundry.

Dare I wash my hunting vest? (
A spruce grouse is full of berries in the fall. Grouse are a delicacy then, demonstrating one of the difficulties of measuring the value of wild game, like gardening. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

Risk vs. reward

We are a bird hunting family, and the pressure to go hunting or at least go outside reaches a pitch during the offseason. As I try to make sense of it to the dogs, I try to make sense of it for myself.

Our favorite hunt is in the remote mountain country where finding birds requires risk. Any adventure includes an element of chance. What the dogs don't know is how humans weigh risks versus rewards.

How does upland bird hunting measure up?

As humans, how we occupy our time and determine our purpose is a serious concern for our overall well-being. Return on time invested — the hourly return on any time expenditure in dollars per hour — is one way to determine value.

If the goal of hunting is game meat, the time it takes to acquire wild game far exceeds market prices. Alaska's minimum wage is $9.75 per hour. The price for premium poultry at my nearest meat market is about $3 per pound. Deductions for travel, gear and other items required reduce the return, and the lack of a guarantee adds a greater risk to the investment.

However, if the goal is making memories, it's impossible to calculate the dollar value.

Calories burnt, calories provided

The physical aspect of our well-being — the health and energy we possess — is another area that can be measured. A calculation of return on energy determines the amount of energy produced for the amount of energy spent.

A bird hunter recently shared a photo of his wild game dinner on social media, and someone asked how many calories he burned to provide the meal. The man wore an activity tracker and posted a screenshot of the answer. He had traveled a distance of 8.75 miles and burned 806 calories. The quail provided 123 calories.

There have been times I've traveled uncounted miles into the mountains on ptarmigan hunts that do not lead to birds. If they did, my expenditure of energy would result in 37 calories per ounce of game bird.

The nutritional quality of game meat adds value. Ptarmigan have the highest percent of protein of any Alaska game species at 24.8 — compared, for instance, to 23.6 for chicken.

I'm not qualified to consider how the energy expended by the dogs or the fuel required to get to the base of the mountain figures into the energy equation, but it never pencils out.

If the goal is joy rather than energy, there's never a time I've regretted going out with the dogs for birds. To the bird hunter, the connection with a hunting partner, dogs and game birds deepens with every hunt.

The overall financial return on investment in bird hunting is abysmal because the bag limits in most units cannot overcome the cost of doing business. The bag limit for grouse and ptarmigan in areas on Alaska's road system is between five and 20 per day. (
A bowl of duck breasts from a day’s hunt is enough to feed two, but not a bargain in terms of what it cost to acquire meat. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

So why hunt?

Only a few remote areas in Alaska allow the nation's highest game bird limit of 50 birds per day. These are areas not likely to be overwhelmed with bird hunters but could provide a positive return if the hunter did not have to travel from outside the area.

So why do I hunt birds? The answer seldom makes practical or mathematical sense. My reasons scale down to something similar to why the dogs want to go. It's fun, and we do our best to be good at it.

We create memories, build strong relationships, open ourselves to new ideas and experiences, physically exert ourselves, eat healthy, experience joy and strive to understand.

Another thought arose when reading about ancient hunting peoples and primitive hunting cultures still in existence in modern times. In those cultures, a young person — a 10-year-old boy, for instance — can sustain himself and meet his basic food and shelter needs on his own. He roams the wild habitat that makes up his known world, and he masters it as a hunter and fisherman at a younger age than we can ever hope to master our more complex world.

For centuries, agriculture and ranching have met most of our survival needs. More often today, we rely on a multitude of other humans — often strangers in other countries — who are responsible for our basic needs.

The whole picture changes when, instead of a young man who goes out to hunt for food for sustenance, my hunting is considered a recreational activity. So why do I — an adult female in the modern world — hunt? It comes to me best when I attempt to explain to the dogs why we can't hunt.

It's not hunting season. It's expensive, we don't have time and I'm tired after a day at the office. These ideas are based on my social position and don't translate to an over-excited hunting dog, despite my effort to explain what "no" means.

Does hunting make sense anymore?

I think it does more than ever as we collectively address societal issues and our cultural inheritance. While hunting, we collect ourselves and realize what it means to be a single human in a world with still-wild places.

Most days, it's not possible to live free and be self-reliant. And, it's no wonder the dogs can't comprehend my choice to do the laundry. I can barely talk myself into it.

Christine Cunningham of Soldotna is a lifelong Alaskan and avid hunter. On alternate weeks, she writes about Alaska hunting. Contact Christine at


06-10-2017, 01:02 PM

Black bear electrocuted after it climbed an Anchorage power pole

Author: Chris Klint (
Updated: 17 hours ago
Published 1 day ago

Some Mountain View residents lost power Thursday when a black bear climbed a power pole and was fatally shocked by electrical equipment.

The incident was reported at about 6 p.m. near Thompson Avenue and Schodde Street, according to Ken Marsh with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Anchorage police responded, Marsh said.

Police didn't have details on the bear's age or gender, according to Lt. John McKinnon.

"What the caller said to police was that a bear had climbed a utility pole, and they thought that the bear had been electrocuted and fallen off," McKinnon said.

[Brown bear struck by vehicle on Glenn Highway euthanized by police (]

Mandy Kitchen, a resident of the neighborhood, said she called Municipal Light & Power and spotted the carcass after noticing power was out in the area.

"This bear and others have been around for a while," Kitchen wrote in an email. "(I) went out to see where it happened, saw the dead bear (in) the neighbor's yard." (
A black bear was found dead on Thursday near a power pole in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood after it climbed the pole and was electrocuted, officials said. (Courtesy Mandy Kitchen)

Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters wrote in an email that "there was no trauma observed that would suggest anything but electrocution" in the bear's death.

Marsh didn't have word on why the bear might have climbed the pole.

"We don't know," Marsh said. "Black bears will frequently seek refuge up trees if they're threatened."

Mark Johnston, Municipal Light & Power's general manager, said an initial call reporting the outage came in at about 5:40 p.m. About a dozen customers had lost power, which was restored in roughly an hour.

"When our crew went out to see what the problem was, they found the bear," Johnston said. "It came into contact with a part of the transformer which is electrified."

The dead bear was found at the base of the pole, Johnston said. ML&P hadn't received any reports of bears in the area or climbing poles prior to the outage.

[Bear breaks into Colorado house, plays the piano but not very well (]

Both Marsh and Johnston expressed surprised at Thursday's outage.

"It's kind of an unusual deal," Marsh said. "We have ravens and squirrels that get electrocuted and sometimes take the power out, but it's the first time I've seen a bear do that."

"This is the first time I'm aware of, at least in our service territory, of a bear causing an outage," Johnston said.

Fish and Game contacted someone on a list of people interested in salvaging game animals to retrieve the bear's carcass, Marsh said.
About this Author

Chris Klint (

Chris Klint, a lifelong Alaskan and UAA graduate, covers breaking news in the mornings. He spent more than five years at Anchorage TV station KTUU before joining Alaska Dispatch News.


06-10-2017, 01:10 PM

Dwindling spring snowpack could be a troubling sign for Alaska wolverines

Author: Yereth Rosen (
Updated: 5 days ago
Published 5 days ago

Earlier spring snowmelt in northern Alaska could mean future trouble for wolverines, elusive fur-bearing mammals that hide in snow caves when they are young and roam vast distances when they are adults.

A newly published study ( examined end-of-May snowpack at wolverine den sites in northern Alaska and in the Rocky Mountains, and it finds the Alaska snowpack to be sparser. High-latitude wolverine tundra habitat may lose its spring snow earlier than low-latitude but high-altitude habitats, and future management should take that trend into account, said the study, published in the bulletin of the Wildlife Society, an 80-year-old international organization.

The study uses a combination of photographic records to compare late-May snow conditions at known den sites in 2016. At 86 percent of the high-altitude Rocky Mountain dens — sites in Idaho and Montana — snow persisted in late May, sometimes in heavy layers, the study found. But at the northern Alaska den sites examined, there was very little snow remaining at the end of May, just small patches scattered over large areas of bare ground, the study said.

Wolverines, the largest land-dwelling members of the weasel family, use dens to give birth and take care of their young. Wolverine kits are born between February and April and are nursed for a little over two months, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's species profile ( In Interior and northern Alaska, wolverine dens are carved out of snow and have tunnels that can be up to 60 yards long, the state said.

Just how much snow wolverines need is not fully understood, the study says. (

Wolverine (Alaska Department of Fish and Game)

Lead author Audrey Magoun, a Fairbanks-based scientist who did her Ph.D. research in Northwest Alaska, said all the dens she examined in that region were located entirely within the snow column. That includes the tunnels that branched out, Magoun said in an email.

Elsewhere, wolverines are known to use a mix of snow, rocks, downed trees, tundra soil and other material to construct dens, she said. Even when the wolverine dens are made with mixed materials, snow can be important, she said.

"Snow probably provides protection from severe cold even if the den is within the boulders and the young are adequately protected from predators," she said in her email.

Snow is used by Alaska wolverines for more than denning, said Tom Glass of the Wildlife Conservation Society, a co-author of the study.

"The question on how wolverines will be affected by climate change is clearly complex," Glass said in a statement released by the Wildlife Conservation Society. "During our aerial and ground-based surveys on the North Slope, we have observed the use of snow holes for denning, and also by both males and females for caching food, resting, or perhaps shelter from predators such as wolves."

For Lower 48 wolverines, persistent and stable snow depth greater than about 5 feet "appears to be a requirement for natal denning," according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (

The new study does not identify trends in spring snow cover. But elsewhere, there is documentation of earlier spring snowmelt in northern Alaska and the Arctic, part of a pattern associated with rapid warming in the northernmost regions.

Average "snow-off" and green-up dates in the five national park units in Arctic Alaska have probably advanced by six days over the past eight decades, according to a recent study ( The study, published in the journal Remote Sensing, uses satellite imagery of snow and vegetation in five northern Alaska Park Service units, along with historic weather information from Kotzebue in Northwest Alaska.

Arctic-wide, there is evidence that snowmelt is happening much earlier than it did in the past. A 2010 study ( by Environment Canada researchers found that from 1967 to 2008, pan-Arctic snow cover in May declined by 14 percent; the June decline over that period was 46 percent, according to the study. A follow-up 2012 study ( by two of the same researchers found a 17.8 percent per decade reduction in June snow cover from 1979 to 2011, a faster rate of decline than recorded for September Arctic sea ice during that period.

Nevertheless, Alaska wolverine populations appear to be in good shape, and that goes for the animals in Northwest Alaska, Magoun said. But by nature, wolverines are distributed in very low densities, she said. The highest wolverine densities ever recorded fall in the range of 10 to 15 animals for every 250,000 acres, she said. In the Chugach National Forest of Southcentral Alaska, the average density is 4.5 to 5 wolverines for every 250,000 acres, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (

Wolverines are also known to travel far to find food, with adult males roaming up to 385 square miles of territory and adult females covering up to 230 square miles, according to Fish and Game.

The health of the Rocky Mountain wolverine population is the subject of debate and study. A proposal for Endangered Species Act protection cited climate change and wolverines' need for snowy dens as one of several justifications for a listing as threatened. Another justification is habitat fragmentation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2014 rejected the listing proposal. But a 2016 federal court ruling ( in Montana concluded that the agency's decision was "arbitrary and capricious," driven by politics rather than science. The ruling ordered the agency to revive the listing process for the wolverine.

"No greater level of certainty is needed to see the writing on the wall for this snow-dependent species standing squarely in the path of global climate change," said the ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dana Christensen, a graduate of the University of Montana School of Law and an appointee of Barack Obama .


06-10-2017, 01:59 PM

For two Alaska villages, walruses remain essential. As sea ice disappears, can it last?

Thinning sea ice puts walruses nearly out of reach. The federal government may list walruses as an endangered species. And ivory bans elsewhere are making it hard for walrus-tusk carvers to sell their art.
Author: Lisa Demer ( Published May 26

First in a series.

SAVOONGA — No one can quite believe this and yet they saw it coming.

Around St. Lawrence Island in the middle of the Bering Sea, a place closer to Russia than the U.S. mainland, the sea ice arrived later this year and went out earlier than anyone can remember. With it went the walruses that fill freezers and drying racks and provide ivory tusks for dozens of carvers.

"This year it's worse. Unusual. The ice moved out in April," said Larry Kava, 76, a tribal and cultural leader in Savoonga, an island village 164 miles west of Nome.

The people of the island are feeling pressure like never before, and it's coming from three directions all at once. Thinning sea ice puts walruses nearly out of reach. The federal government may list walruses as an endangered species. Ivory bans elsewhere that are rooted in concerns for elephants are making it hard for walrus-tusk carvers ( to sell their art, a vital source of money in a cash-starved place. (

Felix Wongittilin holds a walrus heart in the entry to his Savoonga home last month. Walrus meat, blubber and heart are all foods that many in the village rely on. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Nowhere do people rely on walruses more than on Alaska's St. Lawrence Island. The other day in old town Savoonga, Harriet Penayah, age 84, stewed a walrus for her extended family. Nearby, Roy Waghiyi half-cooked some walrus meat and blubber with skin on his Coleman stove for a late lunch.

"Most of the time, I eat this," he said.

Delbert Pungowiyi, president of the Native Village of Savoonga, said the survival of the people of St. Lawrence Island depends on the walrus and its ivory. Pungowiyi, 57, who heads the tribal organization that most refer to simply as the IRA, for Indian Reorganization Act, talks of lives intertwined with walrus since "time immemorial."

Villages that decades ago created quotas to preserve walruses now risk losing them over circumstances beyond their control.

"The total loss of our identity is on the line," he said.

Spectacular seas (

Waves crash on the Bering Sea shoreline in Savoonga on April 19. Many in the village say this spring was the earliest they can remember ice going out, something that complicates walrus hunting. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

The sea still provides most of the food for the island's two villages, Savoonga and Gambell, home to about 1,400 people combined.

"Walrus capital of the world," says a sign on the Verlin Noongwook Memorial water plant in Savoonga.

Here, a community celebration or a corporation meeting may take place largely in St. Lawrence Island Yupik, a dialect distinct from the Central Yup'ik of Southwest Alaska. Kids know it too — if their parents speak it at home. Internet connections are slow and expensive here, so most people aren't glued to smartphones. Children double and triple up on four-wheelers — Hondas, everyone calls them, no matter the make — for trips to open gym at the school or the village store.

They hunt walrus because even with the high cost of bullets and gas, it still beats the local price of a frozen T-bone steak, $18.69 a pound. Plus, it's nutritious and familiar food.

In the past 10 years, Gambell and Savoonga accounted for 85 percent of all the walruses taken in Alaska, according to federal numbers.

So far this year, residents said they were thankful for the few brought in and eager for more. (

Men push a boat to higher ground on the Savoonga coastline as rough seas are expected on April 19. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Prime hunting time for walruses used to be each May when the mass of drifting pack ice went out. Hunters could launch skiffs into open leads and the Bering Sea. Giant ice floes bigger than most village buildings provided walrus resting grounds and hunting grounds too.

Walrus hunting went into June and even July some years. Now thick pack ice doesn't have time to form and the thin new ice doesn't last. Walrus season sputters to a close before some hunters get going.

Chasing the ice

A walrus, or, in Yupik, ayveq, is an immense, blubbery, whiskered beast. Bulls keep growing until age 15 or 16 and can reach 4,000 pounds, heavier than a small SUV, with tusks more than 3 feet long. Females are smaller and prized for smoother hides and tusks compared to males, which tend to rough one another up.

This year hunters went out from Savoonga's shore starting in March. By early April, they were fixated on the sea, the wind and the ice. They checked online weather reports. They watched waves. They talked to one another.

Kava, who no longer hunts, remembered how his father would predict weather a week ahead by reading the skies.

"I try but the skies don't work now," he said. (

Waves break near the shore in Savoonga in April. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

A hunting window opened around the second week of April when winds quieted and walruses were within 15 miles of shore — for a few quick days.

Carl Pelowook Jr. had already gotten a bowhead whale from the south side of the island. Now he was looking for walrus to the north for food to share with crews, their families, women, elders, whoever is in need of meat. It's hard work that he loves.

Along the Savoonga shore, wooden skeletons of walrus-skin boats rest on racks. These days everyone has switched from traditional skin boats to 18-foot-long Lund skiffs. They are safer, faster and easier to maneuver and maintain.

On the evening of April 13, the wind finally calmed.

On the water that night, his front man watched for walrus and seal — and dangerous ice floes — ready to raise a signaling arm. No one tried to talk over the 40-horsepower motor.

Everyone wants to ‘eat good’ (

Six-year-old Winter Pelowook holds up ivory from a walrus hunted by her father, Carl Pelowook Jr., at their Savoonga home last month. Carl’s mother, Jean Pelowook, is at left and father, Carl Pelowook Sr., is at right. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

At the kitchen table a few days after the hunt, his father, Carl Sr., listened to him tell the story and prompted him to share the signals with which hunters communicate.

Point to the feet for maklak, or bearded seal, the animal whose skin becomes the soles of the winter boots known as mukluks, the son said. Gesture with cupped hands from the face on down, like where tusks would be, and that meant walruses were ahead.

Pelowook, 37, and his team pulled up to big ice floes. They scouted with binoculars and spotted a small herd of males on the ice. Crewmembers aimed 30-caliber rifles. On this trip, they got three, plus a bearded seal.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, only Alaska Natives from coastal communities can hunt walrus. Under federal law, they can get the animals year-round with no limit, as long as they don't waste meat.

To conserve walruses, Savoonga and Gambell tribes long had have their own limits in place, now six adults per boat....


06-10-2017, 02:14 PM

....Now six adults per boat per trip in Savoonga and four in Gambell. Calves are unlimited. Split open, hung on racks and fermented for months, they are a sought-after delicacy in spring when walruses migrate past at calving time.

"We call them birthday food," Carl Sr. said.

Hunters from the island take almost all parts: livers, hearts, kidneys, red meat, intestines, flippers, the skin with blubber attached known as coak or, in Yupik, manguna.

On the ice, Pelowook's crew butchered the walruses. They chopped off the tusks and left the heads, which can weigh 100 pounds. (
One of Carl Pelowook Jr.’s walrus ivories is shown tagged with a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service number. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

The skiff seemed small for the Bering Sea but if open leads close up, hunters must be able to pull boats across pack ice, Pelowook said. With plastic on the keel, his boat slides easily.

Fifteen miles out, sea ice kept the water flat and became azigutaq, shelter from the wind. But the hunters had to cross miles of open sea in the open skiff. The boat rode heavy with walrus and men.

"We got walrus and we're on our way in," Pelowook texted, using a satellite communication device.

On VHF radio, his crew announced that anyone who wanted walrus should come to his boat on the beach. He filled eight gunnysacks. Good crewmembers must be treated well, he said. Everyone got choice meat and fat, organs and flippers. Crewmembers got tusks too.

"Other people want to eat good as me, so I share them," Pelowook said.

The first night after the hunt, his family ate fried walrus liver, like they always do when they have it fresh. His favorite is the skin and blubber. Some serve walrus meat with Korean kimchi and other vegetables. Some like it in a stew with onions and potatoes.

Pelowook almost always comes home with food, be it birds or seal, walrus or whale, said Carl Sr., 73, who no longer hunts. His joints are wrecked from years of hefting walruses.

As Pelowook told the story, his 6-year-old daughter Winter came inside asking about the Honda. His twins, who are 7, are a bit picky but Winter loves Native foods.

"She likes anything I like, even raw," he said.

An east-side hunt (
Walrus ivory and skulls are stored in the snow outside a Savoonga home on April 19. The animals are normally butchered on the sea ice after they are hunted. Boats usually return with just food and ivory. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

A week later, the ice pack was 50 or more miles out, hours away by small boat.

Richmond Toolie and two other men started their walrus trip on land. On April 20, they loaded up snowmachines and sleds with gas cans and grub, warm clothes and coveralls, then drove 90 winding miles across slushy snow to the island's eastern edge. There, they had a camp and skiff to launch to the closest ice.

An earlier hunting party had done the same but got nothing.

Many hunters can't afford gas, at $4.65 a gallon in Savoonga, for such a journey, elders said.

Toolie's niece, Delainie, 8, was one of few people not looking forward to fresh walrus.

"They are too stinky," she said, playing outside as the men geared up.

What does she like to eat?

"Chicken and even chocolate pudding."

A few days later, Toolie's group came home with three walruses to share. Some would go to those who couldn't hunt.

"Whenever seen, if you have the opportunity to catch one, you'll get one," Pelowook said.

Ivory at issue (
Felix Wongittilin holds a pair of walrus tusks in the living room of his Savoonga home on April 19. Wongittilin, like many in the village, is an ivory carver in addition to relying on walrus for food. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Just about every man on the island is an ivory carver or has a brother who is, and some women are too. When a newcomer arrives, word flies through the village.

"Want to buy any carvings?" they ask. Some give a specific reason they hope to sell a carved ivory whale or halibut, a tiny bird or walrus: money for gasoline to hunt, food for the baby, heating fuel.

Others have direct lines to galleries and collectors. Many sell through Maruskiya's of Nome, a gift shop and wholesaler.

A web of conflicting and complex laws on ivory deters some potential buyers, said Andrew James, whose family owns the business. Some countries and even states have banned imports of ivory from any species.

"Without clarity, you are constantly on edge," James said. Maruskiya's stopped going to one promising Native American art show held each February near San Francisco, in part because of California's ivory ban, he said. (
Seth Rookok holds a dragon carved of walrus ivory in Savoonga on April 21. He said his brother, Andrew Rookok, carved it. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

"When they come from out of country, like Germany, Australia and other places that have banned ivory, all they can do is look," said Felix Wongittilin, a 30-year-old in Savoonga who has been carving more than half his life.

It is legal under federal and state law for Alaska Natives to harvest, buy and carve walrus ivory ( as well as ancient ivory found from extinct mammoths.

Ivory from African elephants is the concern. The United States last year strengthened existing rules into a near-total ban of elephant ivory ( Even where walrus ivory is legal, international travelers may need an expensive, time-intensive permit to transport it.

Carvers are not slowing down, yet.


06-10-2017, 02:16 PM

Carvers are not slowing down, yet. (
Walrus ivory and carving tools rest on a blanket of ivory dust in Felix Wongittilin’s carving workspace on April 19. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Ben Pungowiyi, a teacher aide in Savoonga, pulled from his pocket an exquisite ivory walrus that he carved. His work is on the cover of the art book "Savoonga Ivory Carvers."

One accomplished carver, Savoonga's Edwin Noongwook, 41, works in ivory, whale bone and sometimes stone. One recent day, he sat outside the small house he is building in Savoonga, drilling details into a large bone sculpture of a mother holding a baby.

With walrus hunting so challenging, it's hard to get enough ivory, he said. And with restrictions against ivory, it's also hard to find customers.

"People are afraid to buy it," he said. (
Dean Kulowiyi holds a piece of his artwork he was selling in Savoonga on April 19. Kulowiyi, like many residents of the St. Lawrence Island village, carves ivory and bone. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Wongittilin's carving studio takes up a corner of the front room of his family's small home in the village. Ivory dust covers the floor. His tools and work fill every nook.

Carving is work to Wongittilin, who says he doesn't make much at it. He was running out of heating fuel and didn't have gas for his cooker.

"If I had a permanent job, I would never carve," he said.

‘People of the walrus’ (
Roy Waghiyi catches a ride in a ATV-pulled sled to his home in Savoonga in April. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Roy Waghiyi, 60, said his extended family would normally eat 10 walruses a year, but he doesn't expect that many this year.

"Luckily we have other sources of food, not just walrus," Waghiyi said. "Luckily we have reindeer, birds, seals."

His brother gave him some of the first-caught walrus, which he stored in a box in a cold arctic entry. He didn't have a refrigerator or regular stove. As he quick-boiled meat and blubber on his Coleman stove in the entryway, he brought out a piece of fresh whale baleen and sliced off some of the soft, white gum tissue at the base to chew. (
Roy Waghiyi boils walrus meat and fat for a meal in Savoonga on April 20. This walrus was hunted by his brother, he said. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Plenty of walruses are on ice floes in the sea, though hard to reach, he said.

"The walrus are resilient," Waghiyi said.

He tore a piece of cardboard for a simple serving tray. The walrus was half-done, still red and tender, the way many like it. It tasted soft, oily and like the sea. With a sprinkle of seasoned salt, the meat was something to savor.

In mid-May, a few hunters were out again. Some were bringing home walrus, Pungowiyi said.

"They had more choice on the mainland," the tribal leader said. "Whereas we are on the island. We are the people of the walrus." (
Roy Waghiyi slices walrus in his in Savoonga home. Waghiyi pairs a thin slice of meat with a thin slice of fat dabbed together in seasoned salt for each bite. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Lisa Demer and visual journalist Marc Lester recently spent a week on St. Lawrence Island. This is the first in a series of articles about life in Savoonga and Gambell. Next: Pacific walruses were nearly wiped out a century ago. Now they face a new threat. (


06-10-2017, 02:19 PM

St. Lawrence Island tribal groups tried to protect walruses. Now the animal they rely on faces a threat they cannot control.

Long ago, the walruses were almost wiped out, and with them the people of St. Lawrence Island. Climate change is bringing a new threat.

Author: Lisa Demer (
Published May 27

Second in a series.

SAVOONGA — Long ago, the walruses were almost wiped out, and with them the people of St. Lawrence Island.

Commercial whalers were the danger. Now a new threat is emerging from the changing sea.

The island used to be home to an estimated 4,000 residents in dozens of villages. Today the population is 1,400, and they live in just two villages, Savoonga and Gambell.

In the late 1800s, commercial whalers slaughtered an estimated 140,000 walruses, mainly for fat and ivory, according to a 1980 study prepared for Arctic oil development that relied on old whaling logbooks. Someone from the island found old records in Washington, D.C., that suggested the slaughter was closer to 400,000. (
The wooden frame of a skin boat rests on a rack near the Savoonga coastline last month. Skin boats made of walrus hides used to be used for hunting but have been replaced by aluminum​ ​skiffs. Women formerly split the thickness of hides before they were stretched over driftwood frames​. Each boat was covered with two hides from female walruses. Many residents said the open water came to the area a month early this year. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

"The unrecorded part we don't even know," said Delbert Pungowiyi, president of Savoonga's tribe.

Whalers also brought new diseases and traded barrels of alcohol for ivory, fox skins and polar bear furs. Some local men drank too much and failed to prepare for winter, Pungowiyi said, retelling the old stories.

And walruses were no longer there. Between 1878 and 1880, a great famine killed many of the St. Lawrence Island Native people, according to historical reports and descendants of those who survived.

"The unimaginable depletion of the walrus and the seals is what really caused the big famine," Pungowiyi said. (
Delbert Pungowiyi, president of the Native Village of Savoonga, said the early retreat of sea ice from the island this spring places walrus hunting challenges on the village. “It’s having a powerful impact on our food security,” he said. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Russians also hunted them to feed farmed foxes and minks, and Alaska Native hunters to feed dog teams and sometimes for ivory. But gradually, walruses recovered.

These days, most Pacific walruses look fat and healthy, hunters and government biologists say.


06-10-2017, 02:21 PM

Walruses forage on the sea floor for clams, snails, worms and other sea animals. A population crash in the 1980s might have been caused by their own overpopulation.

Researchers still are trying to count Pacific walruses and whether the population is going up or down.

The animals cover a huge range in the Bering and Chukchi seas. They spend their lives mainly in water, so are challenging to spot. A new preliminary estimate puts the number at a healthy 280,000, said Jim MacCracken, who oversees walrus and sea otter programs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It could be as low as 90,000 or as high as 470,000, he said.

‘No ice this year’

Years ago, thick polar ice surrounded much of 100-mile-long St. Lawrence Island each winter. Broken pack ice remained even when the main ice went out, said Roy Waghiyi, Savoonga tribal treasurer, pointing out spots on a map at the IRA building, for the Indian Reorganization Act.

"Now this ice is gone also. No ice this year," said Waghiyi, 60.

That new reality came up in almost every conversation during a week in April on the island.

"It didn't last long," said Larry Kava, 76, a tribal leader.

"This year is probably a record breaker," Pungowiyi, 57, said. "Three and a half months of winter as opposed to nine months."

Only in January did the freezeup begin, and three months later, the ice was gone. It never had time to thicken.

On most of the island, rough seas sidelined aluminum skiffs on beaches.

With no protective shorefast ice, big waves along the north shore at Savoonga crushed barrel-sized ice into softball-sized bits in the space of one April afternoon. (
Wagner Mokiyuk, left, and Kermit Kingeekuk take target practice at chunks of ice near the Savoonga shoreline. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Thin ice is quick to go, said Edmond Apassingok, a Gambell resident, hunter and village corporation leader. Winds push it away, higher temperatures melt it like butter in a pan, waves pulverize it into snowcone material.

Walruses prefer stable, thick ice for haulouts, where they rest between dives for food, said Paul Rookok, 76, the former president of the Savoonga tribe. Calves are better protected from orcas there too, he said.

"They don't trust that ice so much," he said of thin ice.

Thousands of the animals died in stampedes in 2007 after congregating along the Russia coast in haulouts that grew big as sea ice disappeared. Some may have been spooked by planes or vessels. Now, guidance on how to prevent that is more available. Calves especially are vulnerable and have died along Alaska beaches too.

It's been 20 or 30 years since wind-blown layers of thick pack ice pushed up to the island, said Paul Apangalook, 65, president of Gambell's village corporation, Sivuqaq Inc.

"I think changes happened long before Western man noticed," Apangalook said.


06-10-2017, 02:23 PM (
Waves break on the beach in Gambell last month. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Higher Bering Sea temperatures are causing the sea to freeze later and the ice to begin to melt earlier, said Phyllis Stabeno, a Seattle-based oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This year's short ice life was startling, she said.

"As scientists looking at the big ice maps, we were seeing it and they were living it," Stabeno said.

As of April, the amount of Arctic sea ice, including that in the Bering Sea, was down by 394,000 square miles from the long-term average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. That is a loss the size of Texas and New Mexico combined.

Village residents get ready (
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service monitors, who meet with returning hunters and label walrus ivory, gathered last month to prepare for their upcoming work. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

In the living room of a house in old town Savoonga, a group of local residents spent a Saturday in April assembling label kits for when the walruses come in. They are the walrus monitors, hired each year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to meet the boats of returning hunters during prime walrus season. They help track the legal harvest of ivory and provide the government with information on walruses and hunting conditions.

The monitors attach temporary labels to each tusk. Most years they also collect samples for scientists from the liver, meat, skin, whiskers, ovaries and other parts, depending on the research underway. This year, they are collecting teeth and muscle that can be used in genetic studies to estimate the population.

The monitors collect information too. How long was the trip? How far did hunters travel to get walruses? What other animals were taken? (
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lead monitor for Savoonga, Harold Kiyuklook, holds his 6-month-old daughter Blake Kulowiyi-Kiyuklook. The monitors, who meet with returning hunters and label walrus ivory, prepared for their upcoming work. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Since 1989, Savoonga and Gambell combined have brought home more than 26,800 walruses, far more than anywhere else. In all, more than 35,500 walruses were taken by hunters in that time from 47 Alaska villages. Russian hunters got some too.

As of the last four years, Savoonga and Gambell are averaging about 250 walruses a year per village, about half of what they got in the 1990s. Bad weather, deteriorating ice and high fuel costs all contribute to the drop in harvest.

Another once-big walrus community, Little Diomede, has been getting fewer than 10 a year. Some walrus-hunting villages now get one or two, or none.

Are walruses threatened? (
George Noongwook drums with other men at an event in the Native Village of Savoonga building on April 20. The drums are made with the stomach of walrus. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Biologists are now asking whether diminishing sea ice poses a new threat to ice-loving walruses.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is facing a Sept. 30 deadline on whether to list walruses as threatened or endangered in response to a petition filed in 2008 by the Center for Biological Diversity. The environmental group calls the disappearance of sea ice a grave threat to animals that use it for resting platforms as they forage along the sea floor.


06-10-2017, 02:25 PM

Studies from radio-tagged walruses indicate that those on land haulouts are spending a lot more energy traveling to feeding areas and less time resting or foraging than walruses that can rest on ice, according to Chad Jay, lead walrus researcher with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (
Children play in a puddle in Savoonga last month. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Residents worry that hunting will be limited or halted if walruses receive extra protections.

Restricted hunting is unlikely, said MacCracken of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Walruses are abandoning ice when it is too far from feeding grounds and making new haulouts on land, he said.

"The walrus have kind of figured out — somewhat — what is going on and adapted to that," MacCracken said.

Unless walrus numbers crash, Alaska Native hunters should not face restrictions under the Endangered Species Act, he said.

Savoonga and Gambell are taking action themselves through tribal law. A flyer on the wall at the lodge in Gambell titled "The Importance of the Marine Mammal Ordinance" explains how the villages that so rely on walrus are using old ways to conserve in modern times.

"Our goal is to protect marine mammals and their habitat, and to assure that walrus continue to play a defining role in the cultural identity of our children and grandchildren and beyond," the flyer says. (
Lucas Penayah, 7, makes juice in Harriet Penayah’s home in Savoonga. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Tribal groups put limits on walrus

Back in 1934, Savoonga and Gambell set their own quotas to keep their food source from being wiped out, said Kava, a current tribal leader. Modern rifles and, later, Lund skiffs were highly effective compared to harpoons and skin boats, he said.

A cap of four walruses per boat per trip was reinstated in 2010 under new tribal ordinances. (Savoonga recently raised the limit from four to six adult walruses because of how hard hunting has become with diminished sea ice.)

"You can make another trip for four more," say handwritten signs with a drawing of a walrus posted in both Gambell and Savoonga.

When aluminum boats became prevalent, suddenly many more men were walrus hunters and some young, inexperienced captains became too focused on tusks, not meat, Kava said. They were forgetting elders' guidance.

"The forefathers come up with quota," Kava said. "We're like a manager for our food, the subsistence way of life." (
Whale bones create an archway over crosses at the Savoonga cemetery. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alaska Dispatch News reporter Lisa Demer and visual journalist Marc Lester recently spent a week on St. Lawrence Island. This is the second in a series of articles about life in Savoonga and Gambell ( Next: Ivory diver of the Bering Sea finds peace, ancient tusks in his underwater workplace.


06-10-2017, 02:27 PM

Alaska News (, police are aware of that moose family on the Glenn. Please stop calling 911.

Author: Jerzy Shedlock (
Updated: May 26
Published May 25 (
A mother moose and her twin newborn offspring rest next to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson along the Glenn Highway on Wednesday. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Anchorage police are asking the public to stop calling 911 about a moose that gave birth to two calves near a Glenn Highway overpass after receiving more than 100 calls.

"Two days ago Mama Moose gave birth to twins near the area of the Glenn Highway and (Fort Richardson) overpass, on the inbound side. Fish and Game have checked on her and she is fine," according to an Anchorage Police Department statement (

Since the birth, police dispatchers have received a flood of calls about seeing the moose in the area. Now, the police department is asking people to stop tying up their emergency phone line for a non-emergency reason.

Calls about the moose would be reasonable in more serious situations, like people trying to harm the animals, said police spokeswoman Renee Oistad.

"We cannot relocate her or her babies," Oistad said.

Ken Marsh, spokesman for Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife Conservation, said biologists have decided to leave the moose alone.

"She's relaxed," Marsh said. "We don't want to upset her and cause her to run into the roadway. Urban moose are just as dangerous as those in the wilderness."

There also have been reports of commuters nearly causing car accidents by "suddenly stopping for the purpose of taking pictures of this new moose family," police said. Oistad asked people to refrain from slamming on their brakes to stop and snap photos.


06-13-2017, 12:56 PM

After 70 years of marriage, a Kenai couple's love endures through sickness, health

Author: Michelle Theriault Boots (
Updated: 12 hours ago
Published 22 hours ago

KENAI — At the beginning of June, Donald and Luella Haralson made it to a milestone few couples reach: their 70th wedding anniversary.

Their son Douglas Haralson prepared an announcement for the occasion, with a greatest-hits rundown of his parents' decades together: They were married in their home state of Oklahoma after World War II. Donald's career as an Air Force officer took them to Italy, Germany, Japan and all over the U.S. They retired in Alaska, to be close to grandchildren.

"My parents will get a big kick out of seeing it in the newspaper," he wrote to Alaska Dispatch News.

What the announcement couldn't have described is the day-to-day reality of what one marriage looks like after seven decades.

It's a story of what endures after age and disease have stripped away everything but the marrow of a life shared: commitment. (

Don and Lue Haralson celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary June 1, 2017. The couple, who live in Kenai, first married in Oklahoma and moved to Alaska to be near family members in 2001. Don is the primary caregiver for his wife, who struggles with memory loss. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

‘In sickness and in health’

That story lives with the Haralsons, in a tidy ranch house off a back road in Kenai. Donald, 91, is a retired Air Force colonel, tall, plainspoken and funny, wearing a plaid shirt and suspenders. In his long military career, he served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Luella, 94, is slight, with delicate features and short silvery hair. She lit out from a tiny Oklahoma ranching town after high school for a civil service job in Washington, D.C., something her family says few women did at the time.

She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about five years ago. These days, she sometimes doesn't recognize her son or husband. She forgets conversations as she's having them.

Don and Lue, as they are known, are far from alone. Douglas and his wife and children live right across the street, and help is always on offer. Their daughter-in-law comes over every afternoon. (

Doug Haralson helps his mother walk down steps in her backyard on June 7, 2017. Don Haralson is at right. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

But Don is his wife's primary caretaker. They employ no professional nursing help. It is Don who rides the unpredictable waves of dementia alongside his wife. He cooks breakfast for her and helps remind her who he is when she forgets. He takes her to lunch most days and listens to her when she's scared and confused, which is often.

"It's hard to get him to let us help," said Douglas, their only child.

For Don, marriage after 70 years means living up to words he uttered at the Pilgrim Congregational Church in Oklahoma City on their wedding day. (

Though it has been difficult to care for his wife, who struggles with memory loss, Don Haralson remains committed to being her primary caregiver. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

"On June 1 of 1947, we took a vow," he said in his backyard recently, swatting mosquitoes. "And part of that vow was I told the minister that as long as we both shall live, I will try to take care of her, in sickness and in health.

"And that's what I'm trying to do. There are times when I wish to hell I wasn't."

Inside, his son was patiently re-explaining to Lue who the visitors were and why they were here.

If it would make her happy

What's it like caring for a spouse with dementia?

"I'll put it this way: It's not easy," Don said.

Besides the memory loss and endless repeated and forgotten conversations, dementia has made Lue fearful and at times paranoid. She sometimes tells Don that someone is trying to kill him.

"She'll say, 'We gotta go, they're gonna come in here and kill you.' And I'll say, 'Who? I'd like to see them try.' "

Hardest for Don is the depression that experts say accompanies dementia.

She wants to go back to Oklahoma to see her long-dead family. She can't accept or remember that they are no longer on earth, Don said. He'd move back if it would make her happy. (

Lue Haralson talks with her son, Doug, at home in Kenai. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

All this is so different than the Lue who Don met in a Norman, Oklahoma, restaurant just after World War II. That November, Lue was working at the naval air station and living in a rooming house. Don had just been discharged and was visiting the restaurant where he had washed dishes in high school.

There was no love-at-first-sight spark, but he remembers the olive-green suit she often wore, and their date to an Oklahoma Sooners basketball game. Another time, he took her to a dance and stepped all over her feet.

"I had never danced before," he said.

He admired her independence. He loved her cooking, the chili she made extra-spicy for him. He prized her intelligence, the important jobs she worked at when few women did so, such as legislative recorder for the state of Oklahoma.

"She must have been one hell of a secretary, because people wanted her to work for them," he said.

In his long career with the Air Force, the two were stationed all over the world. He relished her adventurous spirit, their travels together and the friends they collected wherever they lived. In their 60s, they traveled around Europe for five months on a rail pass. They'd stop by their son's home — he was living there at the time — on weekends to do laundry.

"Kind of like college kids," Douglas said. (

A photograph from Don and Lue Haralson’s wedding day is framed at their home. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)

Their house is filled with reminders of those years: Mementos from their blowout 50th anniversary party in Oklahoma, with a preserved blush rose corsage and boutonniere. Over the fireplace hangs a framed painting of a lively city square in Florence, Italy, where they were stationed for a few years in their 20s.

‘I love the woman’

People have suggested that it might be time for Lue to live in a nursing facility. Don does not agree.

"It wasn't anyplace I would want to stay," he said. "And I damn sure wouldn't want my love to be staying."

When Lue fell and broke her hip in 2014, he stayed with her in the long-term rehabilitation center for all but one or two nights. In the hospital, he slept in a reclining chair.

"It was a fight to get him out of there at all," his son said.

Don was astonished when a doctor tried to delicately ask him just how far he wanted the medical team to go, treatment-wise, to help his wife recover.

"I said, 'What the hell are you talking about?' I said, 'By God, I plan for you to do everything you possibly can.' "

Don doesn't know if they'll make it to a 75th anniversary. For as many years as they have left together, he will be by her side.

"Well it's simple," he said. "I love the woman." (

Doug Haralson shows his mother, Lue Haralson, satellite photos of Italy. Though Lue experiences significant memory loss, she recalled the places in the photographs clearly from her time living there with her husband many years ago. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)


06-13-2017, 01:01 PM

Lovely stuff, Skip. Thanks.

Today's the anniversary for Herself and me; we won't make 70 of them, but it's been a very fine ride so far.


06-14-2017, 04:01 AM

Lovely stuff, Skip. Thanks.

Today's the anniversary for Herself and me; we won't make 70 of them, but it's been a very fine ride so far.

Happy Anniversary, Tom and 'Herself'. May you have a lifetime of happiness together.


06-14-2017, 04:03 AM

Town Criers from around the world coming to Annapolis Valley for international competition

ANNAPOLIS VALLEY, N.S. – More than 20 Town Criers, dressed in stunning, colourful regalia, will proclaim across the Valley this September.

The 2017 Annapolis Valley International Town Criers Competition, which takes place between Sept. 12 -17 will see competitors from around the world attempt to cry their way to the top.

Gary Long, organizer of the event and town crier for many communities in the Annapolis Valley said he’s excited to bring so many diverse and interesting people to the region. “This is actually a first for the Valley,” Long said. “Both Lloyd Smith (a fellow town crier, who represents Windsor and other communities in Hants County) and I envisioned holding something like this in the Valley for a long time.”

The competition will be making several stops across the Annapolis Valley, with the main events being held in Windsor, Annapolis Royal and the finale at Grand Pre.

“It is a world-class competition, I’ve had at least 24 (town criers) express serious interest in participating,” Long said. “One is a four-time world champion, another is an Australian national champion, there are some provincial champions, British champions, so it is being billed throughout the town crier world as a top-notch competition.”

Competitions like this one used to be held in Halifax and other Maritime cities in the 80’s and 90’s, but those eventually petered out.

Long said he sees this as a way to bring Nova Scotia back into the town crier scene in a big way.

How the competition works:

The competition itself is split between three ‘cries.’

The Windsor cry will be a free subject, so competitors can choose their own topic to proclaim.

The Annapolis Royal cry will pertain to Canada’s 150th birthday.

And the Grand Pre cry has to deal with the Annapolis Valley.

A panel of judges, including the host criers, will evaluate each crier. They’ll be evaluating the uniforms, proclamations, clarity and projection among other factors.

Scores from all three will be compiled and the one with the highest score will be proclaimed the winner.

Awards will be given out on the final day of the competition at Grand Pre.

Long said he wanted to bring the competition to the Annapolis Valley to promote the region to an international audience.

“I know from my own experience going to these things that there is a lot of good spinoff that comes from it,” Long said. “I just thoroughly believe in promoting the Annapolis Valley and Nova Scotia.”

Although some of the venues aren’t confirmed yet, Long did say the competitions will be free for people who want to watch.

Places being represented by the visiting town criers include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, U.K., Belgium, Netherlands and Germany

Colin Chisholm, published June 13 2017

Thank you for this interesting story. The picture is great. I wish I could be there and see/hear this as it takes place.


12-09-2017, 01:12 PM

Alaska just recorded one of the most extreme snowfall rates on record: 10 inches per hour

Author: John Hopewell, The Washington Post
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 1 day ago (
A view through a windshield shows how fast the snow was coming down in Valdez, Wednesday morning, Dec. 6, 2017. (Photo provided by DOT)

Imagine going into a movie theater to check out the latest science fiction flick and there is not a single flake of snow on the ground. A couple hours later, as the credits start to roll, you mosey outside and are stunned to find your car buried in more than a foot of snow.

Perhaps you'd wonder if you were still watching a movie.

Well that's kind of what happened Wednesday at Alaska's Thompson Pass, outside of the town of Valdez, when an incredible 10 inches of snow piled up in one hour – around 1.7 inches every 10 minutes. This is an absolutely incredible snowfall rate.

The furious storm dropped another 5 inches in 30 minutes, for a remarkable 15 inches in a brief hour and a half period. In the end, 40 inches of heavy wet snow accumulated in 12 hours. g (
State crews plowing roads on Wednesday in Valdez. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)
The Thompson Pass storm ranks among the most intense snowfalls that we know of, according to an analysis by Weather Underground's weather historian, Christopher Burt.

Burt said that on Dec. 2, 1966, 12 inches fell in 60 minutes in Copenhagen, N.Y., and on Jan. 26, 1972, Oswego, New York, was inundated with 17.5 inches in a two-hour period. Not surprisingly, both of these records were the result of the snow machine blowing off Lake Ontario.

The Alaska storm was definitely not lake-effect, but a similar amount of moisture was involved. An atmospheric river – a plume of very wet air – transported warm, Pacific Ocean moisture all the way up into the high latitudes and smacked into the mountainous coast of Alaska.

The atmospheric river was aided by the North American Winter Dipole, which is a "fancy term to describe abnormally warm conditions in the West and cold conditions in the East," according to The Washington Post's Jason Samenow. "Under such a pattern, the jet stream, the super highway for storms that divides cold and warm air, surges north in the western half of the nation, and crashes south in the eastern half."

Upstream of the massive ridge over the western United States, the atmospheric river bombarded coastal south central Alaska, right along the jet stream.
Valdez, with a population around 4,000, was cut off from the rest of the state ( when the only overland route in and out of town was buried in an avalanche. On Thursday, the Richardson Highway was sitting under 20 feet of snow.

[Highway to Valdez reopened after avalanche (]

No stranger to big snow dumps (, Valdez and the coastal Chugach Mountain range get a ridiculous amount of snow each winter. Valdez, sitting in a cove on the Prince William Sound, is considered the snowiest town in the United States, averaging a whopping 300 inches per year.

Thompson Pass, at 2,678 feet above sea level, is the snowiest reporting station in the nation, getting between 600 to 900 inches per year. Compare that to the average of 180 inches at Snowshoe, West Virginia, and 460 inches at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.


12-09-2017, 01:18 PM

Alaska News ( scrapped for Oregon-based floating hotel in a former Alaska ferry

Author: Laurel Andrews (
Updated: 1 day ago
Published 1 day ago (
The M/V Taku (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

Plans to turn an old Alaska state ferry into a floating hotel in Portland, Oregon, have been abandoned, and the ship will instead be sold to a company in Dubai, a state official said Thursday.

"The Portland bidder dropped out," said Aurah Landau, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. "They were having some permitting issues."

In September, the state announced ( that the M/V Taku had been sold to the Portland company for $300,000, after three companies bid on the ship.

After the Portland bidder withdrew in November, the state returned to the other two companies and gave them a second chance to bid.

Jabal Al Lawz Trading Est., based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, emerged with the highest bid, at $171,000, Landau said.

Landau wasn't sure what the fate of the vessel would be once it was turned over to the new owner. "The state's focus has been very much on getting the best value," Landau said.

Rishi Aggarwal with Jabal Al Lawz Trading Est. said in an email that the company had been extremely lucky to buy the ferry.

"We are specialist handling vessels round the world going for demolition so we purchase anything that's floating," Aggarwal wrote.

Aggarwal wrote that the ship would be "running somewhere in the far east islands."

For more than 50 years, the Taku operated as part of the Alaska Marine Highway System.

But the 352-foot ship ( designed to carry 350 passengers was deemed too costly to maintain and exceeded the needs of the ferry system, DOT said ( The vessel was taken out of service in June 2015 and remains at a mooring facility in Ketchikan.

Landau said the sale would be finalized by the end of December.


12-09-2017, 01:25 PM

Human disturbance hits narwhals where it hurts – the heart

Author: Ben Guarino, The Washington Post (
In a photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a pod of narwhals surfaces off northern Canada in August, 2005. (Kristin Laidre/NOAA)

Imagine you are a narwhal. You are cruising through chilly Arctic water when you sense a threat. Most animals, when alarmed, either lash out at their attacker or flee. You, narwhal – the unicorn of the sea – aren't most animals.

You won't fight. Yes, you have a long tusk growing out of your face. Your tusk, a canine tooth that stretches into a spiral five feet or longer, isn't much of a weapon. Narwhal tusks are sensory organs filled with nerves (, not dull spears for jabbing at predators or fending off rivals. If an orca swam nearby, you'd slink into deeper water or twist beneath ice floes where the larger whales cannot follow.

This threat is unusual. It's noisy and unfamiliar. Instead of the usual flight response, your body reacts oddly.

You dive, flipping your flippers as fast as they can go. Meanwhile, your heart rate plummets. It's as if your heart wants you to freeze in place, similar to the way young rabbits and deer play possum. (Biologists, borrowing from Greek, call this acting-dead defense "thanatosis.") Yet the rest of you wants to escape. This conflict cannot be good for your cardiovascular health.

The researcher who discovered this reaction almost ignored it. Biologist Terrie Williams of the University of California at Santa Cruz, who studies the physiology of large mammals, spent two summers collecting heart-rate and flipper-activity data from wild narwhals in Greenland.
Imagine you are a narwhal. You are cruising through chilly Arctic water when you sense a threat. Most animals, when alarmed, either lash out at their attacker or flee. You, narwhal – the unicorn of the sea – aren't most animals.

You won't fight. Yes, you have a long tusk growing out of your face. Your tusk, a canine tooth that stretches into a spiral five feet or longer, isn't much of a weapon. Narwhal tusks are sensory organs filled with nerves (, not dull spears for jabbing at predators or fending off rivals. If an orca swam nearby, you'd slink into deeper water or twist beneath ice floes where the larger whales cannot follow.

This threat is unusual. It's noisy and unfamiliar. Instead of the usual flight response, your body reacts oddly.

You dive, flipping your flippers as fast as they can go. Meanwhile, your heart rate plummets. It's as if your heart wants you to freeze in place, similar to the way young rabbits and deer play possum. (Biologists, borrowing from Greek, call this acting-dead defense "thanatosis.") Yet the rest of you wants to escape. This conflict cannot be good for your cardiovascular health.

The researcher who discovered this reaction almost ignored it. Biologist Terrie Williams of the University of California at Santa Cruz, who studies the physiology of large mammals, spent two summers collecting heart-rate and flipper-activity data from wild narwhals in Greenland.

The whales were stranded or caught in nets. Before cutting the whales loose, scientists outfitted the animals with a monitoring device. Immediately the narwhal bodies showed this conflicting response.

"My first inclination was to throw out the first couple of hours," Williams said. "The animals were doing something weird. It was clear it wasn't a normal dive response." Only later did she realize the weirdness was in the whales' reaction to humans.

Williams had developed the device, a combination EKG monitor, accelerometer and depth meter, to study marine mammals; she first tested it on retired dolphins that had been trained to work with the Navy. The machine was adapted for narwhals, made more rugged for colder and deeper water. Collaborating with Greenland's Institute for Natural Resources, Williams and her colleagues stuck the monitor to wild whales with suction cups.

A few days later, the monitor fell off and floated to the surface, where Williams and her teammates located it via VHF and satellite signals. They repeated the process for a total of nine whales.

This was the first time anyone had measured heartbeats in narwhals, Williams said. As the scientists report in a paper published Thursday in Science (, the whales' heart rates plummeted from a resting rate of 60 to about three or four beats per minute.

Meanwhile, despite their sluggish hearts, the narwhals moved their flippers as fast as they could go. Williams likened the conflicting signals to narwhal hearts to the taxing experience of human triathletes: "Stress plus cold water in the face plus exercise." (Triathletes are twice as likely to die during a race as marathoners, at a rate of about 1.5 deaths per 100,000 triathlon participants.)

Williams said it was unclear, at this stage, whether this depressed blood flow plus increased exercise was dangerous to narwhals. She hypothesized that the response probably restricts oxygen to the whales' brains; this might, for instance, explain the disorientation rescuers observe when they try to return beached whales to the sea. The animals are also in danger of overheating, Williams said, if the slow circulatory systems fail to redistribute heat equally around their bodies.

The paper "provides a new angle on the vulnerability of narwhals to anthropogenic disturbance, which is linked to the sweeping environmental changes we are observing across the Arctic," said Kristin Laidre, an ecologist at University of Washington who studies whales and bears in Greenland.

Earth is home to about 123,000 adult narwhals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( Historical threats include killer whales and subsistence hunting by Arctic communities.

Human intrusion and depleted sea ice are looming. "With climate change, we are on a trajectory for a very different Arctic in the coming decades," said Laidre, who was not involved with the Science paper. "This will mean a new reality for narwhals. A better understanding of human impacts is essential for conservation of this species given what the future looks like."

Until recently, sea ice blocked the Arctic from heavy boat traffic and offshore oil and gas development. That's changing.

Narwhals do not move quickly, but they evolved to escape dangers that came from a single source. In a more crowded ocean, polluted by ship noise, "you have novel kinds of threats out there that may not be a point source," Williams said. "Maybe in time evolution will catch up, but it's not there now."


12-09-2017, 01:30 PM

My knee itched, and then there was all this blood

Author: Vicky Ho (

This is an installment of Cautionary Tales (, an ongoing series about lessons learned the hard way in the Alaska outdoors.

The itchiness felt odd.

A buddy and I were picking our way through a slick boulder field ( near Reed Lakes at Hatcher Pass — mentally, it felt like parkour, but visually, I was a soggy mess of sprawled-out limbs — when my right knee brushed against a rock. I didn't think much of it at the time, save for a nagging itch that begged for a good scratch.

We hustled downhill on that misty day still high on our trip to Bomber Glacier, the site of a 1957 B-29 Superfortress crash ( whose wreckage remains on the glacier. Once we reached my car, our packs dropped to the ground and we celebrated another trip well done.

[An Alaska life: He paddled the Yukon to get here in 1973 and hasn't looked back (] (
I didn’t realize my itchy knee was actually bleeding until we reached the Reed Lakes trailhead in July 2016 after a trip to Bomber Glacier at Hatcher Pass. (Vicky Ho / ADN)
It was time to shed our rain gear and get into dry clothes. And that's when I saw the blood smeared all over my leg — around my knee, along my shin. It was a crime scene. A passer-by looked over and repeated the same expletives I had muttered a few seconds earlier.

My rain pants were great at being waterproof. Breathable, not so much. My leg had been marinating in blood for the past hour. The source: a tiny cut on my upper knee less than a centimeter wide that couldn't clot under such swampy circumstances.

I have a knack for drawing first blood ( on hikes with friends.

This is not something I'm proud of. Rather, I've accepted the historical data as proof of a bona fide trend.

You would think I'd have learned by now the virtues of checking out minor annoyances — say, an itchy knee — before they escalate into something worse.

A trip to Manitoba Cabin the winter after that bloody surprise at the Reed Lakes trailhead would prove otherwise.

I'd signed up for a three-day avalanche course ( based out of Manitoba, at Mile 48 on the Seward Highway southwest of Turnagain Pass. A hot spot in my ski boot started rubbing my left heel the wrong way while we were out in the snow on Day 1.

For all the times I've encouraged others to take care of such issues sooner rather than later, I was stubborn enough to let this one go. A mistake.

By the time I skied back to the cabin, I was wincing from the pain. I peeled off my layers to unveil a quarter-sized blister on the right side of my left heel. It had burst on its own, a mixture of blood and pus darkening my woolen sock.

The next two days, I gingerly hobbled around on skis, sharply inhaling each time my left foot moved. I'm already the slowest person when it comes to skinning uphill, so there was no damage to my pride on that front. But going so slowly skiing downhill? That hurt in more ways than one.

Addressing smaller problems early on keeps them from festering into larger hurdles that can derail a trip or impair your mobility. That hot spot in my boot seems like no big deal at first. Then it becomes a blister. Then I limp to ease the pain. Then I'm putting more strain on one side of my body, increasing the potential for a real injury.

The best measure is prevention. I've repeated my folly so many times that I've started taping my feet where those hot spots exist before I leave the house. Climbing tape works, or medical tape. I've had trouble getting moleskin to stick. Multisport adventurer Luc Mehl has sworn by Leukotape in the past (

As for my bloody knee, there was no major harm done in that instance. But the fact that I didn't even know I had a minor injury is a point of concern. I need to know what's going on with my body so I make the best decisions based on what's actually happening, not what I think is happening.

[When you're struggling in the backcountry, good friends will tell you sweet, sweet lies (]

You might read this and think, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know better." And you do, and you always take the right steps to take care of your body when you're out on the trails.

I'm happy to know that people like you exist. But this column is a gentle nudge to those readers like me who still think, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know better," and don't follow through on what we know we should do.

Because we're the ones you'll find limping in the mountains later on.

Vicky Ho is the night homepage editor at the Anchorage Daily News. An avid hiker and skier, she's also a mediocre runner, terrible biker and part-time employee at a local outdoor retailer. Contact her at, on Twitter @hovicky ( or Instagram @hovcky (


02-08-2018, 04:11 AM is an interesting story of a man who had grizzly bear rip out half of his face. The man has a great attitude toward life. He's a real winner.

Story is long but well worth reading.


02-09-2018, 03:47 PM

Naked passenger forces plane back to Anchorage

Mark Thiessen, Associated Press
Feb 7, 2018 Updated Feb 7, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - An Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle was forced to return to Anchorage early Wednesday after a passenger locked himself in the bathroom, took off all his clothes, and refused to follow crew instructio ( Danyluk, a passenger on the flight, told The Associated Press she knew something was wrong because the flight attendants kept going back and forth in the aisles and had put on rubber gloves.

"Alaska Airlines flight 146 from Anchorage to Seattle returned to Anchorage due to a passenger not following flight attendant's instructions. While no emergency was declared, the decision was made to return to Anchorage," Alaska Airlines spokesman Tim Thompson said in an email.
Airport police and FBI met the plane when it landed shortly before 3 a.m.
"The police came on and took him out the back door," said Danyluk, an Anchorage teacher who was taking a "green escape" to attend a garden show in Seattle.
It wasn't immediately clear if the man was arrested. The FBI did not return repeated messages to the Associated Press on Wednesday.
"There was a subject on the aircraft that had barricaded or locked himself in the bathroom, the lavatory," airport police Sgt. Darcy Perry told Anchorage police station KTVA. Her office declined to make her available to speak to the AP on the direction of the airport manager, who didn't return a message.
"Flight attendants did find that the subject was naked," Perry said, without elaborating.

Danyluk didn't see the man, and said several other men were standing near the bathroom to shield the view. She had heard "he had taken off his clothes and he just wasn't in his right mind."
"I'd rather go back to Anchorage than have something happen," Danyluk said. "Safety first."
There were 178 passengers on the flight. The reboarded flight took off for Seattle just after 6:30 a.m.


02-23-2018, 01:07 PM

Time to Rondy: From running of the reindeer to the Iditarod ceremonial start, here are some of the highlights

Author: Yoshina Okamoto
Updated: 2 hours ago
Published 14 hours ago (
The Rondy fireworks explode in the sky over the Ferris wheel at the Rondy Carnival in downtown Anchorage on the first weekend of the Anchorage Fur Rondy 2015. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship

See snow sculptures from artists of all different levels at this Fur Rondy mainstay. The Division 1 winners will represent the state at the U.S. national competition. Free. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday through March 4, Ship Creek Avenue. (

The GCI Snow Sculpture Competition, a popular Fur Rondy event, in 2013. (Bill Roth / ADN archive)
14th Annual Craft Alaska

Need a break from the cold? Warm up at the 14th Annual Craft Alaska, an event featuring art, crafts, snacks and more from local vendors. This year there will be booths on both levels of the mall. Free. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Feb. 23-25 and Friday-Sunday, March 24, Fourth Avenue Marketplace, 333 W. Fourth Ave.

Rondy Open World Championship Sled Dog Races

The whole family will love watching mushers and sled dog teams race around Anchorage over the course of three days for a chance to win an $80,000 prize. Free. Noon. Friday-Sunday, Fourth Avenue and D Street.

Rondy Carnival

Grab a funnel cake, play some carnival games and take in the view from the top of a Ferris wheel. The carnival will run daily, weather permitting. Free. Times vary. Friday-Sunday, Feb. 23-March 4, Third Avenue and E Street.

Fur Rondy Melodrama: 'Hope Springs Eternal (or the Dirty Deed)'

Travel back in time to 1930s Alaska, as Sue McGee takes on a dastardly villain set on stealing her inheritance: the town of Brrrr, Alaska. Opens Friday, runs Thursday-Sunday through March 10 at 49th State Brewing Company, 717 W. Third Ave. ( (

Pioneer Pancake Feed

The Pioneer Pancake Feed is a time-honored Alaska tradition. Hosted by the Pioneers of Alaska, enjoy a free breakfast with fellow Fur Rondy fans. 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday, Pioneer Hall, 612 F St. (

Fielder Stephanie Dush throws the ball in during the Fur Rondy snowshoe softball tournament at Kosinski Fields in 2017. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)
Snowshoe Softball Tournament

Have a blast outdoors at Fur Rondy's Snowshoe Softball Tournament. Enjoy the clever team names and the wacky costumes and see who wins it all this year (last year's winner: "Oh Snow You Didn't"). 8:45 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Kosinski Fields, 230 E. 16th Ave.

Frostbite Footrace and Costume Fun Run

Open to all ages and abilities, the Frostbite Footrace 5K and the 2.5K Fun Run puts Alaska's most creatively costumed runners on display. Prizes will be given for the best costume and to the top racers in 13 age categories. 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Fifth Avenue Skywalk at the Egan Center.

Rondy Grand Parade

Fur Rondy royalty, classic cars and organizations and clubs from around Anchorage will parade through downtown Anchorage. Free. 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Fifth and Sixth Avenue. (

Ben Mishler, Tom Lannan, Mark Just and Valerie Stewart work to untangle their outhouse from the snow fence as rider Reed Douhith waits patiently during the Rondy Outhouse Races on Fourth Avenue in 2017. Peak Health Dentistry sponsored the Toot Fairy team. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)
Outhouse Races

Groups will compete one-on-one to find out who has the fastest toilet in Alaska. Trophies will also be given to the cleanest toilet, audience choice, most colorful and more. 4 p.m. Saturday, Fourth Avenue between E Street and F Street.

AT&T Fireworks Extravaganza

Ring in Fur Rondy with a bang. Bring the whole family out to see an exciting fireworks show hosted by AT&T. Head to the top of the EasyPark parking lot for a great view of the festivities. Fireworks will start at 6:55 p.m. Saturday, at the Ship Creek Small Boat Harbor.

Rondy DASH

Teams of up to four are given 90 minutes to complete a Fur Rondy-themed scavenger hunt through downtown Anchorage. All teams who complete the hunt will be entered to win the grand prize: four round-trip tickets to anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. 10 a.m. Sunday, AK Alchemist, Fourth Avenue and A Street.


Adult World Championship Outdoor Hockey Tournament

Dress warm and support the hockey players at Fur Rondy's annual Adult World Championship Outdoor Hockey Tournament. 6-10 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, March 1-4, Mulcahy Ice Complex, E. 16th Avenue and Eagle Street.

2018 Iditarod Ceremonial Start

Cheer all the teams at the ceremonial start of The Last Great Race. These are the 67 sled dog teams that will embark on a 1,000-mile journey through Alaska wilderness. 10 a.m. Saturday, March 3, Fourth Avenue and D Street. (

A 1980s prom-themed party greets mushers on the Chester Creek Trail. Karie Vix is at right and Christina Colvin second from right during the ceremonial start of the 2017 Iditarod. (Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News)
Running of the Reindeer

Watch or join in on the fun as Alaskans dress in their craziest costumes to race the reindeer. Online registration ends Friday, March 2. $30 per person. 4 p.m. Saturday, March 3, Fourth Avenue between H Street and D Street. ( (

Miners and Trappers Ball: Pardi-Gras

Indulge in a night out for a good cause for the 68th anniversary of this Fur Rondy bash and Lions Club fundraiser. Dress in your best sourdough costume and watch or participate in the annual Mr. Fur Face Contest, an Alaska-wide competition for the best beard and mustache in the state. Have a drink and dance the night away to live music from Danger Money. 21 and over. $30 per person or $50 per couple. 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, Egan Center, 555 W. Fifth Ave. (furrondy. ( (


03-17-2018, 11:18 AM

If you want to survive the Glenn Highway commute, knowing driver types can be helpful
Author: Frank Baker | Opinion Updated: 14 hours ago

Published 21 hours ago (
Glenn Highway near Eagle River, Jan. 25, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Having spent decades motoring between Chugiak-Eagle River and Anchorage, I've found it helpful to categorize driver types so we'll be much better prepared for road treks. Here are the types of drivers found out there in that wild Glenn Highway zone, with some layman theories on why people drive the way they do.

Hammer-down Mat-Suers. Every morning these folks have been on the road a lot longer than us, at least half an hour. They're tired, cranky, and want to get to Anchorage. Even if driving at half the speed of sound, if you're in the fast lane and one of these folks comes up behind you, move over, because they want to go faster. There are thousands of these folks on the road every day, but there aren't as many as there used to be due to attrition — in other words, wrecks.

Tailgaters. I have only two logical explanations for drivers who hang one foot off your rear bumper on glare ice for endless miles. First, they have moved up here from California or Florida, where tailgating is an art form. Second, and probably the best explanation, is that by tailgating, they are able to draft the vehicle in front them, allowing the suction of air to pull them along so that they save gasoline. These folks are obviously smarter than they look. I have always dreamed of the day I could have high-beam lights installed in the rear of my car to send them a high-beam message. But alas, I've been told this is illegal.

Lane changers. My theory is that drivers who constantly change lanes have an acute form of attention deficit disorder, which leads to boredom. They need to change lanes often to occupy themselves.

Brake gassers. Drivers who alternate quickly between the brake and gas pedal suffer from a severe form of short-term memory loss. They actually forget between the brief time when they brake and when they push the gas pedal, so they continue the back-and-forth action for miles down the road, causing drivers behind them to do the same.

Pull-out-in-fronters. Lack of depth perception is the basis for these drivers, who will abruptly pull out in front of you no matter how fast you are traveling. Imagine the rear-view mirror message "Objects might appear closer than they are," and reverse it for this type of driver. They perceive that you are farther away than you are. They pull out slowly on glare ice, spinning their wheels, as you approach at 60 mph.

Diversionaries. Some of these people have exceptional multitasking abilities and find the need to be doing other things besides driving while they commute to town, such as applying makeup, doing the New York Times crossword puzzle, cellphoning, eating, etc. There is a rather high attrition rate on these folks too, especially the ones who aren't good at multitasking. (See dream weavers.)

Driver trainers. These folks are anathema to the hammer-downs, because they stay in the left lane and actually drive at the speed limit or, sometimes, lower speeds. These drivers actually believe that by remaining in the left lane and stacking up cars behind them, they can "train" other drivers to behave themselves. They don't realize that they are quickly metamorphosing already impatient, irritated motorists into a more aggressive form: road warriors.

Road warriors. Football, cage-fighting and revving engines of all types up to 6,000 rpm is not enough to release the pent-up adrenaline and aggression just below the surface in these drivers. Any action that causes them to reduce their speed will just make matters worse. Move over and give them room so that they can more expeditiously get to their accident, or should I more aptly say "purpose."

Dream weavers. Driving an automobile is a little too physical and down-to-earth for these folks, so they fantasize about being somewhere else as they putter along, oblivious to everything around them. I think angels look out for these people.

Rubberneckers. An object as mundane as a cardboard box will cause these drivers to slow down for a close examination. I've theorized that Department of Transportation officials have discussed erecting billboards along the side of the highway that depict moose kills and other interesting scenes, allowing rubberneckers to view the scenes without slowing down.

Hill creepers (or brakelighters). Drivers who creep down Eagle River hill at 5 mph are believed to be aliens from a planet with very low gravity. They are mortally afraid that at any minute they will skid off the road or into the car in front of them, or just fly off into the air. The hill grade was lessened by the relatively recent Eagle River bridge project, but some drivers still slow down.

Light runners. Not to be confused with drivers who accelerate through changing traffic lights, these drivers affix their vehicles with the brightest lights known on Earth. They have somehow tapped into a technology developed by Nicola Tesla more than a century ago. They want to be noticed. Installing large mirrors on your vehicle is about the only effective countermeasure.

These are the main categories, but I'm sure you have identified many more as you merge into traffic each day. The important thing is to remain alert, remain patient, be a defensive driver at all times, and always remember to return strange finger gestures with a nice smile and a friendly wave. And to reiterate the "Hill Street Blues" police chief's closing after his daily briefing: "Be careful out there."

Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.


03-17-2018, 11:30 AM

An Iditarod musher was ‘starting to freeze.’ Another helped him instead of finishing the race.

Author: Laurel Andrews ( (
Jim Lanier gets hot water for his dogs Saturday at the washeteria in Shageluk. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Iditarod mushers Jim Lanier and Scott Janssen both dropped out of the race Friday after they asked for emergency help on the trail and were picked up by snowmachine.

Around 7 a.m. Friday, the Iditarod Trail Committee was alerted that Lanier and Janssen had requested emergency assistance due to "weather conditions" between the White Mountain (mile 921) and Safety (mile 976) checkpoints, in a place known as "the Blowhole" — an area notorious for hard winds, Iditarod race marshal Mark Nordman said in a written statement.

"A search and rescue team was immediately notified and then a plan was put in place to safely extract both dog teams and both mushers," Nordman said.

[The Iditarod gave Jim Lanier broken bones and frostbitten toes. At 77, he's not ready to stop racing. (]

Janssen had come across Lanier on the trail. Lanier's team was stuck, and Lanier was "starting to freeze," according to a post from Scott Janssen's Facebook page, The Mushin' Mortician, on Friday afternoon. Lanier had 13 dogs and Janssen had 11 when they left the previous checkpoint in White Mountain.

Race officials said that Janssen first used a satellite phone to call a family member, who then alerted Iditarod officials. Soon after, Janssen pushed the SOS button on his Spot tracker.

"(Janssen) stayed with his friend until they were rescued and he chose to accompany his friend to Nome to make sure he was safe, but that meant scratching from the race. His team is loaded in a trailer on the way here," the Facebook post said.

FINAL UPDATE: Scott has arrived in Nome but it was by helicopter rather than a dog sled. He left White Mountain at...
Posted by The Mushin' Mortician ( on Friday, March 16, 2018 (

The two men were taken to the Safety checkpoint via snowmachine. They officially scratched at 11:30 a.m.

"Lanier scratched out of concern for his race team and personal health reasons," the Iditarod statement said. "Janssen scratched out of concern for Lanier's safety."

The mushers were then picked up by helicopter and taken to Nome, race officials said. Both men were in Nome on Friday, "with their loved ones and also in good health," the statement said.

Their dog teams were mushed to Nome, race officials said. (

Buy This Photo ( Janssen gives his dogs straw at the Nikolai checkpoint on March 6 during the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
Lanier is a 77-year-old Chugiak musher who has run 20 Iditarod races since 1979 ( He has scratched three times prior to this year. His highest placement was in 2004, when he came in 18th. This is Janssen's seventh Iditarod. He has scratched four times in the past.

Lanier's wife, Anna Bondarenko, wrote on Facebook on Friday morning that the situation was "very serious." Lanier left White Mountain feeling sick, she wrote.

"If you know (Lanier), you know he is tough and does not complain about anything. If he says he needs help it means he is really in deep trouble. Scott Jansen (sic) is with him and he made a call. Search and rescue is on their way from Nome," Bondarenko wrote Friday morning.

A few hours later, Bondarenko posted an update, saying the two men were safe.

Neither man requested additional medical support in Nome, race officials said.


03-17-2018, 11:41 AM

New snow roads will link Alaska’s road system to Arctic communities

Author: Alex DeMarban ( (
A convoy of Cruz Construction trucks returns to Utqiagvik on a 65-mile snow trail after delivering gravel to the village of Atqasuk in March 2017. (Photo provided by Cruz Construction)

If you've ever wanted to drive on a snow road to the northernmost community in the United States, your time is coming.

The North Slope Borough, in an effort to lower the cost of living in the region, plans to build ( miles of snow roads in the coming days so residents in two Arctic communities can drive their vehicles to the Alaska road system, a borough official said.

But the thoroughfare over the frozen tundra will also be open to road-trippers wanting to head north to visit Utqiagvik, the nation's farthest north city with 4,500 residents, or Atqasuk village, with about 200.

Using track-wheeled rigs and other equipment, the borough starting next week will pack and care for the snow roads. They'll link the communities to the North Slope oil fields that lead to the Dalton Highway and eventually Fairbanks and other cities, said Jason Bergerson, manager for the Community Winter Access Project.

The roads should be operational in about two weeks, or soon after, he said. They might last until early May, weather permitting.

Drivers will have to follow certain rules associated with state and federal permits the borough received last week for the first-time effort. The permits were awarded after minimum amounts of snow cover and frost depth were met, Bergerson said Thursday.

For one thing, travelers must join slow-moving convoys led by a borough pilot truck equipped with rubber paddle tracks instead of road tires. The trips will happen perhaps once a week from each direction.

"Our goal is to keep the caravans to 10 or 12 vehicles, something like you'd see through the Whittier Tunnel," Bergerson said, referring to the 2.5-mile escorted trip through a mountain near Anchorage.

The borough hopes to expand the frosty road network in future winters, linking additional villages such as Wainwright to the Alaska road system.

"It's about community economic development," Bergerson said. "It'll be an opportunity to bring goods and supplies in overland, and hopefully at a lower cost, instead of air-freighting or barging them in."

Four-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive cars and trucks will be allowed, he said. The borough will inspect vehicles before they leave to make sure they're road-ready.

"Drivers must have valid licenses and proof of insurance — just like they would anywhere," Bergerson said.

Bergerson said the borough plans to document economic savings the roads might generate for North Slope villages. The communities are islands on the tundra, usually accessible only by planes or barges off the Arctic Ocean.

Air and barge shipping can cost 10 times more than bringing products overland, he said. "That's based on limited data, so part of what we want to document is can we do this, what is the cost, and how many people can make use of it?"

Snow roads, essentially glorified snow trails, have been around for decades in Alaska. Often created by industrial rigs with giant rollerpin wheels, they allow oil companies to reach remote exploration sites. Commercial freight haulers also use them (, dragging new vehicles from cities on large sleds.

[Shippers use frozen roads when winter reaches northern Alaska. (]

The permits allow residential, highway vehicles to legally use the roads under the borough's guidance, said Bergerson.

Contractors each winter already create large snow trails between Atqasuk, Utqiagvik and the oil fields, so trucks can deliver winter loads of gas and heating oil from the road system.

That trail will be the foundation for the borough's snow road. It will be lined with temporary markers, and snow fences to help keep drifts from piling up.

The current snow trails aren't regularly maintained, as the borough plans to do, said Shelly Jones, in charge of Arctic operations for the Bureau of Land Management, which awarded the federal permit.

In the past, travelers who tried driving highway vehicles on them sometimes got stuck. "The safety aspect is a nice thing about this," she said of the plan. "A lot of residents have bogged down, and had to abandon vehicles and extract them at a lot of cost. Hopefully they won't have the same issues anymore."

The federal agency, manager of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska where the two communities are located, will inspect the snow road. In summer, it will make sure the tundra isn't damaged, she said. Any evidence should vanish when the snow melts.

The route from Atqasuk will stretch 70 miles to Utqiagvik. It will travel another 235 miles to the oil field roads.

The pilot truck will move about 12 mph — driving the snow roads could take more than a day. There's another 500 highway miles between Fairbanks and Deadhorse, the oil field hub.

That's not too long, said Shirley Kagak, a borough employee in Atqasuk.

Residents in both communities will "save tons of money" if they don't have to fly in large items such as furniture, she said. She'll drive her truck to Fairbanks or Anchorage as part of the borough's motorcade, for big shopping trips.

She recently ordered a $3,000 furniture set from a company in Anchorage. Shipping it to Atqasuk entirely by plane would have cost another $4,000, she said.

But she hired a delivery company to haul it to the village after it was flown to Utqiagvik, slashing $1,000 off the shipping bill.

"This will definitely benefit our village and (Utqiagvik) as well," she said.

She'll also use the road to drive to the Alaska Commercial store in Utqiagvik. That will be better than the snowmachine trips she currently makes to buy fresh meat and produce not available in Atqasuk.

"It will be a lot warmer in the truck," she said.

Sherlene Oyagak, Atqasuk city clerk, said she won't drive the road. She fears getting her truck stuck in snow, not good when temperatures drop well below zero.

Bergerson said the borough will ensure safe travel. The convoys will be equipped with emergency gear such as locator beacons. Trailers will be staged along the route for hauling away disabled vehicles.

Some vehicles must carry absorbent pads or special containers to capture potential oil leaks.

"The borough is taking responsibility for the status of the tundra, and making sure people traveling in that caravan get home safely," he said.

About this Author

Alex DeMarban (

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers the oil and gas industries and general assignments for ADN.


03-17-2018, 11:48 AM

Rural Alaska (

Tribes plow longest ice road ever on the Kuskokwim River

The Kuskokwim River now has its longest ice road ever, in a year when people thought there might not be any ice road at all.

As of last week, the graded, marked road stretched 200 miles from Bethel upstream to Crooked Creek. The project has involved almost a dozen tribes, working together across months.

The day the Kuskokwim's longest ice road was completed was a reunion.

"It was a good day, a lot of handshaking, a lot of backslapping," said Mark Leary, director of development and operations for the Native Village of Napaimute.

[New snow roads will link Alaska's road system to Arctic communities (]

His crew, heading upriver, met with the crew from Crooked Creek, heading downriver, led by Timmy Zukar.

The road stretches across a section where it's never been. Crooked Creek joined the project for the first time, adding the miles to make the historically long road. And it was done during the warmest winter on record.

"They proved it can be done, safely, in a wild, long, lonely stretch of the river, too," Leary said.

This happened in a winter when road plowing started in mid-January, a month later than usual. People were surprised that it happened at all.

Many open holes still perforate the ice, but the freezing and thawing has created a glassy surface that is easy for crews to plow, and equipment upgrades mean that the crews aren't facing constant breakdowns as in past winters.

The newest plow truck is actually 25 years old and comes from Seattle's Sea-Tac Airport.

"We gave it a name: Tumlista, The One Who Makes a Trail," Leary said, laughing.

For travelers along the lonely stretch of road below Crooked Creek, take caution. For 60 miles from Crooked Creek to Chuathbaluk, there's no cellphone service and the snow quickly drifts. Farther downriver there are two areas marked with "Danger" signs. One is 10 miles below Kalskag at Coffee's Bend, where the road winds between a cutbank and an open hole. The other is below Tuluksak, where dark sand has blown across the ice.

"And soon as that sand gets exposed and the sun gets a little stronger," Leary warned, "we may lose that area very quickly."

The road's social and economic benefits spread to all of the villages it connects. Building the ice road provides employment during a time of year when seasonal work is hard to come by. It allows residents, businesses and government agencies the ability to avoid hefty plane tickets, and it gives the Kuskokwim a highway in a land far off the road system.

This story was republished with permission from KYUK (


03-17-2018, 12:03 PM

Rural Alaska (

Village calls on governor to shut down Bethel liquor store

Author: Alex DeMarban ( (
An Alaska Commercial Co. worker stocks the shelves of the AC liquor store in Bethel in 2016. (Lisa Demer / ADN archive)

A dry village in Southwest Alaska says it has suffered too many alcohol-fueled deaths and accidents since the first liquor store in decades opened in the nearby city of Bethel two years ago.

Now, the Napaskiak tribal government is calling on Gov. Bill Walker to shut the Bethel operation down.

There have been five drinking-related deaths in the village of 450 since the Alaska Commercial liquor store opened in May 2016 (, Napaskiak tribal administrator Sharon Williams said Thursday.

"I don't want to count any more deaths," Williams said. "We want that place closed."

The AC store is the only liquor store currently operating in Bethel, a hub of 6,400 residents in a region with a long history of alcohol-related woes. Many nearby villages voted long ago to ban alcohol within their borders, and the liquor store was the first in Bethel in more than 40 years. Napaskiak is about 7 miles south of Bethel on the Kuskokwim River.

[First liquor store in more than 40 years opens in Bethel without a fuss (]

AC wants to work with villages to better regulate alcohol sales and ensure safe drinking, the company said in a statement Thursday.

"As long as legal sales of alcohol are permitted in Bethel, we believe it is in the community's best interest to allow (Alaska Commercial) to operate as we have a track record of being a responsible operator as we have never been cited for alcohol related violations by the city or the state," the statement said.

AC has made efforts to be a "good steward," including by limiting the store's operating hours, the statement said.

The resolution ( the Napaskiak Tribal Council, unanimously passed March 5, says Napaskiak and nearby villages have suffered "numerous, preventable deaths" and accidents from alcohol since the liquor store opened.

It says emergency responders are overwhelmed with calls, minors are drinking and school attendance is falling.

Napaskiak residents are traveling to the Bethel store by snowmachine or boat on liquor runs, residents said.

Some people in the village have died in snowmachine and four-wheeler crashes, Williams said.

Williams said one of the alcohol-related deaths in Napaskiak involved a relative, Adam Williams, 19.

He's charged with first-degree murder ( the shooting death of Kyle Wassillie, 26, in the village in August.

Witnesses said Williams shot Wassillie after a night of drinking and a fight, according to a charging document filed by a state trooper. Williams told the trooper he "got really drunk and blacked out," and couldn't remember what happened, the document said.

The village has not heard from the governor's office, Williams said, though the tribal government faxed its request to his office March 6. The Walker administration did not provide a comment for this article.

Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky, D-Bethel, is traveling to Bethel with a delegation from the governor's office for a hearing to address Napaskiak concerns Saturday evening, said Michelle Sparck, in Zulkosky's office.

Zulkosky organized the hearing and invited the Walker administration, which responded quickly, Zulkosky said. Planning to attend are Alaska Assistant Attorney General Alex Cleghorn, Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan and Barbara Blake from Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott's office.

The group will also listen to concerns from Marshall and other villages across the Bethel region.

The Native Village of Marshall passed a resolution ( March 8, calling on Walker to declare a state of emergency and provide law enforcement for dozens of villages like Marshall without local officers.

Marshall residents sometimes make liquor runs to Bethel, 75 miles to the south, said Nick Andrew Jr., administrator for the tribe. Sales from the Bethel store are adding more alcohol to the region and contributing to problems in villages such as high rates of assault, he said.

Chris Larson, honorary chief in Napaskiak, said he was one of those who voted to shut down the liquor store.

Larson, like Williams, wouldn't name those who had died in alcohol-related events since the liquor store opened. They want to respect the privacy of neighbors and relatives, they said.

Larson lives along the road passing through the village. He said he hears hollering almost every night from people acting drunk.

"It's a giant problem," he said. "It's a village that's going wild every doggone night."

About this Author

Alex DeMarban (

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers the oil and gas industries and general assignments for ADN.


03-17-2018, 02:43 PM

Plane loses its $368 million cargo of gold, platinum and diamonds on takeoff (

By The Siberian Times reporter
15 March 2018
Gems and precious metals rain over Russia’s coldest region as police and secret services stage emergency search. ( sealed off the runway and a vast search is underway

The plane with ten tons of gold, platinum and diamonds lost part of its cargo after taking off from Yakutsk airport today.
More rained down as the aircraft gained height.
The Nimbus Airlines AN-12 cargo plane hit problems during takeoff; the treasures fell out of the hold all over the runway.
The plane then dropped some bars of gold as far as 26 kilometres from the airport.
The crew decided to land at the nearby airport of Magan, some 26 kilometres north-west of Yakutsk.
Police sealed off the runway and a vast search is underway.
Plane loses its $368 million cargo of gold, platinum and diamonds on takeoff

The plane was en route to Krasnoyarsk and further to Kupol (Dome) mine.
The cargo was reported to be owned by Chukota Mining and Geological company; 75 per cent of the private company is owner by Canadian Kinross Gold.

Technical engineers at the Yakutsk airport who prepared the plane for takeoff have been detained.
The value of the load was put at 21 billion roubles.
Yakutsk is capital of Yakutia or the Sasha Republic, Russia’s diamond producing region.


03-27-2018, 11:27 AM

Black bears are waking up; Time to get your yard, home ready

Garbage, bird feeders and chickens are a few of the things to be addressed.

Laurel Andrews Anchorage Daily News by ANDY ROMANG A black bear was spotted perched in a tree in East Anchorage on Friday. Fish and Game has verified two reports of black bears in Anchorage recently.

Ready or not, bears are stirring in South-central Alaska.

“It’s definitely not too early for Alaskans or Anchorage residents to start taking precautions, to start being bear aware,” Ken Marsh, Alaska Department of Fish and Game spokesman, said MondaMarsh said the state wildlife agency has verified two reports of black bears in the Anchorage area, and have gotten another one or two reports that they haven’t been able to confirm.

“If black bears are starting to stir, brown bears could be, too,” Marsh said.
Now is a good time to get your yard and home ready for summer. Don’t leave dog food outside. Start taking trash out the morning it’s getting picked up, instead of the night before, Marsh said.
Take down your bird feeders for the season, even if the feeders are high off the ground. “(Bears) will find a way,” Marsh said. “It’s best to just bring it in.”
If you have an electric fence around livestock, make sure the fence is on and operating normally, Marsh said.

During early spring, bears often come out during warm days, then go back to their den when temperatures drop at night. But, if a bear finds some food, it is much more apt to stay up, Marsh said.

“If (bears) happen to amble through your neighborhood, if they aren’t rewarded with food, they aren’t going to hang around,” Marsh said.
But, if the animal does find food, you may be setting the foundation for a longer-lasting problem, Marsh said.

If a black bear is acting aggressively or getting into trash in your neighborhood, Fish and Game wants to know.

If the animal is in your neighbor’s trash — try to snap a picture, Marsh said. That evidence helps the state agency take action against people who are leaving their trash out, he said.
Fish and Game wants to know about all brown bear sightings in neighborhoods. You can call Fish and Game offices during business hours, or make an online report during after hours, Marsh said.
The state agency has more advice on its website page Living With Bears.

Last year, 34 bears were shot and killed in Municipality of Anchorage, nearly four times more than the year before. Half of the bears were killed by people who said they were defending their lives or property. The other half were killed by police, park rangers or wildlife biologists.


03-27-2018, 12:04 PM

Alaska’s ice fields and ice caves are worth exploring, but do so cautiously

JOHN SCHANDELMEIER by JOHN SCHANDELMEIER An entrance to an ice cave of the Canwell Glacier is seen from a distance. Canwell Glacier is near the Richardson Highway.
Visitors enter an ice cave within the Canwell Glacier. by JOHN SCHANDELMEIER Canwell Glacier is near the Richardson Highway. Ice crystals hang just inside the entrance of an ice cave within the glacier.

Ice fields are special places. Alaska has several huge fields that are larger than some states. The Bagley Icefield, which is the largest nonpolar icefield in North America, covers approximately 1,900 square miles. It is the size of Delaware and a third bigger than Rhode Island.

It is not surprising that these vast expanses of ice carry their own weather. Winter and snow rule the ice fields and their interconnected glaciers for most of the year.
Recently, I traveled to a glacier not far from our home. It was spitting snow south of the Alaska Range, but once in the Pass it was clear and calm. The ice field that coats the upper reaches of the Alaska Range east of Isabel Pass has many accessible glacial offshoots that come within a few miles of the Richardson Highway. These glaciers can be fun and interesting, or extremely dangerous, depending on your approach.

Almost every year a careless snowmobiler or unwary hiker dies on the ice near the Richardson Highway. The Arctic Man ski/snowmobile event in early April has been a notorious contributor to these accidents.

Summer visitors are not immune to the dangers either. Every few summers or so, an inexperienced would-be explorer slips into a crevasse or glacier stream.
Caution needs to rule actions in the mountains, especially when exploring these rivers of ice.
However, “careful” doesn’t mean eliminating fun. The glaciers along the Richardson commonly have significantly more snow than either end of the Pass. The temperatures are generally 20 degrees warmer, and you can count on a breeze.

Steer clear of the sides of glaciers in tight valleys. There are avalanche chutes on the steep slopes surrounding glaciers. There is little vegetation to hold the snow in valleys recently scoured by ice, and snow slides are common, especially toward spring.

It is wise to travel in pairs, carry a rope and bring a pole to probe with.

Crevasses can be bridged by a light crust of snow that will support very little weight. Skis are generally the preferred foot gear for those with some experience. Snowshoes work well in brushy approaches and soft snow.

For those who don’t see the attraction of trudging up a winding stream of ice, there is another option. Explore under the ice. All glaciers have rivers or streams running out from under them. During the summer, this rushing water creates large thaw bulbs through the base of the glacier. A cave will form under the ice by these rivers. Cold winter temperatures naturally freeze the stream under the ice, allowing access.

Some of these ice caves can be quite deep. There is one that I know of that I paced at nearly a mile without reaching an end. How much ice is overhead one mile deep into a glacier? I can’t tell you except to say “a lot.”

Never venture into an ice cave without an ax in hand. The temperature under a glacier will stay relatively constant inside — 20 degrees is about as cold as it gets once away from the entrance. The ice underfoot may not be solid everywhere. Move carefully and check the ice thickness constantly as you move.
Fantastic ice crystals hang from the ceilings just inside cave entrances. These ice formations change the farther one goes inside. The entrance will have relatively thick, solid crystals. A hundred feet in, delicacy rules –touch one and it collapses. Three hundred feet into a cave and the ceiling becomes clean because there is little moisture that far inside. The ice will be clear, filled with suspended sand and rock.

Each cave is different. Some will have sand “beaches” in spots where water was held stagnant long enough for the silt to settle out. Many years ago I found an animal frozen into the ice several hundred yards into an ice cave. The pressure of the ice had crushed it into an unrecognizable shape. I spent an hour chopping out the block of ice containing the unknown creature and later sent it off to UAF in Fairbanks.

Shortly after, I was informed that my strange critter was an ordinary Varying hare. It was old, but not at all unusual. The ice pressure had deformed the skull without breaking it. So much for my rare find
Ice caves are fascinating places. They are well worth a long weekend trip. Arizona has the Grand Canyon. New Mexico has Carlsbad Caverns. Alaska has ice.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson.


04-01-2018, 01:10 AM

Mythbusting 'the place where two oceans meet' in the Gulf of Alaska (

A picture from the Gulf of Alaska that has been making the rounds on the Internet for the last few years -- though particularly in recent weeks ( -- shows a strange natural phenomenon that occurs when heavy, sediment-laden water from glacial valleys and rivers pours into the open ocean. There in the gulf, the two types of water run into each other, a light, almost electric blue merging with a darker slate-blue (

Informally dubbed "the place where two oceans meet," the explanation for the photo is a simple one, though there are many misconceptions about it, including that catchy title. In particular on popular link-sharing website Reddit, where users have on multiple occasions erroneously attributed the photo's location as "Where the Baltic and North Sea meet (" and the two types of water as being completely incapable of ever mixing, instead perpetually butting against each other like a boundary on a map.

You also may have seen a variation on the photo ( the same phenomenon, taken by photographer Kent Smith while on a July 2010 cruise in the Gulf of Alaska. That photo too has been circulating the web for some time, though the misconceptions about it seem to be less thanks to Smith's explanation of the photo ( on his Flickr page. That one has also been making the rounds on Reddit and social media for years, and had racked up more than 860,000 views by early 2013 on that one page alone, Smith said. (

That original photo, however, originates from a 2007 research cruise ( of oceanographers studying the role that iron plays in the Gulf of Alaska, and how that iron reaches certain areas in the northern Pacific.

Ken Bruland, professor of ocean sciences at University of California-Santa Cruz, was on that cruise. In fact, he was the one who snapped the pic. He said the purpose of the cruise was to examine how huge eddies -- slow moving currents -- ranging into the hundreds of kilometers in diameter, swirl out from the Alaska coast into the Gulf of Alaska.

Those eddies often carry with them huge quantities of glacial sediment thanks to rivers like Alaska's 286-mile-long Copper River, prized for its salmon and originating from the Copper Glacier far inland. It empties out east of Prince William Sound, carrying with it all that heavy clay and sediment. And with that sediment comes iron.

"Glacier rivers in the summertime are like buzzsaws eroding away the mountains there," Bruland said. "In the process, they lift up all this material -- they call it glacial flour -- that can be carried out."

Once these glacial rivers pour out into the larger body of water, they're picked up by ocean currents, moving east to west, and begin to circulate there. This is one of the primary methods that iron -- found in the clay and sediment of the glacial runoff -- is transported to iron-deprived regions in the middle of the Gulf of Alaska.

As for that specific photo, Bruland said that it shows the plume of water pouring out from one of these sediment-rich rivers and meeting with the general ocean water. It's also a falsehood that these two types of water don't mix at all, he said.

"They do eventually mix, but you do come across these really strong gradients at these specific moments in time," he said. Such borders are never static, he added, as they move around and disappear altogether, depending on the level of sediment and the whims of the water.

There is much study being conducted on how this iron influences marine productivity, in particular its effects on the growth of plankton, which Bruland referred to as "the base of the food chain."

But rivers aren't the only way that glacier sediment finds its way into the Gulf of Alaska -- occasionally strong winds can whip up enough silt to create a cloud of dust that's visible even from space ( as its being carried out to sea.

So next time somebody shares a "really cool photo" of "the place where two oceans meet," feel free to let them know the science behind the phenomenon. After all, in this Internet age, nothing spreads faster than misinformation.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at) (


04-01-2018, 01:17 AM

The oldest footprints in North America are right where Native historians said they should be

Author: Sarah Kaplan, The Washington Post (
Duncan McLaren and Daryl Fedje excavate one of the footprints on Calvert Island in British Columbia. (Grant Callegari-Hakai Institute)

The Heiltsuk people of British Columbia have long spoken of a time when most of Canada was entombed beneath glaciers, and their ancestors fished and foraged along the coastline that formed a thin green margin between open ocean and impenetrable ice.

Now an archaeological dig has unearthed physical evidence of ancient human presence: 29 footprints pressed into the shoreline of Calvert Island, part of the Heiltsuk's traditional territory. The prints represent at least three people – perhaps two adults and a child – and they date back more than 13,000 years, to the end of the last ice age.

"Just to know that it's a place that our ancestors previously walked and now here we still are today, it's really powerful for us," said William Housty, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation.

Archaeologists say the footprints are the oldest in North America – proof that humans were here at the end of the Pleistocene. But they are not simply evidence of where people have been. Footprints tell you where someone was going, and these tracks lend credence to the theory that North America's earliest inhabitants navigated the continent's Pacific coastline by boat, following a "kelp highway" to greener regions in the south.

To the Heiltsuk, the prints are an affirmation of a tradition that goes back to time immemorial. (

"It's really, really exciting but also very emotional," said Housty, a member of the board of directors for the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, which authorizes and oversees projects such as the one at Calvert Island.

"You hear the history and the stories, and now you're standing and looking at something that's real, that's confirming the stories that have been handed down over the generations."

Archaeological material and genetic studies suggest that people first ventured into the Americas via a land bridge between Asia and Alaska. Further travel would have been blocked by the two massive ice sheets that covered most of Canada until about 10,000 years ago, yet scientists keep finding signs of human presence many thousands of years before that: in Washington, a mastodon rib with a stone point buried in it; in Chile, chipped tools and burned bones; in Oregon, fossilized feces containing ancient human DNA.

So how did those early settlers get here? For years, it was thought that they followed an "ice-free corridor" between the two ice sheets. Now scientists increasingly favor the "kelp highway" hypothesis. The only problem: Any evidence of the first Americans' coastal presence would have been submerged when melting ice caused sea levels to rise 400 feet. (
An aerial view of Calvert Island. (Keith Holmes-Hakai Institute)
That's where Calvert Island is special. Partly because of the way the ice sheets pressed down on the mainland, sea levels off this part of the Canadian coast were only six to 10 feet different from where they are today.

Calvert Island is also of profound importance to the Heiltsuk: Housty said there are burial sites and ancient villages on the land, and oral histories tell of a long Heiltsuk presence there.

So in 2014, scientists from the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria, alongside representatives of the Heiltsuk and Wuikinuxv First Nations, set about sampling a small stretch of the island's northwest shoreline.

As soon as they dug a shoebox-size test pit, they unearthed a dark impression of a foot pressed into the light brown clay.

At first, "we were uncertain if we were fooling ourselves that this was a human track," said Hakai archaeologist Duncan McLaren, the lead author of a report published this week in the journal PLOS One (

But two more years of excavation revealed 28 additional prints that were unmistakably human. There was the curve of an arch, the pinpoints of five toes, a smear where someone may have slipped in the mud. Some looked as though they would fit into a size 7 or 8 man's shoe; others, a size 3 woman's; the third set of prints corresponded to a junior size 8. The researchers determined the fossils' age by measuring the decay of radioactive carbon in the bits of wood pressed into the prints.

From the clearly visible toe marks, it doesn't seem as though any of the people who made the prints were wearing shoes. And unlike other trackways, which march in more or less straight lines to long-gone destinations, these footprints follow no apparent pattern.

Housty imagines that they were a father, mother and child, visiting the beach to gather food. To McLaren, they look like the prints of people congregating on the shore.

"The area that was tracked would have been just above the high-tide line 13,000 years ago," he said. "I imagine a group of people disembarking from a boat, leaving their tracks in a wet area before moving somewhere that was dry." (
Left: One of the footprints found on Calvert Island. Right: A digitally enhanced version of the same image. (Duncan McLaren)
As the tide retreated, the mud would have been exposed to the sun, drying and preserving the prints. The next tide then filled the depressions with sand and gravel. Over thousands of years, forest soils developed over the site, protecting it from erosion. Today, the rock layer bearing the footprints is about two feet below the surface.

McLaren and his colleagues hope to find other areas like Calvert Island that were not frozen during the ice age and are above water today.

"This paleo-environmental work will then be used to inform the search for early-period sites along the formerly glaciated Pacific shoreline of Canada," he said. "This line of research is really in its infancy."

Housty sees a role for native people in that effort.

"This is oral history going hand in hand with the science," he said.


04-01-2018, 01:18 AM

In keeping with the OP.

Regional city of Lismore has answer to NSW glass recycling crisisABC North Coast (
By Samantha Turnbull ( Bruce MacKenzie (
Updated 8 Aug 2017, 5:25pm ( Crushed glass becomes a sand-like substance used as a construction material. (Supplied: Lismore City Council) (
RELATED STORY: Recycling being stockpiled and dumped in landfill as glass market crashes (
RELATED STORY: Trash talk: Premiers trade blows in war on waste (

The regional city of Lismore in northern New South Wales could have the solution to recycling hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass being stockpiled and landfilled across the country.
The ABC's Four Corners program this week exposed the stockpiling (, which industry insiders blamed on regulation failure, no viable market, and nowhere for the used glass to go.
The Four Corners investigation also exposed an organised network of transport companies sending waste by road and rail to Queensland to avoid paying the NSW landfill levy of $138 per tonne. Council areas within 150km of the Queensland border are exempt from the levy.
However, the Lismore City Council, which is within 150km of Queensland, does not take advantage of the levy exemption and instead processes its own waste.
In fact, Lismore uses an innovative recycling system that crushes glass into a sand-like construction material.
The council's commercial services business manager Kevin Trustum said they crushed about 6,000 tonnes of discarded glass every year, including glass from the four neighbouring shires.

"If a little rural council like Lismore is doing it, then there's definitely hope for a lot of other people," he said.
"If we're doing 6,000 tonnes, in the metropolitan areas there would be staggering amounts that could be processed for use.
"In those city areas there would be plenty of outlets for using the glass in civil construction." ( Sand created from crushed glass is used to build roads in the Lismore area. (Supplied: Lismore City Council) (
Mr Trustum said the glass 'sand' had to be tested to meet NSW Environment Protection Authority regulations, and was then used by council to build road bases, for backfill material, and as bedding for water pipes.
The glass sand can also be stored for later use, unlike uncrushed glass that the EPA prohibits from stockpiling.
"We're always looking at what we can do next," Mr Trustum said.
"We're doing trials with the university looking at using the glass sand in concrete and blending it with other materials."
The glass processing plant was built in Lismore in 2013 as part of the wider $3.65 million Lismore Materials Recovery Facility that processes 15,000 tonnes of recyclables annually.
The council proposed building its own facility after previously sending the region's recyclables to Queensland's Gold Coast.
"We found out that up to 80 per cent of the glass we used to send to Queensland used to end up in landfill because it was contaminated or broken," Mr Trustum said.
"Generally the recycling industry for glass likes to have whole bottles they can crush down."
The council won the Civil Contractors Federation NSW Earth Award in June for its use of the crushed glass sand as backfill material in the construction of a sewage pump station.


04-01-2018, 02:19 AM

That's an interesting story. Thanks for sharing it, Peter.


04-01-2018, 02:20 AM

Every Easter, a Sicilian Town Builds a Cathedral out of BreadIt’s a competitive team sport.BY VITTORIA TRAVERSO ( MARCH 30, 2018 bread arches at night. COURTESY CIPRIANO MESSINAFOR A MONTH EACH YEAR, residents of San Biagio team up to build life-size structures made of local herbs, cereals, and bread. This monumental display is both centuries old and one of Italy’s most fantastical traditions: the Arches of Bread.
The festival’s origins trace back to the establishment of San Biagio Platani, a village in southwest Sicily, in feudal times. In the 17th century, Sicily was ruled by Philip IV of Spain, who incentivised the establishment of rural fiefs to meet the Spanish Empire’s growing demand for wheat. In 1635, local landowner Giovanni Battista Berardi bought a farming licence and charter for the pricey sum ( of 200 ounces and founded a new village called “Lands of San Biagio.”
Carmelo Navarra, a native San Biagese and artistic director of the Arches of Bread Festival, says that it was custom throughout the empire to welcome visiting authorities by constructing sumptuously decorated arches of triumph, such as the Baroque-style “Porta Nuova” in Palermo. But San Biagio was not Palermo. It was a rural town in the Sicilian hinterland. “What could a village of farmers offer to a visiting ruler?” says Navarra. “We lacked marble or tapestries, so we made arches of bread instead.” parade under the structures. COURTESY DOMENICO CASTALDOAround the mid-18th century, when new rulers no longer demanded ornate displays of welcome, the people of San Biagio adapted the concept for a religious context. “During Easter, the ruler is Jesus Christ, who defeats death and comes back to meet the Madonna,” Navarra explains. As attested by a document kept in San Biagio’s main church, the Church declared that a portion of the village harvest should be used to make the “Arches of Bread.”
Every Easter since, residents have teamed up to build towering structures made entirely of locally sourced, organic ingredients. Men, women, and children build the arches with inlaid sugarcanes, willow, wild fennel, and asparagus under the supervision of local artisans. On Good Friday, they decorate the arches with rosemary, which symbolizes grief. And on the night before Easter Sunday, they replace the rosemary twigs with round-shaped bread loaves, chandeliers decorated with dates, mosaics of made of rice and legumes, and marmurata, a sweet, unleavened bread glazed with white icing.

Each ingredient takes on a symbolic meaning stemming from Christianity and local farming culture. “Bread symbolises farmers’ hard work,” says Navarra, “but it’s also the symbol of the body of Christ.” Decorations reflect this dual symbolism too: Motifs from local folk traditions—such as the sun, moon, and stars—appear alongside Christian icons such as white doves. close up of the motifs on the structures. COURTESY LA CREATIVITA’DI UN POPOLOInitially, townspeople built just a few arches. But as the tradition evolved, more and more structures were added. “Eventually there were arches on both sides of the original arches,” Navarra say. “So in a way, it resembled the inside of San Biagio’s cathedral, which is made of three naves.”
That’s when things got more fun. Participants started to intentionally position the arches in a way that resembled the inside of the cathedral: a central aisle surrounded by two lateral naves, one leading to the altar of the Virgin Mary, and another leading to the altar of Jesus Christ. Historically, the altar of Mary was curated by the confraternity of Madunnara while Jesus’s was curated by the Signurara. The entire population of San Biagio belongs to one of the two “teams.”
“We decided to play a game,” Navarra says. “Each confraternity would prepare arches for their respective side of the church, and then we would pick a winner.” from toddlers to nonnes is involved with preparations for the Arches of Bread festival. COURTESY LA CREATIVITA’DI UN POPOLOA few months before Easter, each team nominates an artistic director whose job is to create an impressive food design. Secrecy is essential, so the planning and building takes place in abandoned warehouses that become food-sculpting labs. Away from prying eyes, each team makes chandeliers from dates, mosaics from barley, legumes, and pasta, and, of course, a varied assortment of bread loaves. Everything gets coated with a natural resin that make the Arches of Bread festival rainproof.
Everyone from toddlers to nonnes (grandmas) is involved. “Children have a lot of fun,” Navarra says. “They usually start with small tasks like making sourdough or gathering seeds and legumes needed to make mosaics. But one day they will run the show.” and arches of bread. COURTESY DOMENICO CASTALDOThis communal aspect of the festival is what means the most to Navarra, who, together with Giuseppe Savarino, the owner of a popular bar on the main street, has led a local initiative to save the festival from recent financial and political turmoil.
Last year, for the first time since the tradition started, San Biagio cancelled its historic Arches of Bread festival due to lack of funds ( The town had asked the regional government, which typically provided funding, for an estimated €100,000 that never materialized. While last January, the mayor of San Biagio stepped down ( after being accused of Mafia ties, which jeopardized this year’s event.’t eat the chandelier! COURTESY DOMENICO CASTALDO“Skipping the event for two years in a row would have have been a huge loss, and not just for our economy,” Navarra says. “During the months that lead up to the event, the whole town wakes up to life just like nature wakes up from winter. If you take it away, it’s like being stuck in winter.”
Eventually, things turned out for the best. During a heated social media debate about the future of the festival, Navarra came up with a motto: “We surely won’t let the mafia stop the creativity of our people.” Several days later, residents launched a campaign to crowdsource funding and resources ( Cafes and restaurants stepped in to sponsor large sculptures; families turned their homes into labs; and many artisans, including Navarra, agreed to build their creations out of pocket.
This year Navarra is working on an organic bas-relief that represents Peppino Impastato and Father Puglisi (two figures who challenged the Mafia). “What’s great is that everyone did what they could to make it happen,” he says. “We are an isolated community, and our ability to be creative with the products of our land is our greatest asset.”
Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wondrous food and drink.


04-05-2018, 12:26 PM

This 90-year-old ‘adventurer’s adventurer’ has an almost unreal resume of rambling (
Dick Griffith rows a raft through the Grand Canyon at age 89, April 2017. (Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan)

Dick Griffith is a doer, not a talker.

"I don't know anything," said Griffith, a longtime Eagle River Nature Center benefactor and a living legend among Alaska's outdooring set.

The gruff Griffith knows a hell of a lot more than he lets on. The 90-year-old "adventurer's adventurer" has compiled an almost unreal resume of rambling during his nine decades, including legendary pioneering trips down the Grand Canyon, death-defying treks across the Arctic and a laundry list of exploits in the Alaska backcountry.

Griffith's adventures were first chronicled in his copious diaries, then later in the book "Canyons and Ice" by former Eagle River resident Kaylene Johnson-Sullivan.

Last year, a documentary film crew joined Griffith on a rafting trip down the Colorado River, which Griffith first started exploring in makeshift rafts in the 1940s. Johnson-Sullivan — who now lives in Palmer — is co-producing the documentary, which she's trying to fund through a Kickstarter effort ( a partnership with Alaska Public Media. As of Tuesday night, the campaign had raised more than $20,000 toward its $25,000 goal.
Dick Griffith enjoying a smoke. (Renee Johnson)
But there's a catch: The deadline is Thursday, April 5, at 8 p.m. Alaska time, and if the documentary doesn't reach its goal, the funding doesn't kick in.

"It's a lot of nail-biting to get to the finish line," Johnson-Sullivan said in a Tuesday afternoon interview.

The documentary has already been filmed, with footage from the trip down the Grand Canyon supplemented with photos from Griffith's travels. According to the project description, all that's left to complete the film is post-production work.

"We need to cover all the standard costs for a TV show: editing, color-correction and music, plus boring technical and legal stuff like closed captioning and errors and omissions insurance."

Johnson-Sullivan said the trip down the Grand Canyon was filmed in ultra-high resolution by director/producer Andy Trimlett and director of photography Jesse Keller. Johnson-Sullivan said getting the notoriously publicity-averse Griffith to agree to the documentary might have been the hardest part of the effort.

"Dick is a reluctant star," she said. "He's not about notoriety and fanfare."

The only way she could get Griffith onboard, she said, was to assure him the documentary would be a serious production.

"The only way we convinced him this film should be made is that it would be a documentary and it would have nothing to do with reality TV," she said.

Griffith has seen much of the footage and said he was impressed with how the film turned out.

"They got some good stuff," he said.

The crew filmed in Alaska, flying over glaciers and filming some of the wild country Griffith once walked. The highlight of the documentary is an attempt by Griffith to become the oldest person to go through the Colorado River's Lava Falls.

"That's not often done by one so old," said Griffith, who is believed to have been the first person to go through the rapids on an inflatable boat in the 1950s. Returning to the Grand Canyon is a yearly rite for Griffith, who said he didn't think rafting the rapids at his advanced age was particularly noteworthy.

"To me it's nothing," he said. Griffith is modest to a fault, but others who know of his outdoor prowess are much more forthcoming with their praise.

Alaska adventurer Roman Dial wrote the book on packrafting, a pursuit Griffith is widely credited with pioneering.

"He arguably and singlehandedly started the on-going packrafting revolution," Dial wrote in a post on his blog detailing Griffith's contributions to the Alaska — and international — outdoors scene.

Among Griffith's accomplishments are 17 finishes in the Alaska Wilderness Classic, a grueling, badass-only adventure race he last completed when he was 81 years old. He's traversed the length of the Northwest Passage and was known for hiking the length of the Crow Pass Trail — both ways — in one day. Griffith has long been a supporter of the Eagle River Nature Center, and earlier this year he sponsored a matching grant program, promising to match every dollar raised for the center in the Eagle River Valley with one of his own.

Dial — author of "Packrafting! An Introduction and How-to Guide" — credits Griffith with helping start a worldwide shift in outdoor recreation away from motorized transport and toward foot-powered adventures.

"Before that people had walked across Alaska, but they did it for money, or fame, or glory," Dial wrote. "Dick did it because, as he once said, 'Sometimes a man just has to walk.' "

Johnson-Sullivan said the final fundraising push has been frenetic.

"Basically we're calling everybody we know, putting things out on Facebook," she said. If all goes according to plan, she said the documentary will make its debut this fall.

Dial thinks more people need to know Griffith's tale.

"Dick's story is an important one," he wrote. "… An influential one, one that needs to be told and one that we all want to hear."

Email Alaska Star editor Matt Tunseth at


04-09-2018, 01:45 PM

The Dinner Party That Served Up 50,000-Year-Old Bison Stew

When life gives you frozen bison, make dinner.

by Paula Mejia ( 26, 2018 Babe, in all its glory. UA Museum of the NorthOne night in 1984, a handful of lucky guests gathered at the Alaska home of paleontologist Dale Guthrie to eat stew crafted from a once-in-a-lifetime delicacy: the neck meat of an ancient, recently-discovered bison nicknamed Blue Babe.
The dinner party fit Alaska tradition: Since state law bans the buying, bartering, and selling ( of game meats, you can’t find local favorites such as caribou stew at restaurants. Those dishes are enjoyed when hunters host a gathering. But their meat source is usually the moose population—not a preserved piece of biological history.
Blue Babe had been discovered just five years earlier ( by gold miners, who noticed that a hydraulic mining hose melted part of the gunk that had kept the bison frozen. They reported their findings to the nearby University of Alaska Fairbanks. Concerned that it would decompose, Guthrie—then a professor and researcher at the university—opted to dig out Blue Babe immediately. But the icy, impenetrable surroundings made that challenging. So he cut off what he could, refroze it, and waited for the head and neck to thaw.
Soon, Guthrie and his team had Blue Babe on campus and started learning more about the ancient animal. They knew that it had perished about 36,000 years ago, thanks to radiocarbon dating. (Though new research shows that Blue Babe is at least 50,000 years old, according to the university’s Curator of Archaeology, Josh Reuther.) Tooth marks and claw marks also suggested that the bison was killed by an ancestor of the lion, the Panthera leoatrox. Curator Josh Reuther and University of Arizona’s François B. Lanoë draw a sample from Blue Babe for the ongoing redating project. UA Museum of the NorthBlue Babe froze rapidly following its death—perhaps the result of a wintertime demise. Researchers were amazed to find that Blue Babe had frozen so well that its muscle tissue retained a texture not unlike beef jerky. Its fatty skin and bone marrow remained intact, too, even after thousands of years. So why not try eating part of it?
It had been done before. “All of us working on this thing had heard the tales of the Russians [who] excavated things like bison and mammoth in the Far North [that] were frozen enough to eat,” Guthrie says of several infamous meals. “So we decided, ‘You know what we can do? Make a meal using this bison.’”
Guthrie decided to host the special dinner when taxidermist Eirik Granqvist completed his work on Blue Babe and the late Björn Kurtén was in town to give a guest lecture. “Making neck steak didn’t sound like a very good idea,” Guthrie recalls. “But you know, what we could do is put a lot of vegetables and spices, and it wouldn’t be too bad.” Granqvist working on the taxidermy of Blue Babe. UA Museum of the NorthTo make the stew for roughly eight people, Guthrie cut off a small part of the bison’s neck, where the meat had frozen while fresh. “When it thawed, it gave off an unmistakable beef aroma, not unpleasantly mixed with a faint smell of the earth in which it was found, with a touch of mushroom,” he once wrote ( epage&q=bjorn%20kurten%20bison%20stew&f=false). They then added a generous amount of garlic and onions, along with carrots and potatoes, to the aged meat. Couple that with wine, and it became a full-fledged dinner.
Guthrie, who is a hunter, says he wasn’t deterred by the thousands of years the bison had aged, nor the prospect of getting sick. “That would take a very special kind of microorganism [to make me sick],” he says. “And I eat frozen meat all the time, of animals that I kill or my neighbors kill. And they do get kind of old after three years in the freezer.” Babe on display at University of Alaska Museum of the North. Patricia Fisher PhotographyThankfully, everyone present lived to tell the tale (and the bison remains on display at the University of Alaska Museum of the North). The Blue Babe stew wasn’t unpalatable, either, according to Guthrie. “It tasted a little bit like what I would have expected, with a little bit of wring of mud,” he says. “But it wasn’t that bad. Not so bad that we couldn’t each have a bowl.” He can’t remember if anyone present had seconds, though.
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04-09-2018, 03:42 PM


Frostbitten racer plans to send his amputated toes to bar for ‘Sourtoe Cocktail’

Annie Zak Anchorage Daily News
A man who lost three of his toes because of severe frostbite after a long-distance backcountry race in February will send the amputated digits to a Dawson City bar for good use, according to Canada’s CBC News.
Nick Griffiths ended up with frostbite while competing in the Yukon Arctic Ultra race in Canada. Griffiths had three toes amputated this week, and told CBC that the Downtown Hotel Sourdough Saloon asked for them
“They basically said, ‘Can we have them if you’re not going to need them anymore?’ ” Griffiths, who lives in England, told CBC. “It’s sort of recycling taken to the extreme.”
The saloon in Dawson City — a town in the Yukon about 65 miles east of the Alaska-Canada border — makes a drink called the “Sourtoe Cocktail,” which consists of a shot of liquor garnished with a preserved human toe. Patrons aren’t meant to swallow the toe, though. The bar keeps a few of the digits on hand, according to CBC.
The Yukon Arctic Ultra starts in Whitehorse and has a 100-mile option and a 300-mile option, according to CBC News. This year’s race was so extremely cold that at one point, it was put on hold as racers dropped out due to hypothermia and frostbite. Some sought hospital treatment.
Griffiths now has his toes in jars at home.
“So I just need to try and find a way of getting them to Canada,” Griffiths told CBC.
Last summer, someone stole a toe from the Dawson City bar but later returned it in the mail with an apology letter. In 2013, a man swallowed the toe from his drink and paid the then-$500 fine for doing so.
Contact Annie Zak at

Flying Orca

04-09-2018, 03:48 PM

This story started with a Kijiji ad, was posted on Facebook, made the local CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press, and has apparently now appeared in the Toronto Star. Rick and Jill are old friends of the family and colleagues of my parents'.


04-11-2018, 02:32 AM

This story started with a Kijiji ad, was posted on Facebook, made the local CBC and the Winnipeg Free Press, and has apparently now appeared in the Toronto Star. Rick and Jill are old friends of the family and colleagues of my parents'.

Thank you for the interesting story. I hope they find the right person to help them to do their last long ride.


05-24-2018, 10:02 AM


2 black bears killed in Eagle River after breaking into vehicles

Animals were reportedly opening car doors in search of food.

Tegan Hanlon Anchorage Daily News

Michaela Canterbury watched from her bathroom window as a black bear pawed at the silver SUV parked outside her home near the Eagle River Nature Center in mid-May. She yelled at the bear to leave and it eventually walked over to the family’s deck. Photo by MICHAELA CANTERBURY

Photo by MICHAELA CANTERBURYMichaela Canterbury watched from her bathroom window as a black bear pawed at the silver SUV parked outside her home near the Eagle River Nature Center in mid-May.

State wildlife biologists shot and killed two male black bears in Eagle River over the weekend after the animals reportedly opened car doors in the area and shredded the soft top of a Jeep, said the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“They were breaking into cars and causing some real problems,” said Fish and Game spokesman Ken Marsh. “Damage was reported, from claw marks to car doors ripped off and soft tops torn and destroyed.”

The bear shootings mark the second and third bear kills by wildlife officials in the Municipality of Anchorage this year due to public safety concerns. Wildlife biologists killed the first bear of the season in Chugiak in early May. The brown bear sow had a history of fearlessly raiding trash cans in the area, according to Fish and Game. It and its three cubs eventually showed up at a year-round retreat, charging a family’s dog and killing 22 chickens and goat.

Marsh said he feels like a broken record, but he’ll say it again: Secure your trash and your livestock. Bears that get used to eating human food pose a safety threat.

“Almost 100 percent of the time, the bears we have to deal with in neighborhoods, that have to be put down, have gotten used to trash being left out or poultry,” he said. “They make a habit out of it.”

Marsh expects the two black bears killed this weekend started out rooting through trash cans, and their behaviors escalated to entering cars to find something to eat. They must have discovered a meal in a vehicle at some point, Marsh said, and then searching cars for grub became a habit.

While Fish and Game received a few reports of bears damaging cars in the Eagle River area last year, reports of a pair of black bears breaking into vehicles increased last week, Marsh said. The bears’ behavior seemed more aggressive.

“They were apparently working together,” he said.

Most of the reports about bear break-ins this month came from neighbors in the sparsely populated areas around Eagle River Road and Prudhoe Bay Avenue, not far from the Eagle River Nature Center, Marsh said. People told Fish and Game that the bears seemed unfazed by humans and dogs. One person said the bears managed to open an unlocked car door.

“They probably weren’t going to hotwire the rig and drive away,” Marsh said. “They were looking for food.”

Michaela Canterbury said she looked out her bathroom window last week to see a black bear pawing at her family’s silver SUV. She knocked on the window and yelled to try to scare it off, she said. But it didn’t work.

“He was trying to open the dang door like he wanted to take it out for a spin,” she said.
Eventually, the bear gave up on the SUV and sauntered onto the deck. Canterbury has lived near the Eagle River Nature Center for 20 years. She has seen plenty of bears on her property, she said, but this bear seemed a bit more fearless.

“That’s unnerving,” she said.

Canterbury said she did not leave any food in the vehicle.

Marsh said the two black bears in the Eagle River area became enough of a safety concern that wildlife biologists went out to trap them, catching one late Friday and the second late Saturday off Prudhoe Bay Avenue. The two bears were shot and killed.

Wildlife biologists matched the teeth from one of the euthanized bears with a full set of teeth marks left on a bottle of sunscreen found in one of the ransacked vehicles. It was an exact match, Marsh said. The other bear had tried to get into a vehicle immediately before walking into the trap.

Fish and Game reminds people to store garbage inside secure buildings or in bear-proof containers. Marsh said he would also recommend people remove food from their parked cars and any trash from the beds of their pickup trucks.

“Lock them up, don’t store food in them and if you can keep them in the garage — all the better,” he said.

(Video) This Morning’s Top Headlines – June 6 | Morning News NOW


06-21-2018, 10:48 AM

American Airlines Takes a Stance on Family Separation: 'Immediately Refrain' From Using Our Planes

JENNI FINK (| JUN 20, 2018 | 12:06 PMás Del Coro/Flickr
American Airlines requested that the United States government refrain from using its planes to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families.
In a statement provided to Business Insider (, the company said the policy of separating families is “not at all aligned with the values of American Airlines,” adding, “We bring families together, not apart.”
Given that the company doesn't agree with the policy, it requested that the federal government “immediately refrain” from using American's planes to transport children who were separated from their families. Moore/Getty Images

The statement explained that American, along with other airlines, provides travel for the federal government but isn't told about the “nature of the flights.”
“We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it,” it said.

American acknowledged that its planes have been used to transport refugees for both nonprofits and the government, especially for reuniting them with family and friends.
While the company isn't aware of the government using American's planes to transport separated children, the company would be “extremely disappointed to learn that is the case.”
The statement concluded with the expectation that the federal government will comply with the company's request. Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

President Donald Trump's ( policy has come under heavy fire ( from both sides of the aisle, and on Wednesday, the president said he'll be “signing something” to end the practice.

It's expected that Trump, who has previously called on Congress to change the laws, will sign an executive order drafted by Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
“We want to keep families together,” the president told reporters.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan ( (R-Wis.) also said Wednesday that the House is primed to vote on an immigration package that would end the policy of separating families.
“We do not want children taken away from their parents. We can enforce our immigration laws without breaking families apart,” he said. “The administration says it wants Congress to act and we are.”
The vote is set to take place Thursday and also includes other immigration policies, such as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.


09-06-2018, 11:29 AM

Teamwork and ingenuity free horse from a muddy hole in Chugiak

Michailia Massong, waist-deep in a muddy bog Friday afternoon, fought to hold her best friend's head above water.

"Don't you dare give up on us!" she pleaded, as Luna, her 13-year-old American quarter horse, shivered in a swamp a half-mile off Birchwood Loop in Chugiak.

Luna had unexpectedly bolted during a routine ride and wound up stuck. The two had been struggling to get out of the bog for two hours. Massong was getting colder by the minute. Luna's gums were turning pale, her breathing was becoming labored.

"She was fading on us," Massong said. "I actually thought we were going to lose her."

That's because "they" in this case included a team of rescuers who dropped everything to rush to the aid of the stranded animal. Volunteer firefighters came from Chugiak. Officers from Animal Control arrived from Anchorage. An expert in California chimed in over the phone. Neighbors tromped through the swamp with blankets. And a company whose primary job is digging holes for septic tanks instead found itself at the middle of a dramatic equine excavation.

"It was a big group effort, not just from people in the state but from thousands of miles away," Massong said Tuesday. "I'm just so grateful people would put a horse before anything else in their lives. It's pretty amazing our community would do that."

Routine ride to nightmare

Massong first met her good-natured golden horse with a white nose when she was just a foal. Luna was born at Massong's grandfather's place and became hers three years later. They've been inseparable ever since.

"We do everything together," Massong said.

The duo grew up together in Chugiak, where Massong lives a semi-rural lifestyle centered around her two horses and a pony. Massong rode Luna to a Miss Rodeo Alaska title in 2017 and the pair work daily giving riding lessons to children. With her gentle nature and sweet disposition, Luna is an ideal teacher.

"She is an amazing lesson horse," Massong said. "She loves the kids."
Michailia Massong rides Luna in Palmer. (Photo courtesy of Michailia Massong)
When they're not working, Massong rides Luna on the trails near their Chugiak home. Friday Massong and a friend were riding their horses on a trail through the woods when the normally placid Luna suddenly bolted.

"She's not a spooky horse," said Massong, who speculated Luna may have stepped on something sharp, hidden in the ground.

Massong dismounted and tried to get Luna back on the trail, but the mare again lurched toward the swamp. What looked like a small pool of water turned out to be a deep, weed-filled morass.

"The mud kept just sucking her deeper," she said.

Massong and her friend started calling anyone they could think of to help. Anchorage Animal Care and Control director Laura Atwood said the department got the call shortly after 2 p.m. and quickly dispatched two officers to the scene. They were able to get there quickly because dispatchers had Massong and her friend send a Google Maps pin with their exact location.

Still, for a department used to capturing stray dogs and cats or an occasional loose sheep, a horse rescue was a different beast altogether.

"This was definitely unusual," she said.

Horse rescues aren't a big part of the Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department's mission, either, but Lt. Chris Steeves figured they could do something. When the firefighters and animal control officers arrived, they found Luna hopelessly mired.

"It was nasty," Steeves said.

Firefighters laid backboards on the ground to gain stable footing, but manpower alone wasn't going to cut it. Someone got the idea of using a four-wheeler, but winching Luna out of the mud would be dangerous and likely still wouldn't provide enough force to free her.

"It's hard to move a thousand-pound animal when they're not wanting to move," Massong said.

"A horse in a swamp is a first"

Chad Devore, one of the owners of a company that does septic work, was driving from Anchorage to Eagle River when he got a strange phone call about a horse stuck in a swamp. Devore has experience getting cars and trucks out of the mud, "but a horse in a swamp is a first."

"I was just thinking of different ways on my way," he said.

When he arrived on scene, Devore quickly realized it was going to take more than a bunch of good Samaritans and some backboards. It was time to call in the heavy equipment.
Members of the Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department and other volunteers work to free Luna last Friday. (Photo by Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department)
Devore called over to a nearby work site, where the company he owns with his dad and three brothers was working on a project. Soon, an excavator rumbled toward the scene.

"I can get that thing pretty much anywhere," he said.

Devore's dad, Wayne, said it wasn't a hard call for the company to drop what it was doing and volunteer to help.

"Why would we not?" he asked.

The excavator arrived quickly, but what to do remained a puzzle. Lifting her straight up and out of the muck would require some kind of harness to distribute her weight equally and not injure her further. That's when rescuers got in touch with Massong's boyfriend's stepdad in California — who just happens to have experience with horse rescues. Over the phone, the man guided rescuers through the process of rigging a harness. Although they didn't have much in the way of straps, the firefighters did have access to something similar. So they started cutting.

"We rigged up some fire hose, made like a bridle for the horse," Steeves said.

As word spread about the horse rescue, neighbors wearing boots and carrying blankets poured in to offer help in any way they could.

"The most amazing part was how many people showed up from the community," Steeves said.

Once the harness was rigged, Devore used the excavator to slowly and steadily pull Luna straight up and out of the mud.

Dazed and covered in mud, Luna laid next to the watery mudhole. As volunteers patted and rubbed her, her spirit slowly returned. Massong checked the horse's legs for injuries, and rescuers cut away the makeshift harness.

"She was ready to go," Massong said.

One of Luna's front legs had what Massong called "a weird cut," which she thinks may have come from the initial spooking. A veterinarian checked Luna out and proclaimed her a bit bruised up but otherwise healthy.

"The cheers when she stood up, it was amazing," Massong said. "She was so happy."

Every single person involved in the rescue said they would have been unable to save the horse without the help of the others.

"Really is was the Chugiak Fire and Rescue that deserves credit," said Animal Control's Atwood.

"The excavator, that was really the key," said Steeves.

"It was a community effort," said Septic Solutions owner Wayne Devore.

Massong said she thinks everyone deserves equal credit for pitching in to save her beloved Luna.

"They're all heroes," she said.


09-07-2018, 10:52 PM

State reroutes Dalton Highway to protect motorists from migrating ‘blob’

Alaska highway workers have moved the Dalton Highway to protect it from a giant mass of frozen debris oozing down a hillside.

The roughly mile-long frozen debris lobe, consisting of dirt, ice and trees, is informally called "the blob." It threatened to bulldoze away a section of road more than 200 miles north of Fairbanks in three, maybe four years, transportation officials said.

[State looks for help fighting mile-long blob. (]

So the state has moved the road farther downhill, buying itself 20 or so years before the blob can menace it again, at a cost of about $2 million, said Jeff Currey, a materials engineer with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

Motorists, often truck drivers delivering supplies to the North Slope oil fields, were rerouted onto the new gravel road starting Aug. 31, the agency said.
West side (downhill) side of the realignment, with road shoulder treatment (the coarse rock). (Photo by Jocelyn Simpson / Alaska DOT&PF)
The lobe, essentially a slow-motion permafrost landslide, measured up to 90 feet thick and 850 feet wide last year.

Frozen lobes were created eons ago after retreating glaciers left basins that collected dirt and other debris. Water and snowmelt mixed in and froze, helping make permafrost.
Partly because of pressure, the lobe is thought to contain supercooled water that remains liquid though its temperature is slightly below freezing. The water helps the lobe slide.
Moving at a 15-foot annual pace, the lobe's leading edge had begun to enter the highway right of way at Milepost 219, causing mud and gravel to clog drainage pipes in 2017.
Higher temperatures, causing more snowmelt to drain into the mass, is believed to have accelerated its creep.

[Pricey projects loom as erosion threatens runways, roads and more. (]

The state considered lots of options to stop the lobe from T-boning the two-lane highway. The idea of blowing it up was quickly tossed. Building a bridge over it was too expensive. Dismantling it would have created too much stuff to haul away. So the state decided the best bet was realigning 4,000 feet of road. The new section was built about 400 feet west, part of a 15-mile, $25 million overhaul of the so-called haul road.
The state is leaving the old road in place, as an experiment designed to inform transportation managers about threats from other lobes. Other gigantic slugs of permafrost are moving downhill in the Brooks Range, and could one day threaten the road.
This 2014 photo shows three of several frozen debris lobes moving down the hillsides along the Dietrich River valley in the southern Brooks Range, posing a serious threat to the Dalton Highway and trans-Alaska pipeline. (Todd Paris / University of Alaska Fairbanks)
Scientists with the University of Alaska Fairbanks will watch what happens, said Currey.
It's not known whether the lobe will simply ooze over the road or take it out. Maybe the road will stop it.
"Learning about the behavior of these things will be useful in the future," he said.


09-07-2018, 11:01 PM

South Anchorage apple orchard opens to the public one day a year

Lawrence Clark started planting trees at his apple orchard in South Anchorage shortly after the 1964 earthquake. For years he added trees, experimenting with new varieties grafted onto hardy Siberian crabapple rootstock.

When Clark passed away shortly after the 2009 harvest, his orchard on Rabbit Creek Road was in need of serious attention.

"You can't really blame him," said Randy Arduser, who, along with his wife, Sonja, inherited the orchard from Clark, who was Sonja's uncle. "He was in his 90s after all."

Randy Arduser stands among apple trees in his orchard on Rabbit Creek Road. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
For more than 30 years, between his job teaching at East High and commercial fishing in Bristol Bay during the summer, Arduser helped Clark tend the orchard. Each fall the family would spend a few long days picking apples, 75 to 80 five-gallon buckets' worth, which they would sell from a roadside stand at the end of the driveway. It was hard work.

About eight years ago, they began opening the orchard to the public for picking one day each fall.

"The last five years or so (Clark) was alive I convinced him to go with a you-pick model," said Arduser, sitting in a plastic lawn chair outside the greenhouse at the orchard Saturday. "He had always been against it, because he was concerned about people damaging the trees. But we've found that people are more than careful, they don't damage the trees."

"Most people realize that this is very unique," he said. "There aren't many places like this where you can come and pick apples."

In recent years Arduser has been cleaning up the orchard, sorting through things left by Clark, who was a welder by trade. And he has been adding trees. "I've planted seven apple trees and 10 cherry trees this summer," he said.

When he runs out of room for new trees, Arduser plans to start grafting new varieties onto the existing trees. "There are so many more really nice apples that I don't have," he said.

The Ardusers — Sonja is also a retired teacher — enjoy seeing families come to the orchard once a year to pick apples.

"Last year we had 871 people walk through that gate," Randy Arduser said. "I sold over 4,000 pounds of apples."

What doesn't sell on the you-pick day is sold to Double Shovel Cider Co., which makes hard cider.

Clark's Apple Orchard (, 3200 Rabbit Creek Road, will be open for you-pick apples Saturday, Sept. 8, from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. The cost is $2 per pound.

A greenhouse at Clark’s Apple Orchard has a sign saying “Good Apples.” (Loren Holmes / ADN)


09-08-2018, 07:39 PM

Anchorage Daily News, full page add



09-11-2018, 12:17 PM

San Diego School Cafeteria Worker Feeds Homeless Seven Nights A Week. Gets A Deserved Surprise.

For the last 29 years, Debra Davis has worked as a food service employee for the San Diego School District. The last 8 have been at Hoover High.
She knows the dietary requirements and the names of every student and staff in the school, but she calls everyone ‘sweetie-pie’ or ‘sweetie.’
Including the principal.
She is referred to as ‘Auntie Debra’ by everyone...including the principal, Jason Babineau. “She’s just as happy and positive as can be. Never missing a day to truly spread joy.”
“I feed the kids, I prepare the food, I talk to them, I stop them from fighting. They don’t cuss, they have to respect and they call me ‘Aunt Debbie…..I’m just a servant.”
Every day after school, including the weekend, Auntie Debra goes home and cooks up a four course meal, and drives the streets of San Diego looking for homeless that she can feed.
She feeds around 40 people a day or “as long as the food lasts.”
She does this with what little money she has. She recycles bottles and cans to help pay for it.
When asked why...she smiled and said, "But you don't understand the joy that I get from feeding people."
Says Babineau, “She didn’t want anyone to know of her good deeds. She is so humble.”
She does this in her 1976 Chevy Malibu. “I call her, ‘Transformer’.”
She calls for a friend with a towing service at least twice a month when Transformer inevitably breaks down.

“I’ve never met a homeless person who wasn't starving for my home cooking.”
On one day a few months back, a tech specialist with the San Diego Unified School District, Greg Quirin, visited the school, and spotted the car in the employee parking area. He asked Babineau about it and confirmed it belonged to Auntie.
The wheels started turning.
Says Quirin, “ We decided she would be a perfect candidate for a donated auto that a Morse High School shop class was refurbishing and wanted to give to someone in need. At the time, we didn’t know of her after-hours selfless service.”
State Farm donated a recovered stolen vehicle, a 2014 Mazda 3, through the Kids for Peace's Great Kindness Challenge (, and with the help of charities Recycled Rides ( and Kids for Peace (
Writes 23 News…
Morse is the only high school in the state to have the National Automotive Technician Education Foundation certification, giving students a big edge when looking for jobs right out of high school.
For three weeks, students fixed up all the dents and scratches.
“They are showing off their skills of repairing, and at the same time, giving away to some of their work in the community,” said auto body teacher Leonardo Zarate.

And then….this.

"To see this gift that so many people have been a part of in making it happen is a wonderful thing," says Babineau.
But it wasn’t enough.
She has people to feed.
He went to the school board, who agreed to give Auntie a raise, small that it may be.
But….she has people to feed.
So he started a (… to help her do just that. “It’s more than just the monetary value of what she’ll end up receiving,” Babineau said. “I’ve had conversations with her about the big picture impact she’s been having because she’s been hesitant to receive this type of attention. It’s evidence the that work she’s doing with students and people in the community can inspire people around the world to want to be a part of it and do the same.
All in all, I’d say people have raised at least $20,000.
All of it is going to Debra to feed the homeless.”
“I don’t want all this exposure,” said Davis. “This is not Debra. It’s the Lord’s doing. I just want to treat people the way I want people to treat me. When I see these people it’s like I won $1 million because they are so grateful.
I thank God that they see my spirit. So I want to tell them all thank you. No one has ever done anything like this for me. I thought I was going to get my heaven in heaven.
But I got a little piece of heaven right here.”
And does it surprise you that she finds the time to volunteer 20 hours a week at a local senior center?
Me neither….for our Auntie, with the ‘insatiable need to feed.’


09-15-2018, 12:16 PM

Diver dragged to seafloor by dislodged wreckage off Alaska Peninsula

A man diving on a wreck about nine miles northeast of False Pass at the tip of the Alaska Peninsula was injured Thursday when a piece of the wreckage dragged him more than 50 feet down to the seafloor, the U.S. Coast Guard said.

The diver, who was not identified, freed himself and surfaced before he was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter Thursday afternoon, the Coast Guard said. A video of the hoist into the helicopter shows the man able to move and apparently not badly hurt.

He was diving in about 10 feet of water when a piece of the wreck broke free and pinned him to the seafloor at a depth of about 65 feet for several minutes, according to Coast Guard public information officer Nate Littlejohn.

A dive master aboard the tender Makushin Bay reported the accident around 1:50 p.m., the Coast Guard said. The diver was described as bleeding from the nose, with possible left-side injuries.

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew out of Air Station Kodiak happened to be in nearby Cold Bay on a "non-maritime" medical transport of a possible stroke patient in Sand Point, Littlejohn said. The helicopter dropped off the patient and then picked up the diver and brought him to the clinic in Cold Bay.

He had been released as of Friday, a clinic staffer said.


09-15-2018, 12:36 PM

A famous monk’s journey to Alaska, 50 years later

This is my 40th year in the 49th state, a good time to reflect on what keeps so many of us physically and spiritually bound to this dynamic land.

In spring 1978, along with millions of tired, hungry shorebirds from every continent, I arrived with a copy of John McPhee's "Coming into the Country," my first pair of hiking boots, and everything else I owned stuffed into two wheel-less suitcases. Bursting with anticipation to see tall mountains, and a Pennsylvanian by birth, I felt no remorse migrating from my temporary home on Florida's crowded, very flat west coast.

The monotonous days of sub-tropical sun and heat, the remaining slivers of waterfront being paved over for more condominiums, the ongoing family tensions — it was, in short, an inner malaise and a touch of rebelliousness which drove me north to Alaska, for the chance to find myself.

Fifty years ago this month, the most famous monk in American history, Thomas Merton (, also bolted for the north, though it wasn't something he ever dreamed up himself. An unexpected opportunity arose to embark on a 17-day sojourn to the young, still mysterious state. Wisely, he seized it.

Merton, a graduate of Columbia University, had lived as a Trappist monk — albeit a provocative and unconventional one — in rural Kentucky at the Our Lady of the Abbey of Gethsemani for 27 years. The Commonwealth of Kentucky was known for its green knobs and knolls, which the monk enjoyed, but its highest peak stood at about 4,500 feet and was far away and nowhere in sight of his monastery.

As a bestselling author of 60 books, a compulsive journaler and a world-renowned spiritual thinker, Merton seemed to be recalibrating his interior life precisely when the invitation to speak to the "freezing faithful" of Alaska materialized from Archbishop Joseph T. Ryan. As Anchorage's first archbishop, Ryan was busy trying to establish the new archdiocese. Merton's charismatic presence would be a welcome boost.

Through his Zen-like reflections on contemplation, a sense of place and the divinity of nature, Merton, in 1960s parlance, "turned on" many readers. His lyrical and powerful writings filled volumes — books that readers in secular and religious worlds held onto and cherished.

Anchorage's second archbishop, the late Archbishop Francis T. Hurley, explained in an interview I conducted with him in 2007 that when he was a young seminarian, many considered Merton "the hottest thing around." The more conservative Catholics of the day found Merton's interfaith interests and explorations upsetting, and his anti-war verbalizing too "un-contemplative." Hurley also remembered Merton sometimes being described as "Father Malarkey Merton."

Though celebrated as a gifted and powerful writer, by the time Merton got to Alaska, he hungered for fewer words. He'd been immersed in Zen Buddhism, as were many poets of the time. He tried practicing a more direct way of seeing and being in the world, to acquire wisdom not from theories, doctrines, legalisms and other abstractions, but to live more experientially. In Alaska, we call that survival.

By 1968, the poet-monk was regarded as a "spiritual master," a label he always shunned. Rather, Merton humbly saw himself as a curious pilgrim who had much to learn from everybody else.

What better place than the icebox of the Last Frontier, with its calving tidewater glaciers, its ample, towering mountain ranges and its inconceivable grand and vast scale to adjust one's outlook and sense of self-identity and importance? In the St. Elias/Fairweather range alone, 20 peaks reach above 11,000 feet. The highest and fourth-highest mountains in all of North America were in Alaska— Denali and Mount Saint Elias. Merton notes both on the pages of his working notebook. There were more square miles of silence here to last any hermit to judgment day, he wrote.
Trappist Monk Thomas Merton. (Photo courtesy Thomas Merton Legacy Trust, Bellarmine University.)
Thomas Merton, aka Fr. Louis, arrived in Anchorage, population around 45,000, on Sept. 17, 1968, when daylight was shrinking fast and most visitors had vanished to warmer climes. In that most violent and hostile year, a disillusioned American public struggled with the cultural and political carnage saturating the evening news. One tragic event after another struck. Violent protests over Vietnam. Assassinations. Riots. A kind of neurosis had set in as democratic ideals and values were being tested on every level.

The country was spiraling into perplexing and troubling directions. Whatever center and foundation America proudly kept, it was now sliding down a dangerous cliff.

The good-humored, workaholic monk, by this time something of a Catholic superstar, walked briefly without notice through the streets of Anchorage, relieved that the newly-established archdiocese kept his presence "below the radar screen." Under orders from his abbot, no public lectures or television cameras were permitted as he traveled by small plane to remote Alaskan places.

The mood in the 49th state was practically the opposite in 1968. The latest economic news about the discovery of Prudhoe Bay oil was cause for much celebration, though the more jubilant atmosphere was soon tempered by critical public land issues begging resolution. Merton recognized the state's historical ties with Russia, but he disliked seeing evidence of the U.S. military's buildup in the Cold War. In the early 1960s, he wrote about the threat of nuclear war, but his Cold War writings were censored by his religious superiors and not publicly released until years after his death.

Alaska impressed Merton. From his jet window, he made note: "Fine snow-covered mountains lift their knowledges into a gap of clouds and I am exhilarated with them. Salute the spirit dwellings. Spirit-liftings come up out of the invisible land."

He marveled at the "snowy nails" of mountains, and the "beauty and terror" of Chugach mountaintops powdered with fresh, clean snows, and the "indescribable ice patterns."
"The mountains are the finest I have seen anywhere. It is a GREAT land," he wrote.
A bald eagle flies over Cook Inlet with Mount Redoubt in the background at Anchor Point on Sunday, May 12, 2013. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)
From the massive 1964 earthquake, he saw evidence of the huge lift of land, and everywhere he went during his intense itinerary, he tried snapping high-quality, 35-mm photos of mountains he saw such as Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna, Mount Drum, Mount Wrangell, Mount Augustine, and O'Malley Peak.

(Continues on next post)


09-15-2018, 12:38 PM

From the massive 1964 earthquake, he saw evidence of the huge lift of land, and everywhere he went during his intense itinerary, he tried snapping high-quality, 35-mm photos of mountains he saw such as Mount Redoubt, Mount Iliamna, Mount Drum, Mount Wrangell, Mount Augustine, and O'Malley Peak.

It's interesting that over the course of his life, Merton's private journals do not reveal his ascent to ever-higher and assured stages of spiritual attainment. According to noted Merton scholar, Jonathan Montaldo, Merton's journals instead reveal the monk's gradual descent into "a spiritual poverty." Merton's interior journey was often one of struggling, stumbling, faltering forward. He was not the monk who had fully arrived, Montaldo believes. He claimed to be nobody's answer to anything.

Thomas Merton preferred authentic dialogues between different peace activists, philosophers, South American poets, existentialist writers, and Russian theologians, to any dualistic, narrow-minded, "toe the party line" arguments. He reached across religious aisles with his ecumenical, open-mindedness.

To his Alaskan listeners, Merton willingly admitted to his complex, self-contradictory temperament. In the retreat talks he gave to priests and nuns, Merton called himself a "personalist." He reminded local "Catlicks" that it was important to be in touch with the depths of one's inner being. By calling himself a personalist, he was someone who firmly believed people should be people and remain true to themselves, and not be ordered, directed, alienated, oppressed, and defined by others. Or, for that matter, swallowed up like slaves or automatons in a dehumanizing political or economic system.

Merton was also concerned about the dominating forces of technology that he felt were destroying our basic humanity. What would this astute social critic say about today's pervasive media intrusions and distractions? Had he lived long enough in the north, would he have reminded us to head into the mountains to combat the droning assault of lies, and to restore our need for solitude, solace and silence? Would he choose to quietly and passively read about the country's current divisiveness, or would he offer some well-reasoned, thoughtful and balanced responses in a more public way?

Perhaps the bigger story surrounding Merton's motivation for visiting the 49th state was not to keep on talking and commenting, but to quiet down. One of his greater, yet unfulfilled desires, was to seek a location where he could one day try and live as an outright hermit. He lamented that he needed deeper solitude, more simplicity. For the last few years of his life, he lived in a private, cinderblock hut one mile from the monastery's main grounds where fans and visitors could track him down. In the Last Frontier, if a suitable location were to be found, he could live more akin to a northern Desert Father under glacier-filled mountains.

Had he lived long enough to return to this alpine sanctuary — and I certainly believe he would have come back — the challenges and extremes of Alaska might have been a real test of faith. Though a down-to-earth man in many ways, the energetic monk had never actually experienced real wilderness.
Lake Aleknagik (Pete / ADN reader submission)
He enthusiastically scouted remote parts of Alaska for potential hermitage sites, perhaps a bit naively. He liked the Eyak Lake area in Cordova and said that Lake Aleknagik near Dillingham "speaks to me," though it reminded him of Siberia.
But truth was, he had not wandered alone anywhere near brown bears, lived off a road system, depended on Bush planes to deliver precious supplies, dealt with raging avalanches and permafrost, nor relied on firearms, traps and fishing nets to help him subsist on whatever Mother Nature graciously provided. Doubtful he hoarded any rolls of duct tape.

Throughout the 1960s, however, he had grown more ecologically aware, and became more fully awake to his immediate Kentucky surroundings — to bobwhites and tanagers, mice and frogs — to the hidden wholeness and unity found in the woods and meadows. His ecological consciousness further deepened through the writings of Aldo Leopold, Roderick Nash, John Muir, and from his correspondence with Rachel Carson. And in the corpus of his journals, he referenced nature, often lyrically, an estimated 1,800 times, as another scholar calculated.

But his dilemma? Even as a praying monk in a small hut, he felt access to purifying solitude was harder and harder to find. Being a religious celebrity with his own literary agent, teaching, being an important revenue provider for the Abbey — the intellectual overload took its psychic toll. In 1968, he longed to satisfy an inner restlessness, to explore what was out there beyond the status quo in his too-frenzied existence.

After 17 days of "running around Alaska wildly," as he aptly put it, having concluded his eight eloquent conferences, and completed all his quick visits to Eagle River, Dillingham, Cordova, Juneau and Yakutat, Merton next ventured back to northern California for a few days before taking his big leap into the unknown across the Pacific to Asia to learn all he could from those far-out Buddhists. It was a leap that would lead to his accidental death in Bangkok a mere two months after his Alaska journey.

Alaska's spiritual well runs deep, something that Merton immediately sensed. The Great Land teaches transformative lessons, from cheechakos who flee the congested flatlands of Florida, to monks on the run from the Bluegrass State.
Spending time in mountainous solitude will teach you what the grind of daily existence often prevents. Only by treading across those undefined rocky trails within can we try and silence the chaos blaring outside.

Kathleen Witkowska Tarr lives in Anchorage, serves on the board of the Alaska Humanities Forum and is the author of "We Are All Poets Here." A conference on "Thomas Merton in Alaska" will be held in Anchorage on Sept. 28-29.



10-17-2018, 12:37 PM

‘Growling, spitting, clicking his teeth’: Broom-wielding Seldovia woman fends off bear inside her home

A Seldovia woman fought off a black bear inside her home early Monday with nothing more than a broom, KBBI reported (

Karen Mahan said she was working on her computer shortly before 2 a.m. when she heard a noise coming from her living room and kitchen. Mahan assumed it was her two youngest sons as she went to check, but to her surprise a black bear had broken through her front door and was in her entryway.

"It had to be over 200 pounds. He was looking at me. I run in bedroom to grab my gun. I get my gun. I don't realize that my ammo is old," Mahan recalled over the phone.

"As I'm walking out my bedroom door in a hurry, he's already in the living room standing between my couch and my rifle cabinet. He starts peeling his lips back and growling at me. I pull my gun to shoot on him and it dry fires."
The view out the window through which Karen Mahan pushed a bear, with the screen lying on the ground below. (Courtesy of Karen Mahan)
Mahan said after her pistol failed to fire a second time, she grabbed a metal broom nearby and began hitting the bear, pushing it back toward the entryway.

"He was growling, spitting, clicking his teeth at me. I shoved him back up onto the porch. He jumped back up onto that window. He's so fat, he could not fit through the window," Mahan explained.

"I hauled off and gave that broom everything I had, and I shoved him out that two-story window, he hit my son's truck and dented the door — then making all sorts of noises and took off running."

Mahan said the bear mostly just spread trash around her entryway and that there was minimal damage to her home.

Seldovia Police Chief Paul Cushman responded after Mahan called to report the incident. Cushman said he patrolled the area for the bear but was unable to find it. Cushman said if the bear is found, he would try to trap and relocate it.

The incident followed several reports of a nuisance bear around Seldovia.

"Nothing to this measure where it's gotten into anyone's home or anything. It's gotten into some people's trash, but nothing to this level," Cushman added.

Cushman assumes it is the same bear but said it's possible there are two bears in town causing issues. He encourages residents to be aware of their surroundings and to keep trash out of reach.

This article was originally published at ( is republished here with permission.


10-17-2018, 12:45 PM

Bull moose are in rut across Southcentral Alaska. We witnessed a brutal fight in the middle of the city. (
A moose lies wounded on the trail after losing a fight with the moose at left. The standing moose on the right was in the area during the fight and afterward. (Anne Raup / ADN)

I don't remember if we heard it or saw it first, but the sound was pure agony, a tortured bellowing in a patch of woods in East Anchorage.

We ran toward the noise along the bike trail. Soon we saw two moose in silhouette, one lying on the ground, lit from behind by security lights on a building. Bulls in rut.

I've lived in Alaska for almost 25 years. Like many here, I've watched bulls spar, seen cows lick their newborn calves. I've been chased by moose (once by a particularly crazed cow that I've always wondered about) and watched them strip leaves from branches and munch. But I've never seen anything like the stark scene of wild violence that unfolded a few days ago, there within view of Northern Lights Boulevard in the middle of urban Anchorage.

The standing bull looked massive. We watched it shove a second bull along the ground. The sharp tines of its rack had found their way into the soft underbelly of the other moose. In the darkness, we made out the shape of a third bull, watching. All the while the injured animal moaned, so pained and almost human in its intonation, like a man being brutalized.

We watched, horrified and fascinated, as the big bull shoved, ripped and mangled the other moose on the ground. And then it walked away. The gored animal lay limp, propped against a fence. The third bull approached it and sniffed.

[Photos: Bull moose are in their prime and ready for the rut in Kincaid Park (]

Biologists don't know exactly how many moose are in the Anchorage Bowl and are conducting a years-long DNA study ( to get a clearer count. But the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's biologists estimate there are 1,500 moose in the entire 14C management area, which includes all of the Anchorage Bowl, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Eagle River, Chugiak, Eklutna, Chugach State Park, parts of Chugach National Forest, Girdwood, Portage and an extended area around the Knik River, and Lake George and everything in between.

[How many moose live in Anchorage? For the first time, residents help biologists count (]

We assumed that the dominant bull was older and bigger. I learned later, talking to Fish and Game's area biologist Dave Battle and assistant area biologist Cory Stantorf, that the three bulls there that night were likely close in age, and none of them siblings.

Bulls with a big age difference don't often fight, since that hierarchy is relatively obvious, they told me. It's the moose of similar age that resort to sparring and fighting to determine the right to breed.

The rut this year is actually winding down — the main time for the rut (breeding season) is late September and early October. Maybe because the weather has been so mild, I thought, the rut was just getting started. Battle said that the length of days, the amount of light, is what drives the season, not the weather.

The rut is a taxing time for bull moose. They don't eat and lose 30 percent of their body mass. Since it's right before winter, it can leave them depleted going into the cold weather.

After what seemed like a long time, the downed moose struggled to its hooves. One of the rear legs dangled. The animal took a few steps and stopped, then continued, haltingly, down the trail, then into the creek. The other two animals melted into the dark forest, as they so often do. We walked home.

Much of the hierarchy of dominance between moose for breeding purposes is decided by body language and posturing, Battle said. He talked about a bull standing fairly still but moving its head this way and that, so another bull can fully see the size of its rack. The slow-motion movements of the dominant bull that night surely sent big messages to the other bulls regarding its status.

I kept thinking about that rack and the damage it did. As bull moose age, their racks get bigger — up to a point, Battle said. After passing their prime age, their racks become smaller each year, as they have diminishing energy resources for the massive growth of antler.

Battle said the fight we saw was a serious one. The injured bull could die of an infection or of blood loss or not have resources to survive the winter, he said. He also said that moose are resilient and live through many events.

The next morning, we went to find the dead moose, but found only hair and blood mixed with the yellow cottonwood leaves. There were fresh gouge marks in the wooden fence where it had been pinned and it antlers had dug in as it struggled. A distinct blood trail led into the creek.
A trail of blood drops was evidence of the moose fight the night before. (Anne Raup / ADN)
Clumps of fur mingled with fallen leaves. (Anne Raup / ADN)
The losing moose in the fight was shoved up against a small
fence over Chester Creek. Gouges in the wood were made
by its antlers as it struggled. (Anne Raup / ADN


10-27-2018, 12:58 PM

Badly tangled humpback whale freed from fishing line in Unalaska Bay

A humpback whale got lifesaving help last week from a team of marine mammal responders led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after it became entangled in fishing line in Unalaska Bay near Dutch Harbor.

NOAA officials said they first got a report of the whale's situation Oct. 15. By the time responders reached it, the line was wrapped tightly through its mouth and across its blowholes. Its tail was also weighed down, the agency said, likely by a large cod pot. A marathon rescue mission then followed.

"This humpback was hogtied — the flukes were pulled under the body, connecting to the head with heavy line — and anchored to a pot at the ocean's bottom, which basically immobilized it, much like a dog on a leash," said John Moran, a Juneau-based NOAA Fisheries humpback whale biologist and trained responder under the agency's Large Whale Entanglement Response Network.

Moran flew to Dutch Harbor on Friday to lead the on-water effort to free the whale.

"The response team — which included two vessels and reconnaissance using underwater cameras and an overhead drone — spent 12 hours over two days on the water making numerous attempts at cutting the lines binding the whale," he said.
NOAA’s John Moran cuts line entangling a humpback whale in Unalaska Bay on Oct. 17, 2018. (Andy Dietrick/ NOAA)
The rescue team was able to free the flukes of the head first, which allowed the whale to swim, but it still had about 200 feet of line around it. Fortunately, officials said, it swam toward shallower water, making the continued rescue effort easier.

Finally, after hours of effort, the team got a victory.

"Suddenly there was a popping sound, and the gear floated to the top," said Moran. "Apparently a cutting grapple hook had taken about an hour to work through the line and cut it loose. Then we saw the whale swimming freely and knew it was free of the entanglement."

The whale's dilemma was first noticed by a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers biologist, who reported the situation to the Alaska SeaLife Center Oct. 15. At that time, the whale was observed near Needle Rock.

The next day, it was found again, and this time, it appeared to be anchored and in a life-threatening predicament. A team began to mobilize, including a port vessel with a certified drone operator.

After the whale was able to swim free from the fishing gear, it appeared to be in good condition. Biologists said it was "very likely to survive its ordeal."

"Once we got the gear off, it took off, and was swimming freely and breathing normally," added Moran. "It was a long day, but everyone on the response team was super committed to getting this done. The team work was amazing."

NOAA Fisheries worked with the following partners on this response: Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks Bristol Bay Campus, city of Unalaska, USACE, NOAA Office of Law Enforcement, Aleutian Aerial, Resolve Magone Marine Services, Alaska SeaLife Center, and NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

NOAA reminds mariners to report marine mammals in distress to the NOAA Fisheries 24-hour Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline at 877-925-7773 (tel:877-925-7773).

This article was originally published by the Dutch Harbor Fisherman/Bristol Bay Times ( is reprinted here with permission.


05-02-2019, 10:34 PM


Dead whale comes apart piece by piece, filling freezers and advancing science

Loren Holmes Anchorage Daily News by LOREN HOLMES / ADN Volunteers and Alaska Natives dissect a humpback whale Wednesday along Turnagain Arm. The young whale had been spotted stranded along nearby beaches at least twice earlier this week. Therchik, an Alaska Native from Toksook Bay, uses an ulu to cut pieces of the whale flipper Wednesday.The Marine Mammal Protection Act allows Alaska Natives to harvest meat and muktuk from whales for subsistence purposes. pathologist Cathy Burek, left, consults with biologist Carol Fairfield on how to collect the head. Burek was leading a group of volunteers as they dissected the animal, and Fairfield was hoping to collect the head intact in order to conduct research into how whales hear.

A humpback whale that was found dead on the shore of Turnagain Arm early Tuesday morning was being slowly taken apart Wednesday, soon after it was uncovered by the receding tide.
Researchers don’t know what killed the young whale, which had been spotted stranded on nearby beaches at least two times earlier in the week. The answers may lie hidden beneath a few feet of blubber, muscle and bone.
“Normally when we do a large whale necropsy, it’s easy because the whale is found belly up,” said veterinary pathologist Cathy Burek. When that happens, she can cut open the abdomen and access many of the internal organs that she needs to help her determine what happened.
This whale was found belly down.
Helping the researchers on Wednesday were a steady stream of Alaska Natives, who have subsistence harvest rights under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. William Tate and his girlfriend Barbara Barger were the first to show up. Tate, who is from Kotzebue, and Barger, from Noatak, were hoping for some belly muktuk, but settled for tougher pieces from the side and back.
“It’s a delicacy for us,” said Tate. “Being away from home it’s hard to get muktuk. That’s why we are here.” The couple plans on giving some of the meat to family and friends.
UAA grad student Amy Klink, who was assisting researchers with the necropsy, was impressed by the speed at which Tate and others pulled apart the huge animal.
“They know exactly where to cut,” she said. “They know exactly what kind of cut to make. It’s great to know that it’s not going to waste.”
Under federal law, non-Natives cannot harvest whale meat. Federal law enforcement officers were on hand Wednesday assisting with the effort. “One of our duties is to facilitate Alaska Native subsistence rights under the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” said NOAA law enforcement officer Kevin Clark.
As the tide began to rise Wednesday afternoon, covering the whale, people started to pack up their things. The necropsy, and subsistence harvest, will continue Thursday.
Contact Loren Holmes at


08-12-2019, 07:57 PM

2 men paddle canoe from southern BC to Juneau
Michael S. Lockett

Juneau Empire

JUNEAU — The trip from Seattle to Juneau is about two hours and 15 minutes in the air. Flying from Vancouver would be a little quicker if there were direct flights. Let’s guess it’s about two hours even.
Paddling it in a canoe takes about 55 days.

Liam Godfrey and Jake Dombek, both 22, have been paddling steadily north to Juneau for the last two months, leaving southern British Columbia on June 7. Rowing more than 800 miles with all their gear, relying only on what they prepared, they’ve been working their way up the Inside Passage “The timing was perfect and we just went all in,” Dombek said, who just graduated college. “We’d never planned a trip this big and did it.”

Rowing an average of 20 miles every day, Godfrey and Dombek spent hours a day working their way up the coast, stopping in small towns along the way where they’d mailed themselves food drops before they stepped off.

“There’s pretty much no other place as beautiful that you could just paddle through,” said Godfrey.

Godfrey said he was living in BC last year when they had the idea for the trip. Both men started planning then, and spent the time working out the details, which could be difficult and time-consuming. This was made more difficult because they were frequently working, going to college, or both.

“The hardest part was maintaining our cohesiveness, getting our crap together,” Godfrey said.

The men worked with a number of companies, including Clipper Canoes, to source gear for their trip. They also put together a fundraising campaign so that they could raise and donate money to Pacific Wild, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to protecting the Great Bear Rainforest on the Pacific Coast.

“That kind of became what this trip was about,” Godfrey said. “We wanted to raise awareness and give back to this beautiful area we were paddling through.”

The two donated their funds raised to date to Pacific Wild before leaving, said Dombek.

The trip itself has taken them up the coast, often running through tidal flats and by the odd glacier on the way north. Navigation was done by maps, with redundancy in the form of an independent GPS and their phones.
“We’re both a fan of paper charts,” Godfrey laughed, as he traced the route north, showing where they’d camped.

The men said they picked a canoe for a few reasons; ease of loading, and higher gunwales for ocean chop. Their canoe, 18.5 feet long, carried more than 700 pounds, between their gear, supplies and themselves, Godfrey guessed.

“It’s a lot easier to load, and you can fit more gear,” Dombek said. “We wouldn’t have wanted to do it in any other boat.”

Camping was largely on whichever beach looked promising, or islands where they could find them, for security from bears and other wildlife. Carnivorous wildlife was a concern that they took precautions for every night, but nothing ever troubled them, the men said.

“You have to be aware of potentially dangerous animals,” Dombek said. “You just sleep a little better on an island” The trip was free of any serious trouble, and good weather for the majority, Dombek said. Godfrey added that there were a few days of rough seas where they elected not to go out, and a few 5-8 mile ocean crossings to get across inlets that would take far too long to go down and out again.

Their biggest problem, perhaps, was running out of things to talk about as they paddled alone but for each other for two months.

“There were some days when it’d just be quiet,” Godfrey said. “We just had nothing else to say.”


08-13-2019, 12:02 AM

This is rural Alaska and unbelievable but true ..
Dozens of convicted criminals have been hired as cops in rural Alaska. Sometimes, they’re the only applicants.

In one village, every cop has been convicted of domestic violence within the past decade, including the chief. Only one has received formal law enforcement training of any kind.

Kyle Hopkins (
Published July 18
This article was produced in partnership with ProPublica as part of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network ( This is the second article in a continuing series, Lawless: Sexual violence in Alaska. (

STEBBINS — When Nimeron Mike applied to be a city police officer here last New Year’s Eve, he didn’t really expect to get the job.

Mike was a registered sex offender ( and had served six years behind bars in Alaska jails and prisons. He’d been convicted of assault, domestic violence, vehicle theft, groping a woman, hindering prosecution, reckless driving, drunken driving and choking a woman unconscious in an attempted sexual assault. Among other crimes.

“My record, I thought I had no chance of being a cop,” Mike, 43, said on a recent weekday evening, standing at his doorway in this Bering Strait village of 646 people.

He was wrong.

On the same day Mike filled out the application, the city of Stebbins hired him, handing him a policeman’s cellphone to answer calls for help.

“Am I a cop now?” he remembers thinking. “It’s like, that easy?” (

Nimeron Mike, 43, worked as a village police officer for his hometown of Stebbins from Dec. 31 to March 29. Mike was hired even though he is a registered sex offender and had served six years behind bars in state jails and prisons. (Bill Roth / ADN) (

The short answer is yes. With low pay and few people wanting the jobs, it is that easy in some small Alaska communities for a convicted felon, even someone who has admitted to a sex crime or who was recently released from prison, to be hired with public money to work as a city police officer.

It’s also a violation of state public safety regulations (, yet it happens all the time.

In Stebbins alone, all seven of the police officers working as of July 1 have pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges within the past decade. Only one has received formal law enforcement training of any kind.

The current police chief pleaded guilty to throwing a teenage relative to the ground and threatening to kill her after drinking homebrew liquor in 2017. (Alcohol is illegal in the village.) He was hired a year later. He declined to answer questions in person and blocked a reporter on Facebook.

Two men who until recently were Stebbins police officers pleaded guilty to spitting in the faces of police officers; one was the subject of a 2017 sexual assault restraining order in which a mother said he exposed himself to her 12-year-old daughter. (The officer named in the restraining order said he was busy and hung up the phone when asked about his criminal history; the other officer admitted to the crime.)

Rest of the story here


08-13-2019, 12:31 PM

These are really beautiful and intricate.


12-30-2019, 02:11 PM

Alligators, really pricey bananas and naked people: 2019 in Florida

ST. PETERSBURG — In 2019, Florida Banana managed to eclipse Florida Man. From alligator antics to naked people doing wacky things, Florida did not disappoint in the weird news department this year.

(So. Many. Naked. People.) In December, a Miami couple spent more than $100,000 on the “unicorn of the art world” — a banana duct-taped to a wall — during Art Basel. The piece was widely copied and mocked on social media, and then someone at the art fair ripped it off the wall and ate it.

Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan sold three editions of “Comedian,” each in the $120,000 to $150,000 range.

“We are acutely aware of the blatant absurdity of the fact that “Comedian” is an otherwise inexpensive and perishable piece of produce and a couple inches of duct tape,” one couple that purchased the banana said. “Ultimately we sense that Cattelan’s banana will become an iconic historical object.”

Florida is known for many things. Sunshine, beaches and oranges. The magic of Disney and the glamour of South Beach. It’s also known for having the most bananas news in the United States.

As they often do, alligators topped the list of odd stories. Perhaps the most visually interesting happened in October, when Paul Bedard, who is contracted with the state’s nuisance alligator program, responded to a call of a gator in a swimming pool in Parkland. Bedard “played” with the 8-foot long reptile until it became tired. Then he lifted it out of the water and held it over his head for an Instagram photo.

“I haven’t had a good-sized gator in a swimming pool in probably a year, so I was kind of looking forward to this when I got the call,” he said. The alligator was relocated to a wildlife park.

Humans tangled with gators in a multitude of other ways. One reptile knocked on a woman’s door the night before Thanksgiving in Fort Myers. In Martin County, two men poured Coors beer into an alligator’s mouth. They were arrested.

Alligators weren’t the only animals making headlines in Florida.

In August, a restaurant in Stuart canceled its “Monkey Mondays” when a 9-month-old capuchin named JoJo bit a child’s finger.

Also in August, a Lake Worth Beach man began feeding a kinkajou (a raccoon relative with a prehensile tail that’s native to Central and South America), but one day, it attacked his leg. “It was not a nice kinkajou. It was super aggressive,” the man’s girlfriend told The Palm Beach Post.

And a Labrador retriever somehow got behind the wheel of a car and did doughnuts in Port St. Lucie.

Some claim Florida’s weird news surfaces because of the state’s open public records laws, while others chalk it up to the fact that it’s the third largest state, with more than 21 million people packed on a peninsula — many wearing scant clothing because of infernal heat most of the year.

Whatever the reason, taking stock of the year’s strange stories in Florida is a time-honored tradition. This year’s no different, because the unusual is met with a chuckle and shrug precisely because it’s so normal. (Honestly. In 1986, the state’s official tourism slogan was “Florida … The Rules Are Different Here”).

Consider Patrick Eldridge of Jacksonville, who parked his tiny Smart Car in his kitchen because he was worried it would blow away during Hurricane Dorian.

The owners of a Port Orange funeral home gave away a free cremation as part of its grand reopening.
A toilet exploded in Port Charlotte when lighting struck the home’s septic tank. No one was injured, and homeowner Marylou Ward expressed relief: “I’m just glad none of us were on the toilet.”

Folks attacked one another with all manner of items, including (but not limited to): pancake batter, Pop-Tarts, a fake Christmas tree, swords, McDonald’s condiment packets and roach spray.

In the city of Port Richey, two mayors were arrested in the span of 20 days — one on charges of obstruction of justice; the other, on allegations he was practicing medicine without a license in his home.

Lest you think all Floridians are strange, a few did some remarkably kind things.

Chicago Bears linebacker Khalil Mack went to his hometown of Fort Pierce and stopped by a Walmart store in December. He paid off all the layaways, to the tune of $80,000, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A Florida 9-year-old gave his third grade teacher all the feels when he offered his $15 of birthday money as a solution to the problem of teachers being underpaid.

In Gulf Breeze, a 73-year-old man wanted to “take a little bit of stress out” of the season for his neighbors and secretly gave $4,600 to help 36 families pay their water and gas bills.

But it’s the weird that attracts the most attention here. A number of people were nude, or partially nude, when they made the news.

In Polk County in December, a Florida man was “buck naked” when he showed up to the front door of a home where an undercover sex sting operation was being conducted, sheriff’s officials said. A naked Florida man burglarized an elementary school in Apopka and spread feces throughout the building. Cops chased a lot of naked people through parking lots, swamps and stores, too many to list here.

In Miami in March, motorists captured on camera a nearly nude man wearing hot pink socks, sneakers, skimpy underwear and a pink headband, bicycling backwards down I-95.

As one does.

— Associated Press


12-30-2019, 09:21 PM

I nteresting tidbits:


07-14-2020, 11:16 AM

Alaska Life ( true history of Cook Inlet’s deadly mudflats.

Author:David Reamer ( | Histories of Anchoage (
The mud flats of Turnagain Arm with the Kenai Mountains along the Seward Highway on Thursday, June 9, 2011. (Bob Hallinen ADN)

Part of a continuing weekly series ( on local history by local historian David Reamer. Have a question about Anchorage history or an idea for a future article? Go to the form at the bottom of this story.…..Thanks for being an reader.

The deadly mudflats that line Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm and Knik Arm are the setting for some of the most enduring and gruesome Anchorage urban legends. All the stories begin with an unlucky soul wandering too close to the water and becoming trapped in the quicksand-like mud. From there, victims either drown in the rising tide or are ripped in half by a rope attached to a helicopter.

The exact details vary. Sometimes the victim is a tourist who strayed a little too far from the trails. Sometimes the victim is a member of a wedding photoshoot, an attempt for that perfect Alaska background turned tragic. Sometimes the victim is a duck hunter who pleaded to be shot, preferring a quick death over drowning. The longer you live in Anchorage, the more versions you will hear.

People have indeed died on the mudflats, but the reality is far more horrifying and haunting.

Though similar to quicksand, the local mudflats are unique. A geologist explained the science of the mud to the Anchorage Daily News in 1988: “The grains are highly angular. When they’re deposited, they’re in contact with each other in a delicate balance. When you step on it, you cause it to become more mobile. Then, when it resettles after you’ve disturbed it, it tends to be more compacted around your foot. The grains are so angular that they’re just locked together.”

While the mudflats are extremely dangerous to traverse, stepping onto the mud is not an automatic death sentence. Some Alaskans have survived walks across Turnagain Arm, or from Anchorage to Fire Island and back. Most who sink in the glacial silt are successfully rescued, but the survival rate says more about the skill and zeal of the rescuers. (
Anchorage firefighters inject water under the feet of a young boy trapped in heavy mud at Ship Creek Sunday, Auf.5, 2001. The pressurized water broke down the sucking action of the Cook Inlet silt and the boy was freed in seconds. (Jim Lavrakas/ Anchorage Daily News)
In recent decades, actual deaths have been few, though they serve as gruesome warnings. As reported in the Anchorage Daily News, July 16, 1988, newlyweds Adeana and Jay Dickison went gold dredging around Turnagain Arm’s eastern end, near Portage. The 18-year-old Adeana tried to push their ATV out of the mud, became stuck herself, and eventually drowned in the rising tide. Her attempted rescuers waited for the tide to recede to allow them to recover her body hours later.

In 1978, an Air Force sergeant tried to walk across Turnagain Arm at low tide. He badly misjudged the environment and his abilities; the bore tide swept him into the Inlet (Anchorage Times, July 16, 1981). His body was never found. In 2013 (, Army Captain Joseph Eros, an experienced outdoorsman and Harvard graduate according to the Anchorage Daily News, tried to walk between Kincaid Park and Fire Island with a friend. The friend lived, but Eros died.

The primary source for the legend of Anchorage’s deadly mudflats is Roger Cashin. According to the contemporary Anchorage Daily Times coverage, on Sept. 17, 1961, the 33-year-old soldier walked onto the Palmer Slough flats south of Wasilla with three soldier buddies. Cashin walked a little too close to the water and began to sink.

According to a 1981 Anchorage Times piece looking back at the incident, Cashin’s friends initially thought his predicament was hilarious. They stood on the bank and laughed at him. Their reactions are easy to imagine, especially for stationed soldiers unfamiliar with the local landscape. They surely mocked him and promised to tell tales back on base -- the mighty soldier defeated by a muddy beach. By the time a local hunter, M. C. “Doc” Puddicombe, arrived on the scene, Cashin was hip-deep in mud with the rising tide nearly to him. If the soldiers had treated the situation seriously from the beginning, they could have easily saved him.

The tragic errors continued, according to an interview with Puddicombe in the 1981 Times article. One of the soldiers finally left for help but drove to Wasilla instead of stopping at the nearest home. A helicopter was called, but the pilot misheard the instructions. Instead of “up to his neck,” he heard “up the Knik” and flew several miles the wrong way. A passing seaplane saw the spectacle and attempted to land, though Puddicombe waved him off. The brand-new Sea Cub flipped in the frigid water.

Meanwhile, the assembled could see the helicopter in the distance circling over the Knik River. Puddicombe dispatched one of the soldiers to light some nearby brush on fire, which might have signaled the helicopter over sooner.

“And can you believe it,” Puddicombe told the Times, “the one guy first dropped the match in the brush and then tried to pour on the gas. It blew him several feet backwards, the dumb (expletive).”

While Cashin held onto the edge of Puddicombe’s boat, the hunter took the barrel off his shotgun, thinking Cashin could breathe through it as the tide rose. But makeshift snorkels are material for cartoons or Hollywood. Cashin by then was shaking violently in the icy water, too hypothermic to hold the barrel or breathe steadily. Puddicombe, his two young sons, and the other soldiers nearly died themselves in the cold water but finally had to watch Cashin drown before their eyes.

One moment Cashin was there, alive, and in another was covered in the silty water. “He did not ask us to shoot him,” said Puddicombe. “That is bull, he was a pretty good man, and he fought to the end.”

The terror from that day haunted Puddicombe and his family for decades, he told the Times. For many years, his sons refused to return to the flats. One had frequent nightmares, screaming, “The mud! The mud! The mud!” in his sleep.

The day after Cashin’s death, a helicopter attempted to lift the body out, but the cable snapped. The day after that, army engineers built a platform out to the body and recovered it “in a manner best not described here,” according to the Times. Cashin’s story, including the snapped cable and mangled corpse, is the primary source for local mudflat legends.

To live in Alaska is to be in constant proximity to many of nature’s potentially lethal representatives. Even in urban Anchorage, there are bears, moose, violent tides and, of course, killer mud. Lapses in respect, even a momentary lack of caution, can result in the ultimate cost.

Old Dryfoot

07-16-2020, 10:05 AM

Thar be scoundrels here!!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_1180/pirate-ship-pool.jpg

And an epic dad too. :DY>


07-27-2020, 11:21 AM

Thar be scoundrels here!

And an epic dad too. :DY>

Interesting story. Thanks !!!


07-27-2020, 11:27 AM

Despite an often tragic reputation, Alaskans have a longstanding love for hardy, vibrant fireweed

A bumble bee hones in on a flower in a large patch of fireweed blooming in downtown Anchorage on Sunday, July 12, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

As the willow ptarmigan is Alaska’s state bird and not the mosquito, so is the forget-me-not the state flower and not the far more ubiquitous fireweed.

The fireweed we know in Alaska — Chamerion angustifolium — proliferates during summer, aggressively erupting in open spaces before cottoning in the turn toward fall. While summer visitors will almost surely see fireweed, they will likely not come across any wild forget-me-not. As such, they’re often surprised to learn fireweed is not the state flower of Alaska.

The forget-me-not has been the official flower of Alaska since April 28, 1917, decades before Alaska became a state. The Grand Igloo, an organization of settlers, adopted the small flower as their symbol in the early 1900s. With an endorsement from the Grand Igloo, the Third Territorial Legislature of Alaska adopted the forget-me-not as the floral emblem of Alaska, claiming it was found “on every hill and in every valley” and represented the “intrepid pioneers, who in spite of almost insurmountable obstacles and insufferable hardships, have opened for development a nation’s treasure house.” The resolution ends with a colonial-toned poem by Esther Birdsall Darling:

So in thinking for an emblem

For this empire of the North

We will choose this azure flower

That the golden days bring forth.

For we want men to remember

That Alaska came to stay.

Though she slept unknown for ages

And awakened in a day.

So, although they say we’re living

In a land that God forgot

We’ll recall Alaska to them

With our blue forget-me-not.

While the forget-me-not is lovely, it is difficult to argue that it is more distinctive and distinctively Alaskan than the fireweed. In 1972, Raymond Naddy, U.S. Forest Service forester and occasional Anchorage Daily Times columnist, more eloquently noted, “another flower simply does not out-gaudy a hillside of fireweeds.” Certainly, fireweed is more connected to Alaskan lore. Sourdough wisdom notes that the end of summer isn’t official until the top fireweed buds bloom, and those at the bottom have died. In other words, “when fireweed turns to cotton, summer will soon be forgotten.”

Calls to make the fireweed an official flower date back to at least 1930. Leo Bott, an Outside businessman who helped produce some of the first Alaska tourism and promotional material, called for the fireweed to replace the forget-me-not and be renamed the “fireflower.” Bott perceptively understood that something called a weed was unlikely ever to become a state flower, regardless of other charms. Still, the fireweed is the official flower of the Yukon Territory.

The Anchorage Times editorialized in favor of a state flower change in 1982. Their statement read: “there is nothing wrong with the delicate little forget-me-not,” but “the big colorful, hardy fireweed seems closer to the nature and character of Alaska and Alaskans.” However, there has never been anything like a real momentum for change in the Legislature.

In Anchorage, Fire Island likely and Fireweed Lane definitely are named for the vibrantly colored plant. Before Anchorage expanded after World War II, Fireweed Lane was a rustic gravel road walled on either side by towering fireweed during the summer. On the other side of Chester Creek and relatively far from town in the 1930s, Fireweed Lane was a popular spot for scenic drives. The decorative fencing in Anchorage’s Fairview neighborhood is in the community colors of fireweed and green. There’s also Fireweed Mountain in the Wrangells near McCarthy. (
Staff and elders pick fireweed blossoms off the stalks to make fireweed jelly at the Maniilaq Association elder care facility in Kotzebue on Friday, August 8, 2014. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archives)
Fireweed is common throughout much of the northern hemisphere. In Canada, it is the willowherb. In the United Kingdom, it is rosebay willowherb. And in Russia, it is commonly called ivanchai for the tea brewed from it. “Ivanchai” becomes “Ivan’s chai,” and chai means tea.

The “fire” in the name derives not just from the vivid color of the flower itself but from its tendency to grow in areas cleared by fire. As fireweed favors open, cleared and dry land, it was among the first plants to grow in the wake of the 1980 Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption in Washington state.

Because of its tendency as the first arrival after devastation, many around the world associate fireweed with tragedy. For those that survived the 1941 bombing of London, the London Blitz, one of their most vivid memories was the post-bombing blooming of fireweed. Some residents called it nature’s revenge, that humanity had lost their right to the land in the face of such atrocities. British author Leo Mellor described fireweed as the “emblematic flower of the bombsites.”

J.R.R. Tolkien, an English World War I veteran whose sons fought in World War II, resumed writing his Lord of the Rings series in 1941, after a lengthy break and informed by the British homefront experience. Thus, fireweed appears in Middle Earth with negative connotations. In “The Fellowship of the Ring,” Frodo and company escape the Nazgul by entering the Old Forest. They exit the forest into a treeless “dreary place.” There, only grass and tall plants grow, including “fire-weed seeding into fluffy ashes.”

In Russia, fireweed reminds some of the victims of Stalin’s purges. One Russian described fireweed as “flowers of misery and of resilience; a perfect metaphor for a country of death camps.” Economist and philosopher Kenneth E. Boulding once asked, “Is the human race just a fire weed,” one that expects to expand forever “without ecological disaster.”

But in Alaska, fireweed has largely escaped the negative reputation found elsewhere. Here, fireweed is a popular and useful plant. Fireweed honey and jelly are available in many stores. You can make salads with younger fireweed before it grows bitter. Per the ASPCA, it is even non-toxic for cats, dogs, and horses


07-29-2020, 11:09 AM

Surprise visitors: Video shows black bear cubs rambling through Anchorage Hillside home (
The cubs try to get out the closed door. One of the cubs managed to slide the door open and they left the house. Three black bear cubs were briefly trapped inside an Anchorage Hillside home Thursday, July 23, 2020. (Screenshot of video made by Yulim Kim

Yulim Kim heard the commotion before she saw the cause.

She was upstairs in her family’s Anchorage Hillside home on Thursday when her mother began screaming. Unsure what was happening, 22-year-old Kim walked down into the living room and saw three black bear cubs inside their house.

She whipped out her phone and started recording, thinking that no one would ever believe this happened.

Kim’s mother, Sang Hyun, had left the back door open briefly that afternoon as she walked out to the garden of their home on Upper DeArmoun Road. As she was heading back inside, she saw an adult black bear in the back entryway.

The bear walked out the door and Hyun quickly walked inside, Kim said. It wasn’t until she was back inside, with the sliding glass door closed, that she saw the cubs.

Hyun began screaming at the bears in Korean, edged toward the front door and then went outside, where she yelled for her daughter, who was visiting home during her summer break from college in Atlanta.

When Kim got downstairs, one of the cubs was in the kitchen digging through the trash can. It later climbed onto the sink and knocked over dishes as it pawed at the window. The other two cubs were in the entryway. (
One of three black bear cubs sits on the kitchen counter. Three black bear cubs were briefly trapped inside an Anchorage Hillside home Thursday, July 23, 2020. (Screenshot of video made by Yulim Kim)
Kim remained calm though she felt panic, she said.

“I was like, ‘Oh shoot, am I going to live?‘” she said.

She continued to speak to her mother, who was watching from outside and directing Kim to slide open the back door.

“I was too scared to do that,” she said.

After about a minute, one of the cubs is seen in the video nudging open the sliding glass door and two cubs ran out. The third flopped down from the countertop and rushed out the back door.

Kim walked toward the door and saw the sow waiting at the bottom of the porch for its cubs. Kim yelled to let her mother know the cubs had made it outside and all the bears were walking away from the house. (
After leaving the house, the cubs took drinks from a tub of water on the deck, before reuniting with their mother on the outside of the deck railing. Three black bear cubs were briefly trapped inside an Anchorage Hillside home Thursday, July 23, 2020. (Screenshot of video made by Yulim Kim)
Kim shared the video online ( and has received thousands of comments.

The family has seen bears near their house many times in the 13 years they’ve lived there, Kim said. This is, however, the closest encounter Kim said she’s ever had.

Looking back at the video, Kim notes how adorable the cubs are but said she knows she’s lucky the situation ended peacefully.

“Thank God the mama bear wasn’t in the house with us,” she said. “It would’ve been a completely different story then.”

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Corey Stantorf said it’s important to give bears a wide space if you encounter them — especially if cubs are around.

“Black bears typically don’t defend cubs from humans, but you don’t want to put yourself in that situation to even have the sow think she needs to defend her cub, so just turn around and go back from where you came,” he said. “Increase that distance, but don’t run away because if the mom is there and sees that, it could trigger a chase response.”

Stantorf said that while an encounter like this is rare, “it could happen to anyone.”

“Bears are looking for food right now, they’re on a continual hunt,” he said. “Even if it’s not trash day, and things are in the garage, you’ve got to secure those attractants like dog food or trash because the bears aren’t going to pass up an opportunity if something smells good to walk into a garage and open up a freezer or grab a bag of dog food. And we don’t want to teach bears these behaviors.”

Anyone who has an unusual encounter with a bear is urged to contact Fish and Game, Stantorf said, so that the department can keep an eye on the animals.

“I just kept filming because in my head I was thinking at least there’s evidence,” she said.


08-02-2020, 09:12 PM

CNN) — Two brazen emu siblings named Kevin and Carol have been banned from a hotel in Australia's Outback for bad behavior.
Located in a small, isolated township of the same name in central western Queensland, the tiny Yaraka Hotel ( has just four rooms, as well as campgrounds and a pub.

Co-owner Chris Gimblett tells CNN Travel the emus were once welcome visitors and would pop by every now and then for a few biscuits. Then they learned to climb stairs.
"Travelers have to be very cautious with the emus, because they will poke their heads in a caravan door and drink all the coffee without spilling the mug and steal your toast, and if you have a barbecue watch out because they'll take everything," he says.
"When they finish breakfast at the caravan park they come down to the hotel, and last week they figured out how to walk up the steps of the hotel.",w_382,c_fill,g_auto,h_215,ar_16:9/ 2F200729221006-03-emu-ban.jpg

Last year, emu siblings Kevin and Carol managed to gain access to the Yaraka Hotel bar.
The Yaraka Hotel/Facebook

As a result, they've had to put up a chain rope at the top of the steps, along with a sign that reads: "Emus have been banned from this establishment for bad behavior. Please let yourself through the emu barrier and then reconnect."
Why the ban? Gimblett says: "You don't want to get between an emu and food."
"They've got very sharp beaks and they're a bit like a vacuum cleaner where food is concerned, so we were worried about them going into the dining room and causing havoc," he explains.
And then there's the aftermath.
"Because they do eat so much food, their toiletry habits are very frequent ... imagine a sloppy bowl of porridge that you turn over from a height of a meter -- the splatter is very effective."
Standing up to 1.9 meters tall (6.2 feet), the emu is Australia's tallest native bird and one of the world's largest bird species, according to conservation group Birdlife Australia. Emus are related to ostriches and another native Australian bird, the cassowary.
"They're not terribly user friendly, they don't enjoy being patted but they're okay with their necks being stroked for a little while." says Gimblett of emus.,w_382,c_fill,g_auto,h_215,ar_16:9/ 2F200729220959-01-emu-ban.jpg

The tiny Yaraka Hotel has just four rooms as well as campgrounds and a pub.
The Yaraka Hotel/Facebook

This isn't the first time the siblings have have caused mischief. Last year, before they learned to climb the front steps, someone left a gate open, giving them hotel access through the back.
"One came in and went behind the bar and the other came and stood in front of it," says Gimblett.
As for the origins of the emus, he says it all started about two years ago, when eight eggs -- seemingly abandoned -- were found in the town and given to a wildlife lover.

"She wrapped them up in blankets and sometime later she heard squeaks coming from inside the eggs, so she tapped them with a spoon and they hatched," says Gimblett, who moved to Yaraka in the 1990s with his wife Gerry after selling their business in Brisbane.
"Some of the emus went walkabout, and we've been left with two who are permanent residents here in town. Kevin and Carol are their names, but Carol has ended up being a male."


08-05-2020, 08:48 AM

Black bear injures Juneau man after following him through open door (
Brandon McVey of Juneau holds up his cellphone on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 to show a picture of injuries he sustained during a Friday night bear attack. A black bear followed McVey and another man into a Juneau home. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — A man is healing after a black bear entered a home’s open door late Friday night and threw him to the ground in a panicked escape attempt. A Fish and Game wildlife biologist in the area called it an unusual event but said bear encounters have more frequent than normal this year in the capital city, possibly because natural foods are limited.

Brandon McVey was at a friend’s house in Switzer Village Mobile Home Park when the bear followed them inside about 11 p.m., he said.

“Norm, he’s got like 10 kids, and they’re all in the living room,” McVey said, describing the scene. “(The bear) had walked past us, and he was walking toward the kids.”

One of the children, a two-year-old, reached out to touch the bear, before his mother, Angela Lott, realized what was happening, grabbed the baby and ran to a bedroom. The other kids scrambled under a table and a nearby couch.

McVey and his friend, Norm Lott, began yelling at the bear, which reared up and lunged. (
Angela Lott and Norman Lott Sr. pose with their 10 children on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 in the kitchen of their Juneau home. A black bear entered the kitchen on Friday night, confronting the family with an unexpected visitor. (James Brooks / ADN)
“He just jumped up and basically hit me, and then I kind of threw an elbow the same time he was hitting me, and he sat me right down,” McVey said, describing the way the bear threw him to the floor.

Lott was also thrown to the floor, and the bear fled through the home’s door into its arctic entry, where it was trapped by a closed door. The bear tore up a wall before ripping a window from its frame and escaping through the opening.

“It felt like a million years, seriously,” Angela Lott said of the time she spent trapped in her bedroom.

McVey suffered three puncture wounds on his chest and deep scratches across his chest and shoulders.

“It’s very unusual to have human contact, so that’s really rare,” said Alaska Department of Fish and game Area Biologist Roy Churchwell.

Bears infrequently break into homes in Switzer Village, he said, but all of the cases he’s aware of have involved empty houses. (
Five-year-old Aaron Lott is seen on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 next to a door broken by a black bear Friday night at his family home. (James Brooks / ADN)
Churchwell said the bear in this case was an adult male and remains at large. A younger bear, culprit of several recent garbage raids, was captured in a nearby trap on Saturday and euthanized, he said.

Churchwell said there seems to be an unusual number of black bears in Juneau this year.

“It seems like there is not much natural foods around right now — very few fish in the rivers and berry production is very low,” he said, which contributes to bears’ interest in human food.

“Definitely keep your doors closed this time of year,” McVey said. “They’re getting wild out there.”

A lack of summer tourism means fewer people in Juneau, which could reduce the disincentive for skittish bears to come into town.

“It’s a definite possibility and something we’re curious about,” Churchwell said. “There are a lot of bears within Juneau this year.”


08-05-2020, 03:41 PM

Bear spray quite possibly saved his life': 71-year-old man survives brown bear attack in Kodiak

A 71-year-old man survived a brown bear mauling on a Kodiak trail Sunday, officials said.

Donald Zimmerman called for help around 11:35 a.m. and said he’d been mauled by a bear on Pillar Mountain, troopers wrote in an online statement (

Zimmerman had been jogging along the trail when he was attacked from behind, said Nathan Svoboda, a wildlife biologist in Kodiak for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Zimmerman had seen the bear from the corner of his eye before the attack but didn’t have time to use his bear spray, Svoboda said.

The bear mauled Zimmerman and then returned, but Svoboda said Zimmerman was ready with the bear spray. He aimed it at the charging bear, sprayed it and “that scared the bear off for good,” Svoboda said.

“His bear spray quite possibly saved his life,” Svoboda said.

First responders found Zimmerman about a half-mile from the road on a trail, troopers said. Zimmerman was in stable condition following the attack and troopers said he was brought to Providence Kodiak Island Medical Center for treatment.

Wildlife troopers searched the area with officials from the Department of Fish and Game and saw several bears, although Svoboda said it’s impossible to determine which bear may have mauled Zimmerman.

It’s unclear what prompted the attack, but Svoboda said it may have been a defensive sow protecting cubs or Zimmerman may have surprised the bear. Zimmerman believed he may have seen another bear during the attack, Svoboda said. The area where Zimmerman was attacked was rich with berries that Svoboda said the bears may have been foraging for.

During defensive brown bear attacks, Svoboda advised people to play dead.

“What brown bears are trying to do typically in these defensive attacks is neutralize a threat,” Svoboda said. “Whether they think you’re threatening their cubs or threatening their food source or threatening them in some way or another, they’re trying to neutralize the threat. ... That’s why we tell people when you’re attacked to play dead, because then the bear thinks that the threat is no longer there and the bear will move on.”

There haven’t been other maulings on Kodiak recently, Svoboda said.

A man was fatally mauled ( week near Hope by what officials believe was a brown bear.


09-04-2020, 01:02 AM

Yay hey hey!

Last week, 16-year-old Jenilee Donovan of Utqiaġvik went from a Barrow Whaler athlete to a Barrow whaler in earnest when she threw the darting gun releasing the second harpoon that landed her community its first bowhead of the season.

The successful Quuniq Crew, composed of six other crew members on Aug. 25, included Jenilee’s father and crew captain, Michael Quuniq Donovan, and crew member Mitchak Gatten.

“We didn’t really have much time,” Gatten told The Sounder. Longtime whaler Billy Adams had shot the prey with a shoulder gun, and Gatten harpooned it with a darting gun explosive that “just didn’t do the job.”

Quuniq called out, “Jen, you wanna harpoon?” Gatten relayed. (
Jenilee Donovan brings the Quuniq Crew flag in on Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020, after a successful hunt out of Utqiagvik. (Photo by Michael Quuniq Donovan)
She hesitated, not knowing where to throw it.

While captain Donovan maneuvered the boat closer, Gatten and Adams coached the teenager on where to shoot the darting gun.

“Three feet behind the blowhole, straight down,” captain Donovan said.

“She just put a money shot right on the whale, which rolled the whale right over,” captain Donovan said later that week. “It was pretty awesome to see.”

The catch: a 36-foot, 1-inch, young male bowhead that community members will subsist on over the next year.

“She’s a whale killer now,” Gatten said. “She’s gone down in history for being a whale killer for the community of Barrow.”

With the help of three other crews — Hopson 1, Amiqaq and Little Kupaq — who responded to VHF radio calls, the whalers towed their bounty to shore from 20 miles off Point Barrow, near the coast of Cooper Island.

When the four boats docked by the National Atmospheric Research Laboratory runway in the evening with a whale in tow, more than 150 cars sat waiting on shore to help butcher the animal and take home a share of meat, Michael Donovan said. Three days later, the family was sitting, cutting and cooking to serve the community drive-thru style to avoid potentially spreading COVID-19. (
The Quuniq Crew landed the first whale — a 36-foot male bowhead — for Utqiaġvik on Aug. 25, 2020. (Photo by Michael Quuniq Donovan)
Community members were particularly excited to learn of Ruby and Michael Donovan’s oldest daughter’s hand in the successful hunt.

Growing up as the oldest of five, Jenilee Donovan helped her family’s whaling crew for years, though this year was her first time actively participating.

“I’ve always been saying I wanted to harpoon a whale,” she told The Sounder.

Jenilee’s dad describes her as a seasoned athlete who plays basketball on the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) elite team that travels the United States. She said she wants to pursue athletics in college, but also continue whaling.

“I want to go to college for basketball and study marine biology so I can go out for the whales and work as a part of the (North Slope Borough) Wildlife (Department),” she said.

Gatten said that Jenilee’s accomplishment is another example of a departure from the typical female role in whaling in Utqiaġvik.

“For the community of Barrow, women going out whaling was never really a big thing,” he said. “They never fit the role of being a harpooner, a driver, a gunner, a captain. Now we’ve got women captains, now we’ve got women harpooners. Seeing how that’s been changing and women filling those roles and succeeding in those roles proves that anyone can do.”

In 2014, fellow captain Bernadette Adams, a peer of husband-and-wife team Michael and Ruby Donovan, made headlines as the first female whaler known to have taken a bowhead (

Whaling is equal opportunity, as far as Michael Donovan is concerned. “The ladies are just as tough as men,” he said. “Like Jen(ilee). I’d take her over a lot of other young males, she’s so knowledgeable. Our ladies are stepping up. Bernadette is a perfect example of that.”

[From the archives: Along Alaska’s Arctic coast, female whalers are breaking the ‘ice ceiling’ (]

Also on Aug. 25, the Makalik Crew, led by Ross Wilhelm, caught a second bowhead 10 miles south of Donovan’s location. K2 Crew whalers in Kaktovik, led by George Kaleak, caught another bowhead the same day.

Three successful hunts on the first day of opening season represent a turnaround from last fall, when Utqiaġvik caught just one whale in mid-November (

Last year, unprecedented high temperatures and record low offshore ice likely accounted for the unusual whale migration, according to whalers and scientists. Airborne surveys from last fall revealed bowheads much farther offshore than their usual range.

“It seems like the animals are starting to migrate sooner and sooner every year,” Donovan said. So when the community got word this week from a boater returning from Nuiqsut of a whale migration heading north, hunters assembled quickly.

Members of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, in addition to Barrow Whaling Captains, decided on an earlier start date.

In Utqiaġvik, on Aug. 25, the Makalik Crew and Quuniq Crew were the only two on the water, Michael Donovan said. His crew landed its whale within the first two hours of leaving shore.

As of Aug. 27, Utqiaġvik whalers have six strike allowances left in their 25 total annual quota for whale takes.

There are 35 registered crews, though not all are active in both spring and fall seasons.

About this Author
Jenna Kunze ( Kunze is a freelance reporter who writes for the Arctic Sounder. She was previously a reporter at the Chilkat Valley News in Haines.


02-19-2021, 12:02 AM

Bear Attacks Woman's Buttocks As She Uses Outdoor Toilet in Alaska

An Alaska woman was injured last Saturday after being wounded on the bottom by a suspected black bear while using an outhouse.

Shannon Stevens, of Haines, was involved in the accident on a weekend trip to Chilkat Lake with her brother and his girlfriend. The trio traveled to the remote region and stayed in a yurt.
The woman told (, a radio station serving Alaska's capital city of Juneau, that she "jumped up and screamed" after a close encounter while on a toilet.
The woman's brother, Erik Stevens, responded to her calls for help and they used a headlamp to investigate. After opening the lid, they claimed to have seen a "gigantic bear face" staring back at them from approximately an inch below the seat.

Shannon Stevens required bandages to stop bleeding but was not seriously injured. "It felt like just a single puncture. Maybe it wasn't even a bite. It might have been a swipe with his claw potentially. I don't think we'll ever really know," she told KTOO.
Earlier in the day, the trio had used a snowmachine on the frozen lake and cooked meat on an outdoor firepit, which Erik Stevens believed could have attracted the animal.
Explaining how a bear could have gained entry, he said: "There's a way out in the back of the outhouse, there's a rock wall and there's a way for a creature to get in through that rock wall. He probably just pushed the rocks over and got down into the hole."
The travelers told KTOO that the bear was not seen the following day, but they spotted tracks moving in the direction of the outhouse and the firepit was knocked over.

Carl Koch, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said he believed it was the work of a black bear—partially based on analysis of photos of the tracks."[Stevens] might be the only person this has ever happened to," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised over the years if other folks have had bizarre things—but during February to sit down in an outhouse and have something like that happen is very unusual."

Some bears are attracted to outhouses by smell, and while bears are less active during the winter months they do not disappear completely, Koch told KTOO.
Earlier this month, a man was airlifted to hospital after being mauled by a bear while backcountry skiing with friends ( on a mountain near the Haines region. The U.S. Coast Guard said the victim sustained injuries to his head and hands during the attack.
Reflecting on the incident, Shannon Stevens said that her experience left her shocked rather than injured, but she was "definitely going to look down in the hole next time."

Jimmy W

02-19-2021, 12:13 AM

I would expect black bears to be hibernating there now.


02-20-2021, 10:27 PM

I would expect black bears to be hibernating there now.

That’s true usually but this winter some of them haven’t been in full hibernation as the winter has been milder than usually.


02-20-2021, 10:47 PM

A 90-year-old Seattle woman trudged three miles through 10 inches of snow to get her vaccine shot.


Feb. 17, 2021 at 7:18 a.m. EST

Fran Goldman had spent weeks glued to her tablet and on the phone with her local health department before she was finally able to schedule a coronavirus ( appointment last weekend.

So when the 90-year-old woke up on Sunday to find 10 inches of snow covering the unplowed Seattle roads, she realized she only had two options: Rescheduling her shot or trekking by foot for three miles.

She chose the later. “It absolutely had a happy ending,” Goldman told The Washington Post in an interview late Tuesday. “It was worth every soggy step.”

Although Goldman got a shot thanks to her persistence and a support network of family and friends, her case illustrates the significant hurdles many seniors still face ( searching for a dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

“That walk was not the real challenge for her,” her daughter, Ruth Goldman, told The Post. “The real challenge was getting the appointment.”

For Fran Goldman, the hunt for a vaccine began last month when Washington state announced ( anyone 70 and older was eligible. Goldman, who was born in Boston but moved to Washington stateabout nine years ago to be closer to family, is a former physicist who later fully dedicated herself to her four children and volunteering work.

Soon, her days revolved around trying to secure an appointment. Every morning around 7:30, Goldman would call the state’s assistance line.

“I made it earlier and earlier each morning so that I would get through without waiting,” Goldman said. “However, it didn’t make much difference because they never had anything.”

Her afternoons were reserved for scrolling through the portals of 10 local vaccination sites. Sometimes, Goldman said, she would spend hours filling out eligibility questionnaires only to find there were no longer any available appointments. Some evenings, she would try again

“She was getting increasingly frustrated as each day went by and she couldn’t get an appointment,” her daughter said. “One day she said to me, ‘My whole routine is taking a walk, trying to get a vaccine appointment and figuring out what I’m going to get for dinner.' "

Until last Friday, when Goldman clicked on the Seattle Children’s Hospital’s website to find it had available slots. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Goldman told The Post.

Goldman snagged a Sunday morning appointment. But then Saturday night brought the state’s first big snowstorm of the year, which dumped nearly a foot on her neighborhood. Although many vaccination sites began postponing appointments, Goldman’s was still on.

Goldman lives on a steep hill, though, and on Sunday morning she quickly realized that driving would be impossible on the snowbound roads. Instead, her five-minute drive would turn into a serious hike through the elements. Goldman said she takes daily three-mile walks around the neighborhood.

“There are very few 90-year-olds who are going to walk three miles there and three miles back to get the vaccine,” Ruth Goldman said, noting that her mother has always been very athletic. “I probably would have rescheduled. My mom was not going to let that vaccine go.”

So armed with a pair of hiking poles, multiple layers and her snow boots, slowly but surely, Fran Goldman began trudging to the hospital as snow continued to fall on the streets. It took her about an hour to get there.

“It took me a bit longer than expected,” Goldman said. “I got there about five minutes late but that didn’t matter.” On Sunday at around 9:15 a.m., Goldman received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Although Goldman is elated to have received her shot, she recognizes she did not have it as hard as many. She has a car and a tablet, lives close to a hospital and is tech-savvy enough to navigate the at times confusing vaccine appointment portals. Still, it took her nearly a month, hours of frustration and multiple failed attempts to secure an appointment in the hopes of regaining some sense of normalcy.

Then, she retraced her three-mile route back home.

Goldman is scheduled to receive the second shot in early March.

“I hope I’ll be able to drive,” Goldman laughed, “but I could walk again.”

Peerie Maa

02-21-2021, 09:09 AM

Cambridge moonflower: Team 'overwhelmed' by global response


1 hour ago

The team who cared for a rare Amazonian cactus that flowered for just one night have been "overwhelmed" by the global response to the bloom.

Experts at Cambridge University Botanic Garden believe it is the first time the moonflower Selenicereus wittii has bloomed in the UK.

Thousands tuned in as the flowering drew close and a YouTube stream has had almost 195,000 views.

Glasshouse supervisor Alex Summers said the experience had been "amazing". copyrightPA Media
image captionMr Summers said the flower's scent changed from "lovely" to something "in the realm of public toilets"
The cactus - which normally flowers at night for just 12 hours ( - caught many of those awaiting the bloom off guard when it started to blossom at about 15:00 GMT on Saturday (

A webcam had been focused on the single bud for the previous 11 days.

Mr Summers said the flower, which was spotted developing in November (, had been "supposed to come out" at 21:00, "but plants never read the books".

He said since the bloom, the team had "been able to record it, pollinate it and share it with as many people as possible".

However, only the glasshouse's staff have been able to experience its unique scent, which Mr Summers said it had "started off... like honeysuckle or gardenias", but by morning, had "slightly altered and we're now in the realm of public toilets". copyrightCUBG
image captionThe bud was spotted developing by the garden's staff in November
The plant normally grows high above the Amazonian floodplains by attaching itself to a host plant and flowers at night to attract its two pollinating species of hawkmoth.

The delicate petals of the white flower, measuring 11ins (28cm) long by 6ins (15cm) wide and sitting at a height of 12ft (3.5m) on the plant, started to fade overnight.

The garden's dedicated moonflower page ( has received nearly 205,000 views, from people as far afield as Australia, Finland and Thailand. copyrightCambridge University Botanic Garden
image captionThe moonflower started to bloom in the early afternoon and not at sunset as expected
Mr Summers said he thought the interest was due to the cactus usually being "inaccessible" where it grows in the "deepest, darkest Amazon".

He said the team had been "overwhelmed", adding: "People have followed it from start to finish."
And the time lapse that did not c&p


02-21-2021, 03:14 PM

Interesting story. Thanks Nick. :)


02-21-2021, 03:17 PM

He’s rescued 500 people from icy Texas roads: ‘As fast as I was clearing cars out, people were pulling in and getting stuck’
Sydney Page
The Washington Post

Jill Ventimiglia didn’t have running water in her Austin home because of the punishing Arctic storm that battered Texas, so she and her dog headed to her parents’ house across town. All of a sudden, her car was stuck in thick ice on a slippery road.
Her white Honda Fit wouldn’t budge, and as she looked up, she saw about 30 other cars were also stranded. There was no cellphone service; she couldn’t call 911.
“It was so scary,” Ventimiglia, 47, said. “People were out of their cars screaming and panicking.”
After 15 minutes of frantically calling for help, a stranger shouted to her, “The guy is coming to get you next!”
It was Ryan Sivley in his pickup truck, which he lovingly calls “The Beast.”
Sivley rescued 98 drivers on Monday and about 400 others during the brutal blast that has hammered Texas, he said. Frigid temperatures and relentless snowstorms have sparked water and food shortages, widespread power outages and hazardous, ice-glazed roadways.
“I’m going to get you, don’t worry,” Sivley reassured Ventimiglia, from his towering white 2010 Chevrolet Silverado — a four-wheeldrive that is well-equipped to handle treacherous terrain.
Sivley, 40, tethered her car to his truck using a sturdy strap, then towed Ventimiglia — who remained in her vehicle with her dog, Stella, roughly three miles to her parents’ house.
Sivley made his first rescue on Feb. 14 as the storm was brewing. He went to a corner store to stock up on essential supplies, and on his way there, he saw a bunch of vehicles stuck on the side of the road.
“It was like a sea of cars,” he said. “Some people were stuck in snowbanks and ditches.”
Sivley, who likes to go off-roading in The Beast and his other truck, a black Toyota FJ Cruiser, happened to have some heavy-duty gear with him — hooks, chains, and recovery tow straps, which can pull more than 40,000 pounds.
“I had all my gear, so I thought, ‘let me just help,’ ” he said, adding that the situation got more harrowing by the minute.
“As fast as I was clearing cars out, people were pulling in and getting stuck,” he continued.
He estimated there was “about three to six inches of ice on the roads” causing the cars to jam up.
“I went from helping one person, to three people, to five people,” Sivley said. “At 434 cars, I stopped counting. So many people are still stranded.”
Sivley secures each vehicle to his truck, then pulls it past dangerous terrain, until the driver can safely take the wheel. In some cases — including Ventimiglia’s — Sivley will tow the person all the way to their destination.
Soon, Sivley’s rescue efforts extended beyond towing cars. When he saw how treacherous the roads were, he began driving health care workers to and from work and single- handedly relocating people who didn’t have electricity or running water.
“He’s my angel,” said Ventimiglia, who gave him some food and money when he dropped her off. “He has helped my whole family.”
Sivley picked up Ventimiglia’s sister — who was with her husband, two children and three dogs — after the storm knocked out the electricity and water at their house.
“They all piled into his car and he drove them to my parents’,” Ventimiglia said.
Sivley isn’t seeking any compensation for his towing or pickup services, he said, but some people will give him cash or Venmo him to help pay for gas.
In one day alone, “I went through three tanks of diesel,” he said. Most days this week, he estimated, he’s been out rescuing people from 4 a.m. until midnight.
Sivley says he’s been helping others because he knows what it’s like to need a hand. Last March, he nearly died in a motorcycle accident. He shattered his pelvic bone and severely damaged the left side of his body, requiring extensive surgery. He also sustained a traumatic brain injury.
Before the accident, Sivley managed RV parks and tended to maintenance issues but he has been unable to go back to work because of his injuries.
While it’s still challenging and painful for him to move around, “the driving part is easy,” he said. “I’ve been in a place of begging for help and feeling powerless, so being able to do something to help others makes me feel like I’m part of something again.”
Sivley’s rescue missions caught the attention of local media, and in an interview with ABC affiliate KVUE, he gave out his cellphone number, offering to help anyone in the Austin area.
Initially, Sivley found people in need of help by driving around hilly areas and stopping by hospitals, but now, Austin residents directly contact him from all over city.
Lately, “I get well over 300 texts,” per day, he said.
John Hamilton and his girlfriend were watching the news and spotted the segment on Sivley. They were in dire need of a driver.
“I grabbed a pen and jotted down his number, because my girlfriend’s 82-year-old mother lives alone in North Austin and has dementia. She had no electricity, and we needed to get her out of there,” Hamilton, 69, said.
He texted Sivley, and right away, he answered.
“Within about half an hour of texting him, he was here,” said Hamilton.
Sivley picked up the couple, drove them to retrieve the 82-yearold woman, then picked up her medication, and finally dropped her at her other daughter’s house, which had power and water.
“He basically saved Sharon’s mother’s life. There was no other way to get her out of there,” Hamilton said.
But the rescue mission didn’t stop there: Sivley then drove the couple north to feed their cats, who were living on a farm with no power. Along the way, Sivley picked up hospital staff and took them home, and rescued three other people who were stranded.
“He expected nothing from us,” Hamilton said. “We paid him enough to fill up his tank, but what he did was priceless.”


02-21-2021, 03:21 PM

Bears and Alaska outhouses are funny stuff, unless you’re the one using the outhouse

“There are strange things done in the land of the midnight sun …” Yes, and that isn’t the only place of strange things. Alligators are freezing in the ice in Oklahoma? Frogs freeze in Alaska all of the time. And sometimes bears crawl under outhouses — and bite.

The recent bear in the outhouse story near Haines is pretty comical, from a distance. I probably would not have been quite as amused if it had been me. The shock would have been when they went back and lifted the lid to see what was in there — and saw the bear looking back.

There has never been a bear in any of my outhouses, though a friend of mine sat on an outhouse seat that had been unused for the summer and found that some yellow jackets were quite unhappy with his intrusion.
A fellow commercial setnetter had his outhouse tipped over by a curious brown bear who didn’t realize the nice-smelling place was occupied. Fortunately the guy’s brother came to his rescue with a shotgun — but he was laughing so hard the shot went awry and blew the vent pipe off the house.

The bear ran off.

The only time I was chased by a bear I had a shovel in my hand.
I was just out of high school and was filling holes in a beach road.

A black bear I had been harassing for getting in the burn barrel saw his opportunity and came after me.
I climbed the nearest spruce, which was branchless for the first 20 feet. Upon reaching the first limbs, I realized black bears can climb better than I can. Shovel still in hand, I exited the tree, swung the shovel at the bear and raced to the cabin.

Boy, could I get up and go!

One summer, living on the Maclaren River, I was off doing some project or another and came home to find my wife and daughter walking some pups on the river bar above the cabin.
Not being one to pass up such an opportunity, I did a skillful sneak into the brush along the river bar and gave my best imitation of a bear’s huff.

Our German shepherd, who was along on the puppy walk, immediately cut loose with a series of very respectable danger barks. My wife yelled at our daughter to grab the puppies and “head to the house!”
Have you ever seen someone try to round up and hold a half-dozen 10-week-old sled dogs? My laughter gave the spoof away. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t think of shooting the bear but did not have those same reservations about taking a shot at me.

Alaska tree frogs freeze during the winter and then go on their merry way after the spring thaw, apparently none the worse for wear. Oklahoma alligators seem to have their own version of that trick. They are able to sense when water is about to freeze and poke their snout through. Then they go into a dormant state, though they still need to drink.

When their puddle thaws, the alligators sink back into the depths and go on about the business of terrorizing tourists

Not a single tourist has ever asked me how frogs make it through the Alaska winter. Yet every single tourist, whether summer or winter, asks if we need to worry about a bear attacking us. I bet most Florida visitors query as to the danger of alligators.

Mosquitoes are responsible for more deaths worldwide than any other critter, according to petpedia. There’s a story about a ranger in the Togiak Wildlife Refuge in Western Alaska who once killed 131 mosquitoes in a single swat. Now that’s an incredible statistic in the Land of the Midnight Sun!

Outdoor opinion columnist John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.


02-23-2021, 04:18 AM

Anybody else care to post some news here? :)


02-23-2021, 04:19 PM

A koala - nicknamed Triumph - was born without a foot, meaning he had difficulty walking and climbing freely.
His vet nurse in Australia thought she had tried everything to help - until she mentioned Triumph to her local dentist.

Video here

More info here



02-24-2021, 01:47 PM

Interesting story. Thanks.


02-24-2021, 01:48 PM

Chinese court orders man to pay ex-wife $7,700 for housework in landmark divorce case

By Nectar Gan (, CNN
Updated 2:50 AM ET, Wed February 24, 2021
A Chinese man was ordered by a court in Beijing's Fangshan district to pay $7,700 as "housework compensation" to his former wife.

(CNN)A court in China has ordered a man to pay thousands of dollars in compensation to his former wife for housework she shouldered during their five-year marriage, in a landmark divorce ruling that has sparked discussion in the country over the value of unpaid domestic duties.

Wang, a homemaker, demanded restitution equivalent to $24,700 from her husband after he filed for divorce at a district court in Beijing in October. Wang said she was left to take care of the couple's child and housework alone, as her husband "barely cared about or participated in any kind of domestic chores," the state-run China National Radio (CNR) reported (
In its ruling, the court ordered the husband to pay Wang around $7,700 as "housework compensation," after splitting their joint property equally. Wang was also awarded custody of their son and $300 per month in alimony, according to CNR.
The ruling is the first of its kind under China's new civil code, a wide-ranging legislative package that the Chinese government and legal experts say will better protect the rights of individuals. In effect since January, it includes a clause enabling a spouse to seek compensation from their partner during divorce for taking more responsibility in caring for children and elderly relatives.
The ruling, which was first reported by local media ( d)in early February, became a trending topic on Weibo, China's Twitter-like service, this week after a hashtag ( %A6%BB%E5%A9%9A%E8%8E%B75%E4%B8%87%E5%AE%B6%E5%8A% A1%E8%A1%A5%E5%81%BF%23&from=default) was created to draw attention to the court's decision. As of Wednesday, the hashtag ( %A6%BB%E5%A9%9A%E8%8E%B75%E4%B8%87%E5%AE%B6%E5%8A% A1%E8%A1%A5%E5%81%BF%23&from=default)has been viewed more than 500 million times. While some comments applauded the ruling as a recognition of the hard, unpaid labor at home, others said the amount awarded was too little to cover five years of housework and childcare.
Unequal gender roles in domestic life have been a topic of public debate in China in recent years amid a rising feminist movement. Despite increasing education levels and women's growing economic status, gender norms and patriarchal traditions have not caught up with these changes, and women are still expected to carry out most of the childcare and housework after marriage.
China's divorce laws

Housework compensation is designed to offer additional protection to spouses who have undertaken more domestic chores -- and sacrificed opportunities to advance their career or education, according to legal experts.
"For the spouse who works outside, after divorce they can still enjoy the resources, connections and status they've had -- and still earn the same level of income. But for the spouse who has been paying efforts quietly at home, they will have to face the problem of returning to (work)," Long Jun, an associate law professor at Tsinghua University, told state-broadcaster CCTV (
"This means that the homemaker has to pay a hidden cost in addition to the efforts they paid during the marriage," Long said.
The right to seek housework compensation in divorce proceedings is not a new concept in Chinese law. In 2001, housework compensation was added to a revision of China's marriage law with the precondition that it only applied to couples who agreed to separation of property, in which each spouse retains exclusive ownership of property acquired during the marriage.
In reality, however, legal experts say few Chinese couples have reached formal agreement to keep their property separate, so it's rare for divorcing spouses to qualify for court-approved housework compensation.
"According to our survey, only 3% to 5% of couples in our country implement the separation of property," Xia Yinlan, a professor specializing in marriage law at the Chinese University of Political Science and Law, told CCTV ( That's why the precondition was scrapped in China's new civil code, Xia said.
Falling marriage, rising divorce

On Weibo, many users expressed disappointment that Wang was only awarded $7,700, after she dedicated five years of her life to taking care of her family, especially in the Chinese capital -- where the cost of living and income levels are among the highest in the country.
"I'm a bit speechless. I feel that the job of a full-time housewife has been underestimated. In Beijing, hiring a nanny would cost more than 50,000 yuan per year," said a top comment ( under CNR's report.
( millennials aren't getting married, and the government is worried (

"This is why young people are not willing to get married and have children. The cost is too high," said another.
China's marriage rate has been plunging since 2013. And in just six years, the number of Chinese people getting married for the first time has fallen by 41%, according to data released by China's National Bureau of Statistics.
Divorce rates, meanwhile, have climbed nearly five times in the past three decades. According to government statistics, there were 0.69 divorces per thousand people in 1990. By 2019, the latest figures available, that number stood at 3.36.
Feng Miao, the judge who presided over the Beijing court case, told CNR that the amount of compensation in this ruling was decided based on factors including the husband's income levels and the cost of living in the Chinese capital.
Now that the new civil code is in force, the judge said she expected more cases involving demands for housework compensation to be filed. "But in practice, we still need to accumulate experience in how to meter out the amount of compensation," she said


03-13-2021, 12:28 PM

Overnight Iditarod drama: Aaron Burmeister snatches the lead on the way out of Nikolai

Author: Zachariah Hughes ( (
Dallas Seavey’s dogs ate hungrily from a stand as Seavey declared he’d be taking his 8-hour rest in the McGrath checkpoint on Friday. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)

UPDATE, Saturday 4:30 a.m.:

Aaron Burmeister grabbed the lead early Saturday morning by making a brief stop in Nikolai before beginning the long, 75-mile run to Rohn.

Dallas Seavey reached Nikolai first, at 12:44 a.m. Burmeister showed up second at 2:15 a.m. and drove off at 2:27 a.m.

Brent Sass also made a brief stop, arriving at 3:17 a.m. and leaving at 3:25 a.m. The race’s GPS tracker indicates that Seavey left not long after Sass.

The only other musher to reach Nikolai by 4 a.m. was Ryan Redington, who got there at 2:35 a.m. in third place. The tracker showed that he was still there two hours later.

Burmeister and Sass logged the fastest times on the 48-mile run from McGrath to Nikolai. Burmeister did it in 6 hours, 23 minutes; Sass did it in 6:35; Seavey in 7:12 and Redington in 7:22.

Nikolai is 247 miles from the Deshka Landing finish line. The 832-mile race began at Deshka Landing last Sunday.

UPDATE, Friday 9:30 p.m.

The race is on, and Dallas Seavey has both the lead and a well-rest team.

Seavey left McGrath late in the afternoon Friday, heading south to Nikolai as the race rushes to a finish, at least for the frontrunners.

He left at 5:32 p.m. behind a team of 13 dogs that have so far set a fast pace in the abbreviated race. He was 1 hour and 41 minutes ahead of second-place Ryan Redington, who gave chase at 7:13 with nine dogs in harness.

Aaron Burmeister followed at 7:52 p.m., Brent Sass at 8:42 p.m.

Seavey and Sass are both coming off eight-hour layovers in McGrath, which means their dogs should be rested and ready to go. Redington and Burmeister, who completed their first two mandatory layovers earlier in the race, each spent a little less than four hours in McGrath.

Burmeister is running a full team of 14 dogs and Sass is running 13.

Everyone takes an eight-hour break at Skwentna, which is 228 miles from McGrath. From Skwentna, it’s another 67 miles to the finish line in Deshka Landing.

A winner is expected Sunday night or Monday morning.

Original story:

McGRATH — Dallas Seavey, the first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher to return to the checkpoint of McGrath, is hoping to make the most of his lead and a fast trail so his dog team will be the first to cross the finish line at Deshka Landing.

He pulled into the checkpoint at McGrath at 9:32 a.m. Friday with 13 dogs in harness and planned to take his mandatory 8-hour rest here. He said his run from Takotna to McGrath was faster than he expected, taking about 2 hours.

“This is where the race starts getting run,” Seavey said.

The Talkeetna musher was followed by Brent Sass of Eureka, who arrived in McGrath a little over three hours later, and Wade Marrs of Willow after him. Sass and Marrs still have to take their mandatory 8-hour rest, but Skagway musher Ryan Redington was closing in on McGrath on Friday afternoon with both mandatory rests under his belt.

It was cold at the dog lot in McGrath, which is about 300 miles from the finish. The morning started out at minus-33 in McGrath but had warmed to around minus-20 by the time Seavey was handling his chores.

He doled out meaty soup to his dogs, most of whom ate ferociously from a stand, eagerly taking seconds and then fatty treats like chicken skins. As he rubbed ointment into his dogs’ paws, he spoke for a bit about the run so far and his excitement to race in the last third of the course.

“This portion of coming up is definitely my favorite portion of the race. This is where we actually get to race, finally, after all year of training,” Seavey said. “The first third of the race: getting these guys into a routine and a habit. The second third of the race, putting us into position. Now, the final third, we get to actually do it. So that’s pretty fun.” (
Dallas Seavey asked a race volunteer at the McGrath checkpoint Friday about overnight temperatures. He saw minus-50 on a thermometer he carries but figured it was a malfunction. In fact, it was probably correct. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
This is the first time that Iditarod mushers have followed an out-and-back course, and teams were heading in both directions on the same stretches of trail between McGrath and Iditarod, the race’s midpoint.

Seavey didn’t experience any head-on collisions, but he described “some near-misses.”

“I was really actually quite impressed how smooth all those passes were, and there were a lot, man — it was just one after the next for a while,” Seavey said. “Good thing I didn’t have to take a piss ‘cause there wouldn’t have been an opportunity.”

“The trail was real narrow,” he added.

[[I]Mushers at the Iditarod’s midpoint prep for a new challenge: Head-on traffic (]

He felt less of the trepidation some mushers expressed earlier in the race about having to revisit earlier challenging portions of the race route ( though he had some concerns about the Farewell Burn, where mushers are “at the mercy of the trail.”

“One of the biggest factors in deciding how long to rest is how rough the trail is coming up, and now in this case you know that,” Seavey said. “We can make a pretty educated guess, so I think it’s helping us do a better job of driving our teams.”

All mushers are now being tested for COVID-19 in McGrath a second time, on their return trip, after Minnesota musher Gunnar Johnson tested positive on Wednesday at the checkpoint. The Iditarod’s COVID-19 team is trying to identify two mushers who shared a tent with Johnson the night before he tested positive, and mushers will also have to take a test ( at Rainy Pass and Skwentna on their trip back to Deshka Landing.

Seavey said he figured that there’d been a positive test result in the race since he was re-tested upon his arrival Friday.

“I didn’t know that it was a musher until just now,” Seavey said. “That’s rough, man.”

OUT OF THE RACE: Talkeetna musher Rick Casillo scratched at 9:59 a.m. Friday in Iditarod “in the best interest of his race team,” according to officials. He had 13 dogs in harness, and his scratch brings the field of mushers down to 40. This was his 10th Iditarod.


03-13-2021, 12:46 PM

Minus-55 weather, an ‘unnerving’ COVID-19 case and a gang of top contenders on the Iditarod Trail

Author: Zachariah Hughe ( (
Joar Leifseth Ulsom and his dogs leave the Ophir checkpoint Friday. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)

OPHIR -- Pete Kaiser, Richie Diehl and Joar Leifseth Ulsom were getting ready to leave the checkpoint here after taking eight-hour rests Friday afternoon ( For much of the long loop from McGrath out to Iditarod and back, the trio has run and rested in sync.

One might even call them the Three Mushketeers.

“We definitely didn’t plan it,” Diehl said, noting the three were nowhere near each other in early stages of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Kaiser is from Bethel and Diehl is from Aniak, about 100 miles upriver on the Kuskokwim. Leifseth Ulsom is from Norway, but joked that he’s been designated an honorary Y-K Delta musher by the others.

While in the heat of competition, they are men of few words. But rested and ready to run, their moods were sunny as they prepared to leave. (
Joar Leifseth Ulsom readies his dog team for departure Friday in Ophir. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
Both Leifseth Ulsom and Kaiser have won the Iditarod. Diehl has not, but he’s a definite contender, with a strong team coming off a win ( in the grueling Kuskokwim 300 race earlier in the winter. He was the first of the trio to take off past the scrubby willows and snow-buried bulldozers on the inbound trail.

None of the mushketeers had any problems the day prior navigating dozens of head-on passes ( racing south from Iditarod to Ophir.

“We didn’t have any major tangles or setbacks,” Kaiser said.

“Nobody was mad about anything,” said Leifseth Ulsom.

“It was tight. But nothing major,” said Diehl. (
From left, Richie Diehl, Pete Kaiser and Joar Leifseth Ulsom are close friends and have been traveling close together for sections of the race. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
More unsettling was news that a competitor, Gunnar Johnson, was withdrawn from the race Wednesday after testing positive for COVID-19 after arriving in McGrath.

“That was the worst-case scenario, that it could happen to a musher,” Leifseth Ulsom said. “We’re all at risk for it, so it can happen to any of us.”


Both Kaiser and Diehl learned about the positive test result as they were leaving McGrath at the end of their mandatory 24-hour rests.

“I’m pretty much doing what I’m doing,” Diehl said. “I don’t go and hang out with a bunch of people or be around a bunch of people. And if I do, I put a mask on. We’ve been dealing with this for a year now, and I think we all know what we have to do to play it safe.” (
Richie Diehl prepares to leave the Ophir checkpoint. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
The competitors are socially distant in ways that the hundreds of volunteers, veterinarians and pilots who enable the event cannot be. And according to Kaiser, there is relatively little he can do differently knowing the virus is present on the race trail.

“Not a whole lot you can do about that from a musher standpoint, we’re just kinda doing our race,” he said.


03-13-2021, 12:48 PM

In the smattering of opportunities for congregating, extremely cold weather has made social distancing on the race trail even more challenging.

It was minus-55 overnight at Ophir. The Arctic Oven tents brought in to shelter race staff and mushers use propane tanks for fuel, but exposed to that kind of cold, the liquefied propane has trouble gasifying to provide heat. So tanks left outside -- where they are intended to be used -- have not been working properly, sending people scrambling to keep warm, even if it means piling into a tent, cabin or shack that is not their assigned sleeping spot. (
Paige Drobny arrives at Ophir to rest her dogs on the inbound trail Friday. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
Mushers, for the most part, have accommodations that are just for them: two Arctic Ovens in Ophir, a cabin at Iditarod and an airplane hangar in McGrath.

But some are still leery of commingling. Even more so after news of the positive test.

“It doesn’t make me want to stop in McGrath or Nikolai,” Paige Drobny said as she sprinkled nutrient powders over a cook pot filled to the rim with frozen meat hunks and beef fat for her dogs.

Drobny took her 24-hour mandatory rest in Ophir and only ventured into the Arctic Oven “because it was grotesquely cold out.” Otherwise, for the better part of a week, she’s been entirely outside.

“I haven’t been in a building yet, I just have been in that tent only,” she said. (
Paige Drobny takes a sip of water after knocking ice off the mouth of the bottle. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
A veteran Yukon Quest competitor, Drobny is familiar with camping in extreme cold during long runs. But rest stops along the Quest tend to be “pretty plush,” she said, with hot meals, warm beds and help drying out wet gear.

Not so in Ophir.

“My stuff didn’t really dry here,” Drobny said of her 24-hour stop.

Without functional wood stoves or reliable indoor heat along stretches of this year’s trail, she’d been running in wet shoes and pants for days.

“Doing the 24 here and not having any amenities and not being able to get warm, it was really hard to take care of the dogs and take care of myself,” she said.


Johnson’s COVID-19 case has not changed much about how Jeff Deeter is running his race, but it is certainly on his mind.

“Definitely gives you some alarm bells because I know that he’d been closely interacting with other people in the race that were now closely interacting with me and everyone else in McGrath,” Deeter said of Johnson. “It’s a little unnerving.” (
Richie Diehl leaves the Ophir checkpoint Friday. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)
Like Drobny, Deeter has avoided all indoor spaces save the hangar in McGrath where he took his 24.

“Otherwise I’ve just been sleeping outside,” he said.

At the end of his dog line sat his slumber system: a voluminous sleeping bag laid on straw. He also carries a bivy and a tent fly, and he wraps himself in his parka like a blanket.

“Comfy as all get-out,” he said.

Even so, Deeter only allows himself one hour of rest at a time when he’s camped out.

“I’m comfortable for about an hour, then I start shivering, which means it’s time to get up,” he said. “So it’s good.” (
A small plane takes off from the runway in Ophir as Joar Leifseth Ulsom leaves the checkpoint Friday. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)


03-14-2021, 01:08 PM

With 100 miles to go to the Iditarod finish line, Seavey holds slim lead over Burmeister

Author: Anchorage Daily News (
Dallas Seavey rubs ointment on a dog's paw Friday at the McGrath checkpoint. (Zachariah Hughes/for ADN)

Dallas Seavey left the Finger Lake checkpoint Sunday morning with a 15-minute lead over Aaron Burmeister and 107 miles to go in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Seavey, a four-time champion from Talkeetna, is seeking to tie Rick Swenson as the race’s winningest musher. Burmeister, who was born and raised in Nome, is chasing his first title.

Seavey traveled at slightly faster pace than Burmeister over the 65 miles between Rohn and Finger Lake.

He made the 35-mile Rohn-to-Rainy Pass run in 4 hours, 28 minutes on Saturday night and reached the Rainy Pass checkpoint at 10:05 p.m. He stayed four hours and left at 3:04 a.m. Sunday

Burmeister made the run in 4:46. He got there at at 1:11 a.m. Sunday, stayed 14 minutes and was gone at 1:24, some 90 minutes ahead of Seavey.

From Rainy Pass to Finger Lake, Seavey covered 30 miles in 3:54. Burmeister did it in 4:48.

That put Seavey in Finger Lake at 6:58 a.m. Sunday, followed by Burmeister at 7:13 a.m.

Both men spent five minutes there. Seavey started the 40-mile run to Skwentna at 7:03 with a team of 10 dogs. Burmeister followed at 7:18 a.m. with a team of 13.

Brent Sass of Eureka is running in third place and was near Finger Lake at 9:30 a.m., according tothe race’s GPS tracker.

From Finger Lake, it’s 40 miles to Skwentna, which is the new White Mountain in this year’s out-and-back Iditarod. All mushers will take an eight-hour layover at Skwentna before making the final 67-mile push to the Deshka Landing finish line.

A winner is expected sometime between midnight and 3 a.m. On the north-bound trip, top racers made the run from Finger Lake to Skwentna in about fours and did the Skwentna to Deshka Landing run in about six hours.

The race, which started last Sunday in Deshka Landing, is 832 miles long.


03-15-2021, 03:23 AM

Dallas Seavey leaves Skwentna, mushing for his bid to make Iditarod history

Author: Anchorage Daily News
Updated: 1 hour ago
Published 14 hours ago ( )
Dallas Seavey drives his dog team near Shell Lake during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Update, 9 p.m. Sunday:

Dallas Seavey pulled into Skwentna at 12:44 p.m. Sunday, eight hours and 67 miles away from what would be a record-tying fifth Iditarod championship.

Aaron Burmeister, his nearest pursuer, arrived 61 minutes later.

Mushers must take a mandatory eight-hour layover at Skwentna before making the final 67-mile push to the Deshka Landing finish line. Seavey left at 8:44 p.m. and Burmeister departed at 9:45 p.m.

Seavey seized command on his 40-mile run from Finger Lake to Skwentna on Sunday morning. Seavey left Finger Lake at 7:03 a.m., 15 minutes ahead of Burmeister. He made the trip 46 minutes faster than Burmeister.

If he holds onto his lead, Seavey will become the second five-time winner in race history, matching the record held by Rick Swenson since 1991.

On the outbound trip from Deshka Landing to Skwentna last Sunday, Seavey made the run in about seven hours. A similar time on tonight’s inbound run would put him at the finish line around 4 a.m. Monday.

Original story:

Dallas Seavey left the Finger Lake checkpoint Sunday morning with a 15-minute lead over Aaron Burmeister and 107 miles to go in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

Seavey, a four-time champion from Talkeetna, is seeking to tie Rick Swenson as the race’s winningest musher. Burmeister, who was born and raised in Nome, is chasing his first title.

Seavey left Finger Lake at 7:03 a.m. behind a team of 10 dogs. Burmeister left at 7:18 a.m. with 13 dogs.

In third place was Eureka’s Brent Sass, who fell off the pace a bit early Sunday and blew through Finger Lake at 9:27 a.m. with 13 dogs.

Seavey traveled at slightly faster pace than Burmeister over the 65 miles between Rohn and Finger Lake.

He made the 35-mile Rohn-to-Rainy Pass run in 4 hours, 28 minutes on Saturday night and reached the Rainy Pass checkpoint at 10:05 p.m. He stayed four hours and left at 3:04 a.m. Sunday. ( )
Aaron Burmeister drives his dog team near Shell Lake during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race Sunday, March 14, 2021. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
Burmeister made the run in 4:46. He got there at at 1:11 a.m. Sunday, stayed 14 minutes and was gone at 1:24, some 90 minutes ahead of Seavey.

From Rainy Pass to Finger Lake, Seavey covered 30 miles in 3:54. Burmeister did it in 4:48.

That put Seavey in Finger Lake at 6:58 a.m. Sunday, followed by Burmeister at 7:13 a.m.

Both men spent five minutes there.

From Finger Lake, it’s 40 miles to Skwentna, which is the new White Mountain in this year’s out-and-back Iditarod. All mushers will take an eight-hour layover there before making the final 67-mile push to the Deshka Landing finish line.

A winner is expected sometime between 4-6 a.m.. On the north-bound trip, top racers made the run from Finger Lake to Skwentna in about fours and did the Skwentna to Deshka Landing run in about seven hours.

The race, which started last Sunday in Deshka Landing, is 832 miles long.


03-16-2021, 02:28 AM

Musher Dallas Seavey captures his record-tying fifth Iditarod championship

By Lauren M. Johnson (, CNN
Updated 2:18 PM ET, Mon March 15, 2021
Dallas Seavey poses with his dogs after crossing the finish line to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race race near Willow, Alaska, early Monday, March 15, 2021.

(CNN)The 49th Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race concluded with a familiar winner and a record-tying finish.

Musher Dallas Seavey won his record-tying fifth Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race championship on Monday by crossing the finish line at 5:08 am Alaska Daylight Time.
The veteran musher crossed the finish line in seven days, 14 hours, eight minutes and 57 seconds with 10 dogs in harness.
"Dallas Seavey's win in Iditarod 49 epitomizes the grit, determination and perseverance for which our race is synonymous," said Iditarod CEO Rob Urbach said in a statement. (;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI py 0Po5yUFQA7;base64,R0lGODlhEAAJAJEAAAAAAP///////wAAACH5BAEAAAIALAAAAAAQAAkAAAIKlI py 0Po5yUFQA7

"This year, teams were challenged unlike ever before, which included traversing the notorious Dalzell Gorge and Alaska Range twice, and Dallas showed incredible adaptability with being able to excel in arctic camping, strategic run timing and dog whispering in concert with our stringent COVID-19 protocols. Congratulations to Dallas and we thank Iditarod Nation for their support this year."
During this year's race, Seavey also won the Alaska Air Transit Spirit of Iditarod Award, The Lakefront Anchorage First Musher to the Yukon Award, the Ryan Air Gold Coast Award and the Northrim Bank Achieve More Award.
With the victory, Seavey tied Rick Swenson for most Iditarod championships.
This year's race was shortened due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the traditional awards banquet will not take place.


03-16-2021, 04:15 PM

Arctic walrus off Ireland's coast proves a rare sighting

Marine biologist Kevin Flannery of Dingle Oceanworld Aquarium told the Irish Examiner: "This is the first confirmed sighting of a walrus. It's a one-off as far as I'm concerned."

The Irish Whale and Dolphin group (IWDG) believe it is the third sighting of a walrus since 1999.

Mr Flannery suggested that the mammal probably fell asleep on an iceberg in Greenland and woke up off the coast of Ireland.

And the moral of the story is "Don't nap on an iceberg!"



03-18-2021, 12:38 PM

Arctic walrus off Ireland's coast proves a rare sighting

And the moral of the story is "Don't nap on an iceberg!"


Thanks for the enjoyable story.


03-18-2021, 12:39 PM

On the Iditarod Trail: Bison and horses and moose, oh my.

Hope for a good view runs into a group of trail hogs.
Marc Lester

Mushers are often quick to point out that the dogs are the true athletes of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race and that the humans are merely coaches. This year, dogs weren’t always the only creatures that racers needed to manage.
Bison, moose and horses also kept racers and officials on their toes this year.
As Dan Kaduce of Chatanika crossed the Farewell Burn on his way to Rohn on Sunday, he noticed bison tracks in the newly fallen snow. Kaduce said he knew plains bison frequent the area, known to mushers as “the buffalo tunnels,” but he hadn’t spotted any in his two previous Iditarod races.
“I was really hoping to see them,” Kaduce said.
He got his wish and then some. Kaduce said he soon spotted seven to 10 bison grouped tightly a couple hundred yards away and pulled out his camera. He thought, “Oh, this is going to be awesome.”
But as he closed in, he realized the bison were blocking the trail and had no intention of yielding.
“They weren’t moving, even though my dogs were barking heavily,” Kaduce said.
Kaduce suspects the adult bison may have been protecting young ones. One bull faced the team and stomped at the snow, he said.
“He was just kind of holding his ground. They shake their head back and forth, kind of showing you their horns,” he said.

Kaduce set his snow hook and pulled out his ax, a mandatory item for Iditarod mushers. He chopped at a nearby dead tree hoping the noise would shoo the animals away.
No such luck.
“I ended up chopping the top off one of these trees and then I threw it at him, and that got them running down the trail away from me,” he said. “But they would only go about a hundred yards and then stop again. They wouldn’t leave the trail.”
Kaduce said he successfully moved the bison multiple times, but it took about 20 minutes before they moved out of the Iditarod Trail. The bison — descendants of animals that were transplanted from Montana nearly a century ago, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game — were about 25 yards away as Kaduce and his dogs mushed by.
“As soon as they got off the trail, I zoomed right by them as quick as I could to get past them,” he said.
The nerve-wracking moment provided a performance boost for his team as he finished the run into Rohn.
“I got great speed out of them after that,” he said.
The rest of the race went great, he said. Kaduce took 16th place this year, his personal- best result.
Horses turned Puntilla Lake into a nosleep zone for dog teams on their return trip through the Rainy Pass checkpoint. Race marshal Mark Nordman said he closed the area because the horses had been drawn to the hay used when the race passed through the first time.
The Perrins family, who operates Rainy Pass Lodge, keeps 19 horses there, Nordman said. Most of the year they roam freely, according to the lodge’s website. Mushers normally use straw to bed their dogs during rests, but the race sends hay to Rainy Pass in case it becomes forage for the horses.
“When we came back, (the horses) were still milling around and they were still interested in eating more as teams came in,” Nordman said.
Nordman said he was concerned about the proximity of the horses to the dog teams. Mushers were notified in Rohn to adjust their plans, Nordman said. He said the change didn’t affect the outcome of the race.
Fairbanks mushers Jeff Deeter and Jessie Royer had their path blocked by a moose for about 45 minutes around 1 a.m. Monday.
Royer said Deeter asked her if she was packing a gun when she caught up to him about 8 miles from Skwentna. Royer, whose other passions include competitive mounted shooting, did not. Though she’s no stranger to animal encounters while mushing, she was uneasy about what she saw in the beam of her headlamp on the trail.
“I’m used to black angus bulls and I’ve had bison charge me,” said Royer, who divides her time between Alaska and Montana. “I can go after them pretty scary and usually get them to move. And I was hollering, trying to act real big. She just was all puffed up, head down, ears out, and just walking at you.”
The stubborn moose bluff-charged toward the team a couple times, she said, despite their efforts to scare it off by banging on pots and pans.
“The more we tried to chase her, the more she kept coming back at the dog teams,” she said.
Royer said she and Deeter, momentarily at a loss for what to do, decided to dial back the pressure on the moose. Eventually, the moose wandered away, but it remained on the trail. They followed at a distance for about three-quarters of a mile, then the moose took off for good.
Royer arrived in Willow to take 13th place in her 19th Iditarod finish. Deeter placed 12th, his best in five Iditarods.
Horses are corralled in an enclosure at Rainy Pass Lodge on Puntilla Lake on Sunday during the 2021 Iditarod. The horses turned Puntilla Lake into a no-sleep zone for dog teams on their return trip. LOREN HOLMES / ADN
Dan Kaduce kisses his wife, Jodi Bailey, before starting the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Willow on March 7. Kaduce was forced to move some bison multiple times when they blocked the Iditarod Trail. MARC LESTER / ADN


03-18-2021, 12:45 PM

Hope for a good view runs into a group of trail hogs.
Marc Lester



03-29-2021, 02:28 AM

Costco customers say ravens are stealing groceries in the parking lot
Thieving scavengers take everything from filet mignon to short ribs
Samantha Davenport

Anchorage Daily News

Marnie Jones and her husband made it all the way home from the South Anchorage Costco before they realized they’d been robbed.
“We had bought a four-pack of filet mignon steak,” Jones said. “It was on the bottom of the cart, and he was pushing it through the bumpy snow.”
When they reached their vehicle, the meat slid onto the ground. Her husband turned his back to load groceries before realizing the pack had slipped. When they got home and put everything away, he noticed he was one steak short.
Then, it clicked.
“He said, ‘Oh my God, after I picked up that pack of steaks, I saw a raven in the parking lot with a steak in his mouth,’ ” Jones said.
They’re not the only ones to lose groceries to ravens at the Dimond Boulevard store.
Olani Saunoa was finishing a shopping trip there last winter, buckling her baby in a car seat. That’s when a raven swooped in and swiped some short ribs from her cart.
“He had picked up the entire package of short ribs, like flying

(continues below picture)

A raven investigates the contents of a shopping cart while another walks by on the ground in a Costco parking lot on Wednesday in South Anchorage.
A raven carries food in its beak as it sits atop a sign in a Costco parking lot on Wednesday in South Anchorage.People have been sharing stories on social media of ravens stealing food from their carts while they load groceries into their vehicles. Photos by LOREN HOLMES / ADN

Continued here

away with it,” Saunoa said.
The same thing happened this spring — only this time, it was more than one, and they chose a different cut of meat.
“I’ve been here my entire life, dealt with the ravens but never ever had this happen to me, ever,” Saunoa said. “The first time we thought, ‘Once in a lifetime kind of thing, this is never going to happen again.’ But sure enough a year later, same Costco. This year, it was a pack of pork ribs that they had gotten into.”
Last month, Matt Lewallen was packing his purchases into his car and lost a single short rib from his cart.
“They know what they’re doing; it’s not their first time,” Lewallen said. “They’re very fat so I think they’ve got a whole system there.”
When he drove home to make dinner, he noticed that the ravens had pecked one of the other ribs.
“I cut that meat out and started marinating it and my wife said, ‘That’s gross, we should take it back,’ ” Lewallen said. “Costco actually took it back even after we had started marinating them and gave us a full refund.”
Stories of the pilfering Costco ravens have spread on social media.
“My parents were minding their business after a shop and made it home with one less steak!” Kimberly Waller wrote on Facebook recently. “The bird snatched it right out of the pack in the parking lot.”
Anchorage resident Tamara Josey replied to Waller’s post, calling the ravens “calculating.” She had a similar experience about a month ago.
“I had two ravens, one that was on the car next to me and he kept squawking really loud,” Josey said in an interview. “He would sit on the car and stare at me, then hop next to the bed of the truck on the other side, and he kept going back and forth. The other raven was on the ground. He kept trying to pull — I had those little mini-melons you have in the mesh baggies — he kept trying to grab the netting and pull my melons off the cart.”
One of the ravens started to fly around Josey until she shooed them off.
“He was waiting for another opportunity to grab the melons off the cart, but they never were deterred,” she said. “They just stayed posted, waiting for their next opportunity to steal something out of my cart.
“They are very dedicated to their mission.”
A Dimond Costco manager declined to comment on the parking lot raven theft issue.
Rick Sinnott, a former Anchorage area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said hundreds of ravens fly to Anchorage from all over the state in the winter for food. When spring comes, most of them leave. In the past, Sinnott estimated the city’s winter raven population as a couple thousand.
The Anchorage Audubon Society counts birds every December. The group recorded 923 common ravens in 2018; 621 in 2019; and 750 in 2020. These include ravens that stay in the city year-round as well as birds from out of town.
As Anchorage has grown over the years, so has the amount of garbage, Sinnott said, making the city a hot spot for meat bandits.
“They’re not starving to death,” Sinnott said. “Ravens do very well in this city, but they much prefer — I would guess if I was thinking like a raven — a package of short ribs from Costco to half of a hamburger bun from McDonald’s.”
Sinnott said ravens are social learners, meaning they watch other birds to learn.
“That’s their niche in the world — that’s how they get around,” Sinnott said. “For years, decades, they’ve watched people in parking lots of grocery stores with all this food. They know what a piece of fruit looks like in a grocery cart because they’ve seen it on the ground or seen it in a garbage can.”
Contact Samantha Davenport at
— Rick Sinnott, former Anchorage area wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’re not starving to death. Ravens do very well in this city, but they much prefer — I would guess if I was thinking like a raven — a package of short ribs from Costco to half of a hamburger bun from McDonald’s.”
A raven sits atop a sign in a Costco parking lot on Wednesday in South Anchorage. People have been sharing stories on social media of ravens stealing food from their carts while they load groceries into their vehicles. Photos by LOREN HOLMES / ADN


03-29-2021, 06:13 AM

There was the recent article that Ravens are smarter than apes.

A friend had a big dog: half wolf, half Great Pyrenees. Sweet as could be to anyone she knew, but intimidating. Every so often she would snap the chain on her run & go cruise the neighborhood. Once, when she got a little further afield than usual, she discovered the self opening doors at the supermarket & would trot right in, up to the meat display, grab a steak, and trot right back out again.

The manager finally was able to follow her home after the 4th time & presented Phil with a bill for 4 porterhouse steaks & a request that he do a better job of tying her up.


03-29-2021, 10:27 AM

There was the recent article that Ravens are smarter than apes.

A friend had a big dog: half wolf, half Great Pyrenees. Sweet as could be to anyone she knew, but intimidating. Every so often she would snap the chain on her run & go cruise the neighborhood. Once, when she got a little further afield than usual, she discovered the self opening doors at the supermarket & would trot right in, up to the meat display, grab a steak, and trot right back out again.

The manager finally was able to follow her home after the 4th time & presented Phil with a bill for 4 porterhouse steaks & a request that he do a better job of tying her up.

This was an interesting story. Thanks :)


03-29-2021, 03:44 PM

Probably the world's worst sniffer dog, Dexter:-

(Video) Watch: Full Jan. 6 Committee Hearing - Day 7



03-30-2021, 02:05 AM

Probably the world's worst sniffer dog, Dexter:-


He found his calling :) <3. Thanks for the story. :)


03-31-2021, 03:23 PM

A hundred and thirty years ago, a pedlar was doing his rounds on our island, selling things such as needles, pins, buttons, ribbons and the like to the housewives. He called at a house near Bunessan, and found that all the family were very ill with smallpox, and were being shunned by their neighbours. He stayed to nurse them, and then took to the road again, but he too had contracted the disease, and died at the side of the road a few miles further on. He was buried where he fell, along with his pack, at the side of the river. He must have been fondly remembered, because, although this was a very poor area, a cast iron cross was commissioned and erected in his memory. The inscription reads 'John Jones, pedlar, died April 1st, 1891, aged 60 years'.
As tomorrow is the 130th anniversary of his death, I shall lay a few flowers there in his memory. His good deed is not forgotten.



04-07-2021, 01:34 PM

Meet Sweep, the sea-faring sheepdog



04-09-2021, 02:03 AM

Great stories, Birlinn and NickW... I really enjoyed reading them both. It’s great to read things from different places.


04-10-2021, 03:53 PM

They do say that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks. Well, meet Peggy the deaf sheepdog who has learnt to herd sheep using sign language.



04-13-2021, 09:39 AM

They do say that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks. Well, meet Peggy the deaf sheepdog who has learnt to herd sheep using sign language.


Wonderful, feel good story. Thanks for sharing.


04-13-2021, 09:41 AM

Here is a story about a man who mailer himself from Australia to England (home)...

The Welshman who mailed himself home from Australia in a box


04-13-2021, 06:40 PM

They do say that you cannot teach old dogs new tricks. Well, meet Peggy the deaf sheepdog who has learnt to herd sheep using sign language.


All our best dogs used to work with hand signals. Not just to save yelling, but to avoid startling sheep and everything else around and also when it was too windy or they were too far away to hear voice commands. If the dogs could see our arm movements we could work them. JayInOz


04-30-2021, 02:13 PM

Leicester narrowboat in low-speed police chase



04-30-2021, 04:10 PM

Leicester narrowboat in low-speed police chase


So - is he now locked up or not locked?


05-06-2021, 01:49 PM

A not so wise owl rescued from the same fireplace twice in two days.

A tawny owl which fell down a chimney and had to be rescued gave home owners a shock - when it returned to the same place the following day.
Ed and Joyce Jones found the bird when they heard a commotion coming from the living room in Allerton Road in the town on 27 April.
They called the RSPCA who managed to coax it out with a net.

But the following day, the couple again went in their living room and were shocked to discover that the owl had returned - and was sat on the same spot on the fireplace happily sleeping.

I couldn’t believe it the first time - then the fact it came back the day after - I thought I might have to start charging it rent!
Ed Jones, 67They say the bird looked like an ornament sat on the fireplace because it was again asleep and perfectly still.

The RSPCA came back again, and again rescued the owl.
So far there's been no return but the Jones say they've had an 'owl of a shock'!



05-20-2021, 08:47 PM

Surveyor survives bear mauling off Richardson Highway near Gulkana
Mark Thiessen

Associated Press

Allen Minish was alone and surveying land for a real estate agent in a wooded area off the Richardson Highway northeast of Glennallen, putting some numbers into his GPS unit when he looked up and saw a large brown bear walking about 30 feet away.

“I saw him and he saw me at the same time, and it’s scary,” he said by phone Wednesday from his hospital bed in Anchorage, a day after being mauled by the bear in a chance encounter.

The mauling left Minish with a crushed jaw, a puncture wound in his scalp so deep the doctor told him he could see bone, lacerations and many stitches after a 41/ 2- hour surgery. He also is wearing a patch over his right eye, saying the doctors are worried about it.

All that damage came from a very brief encounter — he estimates it lasted less than 10 seconds — after he startled the bear Tuesday morning near Gulkana, located about 190 miles northeast of Anchorage.

The bear, which Minish said was larger than 300-pound black bears he has seen, charged and closed the ground between them in a few seconds.

Minish tried to dodge behind small spruce trees. That didn’t stop the bear; he went through them.

As the bear neared, Minish held up the pointed end of his surveying pole and pushed it toward the bear to keep it away from him.

The bear simply knocked it to the side, the force of which also knocked Minish to the ground.

“As he lunged up on top of me, I grabbed his lower jaw to pull him away,” he said, noting that’s how he got a puncture wound in his hand. “But he tossed me aside there, grabbed a quarter of my face.”

“He took a small bite and then he took a second bite, and the second bite is the one that broke the bones — and crushed my right cheek basically,” he said.

When the bear let go, Minish turned his face to the ground and put his hands over his head.

And then the bear just walked away.

He surmises the bear left because he no longer perceived Minish as a threat. The bear’s exit — Alaska State Troopers said later they did not locate the bear — gave him time to assess damage.

“I realized I was in pretty bad shape because I had all this blood everywhere,” he said.

He called 911 on his cellphone. While he was talking to a dispatcher, he pulled off his surveyor’s vest and his T-shirt and wrapped them around his head in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

Then he waited 59 minutes for help to arrive. He knows that’s how long it took because he later checked his cellphone record for the length of the time he was told to stay on the line with the dispatcher until rescue arrived.

At one point, he was able to give the dispatcher his exact coordinates from his GPS unit, but even that was a struggle.

“It took a while to give them that because I had so much blood flowing into my eyes and on to the GPS, I kept having to wipe it all off,” he said.

He said one of the rescuers called him a hero after seeing how much blood was on the ground.

Rescuers tried to carry him through the woods to a road that parallels the nearby trans-Alaska pipeline to meet an ambulance. That didn’t work, and he said they had to help walk him a quarter mile through swamps, brush and trees. From there, he was taken to a nearby airport and flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage by a medical helicopter. He is listed in good condition at Providence.

Before help arrived, he worried about the bear returning to finish him off. “I kept hearing stuff,” he said, but every time he tried to lean up to look around, he became dizzy from the loss of blood.

“He didn’t come back, and so I just lay there and worried about it,” he said.

Minish, 61, has had his share of bear encounters over the 40 years he’s lived in Alaska, but nothing like this. He owns his own surveying and engineering business, which takes him into the wild often.

“That’s the one lesson learned,” he said. “I should have had somebody with me.”

He left his gun in the vehicle on this job but said it wouldn’t have mattered because the bear moved on him too fast for it to have been any use.

He can now add his name to the list of six people he knows who have been mauled by bears in Alaska.
“I guess I feel lucky,” Minish said of his encounter with the bear, after someone told him it’s better than being dead.

“In all honesty, it wouldn’t have mattered either way. You know, if it killed me, it killed me. I had a good life; I’m moving on. It didn’t kill me, so now let’s move on to the other direction of trying to stay alive,” he said.


05-20-2021, 10:11 PM

^ ........and you blokes are worried about the dangerous animals in Australia? :d


05-26-2021, 10:15 AM

WILDLIFE Anchorage

2nd bear killed after rummaging through trash in West Anchorage, official says
Tess Williams

Anchorage Daily News

Two black bears have been killed in as many days after they were seen digging through trash on a street in Anchorage’s Turnagain neighborhood, a wildlife biologist said Tuesday.

West Anchorage is an unusual place for bear activity, but four bears in total have been reported there recently, said Anchorage area biologist Dave Battle with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

A bear was first reported late last week getting into garbage on Forest Park Drive. Wildlife biologists observed the bear over the weekend and decided to kill it Monday morning because it had become too accustomed to humans and was reliant on garbage as its main source of food, Battle said.

On Monday night, Battle said, a different bear began roaming Forest Park Drive and was reported dipping into several trash cans that had been left out in advance of collection day Tuesday. More reports of the bear rustling through garbage poured in Tuesday morning, and Battle said biologists noticed the bear had an injured leg.

Battle estimates the male bear was about 3 to 4 years old.

Officials killed the bear Tuesday morning near the intersection of Forest Park Drive and Northern Lights Boulevard, he said. They decided that was the best course of action because of the bear’s injuries combined with the fact that it was headed toward busy portions of the city.

On Monday afternoon, a female black bear was relocated after it wandered into a busy section of Spenard, Battle said. The bear had been reported at DeLong Lake and near Connor’s Bog Park over the weekend, he said. It wandered into town Monday and was reported in an area between Arctic Boulevard and Minnesota Drive, Battle said.

That bear wasn’t digging through trash or acting aggressive, and Battle said it likely just wandered too far into town. Wildlife officials decided to dart the bear with a tranquilizer and relocate it far from town.

Battle said it’s unusual for the Department of Fish and Game to relocate bears, but in this case the bear was not showing any concerning behaviors.

“So with that one, we decided to try to give it a break and give it a chance to survive,” he said.

Each year the Department of Fish and Game has to kill nuisance bears. Often, the bears are attracted to garbage or bird seed in town because they are an easy food source, Battle said. The animals can become reliant on the food and also become so accustomed to people that they present a danger. Last year in Anchorage, officials killed 16 bears and another nine were killed by people defending their life or property.

Battle said there has been an abundance of unsecured trash and some bird feeders in the Turnagain neighborhood recently, but he’s not sure if there are other things drawing bears to the western part of town. It’s unusual to have so many reports of bears in West Anchorage, he said.

“You don’t know if there was some sort of natural food crops that really came in that drew a bunch of them over there either this spring or even last year, and they ended up in that area, and now they’re kind of dispersing in the neighborhoods,” Battle said. “Or if something weird is going on — like someone is intentionally feeding bears over on the west side and it’s drawing more of them over there. It’s all conjecture at this point.”

Another black bear was reported Monday at Point Woronzof, although Battle said it was not causing any problems.

The department is working with Alaska State Troopers to cite homeowners who may have left unsecured trash out or kept out bird feeders that can draw bears into town, Battle said. People who routinely leave out garbage or have bird feeders during bear season can be fined $320, he said.

The best way to keep bears out of neighborhoods is to use bear-resistant trash cans, or store garbage indoors and make sure it is not left outside other than on collection day, Battle said. Bird feeders should not be left up during months when bears are active.
Contact Tess Williams at


05-26-2021, 10:20 AM


Woman flown to hospital after being stomped by moose, troopers say
Tess Williams

Anchorage Daily News
A 51-year-old Nikiski woman was trampled by a moose Monday afternoon and flown to an Anchorage hospital for treatment of her injuries, Alaska State Troopers said.
A moose had been in the area of Interlake Drive for several days, troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel said. On Monday, neighbors reported a newborn calf was resting between Crystal Cook’s fence and an RV on the property, troopers said in an online report. The cow was on the other side of the fence, troopers wrote.
“Witnesses noted the calf called the cow in tones of distress, and Cook attempted to move toward the calf to stimulate the calf to move,” troopers wrote. “At that time, the cow jumped the fence onto Cook’s property and knocked her to the ground, and began trampling her.”
Cow moose are known to become aggressive if they are concerned about the safety of their calf. McDaniel said it wasn’t clear why Cook was trying to get the calf to move.
Witnesses called troopers just before 6:45 p.m. to report that Cook had been attacked, McDaniel said.
The cow and calf headed for a nearby wooded lot and neither were located, troopers said.
Cook was treated by paramedics for multiple injuries and flown to an Anchorage hospital, according to troopers. She was in fair condition Tuesday, troopers said.
This is the time of year when many moose are giving birth, and troopers said it’s important not to approach calves or come between a cow and calf.
Cow moose are known to become aggressive if they are concerned about the safety of their calf. McDaniel said it wasn’t clear why Cook was trying to get the calf to move.


05-26-2021, 11:56 AM

Slang survives generations and remains ‘cool’.

Frank Baker

Slang words and expressions are an integral part of our language, yet in America’s fast-paced, rapidly changing society, some of them seem to endure through the decades.
Obviously, different races and cultures invented many of their own slang terms. I’ll undoubtedly (not on purpose) leave out some in this march through time. One that comes to mind is “cool,” which replaced the word “swell” that was dominant in the 1940s and 1950s during my sister’s high school years. “Cool” remains popular today among both young and old, and seems to cover a wide range of situations.
I’m no scholar of the English language, but slang seems to be humans’ way of adding a bit of octane or power to our vocabulary, perhaps to make it more colorful and interesting.

During a 1970s stint in the U.S. Navy, for example, I learned that fellow sailors would ignore anything someone said unless it was liberally punctuated with curse words. One adapts quickly to be seen and heard.
It’s fun to recall popular slang words and expressions through time. Another common word during my 1960s high school years was “b****in’.” It was an import to Anchorage from California, which also sent us dance and clothing styles.

In Anchorage, we adopted these language and cultural shifts on a delayed basis. If it was popular in Los Angeles about 1960, it was at least a year before it came here, and even later in small towns like Seward.
For example, actor James Dean died in 1955. But with all of the pompadour hair styles, black leather jackets and motorcycles in Seward in the 1960s and 1970s, you would think the Hollywood heartthrob was still alive.
Another California-born expression was “zero charisma,” referring to a dull or dorky person. Provocative, but it never caught on.

The 1960s-70s brought my peers “groovy,” “far out”, “out of sight” and “dig it.” Added were expressive terms like “give me the skinny,” “keep on truckin’,” “heavy, man,” “catch my drift,” “for sure,” and “what a drag.” I recall “awesome” in the 1970s, and it’s still around today. People in the 1960s and 1970s said “take care,” and it is very prevalent today.

In the 1980s with the trans-Alaska pipeline full of oil and creating wealth for Alaska, terms like “bodacious” and “gnarly” and “radical” surfaced. “Bad” meant good. “Bogus” and “airhead” were definitely negative terms. I have no idea where “gag me with a spoon” came from. Again, it was probably a California invention. I do recall a phrase unique to the Alaska’s pipeline era called the “Slope stare.” It described a kind of dazed look of those who had been in the Arctic for many months without a trip south. With the more recent 1990s, I remember the word “like” in front of many sentences, such as “like, I was going in there and saw this guy.” “Dope” didn’t always mean drugs, but instead, cool or good. A phrase to put someone at ease, “It’s all good,” was one I used myself, and more often, “back in the day,” revealing my age. Younger people seemed to be practitioners of the term “don’t go there” and “freak out.”
A lot of people said “whatever.”

One of the year 2000 terms that confused me
was “word,” which I later learned meant that the person heard and understood what you said. At first, I thought it meant I had used an incorrect word. For those extremely exhausted, the term “trashed” came on the scene. “You go girl” had energy and was widely used. Others that I recall were “cool beans,” and “as if.”

Moving into the 21st century, we were barraged with social media acronyms such as LOL (laughing out loud); BTW (by the way); FTW (for the win); and IDC (I don’t care). I made up my own to best describe a flagging memory: CRAFT (Can’t Remember A Friggin’ Thing).
I tried to coin a new term for a meaningless Tweet, called a “chirp.” It never took hold — even though we heard a lot of them from 2016 to 2020.

It’s been around for quite a while, but it seems like today, just about everyone says “have a nice day.”
Perhaps it’s because the coronavirus of 2020-2021 brought us so many bad ones. Before the pandemic, I don’t think I ever heard the word “jab” to describe a vaccination, or “social distance” to describe physical spacing.

“OK, boomer” hasn’t yet been spoken to me by a young person, but I’ve heard it’s popular today.
They’d be wrong, however; because I don’t consider myself a “boomer.” Born early in 1945, I prefer being lumped in with the “World War II babies.”

I’m mostly oblivious to the slang of today’s teens.
Instead of “for real,” which was embraced by my generation, I believe they now say “no cap.” Another one, “extra,” means a person is way over the top.
“Snatched” means good.

“Chill” is used often to suggest “settle down.” “Slay” can describe someone who looks amazing.
Across the generations, people from all locations and walks of life have developed their own slang, and I think it’s interesting to watch it change and evolve. Because we’re in a computer age, people no longer “think things over.”

They “process” them. “Beta” means information. If you’ve heard someone say “I don’t have enough bandwidth for that,” they’re not necessarily talking about their computer space or network capability.
Conversations have become “exchanges.”

As I’ve aged, I’ve found myself employing fewer slang words and expressions. If I used the term “hunky dory,” spoken often by my sister and mother in past years, people would look at me as if I were a space alien. Same goes with “phooey,” used by my father.

I’ll stick with “cool.” It comes out the winner every time.

A lifelong Alaskan, Frank E. Baker is a freelance writer who lives in Eagle River.

I do recall a phrase unique to the Alaska’s pipeline era called the “Slope stare.” It described a kind of dazed look of those who had been in the Arctic for many months without a trip down south.


05-31-2021, 08:13 AM

6.1 earthquake shakes Southcentral Alaska

Author: Anchorage Daily News
Updated: 3 hours ago
Published 5 hours ago (
An earthquake with a reviewed magnitude of 6.1 was recorded in the Talkeetna Mountains at 10:59 p.m. Sunday, May 30, 2021. (Screengrab from U.S. Geological Survey website)

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 ( centered under the Talkeetna Mountains in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough shook Southcentral Alaska on Sunday evening.

The quake hit just before 11 p.m. and was centered about 60 miles east of Talkeetna and around 100 miles northeast of Anchorage, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center ( It was centered at a depth of about 27 miles. the center reported.

The USGS initially reported the preliminary magnitude as 6.0 and later adjusted the magnitude to 6.1 after review (

The earthquake was felt from Homer to Fairbanks, and was felt especially strongly the Mat-Su and Anchorage areas. ADN readers on Facebook ( described items falling off shelves, and many described rolling motion.

“Talkeetna...long rumble followed by a very strong jolt that flexed the house and sent some stuff on shelves to the floor,” wrote Mark Westman of Talkeetna. “Then more rumbling. It was a long one. No damage, but the big jolt in the middle definitely rattled the nerves, that one packed a punch.” He later added in a message, “It was notable for the duration as well as the big jolt in the middle.”

Ellen Betts, who lives northeast of Wasilla, said “it started out gently then grew in magnitude in waves...It lasted more than a minute.”

There were no immediate reports of damage.

According to the Alaska Earthquake Center (, the quake was centered 55 miles north of Sutton and 65 miles northeast of Palmer.


06-03-2021, 04:14 PM

A herd of elephants has roamed 300 miles across China and is headed toward a city.

No one knows where they are going or why. Since last March, a family of wild elephants in southwest China has trekked more than 300 miles, traveling north through fields, highways, villages and towns.

They have stolen crops, rolled around in villagers’ courtyards looking for food, and broken into a car dealership where they drank buckets of water and left muddy footprints. The herd has been labeled “The Northbound Wild Elephant Eating and Walking Tour.” In one incident, two young elephants reportedly raided a villager’s stores of corn liquor and later appeared to pass out in a field.

“We have no way of telling where they are going,” Chen Mingyong, a professor at Yunnan University who studies wild elephants, told state broadcaster CCTV.

From local residents to officials and TikTok influencers, the country has been transfixed by the family of 15 Asian elephants who have ignored police sirens and trucks laden with food, attempts to lure them home to their nature reserve in Xishuangbanna near China’s border with Laos and Myanmar.

On Wednesday, the family reached the outskirts of Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, where authorities fear deadly accidents between residents and the wild animals will become more likely.

— Daily News wire reports


06-04-2021, 05:08 AM

I'd love to know what the elephants are looking for.


06-04-2021, 02:43 PM

Sometimes, it's best not to draw attention to oneself.

Drug dealers were caught with cocaine with a street value of £500,000 after undertaking a police patrol car as they sped along a motorway hard shoulder.

The two dealers used the hard shoulder to avoid queuing on the M6 near junction seven in the West Midlands.

But they sped past a patrol car and then drove away at 100mph when police asked them to stop.



06-08-2021, 03:05 PM

Coast Guard rescues friends adrift in giant inflatable flamingo near KodiakBy
Jared Griffin - KMXT ( -

June 8, 2021 gNation Sega (center) and friends pose with USCG crew after being rescued in Monashka Bay. (USCG) Being rescued by the Coast Guard while out on the water or a hike is not entirely unusual in Kodiak. But it is if you’re being dragged out to sea on a giant inflatable flamingo.
It was a picturesque summer Saturday last weekend in Kodiak. Nation Sega, his sister, her roommate and dogs were enjoying the sunny skies and warm temperatures out in Monashka Bay, about 5 miles from the city of Kodiak. pg?resize=222%2C300&ssl=1Giant inflatable pink flamingo and crew await rescue in Monashka Bay (USCG)
It’s a common spot for recreators to fish, swim, surf, and kayak. But Sega and his friends brought something different: A pink inflatable flamingo.
“We usually do it in a lake, where we’re usually more cautious,” Sega said. “But Saturday we were just having too much fun and not paying attention.”
They weren’t worried at first, but by afternoon, the winds picked up and pulled the flamingo riders out across the bay.
“Then we were in the middle of nowhere at one point, but we just called 911, and were ‘Okay, we don’t have any paddles or lifejackets. Can you send someone out here?’ We were hanging out waiting for someone to show up,” Sega said.
As they waited for rescue, the flamingo drifted toward some offshore rocks until they finally ran aground.
About an hour later, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak came to their rescue, hoisting them up.
“Alaska State Troopers ([0]=AZW_N1lgiYFsxIoCNknqonvPg980U--U-2FJSqs4P_RMyNCaPxVKtcB1B8gxc6bssYO1qmssOrUL8f4a8Zr 9gKOb-H7k8DGLNR93owOtIhLP3HyQo9qm92zScVxxg_aH4EpJag7mcF1 JNf-YBFnZA_wf&__tn__=kK-R) and the #USCG ([0]=AZW_N1lgiYFsxIoCNknqonvPg980U--U-2FJSqs4P_RMyNCaPxVKtcB1B8gxc6bssYO1qmssOrUL8f4a8Zr 9gKOb-H7k8DGLNR93owOtIhLP3HyQo9qm92zScVxxg_aH4EpJag7mcF1 JNf-YBFnZA_wf&__tn__=*NK-R) worked together to determine that due to the treacherous circumstances, a helicopter hoist was the best option to bring these folks and their animals back to shore, safe and sound!” the Coast Guard said on Facebook (

The Alaska Troopers recovered the flamingo, but have not yet returned it to its owners. Sega said he intends to get it back. He and his fellow flamingo riders plan to ride it out again — but next time, they’ll be more prepared.


06-08-2021, 03:55 PM

The flamingo story made NPR! I heard it this afternoon as I was driving through northern New York.



06-11-2021, 09:29 AM

Wildlife troopers don’t plan to cite man who helped baby moose
Associated Press

Alaska Wildlife Troopers do not intend to issue a citation to a man who was seen lifting a baby moose over a guardrail in Southcentral Alaska over the weekend, though it is illegal to “handle any wild animal in a similar fashion,” an Alaska State Troopers spokesperson said Thursday. Spokesperson Austin McDaniel said Alaska Wildlife Troopers “strongly advise people to stay a safe distance from all wildlife, including moose calves, as the animal may react aggressively towards humans.”

Anyone who sees a wild animal that may need help should call the nearest law enforcement agency or the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, McDaniel said in an email to The Associated Press.

Alaska’s News Source reported an Anchorage man, Joe Tate, was driving home Sunday from a fishing trip with friends when he saw a line of cars and a moose in the road on the Kenai Peninsula.

Tate said a mother moose was pacing in the road, and a young calf struggled to scale a guardrail to join her. He estimated watching for about 30 minutes. He said he considered calling wildlife officials or law enforcement but worried an accident could occur in the time it would take for them to arrive.

Friends with a trailer got between the mother and the calf, breaking the line of sight, Tate said. Another vehicle positioned itself similarly on the opposite side of traffic.

Tate said he then lifted the calf over the guardrail and helped it steady itself on the pavement before letting it return to the adult moose.

“It was calculated,” Tate said. “It was something we kind of looked at and talked about before we did it. It worked out for the best. And it could have gone bad, and I understand and know that. But it did go for the best, and it was worth the risk that I took.”

Dave Battle, a biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, said people should do all they can to avoid handling wildlife like this.


06-11-2021, 03:45 PM

A project to remove electricity pylons from a protected landscape has led to archaeological discoveries dating back 6,000 years.

The National Grid is burying six miles (9km) of power cables in Dorset's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), near Winterbourne Abbas.

Excavations ahead of the works revealed a Roman settlement as well as Neolithic and Bronze Age finds.

The oldest artefacts were flint tools and pottery from about 4,000 BC.

Catsbarrow was among a number of burial sites unearthed by archaeologists



06-12-2021, 02:10 AM

A project to remove electricity pylons from a protected landscape has led to archaeological discoveries dating back 6,000 years.

The National Grid is burying six miles (9km) of power cables in Dorset's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), near Winterbourne Abbas.

Excavations ahead of the works revealed a Roman settlement as well as Neolithic and Bronze Age finds.

The oldest artefacts were flint tools and pottery from about 4,000 BC.

Catsbarrow was among a number of burial sites unearthed by archaeologists


Thanks for this very interesting story. I’m glad to see someone else post stories too. :)


06-12-2021, 02:15 AM

This was too interesting not to post it here.

Massachusetts lobster diver survives being swallowed by whale: 'I was completely inside'
A commercial lobster diver says he was swallowed whole by a whale off the Massachusetts ( coast Friday but made it out alive with only minor injuries following the life and death encounter.
Michael Packard, 56, of Wellfleet, was released hours later from a Cape Cod hospital following his scary encounter with a humpback whale. He told WBZ-TV ( he was 45 feet deep in the waters off Provincetown when the attack occurred.

He initially thought the whale was a shark but realized he was wrong when he didn't feel any teeth or pain.

"All of a sudden, I felt this huge shove and the next thing I knew it was completely black," Packard recalled Friday afternoon, according to the Cape Cod Times ( "I could sense I was moving, and I could feel the whale squeezing with the muscles in his mouth."
"I was completely inside (the whale); it was completely black," he added. "I thought to myself, ‘there’s no way I’m getting out of here. I’m done, I’m dead. All I could think of was my boys, they’re 12 and 15 years old."
Packard said he thinks he was in the whale's mouth for about 30 seconds. He was able to breathe because he still had his breathing apparatus.
In an effort to save himself, Packard said he began shaking the whale's head before the animal surfaced and ejected him. In a Facebook post, he said the whale "spit me out" and that he escaped with bruises and no broken bones.
Packard's mate, Josiah Mayo, plucked him out of the water and headed back to shore. Fox News has reached to Packard but has not heard back.

Experts told the newspaper that humpback whales are not aggressive animals, especially toward humans.
"Based on what was described this would have to be a mistake and an accident on the part of the humpback," said Jooke Robbins, director of Humpback Whale Studies at the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown (
The Associated Press contributed to this report.


06-14-2021, 08:08 AM

New Zealand houseplant sells for $19,200 in online bidding war

By Susannah Cullinane, CNN
Updated 4:58 PM ET, Sun June 13, 2021
This screen-grab shows the price of the winning plant in New Zealand dollars.

Auckland, New Zealand (CNN)A houseplant with just nine leaves has sold for a record-breaking $19,297 on a New Zealand auction site.

Bids for the "very rare white variegated Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma" ( Sunday night, rising in the last four minutes as bidder "foliage_patch" battled the eventual winner, tagged "meridianlamb."
Trade Me spokesperson Millie Silvester told CNN that the plant was "the most expensive houseplant ever sold" on the auction site.
"After a heated bidding war in the auction's final minutes, the rare plant had over 102,000 views and more than 1,600 watchlists, which just goes to show how much Kiwis adore houseplants," she said in a statement emailed to CNN.
In New Zealand dollars, the bid was $27,100. Silvester said the average price for an indoor plant on Trade Me had jumped from 34 NZD in May 2019 to 82 NZD last month with rare varieties commanding "massive prices."
"Houseplants have become the 'it' item over the last couple of years, we've seen prices creep up and up as more Kiwis jump on this new trend," she said.
"This plant has 8 leaves with the 9th just about to uncurl. Each leaf has excellent variegation as does the stem and is well rooted in a 14cm pot," the description for the Rhapidophora Tetrasperma provided by seller "Hurley88" reads.
The variegated Rhaphidophora Tetrasperma came in a 14cm pot.

"Variegation" refers to two or more different colors in the leaves of the plant.
Rhapidophora Tetrasperma is native to Thailand and Malaysia, according to the Royal Gardens at Kew's online plant register. (
Hurley88 said the condition of this specimen was "used" and that pickup from its location in New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, was preferred.
There were 248 bids for the plant.
Late last year, the same seller listed a variegated Monstera ( on Trade Me that sold for 6,551 NZD, promising 1,000 NZD of the proceeds to charity


06-14-2021, 10:05 AM

Restaurant tests out pizza topped with cicadas

By Rachel Trent, CNN
Updated 11:43 PM ET, Sun June 13, 2021
The Spicy Thai Cicada Pie from the Pizza Bandit in Dayton, Ohio, is not available to the public.

(CNN)Those aren't olives...

An Ohio restaurant seems to have found a use for the Brood X cicadas ( pestering parts of the Midwest. The Pizza Bandit in Dayton tested out a Spicy Thai Cicada Pie.
Yes, that's a pizza with cicadas on it.
The Spicy Thai Cicada Pie featured blanched and sautéed locally foraged cicadas and a crust adorned with cicada wings.

Before you get too excited -- or repulsed -- know that the restaurant is not selling cicada-topped pizzas. In a Facebook post showing off the new creation, the business noted, "We're not even sure if we legally can sell you locally foraged Cicadas."
The restaurant did livestream ( a tasting panel trying out the pizza, which also featured miso hoisin sriracha sauce, mozzarella, provolone, mushrooms, cabbage, green onion, mango, cilantro and a spicy Thai sauce.
"Opinions of the pizza range from absolutely delicious to...well...uh...yeah...," the Facebook post said.
While cicadas are not toxic, the US Food and Drug Administration has warned ( people not to eat the insects if they are allergic to seafood. "These insects share a family relation to shrimp and lobsters," the FDA said.


06-14-2021, 10:16 AM

Bear attacks, injures sleeping campers in their tent
Tess Williams

Anchorage Daily News
Two campers were attacked in their tent by a bear early Saturday along the shoreline of Skilak Lake, an official from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge said.
Officials don’t know yet why the bear attacked or what kind of bear was involved, said Leah Eskelin, a public information officer for the wildlife refuge.
“It was a short, quick, in-your-tent attack,” she said.
The two people were camping in a dispersed area near the mouth of Hidden Creek, Eskelin said. There were no other campers in that immediate area Saturday morning, she said.
The campers had been sleeping when the bear attacked their tent around midnight, said wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The campers had bear deterrents, including a bear horn and spray, but didn’t have time to use them, Selinger said.
“There’s no indication that they did anything to prompt the attack or did anything wrong,” he said. “It’s one of those where you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The campers described the attack as quick and intense, Selinger said. Once it stopped and things quieted down, the two quickly loaded some of their gear into kayaks and set out to the Upper Skilak Lake Campground boat launch, he said. The campers were well prepared with first aid supplies, Selinger said.
Cell service is spotty around Skilak Lake, Selinger said, and it’s unlikely that there was service where the two campers were attacked. Selinger said the kayak trip took about an hour and a half to two hours.
At the campground boat launch, other people administered first aid and called for help using a satellite phone, according to a statement from the wildlife refuge. One of the campers was airlifted to a nearby hospital and the other was taken by ambulance, Selinger said.
Officials did not provide details about how severely the campers were hurt.
“We’re grateful that they got the care that they needed right away and that everyone really came together at the campground to provide that aid and give them a quick response time,” Eskelin said.
Biologists from the state Department of Fish and Game visited the scene Saturday with federal wildlife officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Eskelin said.
There were no bears in the area when officials visited the scene, but they collected a collapsed tent and other camping gear, Eskelin said.
“ADF& G is working on seeing if they can pull any DNA material off of that, like hair, because they want to see if they can find out what kind of species it is and that might help determine why the bear acted the way it did,” she said.
Selinger said DNA is often found on clothing of bear attack victims, also, but the evidence is sometimes lost during the chaotic aftermath of an attack. Biologists can determine the sex and species from the DNA, which Selinger said can help them determine which bear was involved and track if the same animal causes conflicts in the future.
Selinger said the ground near the campsite is made up mostly of rock and gravel, which makes it difficult to find animal tracks or other clues that would normally help fill in details about what happened during an attack.
Hidden Creek Trail, which is a nearly 3-mile loop trail that leads to Skilak Lake, was closed Saturday after the attack, Eskelin said. The trail reopened Sunday but Eskelin said there are signs posted to warn people to use caution.
“It’s one of those scenarios where if you close an area and have no activity on it, you stand to make it only a wildlife area,” she said. “So the trail is reopened and it’s signed with clear information that the area was involved in a bear incident and some safety information.”
Selinger said it would be wise to avoid the area because the bear could still be around. Officials are still investigating but Selinger said anyone recreating in the area should use caution and carry safety supplies like bear deterrent and first aid supplies.
“The big thing is being prepared as well as these folks were. You could get attacked in the Fred Meyer parking lot — you’re always in bear country here,” Selinger said. “Always have some medical equipment, maybe compression bandages and things you may not think of. And whenever you’re going out, just be prepared in case something does happen — have a plan of how to get back to safety or how to contact somebody.”


06-14-2021, 10:24 AM

David Reamer

History of the Princess May: A famous photograph, lighthouses and a whirlwind romance

It was four in the morning of Aug. 5, 1910. The Princess May, a white-painted Canadian Pacific Railway steamer, churned through the treacherous Lynn Canal at 12 knots. The 80 passengers, 68 crew members, and a cargo of gold and mail left Skagway at 9 p.m. the previous evening and were bound for Vancouver. Fog crept in over the still waters. The crewman at the wheel watched as Sentinel Island, its lighthouse visible, grew larger in view. Rocks suddenly appeared through the darkness. Though the pilot reacted quickly, it was already too late. The Princess May ground against the hidden reef before seizing to a stop, gaping wounds in its hull. Later that day, the falling tide revealed the steamer caught upon its perch. The bow loomed upward at a 23-degree angle, jutting above the water. A photographer captured the striking, almost unreal image. The photograph circled the nation in newspapers, magazines, postcards and prints. The wreck of the Princess May soon became one of the most recognizable pictures in America. And though the incident occurred more than a century ago, many Alaskans might still be familiar with the image of a boat seemingly pointing toward the sky. However, the rest of the story is slightly less well known. The 249-foot steamer first launched out of Hebburn, England, as the SS Cass in 1888. The Cass was built by Hawthorne, Leslie, and Co. for the Formosa Trading Co. “Formosa” is an older term for what is now the Republic of China(Taiwan). The ship traded up and down the Chinese coast from 1888 to 1901. It changed owners and names several times, from Cass to Arthur back to Cass to Ningchow to Hating. Along the way, the steamer was also the site of several colorful if poorly documented incidents, including a mutiny and pirate attack.
In early 1901, the newly organized Canadian Pacific Railway Coastal Service purchased the Hating for what would become their princess fleet, a collection of smaller ocean liners all with names beginning with Princess. The Hating thus became the Princess May, named after Mary of Teck, also known as Princess May of Teck, who became the Queen of England in 1910 alongside her husband, King George V.
By June, the steamer, advertised as “the most elaborately equipped ship on the run,” was on a regular schedule between Skagway and Vancouver, including through the highly trafficked Lynn Canal. It alternated with the first ship in the Canadian Pacific Railway’s fleet, the SS Islander.

Rest of the story in link


06-14-2021, 10:31 AM

COMMENTARY. Alaska Daily News
My grandparents were stolen from their families as children. We must learn about this history.
Deb Haaland

As I read stories about an unmarked grave in Canada where the remains of 215 Indigenous children were found last month, I was sick to my stomach. But the deaths of Indigenous children at the hands of government were not limited to that side of the border. Many Americans may be alarmed to learn that the United States also has a history of taking Native children from their families in an effort to eradicate our culture and erase us as a people. It is a history that we must learn from if our country is to heal from this tragic era.

I am a product of these horrific assimilation policies. My maternal grandparents were stolen from their families when they were only 8 years old and were forced to live away from their parents, culture and communities until they were 13. Many children like them never made it back home.

Over nearly 100 years, tens of thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their communities and forced into scores of boarding schools run by religious institutions and the U.S. government. Some studies suggest that by 1926, nearly 83% of Native American school-age children were in the system. Many children were doused with DDT upon arrival, and as their coerced reeducation got underway, they endured physical abuse for speaking their tribal languages or practicing traditions that didn’t fit into what the government believed was the American ideal.

My great-grandfather was taken to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Its founder coined the phrase “kill the Indian, and save the man,” which genuinely reflects the influences that framed these policies at the time.
My family’s story is not unlike that of many other Native American families in this country. We have a generation of lost or injured children who are now the lost or injured aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents of those who live today. I once spent time with my grandmother recording our history for a writing assignment in college. It was the first time I heard her speak candidly about how hard it was — about how a priest gathered the children from the village and put them on a train, and how she missed her family. She spoke of the loneliness she endured. We wept together. It was an exercise in healing for her and a profound lesson for me about the resilience of ourpeople, and even more about how important it is to reclaim what those schools tried to take from our people.

The lasting and profound impacts of the federal government’s boarding school system have never been appropriately addressed. This attempt to wipe out Native identity, language and culture continues to manifest itself in the disparities our communities face, including long-standing intergenerational trauma, cycles of violence and abuse, disappearance, premature deaths, and additional undocumented physiological and psychological impacts. Many of the boarding schools were maintained by the Interior Department, which I now lead. I believe that I — and the Biden-Harris administration — have an important responsibility to bring this trauma to light.

Our children, parents and grandparents deserve a federal government that works to promote our tribal languages, culture and mental health. Many Native children want to learn their tribe’s language, songs and ceremonies. Many Native families want the children who were lost to come home, regardless of how long ago they were stolen.
The obligation to correct and heal those unspeakable wrongs extends to today and starts with investments such as those President Biden has made to strengthen tribal sovereignty through the American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan and the budget for fiscal 2022.

Our administration has set out to forge a new path to engage with tribal communities and to live up to its trust and treaty responsibilities. But that obligation also requires that all Americans listen and learn, that we allow federal boarding school survivors and their families an opportunity to be heard, and that we engage in meaningful tribal consultation to seek justice. Though it is uncomfortable to learn that the country you love is capable of committing such acts, the first step to justice is acknowledging these painful truths and gaining a full understanding of their impacts so that we can unravel the threads of trauma and injustice that linger. We have a long road of healing ahead of us, but together with tribal nations, I am sure that we can work together for a future that we will all be proud to embrace.
Deb Haaland, the U.S. interior secretary, is the first Native American to serve as a Cabinet secretary


06-14-2021, 03:41 PM


A DOCUMENTARY has “conclusively proved” that two wrecks found in Poole ( Harbour are D-Day veterans.
History Hit worked with historian Stephen Fisher to uncover the truth behind the two wrecks.
Through a painstaking research process which involved drawing on resources including a postcard aerial photo of Poole Harbour in the 1950s and an out-of-print book, the wrecks have been identified as landing craft.



06-14-2021, 11:13 PM (
Head of world's 'largest family' dies in India, leaving behind 39 wives and 94 children
Joe Wallen
Mon, June 14, 2021, 12:52 AM
A family photograph of the Ziona family, with a total of 181 members. Ziona Chana, 67, is at the front -
Barcroft Media


A man believed to have the world’s largest family, including 39 wives, 94 children, 33 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, has died in the northeastern Indian state of Mizoram.

Ziona Chana, 76, was the head of a polygamous Christian religious sect with 4,000 members, and his extended family all lived together in one 100-room, four-storied mansion in the remote village of Baktawng Tlangnuam. The sect was founded by his father.

Mr Chana, a construction worker, developed a rota system for which of his wives would share his bed on any given night, with his remaining spouses sharing a dormitory nearby.
“I consider myself a lucky man to be the husband of 39 women and head of the world’s largest family,” Mr Chana told the Daily Mirror in 2012.

The polygamist married his first wife, Zathiangi, at the age of 17, and reportedly wedded 10 of his other wives in the space of one year. His last marriage came in 2004 to a 25-year-old woman.

<img alt="Mr Chana with some of his wives in his bedroom in 2011&amp;#xa0; - Barcroft Media&amp;#xa0;" src=" Q4ODIwNA--/" class="caas-img">

Mr Chana with some of his wives in his bedroom in 2011 - Barcroft Media
As his longest-standing wife, Zathiangi was given the responsibility of organising domestic chores.
Polygamy is illegal under Indian law but permitted among a few northeastern tribes.
His children and their partners lived in different rooms in the building but shared a common kitchen. The household was self-sufficient, running its own school and growing its own crops. It consumes as much as 100 kilograms of rice and 70 kilograms of potatoes every day.
As a result, his unconventional mansion has become something of a tourist attraction.
A guesthouse had been constructed within the residence to accommodate visitors - including many from abroad.

<img alt="Ziona Chana&amp;#39;s four-storeyed purple mansion is called &amp;#39;Chhuanthar Run&amp;#39;, which means &amp;#39;The House of the New Generation&amp;#39;, and is home to all 181 members of the family - Barcroft Media&amp;#xa0;" src=" Q4ODIwNA--/" class="caas-img">
Ziona Chana's four-storeyed purple mansion is called 'Chhuanthar Run', which means 'The House of the New Generation', and is home to all 181 members of the family - Barcroft Media

In 2014, the family featured in an advertisement of a leading dishwasher brand, according to the Hindustan Times, and twice appeared on the popular television show Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
“With heavy heart, Mizoram bid farewell to Ziona, believed to head the world’s largest family," said Mizoram’s Chief Minister, Zoramthanga, who like many inhabitants of the state goes by one name.
"Mizoram and his village at Baktawng Tlangnuam has become a major tourist attraction in the state because of the family. Rest in Peace Sir!”
Doctors in Mizoram said Mr Chana died in the state capital of Aizawl after his diabetes and hypertension deteriorated.
There is some dispute as to whether Mr Chana was the head of the world’s largest family - one Canadian man has allegedly fathered 150 children.

Paul Pless

06-14-2021, 11:28 PM

thats a wry smile if there ever was one



06-16-2021, 09:39 AM


Search continues for hiker who was reportedly charged by bears on Pioneer Ridge Trail

The woman reached out to her husband after discharging spray but stopped responding to calls and texts shortly afterward, troopers say.
Anchorage Daily News

A woman who was reportedly charged by bears while hiking the Pioneer Ridge Trail near Butte remains missing after a daylong air and ground search Tuesday, Alaska State Troopers said.

Efforts to find the missing hiker will continue until dark and resume in the morning, troopers spokesman Austin Mc-Daniel said Tuesday evening.

Troopers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough received a notification just before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday that a solo hiker on the trail needed help, according to an online report. The woman had reached out to her husband to ask for help after multiple bears charged her and she discharged bear spray, troopers said, and she stopped responding to calls and texts shortly afterward.

Troopers said they went to the trailhead to conduct a rudimentary search of the first part of trail but didn’t find the woman. Starting Tuesday morning and multiple times throughout the day, the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center deployed a rescue team to fly over the trail and surrounding area, according to troopers.
Volunteers with the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and MAT+SAR also have been conducting ground searches using K9s, troopers said.

The 4.5-mile Pioneer Ridge Trail, which begins at a parking area along Knik River Road south of Butte, is a moderately steep trail that tops out at about 5,300 feet after winding through dense forest and open tundra. From there, some hikers continue on a more technical route to the summit of Pioneer Peak.


06-16-2021, 09:54 AM


WASHINGTON — More than half the cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada are awash with a toxic industrial compound associated with serious health conditions, including cancer and reduced birth weight, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained fluorine — an indicator of PFAS, so-called “forever chemicals” that are used in nonstick frying pans, rugs and countless other consumer products.

Some of the highest PFAS levels were found in waterproof mascara (82%) and long-lasting lipstick (62%), according to the study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. Twenty-nine products with higher fluorine concentrations were tested further and found to contain between four and 13 specific PFAS chemicals, the study found. Only one item listed PFAS, or perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as an ingredient on the label.


06-17-2021, 01:45 AM

Palmer hiker injured but alive after 2-day ordeal along Pioneer Ridge Trail (
An Alaska Air National Guard HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron searches for a missing hiker on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN)

A Palmer woman who was chased off the Pioneer Ridge Trail near Butte by bears was found injured but alive Wednesday after deteriorating weather had ended a second day of search efforts, officials said.

Around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, a search and rescue volunteer driving on Knik River Road reported seeing the hiker — identified as 55-year-old Fina Kiefer — walking out of the woods about a mile from the trailhead, Alaska State Troopers said in an online report ( She flagged him down for assistance, according to the Alaska Air National Guard.

Kiefer was taken to the hospital for evaluation of her injuries.

Troopers in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough were notified just before 1:30 a.m. Tuesday that a solo hiker on the trail needed help. She had contacted her husband for assistance, saying that multiple bears charged her and she deployed bear spray, troopers said.

“She was chased off the trail by bears and couldn’t find it again,” Master Sgt. Evan Budd, superintendent of the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center and a full-time member of the Alaska Air National Guard, said in a statement Wednesday night. “She had waterproof matches and was able to start a fire last night.”

Kiefer stopped responding to calls and texts shortly after reaching out to her husband, kicking off an aerial and ground search involving troopers, the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, the Alaska Air National Guard, MAT+SAR, Anchorage Nordic Ski Patrol and Solstice Search and Rescue Dogs.

On Tuesday, the first full day of the search, volunteers continued ground searches until about 10:30 p.m. and the Guard searched the area by air throughout the night, according to troopers.

Kiefer could see the helicopters but searchers couldn’t see her, said Budd, describing dense vegetation in the area.

“It’s easy to see and hear an aircraft in the sky, but can be very challenging to spot a person at night under canopy,” Budd said. (
From left, Bill Laxson with Alaska Mountain Rescue Group, Tom Plawman of the Alaska Incident Management Team, and Alaska State Trooper Lt. Brent Johnson talk at the search base in parking lot of Pioneer Ridge Trail on Wednesday as the search continued for a missing hiker who reportedly encountered bears early Tuesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)
The search continued by ground and air Wednesday with teams combing the area — on and off trail — for any sign of Kiefer. At least 18 people divided into multiple teams had been searching for her, said Bill Laxson, a senior member of the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group and part of the Alaska Incident Management Team for search and rescue.

“There are folks that are searchers starting up at the ridgeline and working their way down and they also have searchers on the ground at the bottom working their way up,” troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel said earlier Wednesday. “So they’re kind of hitting it from both ends.”

Heavy rain Wednesday afternoon placed an added burden on search and rescue teams, and the poor weather ultimately put an end to the day’s search with no evidence of the missing hiker.

About an hour after the halt to Wednesday’s search effort was announced, an injured Kiefer was spotted emerging from the woods, according to troopers.

Budd, with the Guard, recommended that hikers carry bear spray, matches, a satellite communication device, bright clothing and a personal locator beacon.

“Being prepared for the unexpected is critical in the Alaskan outdoors,” he said. “What you plan as a day hike can quickly turn into a multi-day ordeal.” (
Search base in the Pioneer Ridge Trail parking lot on Wednesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)


06-18-2021, 10:52 AM

Anchorage Daily News

Weird ‘living fossil’ fish lives 100 years, pregnant for 5
The coelacanth — a giant weird fish still around from dinosaur times — can live for 100 years, a new study found.

These slow-moving, people-sized fish of the deep, nicknamed a “living fossil,” are the opposite of the live fast, die young mantra. These nocturnal fish grow at an achingly slow pace.
Females don’t hit sexual maturity until their late 50s, the study said, while male coelacanths are sexually mature at 40 to 69 years. And maybe strangest of all, researchers figure pregnancy in the fish lasts about five years.

Coelacanths, which have been around for 400 million years, were thought extinct until they were found alive in 1938 off South Africa. Scientists long believed coelacanths live about 20 years. But by applying a standard technique for dating commercial fish, French scientists calculated they actually live close to a century, according to a study in Thursday’s Current Biology.

Coelacanths are so endangered that scientists can only study specimens already caught and dead.
In the past, scientists calculated fish ages by counting big lines on a specific coelacanth scale. But the French scientists found they were missing smaller lines that could only be seen using polarized light — the technique used to figure out the age of commercial fish.

Study co-author Bruno Ernande, a marine evolutionary ecologist at France’s marine research institute, said polarized light revealed five smaller lines for every big one. The researchers concluded the smaller lines better correlated to a year of coelacanth age — and that indicated their oldest specimen was 84 years old.
Using the technique, the scientists studied two embryos and calculated the largest was five years old and the youngest was nine years old. So, Ernande said, they figured pregnancy lasts at least five years in coelacanths, which have live births.

That five-year gestation is “very strange” for fish or any animal, said Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Harold Walker, who wasn’t part of the research.
Even though coelacanths are unrelated genetically and show wide evolutionary differences, they age slowly like other dwellers of the deep, sharks and rays, Ernande said. “They might have evolved similar life histories because they are sharing similar type habitats,” he said.


06-18-2021, 01:59 PM lare20pengelly.jpg

The 1,000th captive-bred hazel dormouse has been released into the wild in a UK-wide reintroduction scheme for these threatened mammals.

Big-eyed and famously sleepy, the dormouse is a woodland and fairy tale icon, but it is a species in decline.

Once widespread, the animals have now disappeared from 17 English counties.

Reintroduction, scientists say, is the only way to bring dormice back ( to habitats from which they have been lost.

The project, a collaboration between the wildlife charity People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), Natural England and the University of Cumbria, brought 15 breeding pairs to a secret location in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Lancashire.

More here



06-18-2021, 10:55 PM

Hundreds of Amazon packages arrive at woman's doorstep that she never ordered

Hayley Vaughn
Fri, June 18, 2021, 12:32 PM

Jillian Cannan orders packages for her small business all the time, but on June 5, she started receiving Amazon packages at her doorstep that she didn't order. Lots of packages. Some on pallets dropped off by huge delivery trucks.
Over 100 packages later, Cannan, of Buffalo, New York, was inundated with thousands of items she did not order or want. She initially thought the boxes were supplies her business partner ordered, but after opening some of them, she found they contained thousands of silicone support frames to use inside face masks in both adult and children's sizes.
"When I first started receiving the packages, I called Amazon to try and give them back, but they explained to me that they were officially mine to keep since they had been delivered to my home," Cannan said.
Days went by, and the parcels wouldn't stop coming. Some came from Amazon warehouse trucks, and others from UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. Each package was addressed to Cannan's home, but no sender or return address was marked on the label. At one point, Cannan was speaking with Amazon representatives daily to try to determine what was happening, searching tracking numbers and scanning bar codes to find the person responsible. Amazon boxes delivered to Jillian Cannan's home in Buffalo, N.Y., on June 16, 2021. (Courtesy Jillian Cannan)

"At first I was convinced that it was a scam, or maybe someone trying to clear out their warehouse," Cannan said. "But because all of the items were the same, I don't think that's the case here."
Meantime, packages continued to arrive. Some showed up on palettes in huge delivery trucks, and others piled up so high that a neighbor remarked she couldn't seen Cannan's front door.
Cannan posted about the situation on her Facebook (, earning the attention of her community and the local media. Finally, Amazon agreed to escalate the case, and Cannan eventually received a call that it had successfully tracked down the original order and removed her address from it, assuring her she would not receive anymore packages except for those already in transit.
Stuck with hundreds of packages containing thousands of face mask brackets, Cannan consulted her four children on how they could use the items to make something useful. Inspired by her business, which focuses on DIY-style projects, the Cannan family and her business partner came up with a fun idea that would ensure their newly inherited inventory would not go to waste.
"We were just like 'How can we get something positive out of this whole hilarious story?'" Cannan said. "So, my business partner and I reached out to the children's hospitals and we decided we want to do a decorate-your-own-face mask and include the bracket in the little kit with a blank face mask and some crayons and stickers that kids can work on while they're in the hospital."
Cannan asked Amazon to donate the remaining supplies needed for the kit. In light of all that happened, she said, it was the least they could do.
Amazon initially denied the request, but Cannan said she is still negotiating with representatives and awaiting a final response. Amazon could not be reached for comment.
"I'm trying to put a positive spin on it," she said. "I have four little kids, and I'm trying to show them how to make lemonade out of lemons, and just kind of run with it."


06-19-2021, 03:06 PM

Quite a story. Link didn’t work.

Story on BBC about Twin sister saving her sister from a crocodile. Beating the crocodile’s snout.
I’ll try this:


06-20-2021, 02:50 AM

Bear tears up car, leaves beer cans unopened after getting trapped inside vehicle in ColoradoThe animal shredded part of a door and the ceiling of the car, a wildlife official said
By Brie Stimson ( | Fox News (

A case of beer in the back seat may have been the enticement for a bear that got itself trapped inside a car in Douglas County, Colorado, for at least an hour on Tuesday, according to a report.
A Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer and a sheriff’s deputy eventually managed to safely remove the animal, FOX 31 of Denver reported.
"He was just doing what they do, which is just kind of pinballing around in there, trying to figure his way out," District Wildlife Manager Casey Westbrook told the station.
The bear had reportedly gotten into the unlocked car and couldn’t figure out how to get out.
The animal shredded part of a door and the ceiling of the car, according to FOX 31. The case of beer also got slightly banged up but none of the cans appeared to have been opened, the report said.
A bear that broke into a vehicle was likely attracted to a case of beer that was left in the back seat, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife official said. (Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Westbrook and a Douglas County sheriff’s deputy were able to get the bear out by tying a rope to the door handle, opening it and backing away.
"They’re just looking for an escape route so once that door opened he was looking for the nearest way out of there with no people," Westbrook said.
Nearly 500 car break-ins by bears were reported between 2019 and 2020 in the state, Colorado Parks and Wildlife said, according to Fox31.
Westbrook advised locking your car and not leaving food or drinks inside.


06-20-2021, 03:59 AM

1,400 runners show up for Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon, along with a black bear that refused to share the trail

Beth Bragg

Anchorage Daily News

Happy birthday to Mayor’s Marathon winners Megan Youngren and Benjamin Kopecky.
And happy bear-day to the hundred-plus marathon runners — including Youngren — whose races were disrupted Saturday by a black bear that refused to cross the trail near the 13-mile mark of the 26.2-mile marathon course.
A sow with two cubs brought Youngren’s race to a halt at Goose Lake. The Soldotna woman waited 11 minutes along with several other runners, who didn’t resume running until a blast from an airhorn chased away the bears.
The bears returned soon enough. The sow sat down in the middle of the trail, and this time dozens of runners were delayed.
“We stopped runners for 20, 30 minutes because that bear would not move,” said Ian Marks of UAA, which along with the city of Anchorage organizes the annual Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon & Half Marathon.
Marks is UAA’s assistant athletic director for media relations, a job that on Saturday involved bear-wrangling and race-rerouting. Despite efforts by the Anchorage Police Department, the Alaska State Troopers, Marks and other race volunteers, the bearwouldn’t budge. “There was no way around it, so I called (the race director) and said, hey, we need to reroute the course,” Marks said. “This bear’s not moving, so I led a group of about 100 runners that had accumulated down UAA Drive” before reconnecting them with the race course.
The diversion added about 0.15 of a mile and 10 minutes to his race, said Bobby Booze of Greensboro, North Carolina.
“I had to stop for 10 minutes,” he said. “We all stopped our watches.”
Booze was among scores of out-of-state runners in Anchorage this weekend for the Mayor’s Marathon & Half Marathon. Saturday marked the 47th edition of the marathon, which over the years has become a destination race for many, including those trying to run a marathon in every state.
This time, some wound up in a bearathon. “Those bears were right next to me,” said Heather Helzer of Anchorage, the sixth-place woman. Then she shrugged. “It’s where we live,” she said. “There was a moose at those baseball fields on Lake Otis standing in the middle of the lush grass. It was perfect for tourists.”

Story continues here


06-20-2021, 04:14 AM


The little boat that could: 21-foot setnet skiff makes the trip from Ninilchik to Naknek, via Cook Inlet and Iliamna Lake

“You’re going to take that little boat across the Inlet?!?”That was the prevailing theme around the Ninilchik Harbor when we showed up with a 21-foot open setnet skiff, headed for Bristol Bay.
I have traveled across Cook Inlet from Ninilchik a number of times and never thought much of it, but it had been 20 years since my last crossing. Times have changed.

Boats are bigger and they have far more power. Most people navigate by GPS rather than compass. The 40-mile crossing from Ninilchik to the mouth of Johnson River is obvious, as long as the fog doesn’t roll in. A compass heading is adequate.

Dakota Tennant, Ben Doudna and I motored out of the Ninilchik Harbor at 3:30 on a Wednesday afternoon. The wind was out of the Southwest, quartering on our starboard bow.

Twenty knots can be trying in a small skiff, but we knew the closer we approached the mountains on the west side of the Inlet, the better protected we would be. Our destination that evening was Iliamna Bay.

Williamsport lies at the head of Iliamna Bay, the jump-off point of the portage trail into Lake Iliamna. The 15-mile road is the quick way to Bristol Bay.

Each year a couple hundred 32-foot drift boats make the trip from Homer to the bay and back. Skiffs used to regularly make the trip, but not so much anymore.

Fifty years in little skiffs has taught me caution. The ocean is unforgiving to the careless.

Our trip across was uneventful. The seas were at five feet 20 miles out of Ninilchik, but avoiding kelp beds slowed us more than waves. Once we reached the shelter of the big mountains on the westside, we were able to open up our 40-horsepower Yamaha and roll right along.

The crossing was completed in three hours. The remaining 50 miles to the portage seemed to go quickly with the tide in our favor and a following sea.

The mountains along the western coast are spectacular. Ten-thousand-foot Mt. Iliamna is the jewel, but the cliffs below Chinitna Bay and Oil Bay have their own attraction.

Oil Bay is the head of an old road that leads up the ridge to the site of Alaska’s first oil well. It was abandoned decades ago for various reasons. I visited there in the late 60s and it was overgrown then, and the equipment left behind was rusting into the ground.

The rain and mist that had been plaguing us the entire trip hit us with renewed vigor in Iliamna Bay. We hung at anchor until the tide was high enough to reach the portage landing. Dinner was Pilot bread and peanut butter.

The Iliamna portage road was pushed in just before 1920. Carl Williams showed up in 1934 and established a landing at Pile Bay, on the Iliamna Lake side. He portaged the first boat across in 1938.

The Williams family has maintained the business since then and formed the Iliamna Transportation Company, which provides much-needed services to individuals and businesses on both ends of the 15-mile road.

The portage has improved considerably since my first trip across in 1974, but it is still a bit of a goat trail coming up along the cliff on the inlet side. It is mostly used for commercial business. It’s surprising the tourism industry has not utilized this shortened route into Alaska’s largest lake.

Iliamna was flat and beautiful when the three of us left Pile Bay with 160 miles between us and the fishing town of Naknek.

Lake Iliamna is 90 miles long and 40 miles wide. We planned to travel the east side en route to the village of Igiugig and the head of the Kvichak River. The Kvichak has historically been the most productive of Bristol Bay’s sockeye fishery, which is the largest in the world.

Our calm lake gradually dissolved into whitecaps. A cold northeast wind barreled off snowcapped peaks and slapped us with spray as we crossed Kahonak Bay halfway down the lake. Protective cover was spotty for 15 or 20 miles, slowing our progress.

Not far out of Igiugig, Iliamna decided we had had enough and began to calm.

The entrance to the Kvichak was a welcome sight. Our fuel supply seemed more than adequate, but it isn’t fun to be watching the fuel gauge. We added some $9-per-gallon gas and continued our journey.

The only town on the Kvichak River is Levelock, near the Bristol Bay coast. Tidal effect from Kvichak Bay reaches 10 or 15 miles above Levelock, and as we neared Levelock it became apparent we were at the wrong stage of the tide to make a comfortable run all of the way to Naknek.

We spotted a good brush pile near the Levelock landing and pulled in to camp and enjoy a fire. Our first hot meal in two days was more than welcome. A three-hour nap ended with the incoming tide. Fog shrouded the shoreline out of our camp, but high tide made it easy traveling. Soon we were clear of the fog and pounding into a stiff Naknek breeze.

Two hours of steady travel brought us into the entrance to the Naknek River, and a few miles upriver we anchored at the Red Salmon cannery. Our journey was complete.

Yes, we took that little skiff across Cook Inlet. And along Lake Iliamna.

Truth is, it was an uneventful trip, as all trips should be. Adventures are the result of mistakes made in preparation and execution. Water is an unforgiving medium. Whether one is crossing Cook Inlet or floating down the Kenai River, preparation should be adequate for the trip, and safety should be the foremost consideration.

May your next outing be a memorable but uneventful one.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.


06-20-2021, 04:20 AM

Native Americans are transporting a 5,000-pound totem pole to D.C. from the Pacific Northwest

— A 5,000-pound totem pole that was hand-carved by Native Americans is coming from Washington state to be on display in the nation’s capital this summer after a journey that organizers hope will raise awareness about protecting land that is sacred to tribes.

The totem pole’s journey on a tractor-trailer, which organizers are calling the “Red Road to D.C.,” involves a two-week trek led by about a dozen people, many of whom are Native Americans and members of the Lummi Nation, a tribe of about 5,000 members west of Bellingham, Wash. The tribe, along with support from dozens of nonprofit groups, museums, other tribes and sponsors, has raised about $130,000 for the cross-country trip.

In preparation for the journey, the group took the pole on a tour this spring along the West Coast and parts of the South. Group members will hit the road again in mid-July, arriving in the nation’s capital by July 29. The pole will be on display for two days on the Mall and outside the entrance of the National Museum of the American Indian.

Native American organizers said they plan to “deliver the pole to the Biden administration in hopes that it gives a strong and important message.” Arrangements are being made to find a permanent home for it in D.C., organizers said.

On their road trip to D.C., the caravan plans to stop at several spots of importance to Native Americans, including Chaco Canyon National Historic Park in New Mexico, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota and Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. Each faces threats of development tied to natural resources or pipelines.

For Jewell “Praying Wolf” James, a Lummi Nation elder and the master carver of the pole, it is “a reminder of the promises that were made to the first peoples of this land and waters.” He said he hopes that “we all share to safeguard the sacred sources of life - Earth, water and sky - for generations to come.”

The idea came from Phreddie Lane, a Lummi Nation citizen. He said he is “proud of how strongly Native Americans had come out to vote in swing states in the last U.S. presidential election” and he wants the new administration to “hear our message” of concern about issues important to Native Americans and, in particular, worries about sacred sites being harmed.

“It’s a very historic moment to bring it to D.C.,” Lane said. “And to have it sit among these sacred national monuments, representing Native American peoples, is special.”

White House officials said Friday they are aware of the totem pole’s journey to Washington.

Totem pole carving is a tradition for some tribes, mainly in British Columbia and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. They often are said to be a “spiritual being” and are considered sacred symbols of a tribe, clan or a family tradition, experts said.

For the Lummi Nation, totem poles historically are carved with symbols that represent a certain “clan of a tribe” or show a family or tribe’s lineage. They can have scenes that depict an important tribal leader or might have a panel that shows a tribal battle or a story told for generations, James said.

“They represent visions, dreams and stories that are handed down and shaped through each generation,”he said.
— The Washington Post


06-26-2021, 02:37 AM

I can’t copy the interesting story but the link is here.


06-26-2021, 02:45 PM


Former President Jimmy Carter ( has come clean about a delicate situation on the White House roof during his administration: One of his sons smoked pot there one night in 1978 with singer-songwriter Willie Nelson (

Carter, 95, bared the truth in a new documentary: “Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President.” (Check out the trailer above.)

Nelson, 87, revealed in his autobiography that he smoked a “fat Austin torpedo (” that night — but he didn’t mention Carter’s son.

“When Willie Nelson wrote his autobiography, he confessed that he smoked pot ( in the White House one night when he was spending the night with me,” Carter noted in the documentary.

“He said that his companion that shared the pot with him was one of the servants in the White House. That is not exactly true. It actually was one of my sons, which he didn’t want to categorize as a pot smoker like him,” Carter added.

There were rumors at the time about Nelson and Carter’s middle son, James Earl “Chip” Carter III, sharing a smoke. But Chip Carter said in an interview with GQ in 2015 that Nelson “told me not to ever tell anybody (” When pressed in the same story if his smoking partner that night was Chip, Nelson responded: ”Looked a lot like. Could have been, yeah.”

Nelson added: “It seemed like the thing to do. We were there, and there it was, and uh…why not, you know? And they have a great view from the roof.”

Asked if he worried it would embarrass the president, Nelson said, “I think he knew me and he knew Chip, so, you know, there wasn’t much we could do to embarrass him.”

The documentary, now out in theaters, explores the former president’s close relationship in the White House and afterward with popular musicians, including Nelson, the Allman Brothers and Bob Dylan (, whom Carter described in the film as one of his “best friends.” Dylan recalled that when he met Carter, the “first thing he did was quote my songs back to me.

“He was cool, he enjoyed our music and he became a friend,” Gregg Allman ( said in the film (Allman died in 2017).

Carter was drawn to music and the artists because “one of things that has held America together has been the music that we share and love,” he explained.

Carter took heat for his relationship with the musicians when he was president.

“There were some people who didn’t like my being deeply involved with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan and disreputable rock ‘n’ rollers,” he admitted. “I didn’t care about that because I was doing what I really believed, and the response from the followers of those musicians was much more influential than a few people who thought that being associated with rock ‘n’ roll and radical people was inappropriate in a president.”

Carter, who has spent much of his time since leaving the White House on various humanitarian and diplomatic efforts, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 ( “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”


06-26-2021, 02:55 PM

Rattlesnakes everywhere: the odd consequences of California’s drought

Gabrielle Canon in San Francisco
Sat, June 26, 2021, 2:00 AM·5 min read

Photograph: Noah Berger/EPA
Len Ramirez stalked through the dried landscape, scanning the ground ahead searching for movement. Called out to an estate in Napa Valley, the owner of Ramirez Rattlesnake Removal company was finishing up his last job of another busy day wrangling, removing and relocating snakes from homes across northern California. He’d found three in just this yard, including one nestled roughly 1,000 yards from the pool.
Rattlesnakes are everywhere these days, he says – on front porches, in potted plants, and under children’s play equipment. “I am busier than I have ever been. Complaints are coming in from all over the state.”
Ramirez believes the drought may be partly to blame. He opened his business in 1985, and has seen spikes before. And while he doesn’t think the rattlesnake population is necessarily growing, snakes are increasingly finding their way into urban environments in search of refuge from the rising temperatures and relief from the drying landscape.
And it’s not just snakes.
Related: ‘Less water means more gas’: how drought will test California’s stressed power grid (
California and other states across the south-west are in the grips of a historic drought. The conditions have produced consequences that extend beyond the risks of a decreased water supply and worsening wildfires. And as urban development creeps further into once-wild areas, the drought has also increased negative interactions between people, animals and pests – who are all trying to adapt.
“Rattlesnakes are becoming more common in the places where we live, work and play,” Ramirez says. After opening his business in 1985, he’s become a go-to source for removal and public education about the snakes, speaking to the media and producing safety videos for California’s office of emergency services. He clears snakes from properties and public areas and relocates them to uninhabited areas.‘Rattlesnakes are becoming more common in the places where we live, work and play’ Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Ramirez worked through California’s last drought – which stretched from the end of 2011 to 2019 ( 20started,ending%20on%20March%205th%2C%202019.) – and saw similar patterns. But now it’s gotten worse, mostly because he says, “there is so much development taking place, and that’s going to displace wildlife, including rattlesnakes”.
Ramirez says he’s had jobs when he has had to remove more than 60 snakes at a time. “I always remind parents to be a good scout before your kids go out to play,” he says.
As essential water sources start to run dry, other wild animals have also been spotted searching the suburbs for water, sustenance and reprieve from the intensifying conditions. Wildlife veterinarians have reported the numbers of abandoned babies or injured animals brought into their centers and animal sightings – especially of bears who are venturing deeper into urban areas – are surging.
“The bear population is expanding its range, so bears are showing up in areas where they’ve never seen before,” Rebecca Barboza, a wildlife biologist who studies the trend for the California department of fish and wildlife, told ( ABC News this month.
Smaller animals and insects are also coming closer in search of water – and some have the ability to cause a lot more damage. Song birds carrying the West Nile virus, which can cause a deadly and debilitating neurological disease, are increasingly showing up in back yards.
“Because there’s limited water in the environment and everything is dry, the birds go looking for water and refuge,” says Cameron Webb, a medical entomologist and senior investigator with the Centre for Infectious Diseases and Microbiology – Public Health who studies the mosquitoes that transmit the disease. “You get this combination of factors that means not only are conditions suitable for mosquitoes, but also the birds that carry the virus are more likely to be in higher concentration closer to where people live.”
Surprisingly, disease-carrying mosquitoes, which most people associate with wet times rather than dry, thrive in cities during times of drought when waters recede and grow still. Webb explains that human-made structures like pipes, pits and ponds are prime spots for stagnant water to become a breeding ground for the insects. “Fish and other animals that live in these systems die and the mosquitoes have free rein”.
In California, public health officials have already warned residents of an increase in virus activity ( and scientists believe the threat of transmissions of West Nile ( will increase with climate change, especially in coastal areas of California (
Less perilous pests may also pose more problems during drought conditions. Ants, cockroaches and rodents and other visitors also need water to survive and human homes are typically where they go to find it when it’s absent in outdoor environments.
“Drought conditions not only mean that a pest’s water supply dries up, but natural food sources can also be harder to find as well,” Mike Bentley, an entomologist for the National Pest Management Association, says. “Drought often drives pests into homes or other structures in search of these resources to survive”.
Not only does the drought mean an increase in unwanted houseguests, but it’s changing the behavior of critters themselves. They are “incredible at adapting to change”, he says. “This can mean rodents nesting in wall voids versus underground burrows and feeding from garbage bags rather than fallen fruits and seeds. Or, ants moving into potted plants to nest and feeding on last night’s leftovers.”


06-26-2021, 05:03 PM


Beneath Portland in Dorset lies a vast cavern, the result of quarrying and mining that has created some of the world's most famous buildings.

Cornwall's Eden Project wants to turn the hollow hillside into an "internationally famous" attraction that tells the story of life on earth.

But the ambitious project is yet to secure the £30m backing it needs.

And if fundraising efforts fail, Eden will take the project elsewhere and the mine will be filled with waste stone.

Eden co-founder Sir Tim Smit said Eden Portland would be "a hugely successful, world-class destination that is both a visitor destination as well as a scientific institution".

"The location is to die for," he said. "It's beautiful and it's beguiling."

More at the above link.



06-27-2021, 10:55 AM

Interesting story. Thanks for sharing.


06-27-2021, 10:58 AM

The mythology of gunfighters, the enduring charms of Westerns and the wisdom of Festus.

A tumbleweed blowing through the thoroughfare kept pace with a swirling dirt devil running along the boardwalk as the two men stepped into the street.

Heads ducked into doorways and curtains parted as the men faced each other, 10 paces apart. An instant later, one lay dead, his Colt Peacemaker lying in the dust, an agitated horse stomping in protest at the hitching post.

The other man stepped to the fallen man and kicked the revolver away from the ashen hand as nervous well-wishers flowed into the street.

“You know,” I said to Christine, “if Marshal Dillon keeps up this pace, he’ll have shot somewhere around 400 outlaws in 20 seasons of ‘Gunsmoke.’ ” We don’t have network, cable or satellite television. I have mentioned shooting my TV in disgust sometime in 2001 and haven’t watched regular TV since. A while ago, I picked up a set of DVDs with seasons 13-15 of “Gunsmoke,” one of several Westerns I grew up with.

The others — “Bonanza,” “The Virginian” and “The Rifleman” — all exhibited some sort of gunfight almost every week. When we started watching “Gunsmoke” after a 45-year hiatus, I remembered how, as a kid, I looked forward to the gunfights and didn’t pay much attention to the messages conveyed through the story line.

During that 45-year break, I had immersed myself in most all things related to firearms, including some of the history of the Old West and the gunfighters that supposedly made their way from cow town to cow town, facing hardened lawmen or other gunfighters on some dusty, windblown thoroughfare.

Those who had become skilled with firearms and were willing to use them were hired for all sorts of things that might involve gunplay. Range wars and property disputes were perhaps the most common. Rarely did this work end with a showdown on Main Street.

The “fair fight” so often depicted in Westerns almost never happened. The supposed gunfighters like Billy the Kid or Jesse James were anything but the honorable criminals they were sometimes depicted as. Some representations gave them a sort of Robin Hood mystique.

The “gunfighters” were more often just viscous killers, back-shooters who preyed on easy marks whenever they could. They were not brave men willing to stand face-to-face and shoot it out to a certain death for one or both. Their reputation for winning gunfights was often seriously exaggerated.

William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid, was said to have killed 23 men. Western historians have studied his “career” and suggest he killed six.

Gunfighters in TV and movie Westerns are often depicted as gun-toting cowboys. Not so much.

The reputation of cowboys as gunfighters probably is traceable to cow towns like Dodge City or Abilene, Kansas. In the late 1800s, huge herds of cattle were driven through these towns, headed to market.

After months on the trail, the cowboys would come into these towns, drink, and maybe get a bit carried away in celebration. Sometime that resulted in gunplay and dead cowboys. More often, the outlaws and nefarious gamblers who hung out in cow towns to prey on cowboys with a couple of months’ worth of pay in their pockets were the root of the problem. In truth, not all, or even most, cowboys carried guns. Some would, and those who traveled from place to place, drifting from job to job, probably did, for protection and to feed themselves. Many of those had a rifle rather than a pistol.

Cowboys were notably poor shots, particularly with the sixguns, which isn’t surprising.

Their pay, being at the poverty level, didn’t allow for much shooting practice. Ammunition had to be conserved for life’s eventualities. Rifles, being the more forgiving of the inexperienced shooter, worked out much better for the needs of a working cowboy.

The sheer problem of carrying a revolver on the hip while doing cowboy stuff is problematic. A full-sized six-shooter with a cartridge belt loaded with .44-40 ammunition weighs between six and seven pounds.

That’s a lot of weight to be bouncing around your waist while trying to move a steer back to the herd or roping calves for branding. Never mind that belt loops for trousers wouldn’t make an appearance until Levi introduced them in 1922. Without a regular belt held by belt loops to anchor the gun, securing it had to be difficult.

I never got to be a real working cowboy, but I’ve ridden plenty of horses and I’ve tried carrying a single-action .44 in a gunfighter belt and holster while riding. The experience further reinforced the fact that folks from that era were a hell of a lot tougher than we are these days.

It isn’t surprising that some Texas Rangers when armed with the famous Walker Colt — an enormous cap-and-ball revolver weighing more than 4.5 pounds — mounted their holsters to the saddle. Another option sorted out by mounted shooters over the years was the cross-draw holster.

It’s interesting that many of the accomplished gunfighters of the day were lawmen, and depicted as cowboys in movies and television. No doubt a fair share of the more famous lawmen from the mid-to late 1800s made their reputation in the cow towns from Texas to Montana.

I can’t explain why I’ve been enamored with the Old West my entire life. Guns and horses are the main draw, I suppose.

I’m not alone. I know plenty of folks who don’t own guns, but who love westerns. A fair share of the world’s population has a love affair with the Old West, judging by the popularity westerns enjoy around the globe.

For me, it’s the wide-open spaces — like the high country in Alaska — and the freedom of making one’s way, in many cases in a lawless land where a person’s worth surfaces not in deed, but in restraint. Maybe it’s the thought of surviving in an environment that can be as harsh as anywhere in the world.

Perspectives often advance with experience, and watching these westerns now, I see that each episode had a fine and enjoyable message beyond the gunfights, relative to how one might better treat others.

A word of caution though. Judicious watching of “Gunsmoke” may result in adopting Festus Haggen’s speech patterns, such as telling your partner that “she’s as pretty as a speckled puppy,” which she may not find as endearing as you might imagine.

Steve Meyer is a longtime Alaskan and avid shooter who lives in Kenai.


06-27-2021, 11:28 AM

]When the wind roars and the sea rocks, babysitting boats becomes a fisherman’s focus

“The wind, she blow.”
And we were on the water.

Gusts to 60 mph, the marine forecast told us.

Our 32-foot live-aboard drifter rode easy at anchor in the shallow water of Kvichak Bay. Four setnet skiffs, all between 20 and 22 feet, sat on their anchors just to our inside. Over the next 36 hours, we would be monitoring them all.

Medium winds of 15-20 knots can be quite helpful. Wave action and currents will drive salmon toward the shore, and concentrated schools of fish are easier to catch.

Heavy winds that provoke a marine gale warning are the bane of all fishermen. Shallow water and shorelines can be extremely dangerous. Boats can be pushed ashore and swamp. Lines become cable-tight. Hands can be smashed between banging vessels and gear.

Catching fish was not an issue during this storm. The Bristol Bay sockeye run was just beginning to trickle in. Fishing was open in our district, but we had been lucky to capture just 10 fish the previous tide. We had a net in the water — mostly for dinner fish.

Dinner for us was minimal. The rolling of the boat required balancing a pan on the stove while bracing between the counter and the table in an attempt to remain upright. Coffee was managed with difficulty.

The tide was low at 9 p.m. Geoff, Dakota and I lay down, knowing sleep would be temporary. In these situations the captain gets little sleep. Anchor watch was mine.

High tide came and went without issue. I dozed for an hour. At 3:45 I woke to check the skiffs. Two had pulled anchor and slid. Neither had gone far, but with eight-foot waves and 40-knot winds, the anchors could slip into deeper water where their hold would not be so secure.

Geoff and Dakota scrambled from the bunk into rain gear. We untied our little skiff and ran to the wayward skiffs. One at a time we brought them back to secure anchor. The next six hours found us constantly watching lines and keeping the skiff from taking on water.

An occasional wave dipped the rail of our 32-foot boat as the wind built waves on an incoming tidal current. Wind blowing directly against the current — in this case, tidal — creates big waves in a hurry. Shallow water, such as that in Kvichak Bay, will have a shorter wave length because the solid bottom pushes the water up.

A line was fraying on the skiff. Replacing it required jumping into a violently jerking boat and staying on your feet. This task was accomplished in the necessary rush and soon all hands were back in the powerboat.

Our operation follows all of the important safety rules. There are U.S. Coast Guard rules, which can be important, and there are practical working requirements, which are imperative.

All rough-water actions should be accomplished with more than one person available, for safety’s sake. Fishermen must always wear a life jacket — it doesn’t matter how well you might be able to swim. Nets, lines, rough/cold water and banging boats will trump Olympic-class swimmers.

A sharp rope knife, readily available, is also a must. We always work in gloves. It’s better to lose the end of a glove rather than part of a finger.

Full rain gear, including a hat, will keep fish slime and water out of your hair.

The crew and I stayed warm and dry while the wind continued. The tide receded and the wave height decreased significantly. The wind stirred the water into a froth, but for the moment we could relax.

We waited through low-water slack. The wind was unabated, but as the tide turned, it suddenly died. The storm had passed.

Instantly our concentration returned to catching fish instead of babysitting our boats. We watched a nice king salmon hit the net, and the scramble into rain gear was on again. This time the rush was in anticipation rather than trepidation.

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.


07-02-2021, 07:26 AM

Shark leaps out of water and bites parasailor in bizarre attack

David Strege (

July 1, 2021 8:44 pm ET

A tandem parasailor hovering just above the water surface of the Red Sea sustained injuries when a shark leaped out of the water and bit his foot in a bizarre attack in the Gulf of Aqaba.
The incident occurred last Friday off the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, as reported by the Daily Mail ( The U.S. Sun (

The 37-year-old Jordan man, who wasn’t identified, was taken to Prince Hashem Military Hospital where he underwent an operation on his right foot. He lost part of the back of his foot and suffered severed tendons, torn muscles and broken bones. He was listed as stable.
The Sun tweeted video ( of the shark attack.

“The shark attack garnered a lot of media attention; truthfully, it scared a lot of people, but this is something that can take place anywhere,” Mohammad Qatawneh of the Aqaba International Diver Center told the Jordan News, according to the Daily Mail.

“I’ve been diving for 20 years and this is the first time I’ve heard of a shark attack.

Mohammed Khalil Al Zabada of the College of Marine Sciences, told Gulf News (, “Sharks are found in all the seas of the world, and in the Red Sea there are many types of sharks, but their presence in the Aqaba region is very rare.”

More from Gulf News: (

Meanwhile, Nayef Al Bakhit, head of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, announced that a committee was formed to investigate information circulating about citizens being attacked by a shark in Aqaba Friday evening.

“The committee will issue a detailed statement about what happened as soon as they complete the investigation,” Al Bakhit emphasized.

Regarding news about sharks attacking a boat, Bakhit said that ASEZA was not informed and no sharks were seen in the Gulf of Aqaba on Sunday, the day after the man was attacked.

The Daily Mail reported that several people have been attacked by sharks in the Red Sea in the past year, though farther south, off the Egyptian coast.

It was not known what kind shark was involved in the attack on the parasailor.


07-02-2021, 08:19 AM


Still hoping for an end to honey buckets
Elise Patkotak

Honey buckets: Those words alone can send me into a paroxysm of odors — full buckets in the morning after a party, icy cold seats with the contents actually frozen yet somehow still smelly. And Pine Sol — poor Pine Sol — what did it ever do to deserve the reputation it holds in the minds and hearts of anyone who ever lived with a honey bucket? It’s not something you can ever clean with again.

All these memories came rushing back when I read that the Leona M. and Henry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust gave $20 million to Engineering Ministries International, or EMI, to help to put honey buckets into museums.

For those of us who have lived in Alaska a long, long time, this idea is not exactly new. It gets raised every few years with more or less enthusiasm from the Legislature to actually provide the funding needed to make that honey bucket museum a reality. And if we didn’t get the money from the state when it was flush with cash during the pipeline years, then we are never going to get it. While there have been improvements in some small pockets of the state, the truth is that, for the number of times we said we were going to put those honey buckets in a museum — well, let’s just say I was young when I first heard we were going to do it. I’m old now.

Honey buckets have always been a kind of litmus test for how someone is going to survive in the Alaska Bush. You either managed to use them without barfing or you simply left the Bush.

My first experience with a honey bucket was during one of my first weeks in Barrow, as it was called back then, when I left the ivory tower that was the hospital/ school complex and found out how the people in the village lived. I managed to not have to use the restroom, but that couldn’t stop me from seeing the honey bucket full of urine being carried through the room where the party was happening to empty into the old fuel or oil drum outside. That was when I first realized what all those barrels I saw around town were for. It also made me glad I hadn’t walked over to peek into one before I found out what they contained.

The other thing I found out about honey buckets is that no matter how far away from your living/dining area it might be, if you didn’t keep the door shut, the odor would waft. Oh, how it would waft. In fact, it wafted even with the door shut. I quickly learned to sleep with my face turned to the wall.

And running water? Well, there is nothing that quite says “I love you” like clean water coming out of your tap that you didn’t have to first chop in frigid cold weather and then haul back to the house, stack on the side of the house and then come out and chop some off every time you needed water. And if that was a long and exhausting sentence to read, imagine what a chore it is to actually do.

I lived in Utqiagvik back when it was called Barrow. It was the seat of the North Slope Borough. I know there were a lot of Alaskans that resented the creation of the borough because of the money it would keep out of the state coffers. And God knows that the borough was known to use its money fairly freely during those heady days when the money stream seemed endless. But the borough also used its money for some very good things, and sanitation was at the top of the list. The borough was willing to put up the money needed to bring safe sanitation to all its villages. Even though progress might have been slow, it never stopped.

So, it’s probably time that the rest of Bush Alaska be introduced to the joy of not chopping ice or emptying buckets of effluvium.

Let’s see if this money can bring the rest of the Bush to the standard of the North Slope Borough. We can only hope that we never have to see this headline again, “Sanitation coming to Alaska Bush so honey buckets can be sent to a museum.”

Elise Patkotak is an Alaska columnist and author. Her book “Coming Into the City” is available at and at local bookstores


07-02-2021, 08:22 AM

How about rating this thread? How many stars do you think it’s worth?


07-02-2021, 09:50 AM

5 out of 5! I haven't had much to add, but I've enjoyed reading it. Having lived with an outhouse & carrying water, I could relate to the honey bucket story. I will admit we never used a bucket - we braved the cold, though it was not often below zero for us.


07-03-2021, 12:18 AM

Paraglider goes on 8-hour ride, lands just shy of 100 miles
Beth Bragg

Anchorage Daily News


Twice in a four-day span, Anchorage paraglider Wil Brown flirted with the Alaska distance record he set back in 2014, flying oh-soclose to his record of 97.9 miles, hovering ever-sonear the 100-mile mark he has been chasing this year.

He can thank a bug fart that his second attempt didn’t leave him stuck in a swamp, miles from a road or a river somewhere in the Copper River basin.

Brown, 32, spent nearly eight hours hanging in the air Wednesday in his most recent attempt to fly 100 miles, a distance that would break the state-record flight he took in 2014 from Eklutna Lake to Eureka.

“I’m always just trying to go farther and fly longer,” Brown said. “I didn’t quite get there this season, but just the pursuit of 100 miles led to a lot of cool flights I had never taken before.”

Brown spoke Thursday while pack-rafting the Gulkana River. He spent Wednesday night on an island in the river, a landing spot that ended the longest flight of his life in terms of duration — 7 hours, 55 minutes.

“Almost eight hours of just flying over swamps and different little mountains and rivers,” he said.

Brown packs snacks in a front pocket and has a tubing system that lets him pee during long flights, and he’s taken a lot of long flights lately.

A pilot for Alaska Airlines, he’s in the midst of an 18-month hiatus and at the end of a three-month paragliding binge. Brown and his wife, Jasmine, have two children — 3-year-old Etta and 1-year-old Betsy — and they made a deal that each would take care of the kids for a three-month stretch so the other could pursue a project. Jasmine had her time this winter; Wil started his at the start of April.

Brown began each of this week’s flights from Sheep Mountain Lodge. On Sunday, he reached an altitude of 9,500 feet. On Wednesday, he hit 8,000 feet.

“This time of year it’s really not that (cold),” he said. “It was well above freezing. I have heated gloves but Itook the batteries out yesterday to save weight.

“We’ll fly in March or April and get to 6,000, 7,000 feet, and it’s soooo cold.”

Brown, a 2007 South High graduate, has been paragliding since he was 11. His dad, Jack — also an Alaska Airlines pilot — learned in 2000, and the next year Brown and his mother learned. For a few years, Brown was involved in competitive paragliding.

Now he flies to explore Alaska and to push the limits of long-distance paragliding. A man in Texas recently set a world record by traveling more than 600 kilometers; the trip took 11 hours, according to reports.

Paragliding relies on thermals — columns of warm air that lift a paraglide into the sky and are most easily found in the middle of the day when the ground is warm.

Each of Brown’s recent record-attempts ended in the evening as the distance between thermals grew greater, and on Wednesday, the thermals became elusive at the most inopportune time — while Brown was flying over miles of swampland.

“I’ve been flying with my packraft, so if I land near a river I have a pretty good way out, or if I’m near the mountains I can relaunch,” he said. “But a swamp (can) mean days of walking, of just bushwhacking, sleeping in the woods, worrying about bears. All that stuff starts to weigh on your mind.”

All that kept Brown out of the muck Wednesday was a wisp of air that paragliders call bug farts.

“I kept getting lower and lower, and I was a good six or seven miles from the road. So I really needed a thermal,” he said. “I was getting bug farts — the tiniest little nothingest of a thermal, something you would usually fly through and wouldn’t want to waste time on.”

But on this day a bug fart was well worth his time. He turned circles in it and slowly gained enough altitude to fly past the swamp to a more suitable landing spot.

“I’d gain 20 feet in one turn, maybe 10 feet the next turn,” he said. “I went from 2,800 feet to 6,800 feet in over 20 minutes of climbing, which is a really long time.” For comparison’s sake, he said that on Sunday, he found thermals that took him from 4,000 feet to 8,000 feet in five to 10 minutes.

On Sunday he landed on the highway and hitchhiked to his car at Sheep Mountain Lodge. (Pro tip: “Leave your glider and everything out so people can see you just landed there and you aren’t just some guy with a big backpack,” Brown said.) On Wednesday he landed on an island in the Gulkana River and rafted a couple of hours to the highway, where someone gave him a ride to Gakona, where Brown was scheduled to take another flight — this one with his dad, who planned to meet him there in a Cessna.


07-03-2021, 12:27 AM


Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson now says he’ll beat Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos to space

The billionaire space race is heating up.

Richard Branson is set to get his long-awaited trip to space as early as July 11, flying on a suborbital mission that would allow him to beat Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos, who is scheduled to fly on his company’s spacecraft nine days later.

Branson had been scheduled to go on a later flight but clearly wanted to be the first of the billionaire space entrepreneurs to blast out of the atmosphere.

In a statement announcing the mission, the company said Branson would be joined in the cabin by three Virgin Galactic employees who would evaluate the “cabin environment, seat comfort, the weightless experience, and the views of Earth that the spaceship delivers — all to ensure every moment of the astronaut’s journey maximizes the wonder and awe created by space travel.”

Among those employees is Beth Moses, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor, who flew to space on the company’s second spaceflight mission. Virgin Galactic’s plane, known as Space-ShipTwo Unity, has reached space on three occasions, and this would be the first time it will have flown a crew of four.

In an interview, Branson said that he was “incrediblyexcited” and that moving up his flight was “honestly not” intended to best Bezos.

“I completely understand why the press would write that,” he said.“It’s just an incredible, wonderful coincidence that we’re going up in the same month.”

Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, recently said he would fly on July 20, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. And on Thursday his space company, Blue Origin, announced he would be joined by Wally Funk, a member of the “Mercury 13,” a group of women privately tested and trained by a team of aviation medical experts for NASA’s astronaut program at the height of the space race.

Both Branson’s and Bezos’s flights will travel on suborbital trajectories that will just scratch the edge of space and give passengers a few minutes of weightlessness.

Virgin Galactic recently received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration that allows it to fly commercial passengers, paving the way for Branson to join the crew. In May, the company flew another test flight that went so well that the company felt it was safe to allow Branson to fly as part of the crew.

“I’ve been itching to go, and they said they wanted somebody to properly test the astronaut experience,”he said in the interview. “And I was damned if I was going to let anyone take that seat.”

Virgin Galactic, which Branson founded in 2004, has some 600 people signed up for flights — one of them Funk — and is expected to reopen sales around the time of Branson’s flight.The company had charged $250,000, but that price will increase.The company has not said what it would charge, but analysts have said it could be as much as $500,000.

Blue Origin has not announced ticket prices either. But it recently auctioned off a seat for $28 million for its first spaceflight mission. The company has yet not announced who the winner is.

Virgin Galactic flies out of Spaceport America in New Mexico. Unlike a traditional rocket, Virgin’s spacecraft is carried aloft to some 45,000 feet by a mother plane. The spacecraft is then dropped, and the pilots ignite its engines and fly the craft almost straight up.

In addition to Branson and Moses, Sirisha Bandla, Virgin Galactic’s vice president of government affairs and research operations, and Colin Bennett, the company’s lead operations engineer, would join the flight.

— The Washington Post


07-03-2021, 08:06 PM

Abhimanyu Mishra, 12 and Indian American, is youngest chess grandmaster ever

Sakshi Venkatraman
Fri, July 2, 2021, 8:15 AM

Abhimanyu Mishra, at 12 years and 4 months old, is the youngest chess grandmaster ever, breaking a record that Sergey Karjakin held for 19 years by three months.
Karjakin was 12 years and 7 months old when he became grandmaster in 2002. kyNTky/

Abhimanyu Mishra (Justin N. Lane / Courtesy of U.S. Chess)

“Finally checkmated the biggest opponent (ongoing pandemic ) which stopped me for 14 months,” Mishra tweeted after his win ( “Thanks everybody for all your love and support. Looking forward for World cup.”
Mishra grew up in New Jersey and has been playing chess since he was 7. After being the youngest international master in the world, he earned the coveted grandmaster title Wednesday by beating Leon Mendonca, 15, a grandmaster from India, in the ninth round of a match at the Vezerkepzo GM Mix tournament in Hungary.
To achieve the grandmaster designation, a player has to earn three norms — good performance in official, high-level tournaments — and have a rating of 2,500 from the Fédération Internationale des Échecs, the world governing body of chess. Ratings change with every win and loss based on a player's rating and that of the opponent.
Mishra accomplished his third norm when he defeated Mendonca.


07-04-2021, 07:49 AM

Jason Umbriaco holds his border collie, Buckley, near their campsite in Cooper Landing on Wednesday. Umbriaco was separated from the dog during a bear attack last Sunday, but they were reunited the next day. Photo courtesy of JASON UMBRIACO


A brown bear bite sliced open a Montana man’s arm on the Kenai Peninsula. His biggest worry was his missing dog.

Buckley bolted during the attack but was reunited with owner the next day with help from local hospital workers.
Tess Williams

Anchorage Daily News
Jason Umbriaco was mauled by a brown bear while hiking Sunday near Skilak Lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The injuries, while not life-threatening, were “pretty gnarly,” he said.

But despite the pain, his focus in the immediate aftermath was on finding his 13-month-old border collie, Buckley.

It took nearly two days, but with the help of hospital workers and internet strangers, Umbriaco and Buckley were reunited.

Umbriaco arrived in Alaska early this summer from Whitefish, Montana, with plans to spend the summer hiking and camping. An experienced outdoorsman with plenty of backcountry experience in Montana, he was looking forward to unwinding after an emotionally rough winter.

He’d spent part of last weekend camping in Hope and was headed back toward a dispersed- camping site along

Kenai Lake on Sunday when he decided to check out a trail off Skilak Lake Road, he said.

Umbriaco and Buckley walked just over a mile on the Upper Kenai River Trail. On the downhill hike, he said, he noticed scat but didn’t realize it was bear scat.

They wandered slightly farther down the path before deciding to turn back. But only a few minutes after turning around, Umbriaco spotted a brown bear. Behind her were two small cubs.

What happened next felt almost like a blur, Umbriaco said.

“It all happened so fast,” he said. “I mean the whole encounter between the bear and I, it probably lasted 20 seconds from start to finish. From the time I met her to the time she’s back walking up the hill.”

The sow charged forward slightly before stopping, Umbriaco said. Then Buckley, usually fearful and mild-mannered, ran forward and confronted the bear, he said. He saw the bear swipe at the dog before Buckley disappeared into tall grass alongside the trail.

The bear turned her attention to Umbriaco and charged. He put his arms up in a defensive position. The bear sank her teeth into his right forearm and released.

“Up until then I was thinking, maybe she’ll charge at me and then walk away, but then you realize: No, this is really happening,” he said.

Into the river
Umbriaco was on a grassy bank along the river. With no other ideas about how to escape the bear, he jumped into the water, unsure how deep it would be or how strong the current was.

“As it turns out, the water was only up to my hips and the current was slow enough that it didn’t take me away,” he said.

The bear, now lumbering above Umbriaco, leaned over and bit his right shoulder, he said. She released after the bite, and he tried to swim out into the river to distance himself from the bear. The sow retreated up the hill with her cubs. Umbriaco said he waited until they were out of sight for a while before he dragged himself to shore.

He was bleeding from the large gash on his arm where muscle was exposed. He could tell that his shoulder had been badly wounded, but adrenaline kept the pain at bay, he said. He didn’t want to leave Buckley alone and feared the dog had also been injured. He called for Buckley and tried to spot him in the tall grass.

“Shortly after, I came off the adrenaline, and so then I got shaky and woozy and everything looked sort of sparkly,” he said. “I was concerned that if I didn’t start hiking out of there, I wouldn’t be able to.”

The hike back to his car was all uphill. Cell service is limited around Skilak Lake, and Umbriaco said he dialed 911 several times from the trail, but the call could connect only long enough for him to utter a few words before losing the signal.

Once he reached his truck, he said, he had enough service to make a call for help. He stayed on the phone with the 911 dispatcher as he drove out to the Sterling Highway, where he waited for the Alaska State Troopers and an ambulance.

At a Soldotna hospital, doctors cleaned his wounds before adding a few stitches. He said he feels lucky the injuries weren’t worse.

Finding Buckley

(continues on next post)


07-04-2021, 07:51 AM

Finding Buckley

Umbriaco said the pain in his arm and shoulder was sharp, but it didn’t worry him. The only thing he could think about was Buckley.

Umbriaco was suffering from severe depression before he met the friendly, energetic brown and white pup. Buckley goes everywhere with Umbriaco now.

“I was just so worried about him,” he said. “I was just trying to like, reassemble images of what happened to see if I could see any scraps of anything to help me maybe remember what happened. And all I could come up with was Buckley entering the grass by the bear’s feet.”

Umbriaco stayed overnight at the hospital and on Monday met Bonnie Nichols, the director oforganizational experience. Nichols said she’d been told by nurses and the chaplain that Umbriaco had been mauled by a bear and was missing his dog. A dog lover, she knew immediately that she wanted to help.

“People have enough to deal with in dealing with their injuries, then to have some horrible grief that they’re experiencing on top of it makes healing a lot harder,” she said.

Nichols told Umbriaco she’d help him find Buckley. Umbriaco doesn’t use social media, so he sent Nichols photos of Buckley and a map of where they were during the attack.

Nichols posted the photos and asked others to share them in hopes that someone nearby would find Buckley. Another hospital employee also posted the photos to Facebook groups.

Umbriaco said he felt comforted and grateful that there were people “rooting for me and cheering for me.”

Later that day, a woman reached out to Nichols to say she’d found a border collie Sunday night that looked terrified sitting outside an outhouse near the trail.

“He didn’t have a collar on or anything, so she just grabbed him and put him in the car and took him home and bathed him. She said he was a pillow hog and her cats were really upset about it,” Nichols said, laughing.

When Nichols showed Umbriaco the photos she’d received of the dog, he was overwhelmed with relief that Buckley was alive and had been found. Nichols washed his clothes and found a new shirt for Umbriaco. Another hospital employee’s son drove him back to his truck on Monday.

The woman who found the dog drove out to Umbriaco’s campsite in Cooper Landing to reunite the pair that evening.

Once Buckley was back in his arms, Umbriaco said, he knew things would be all right.

Looking back, Umbriaco said there are so many things he would have done differently. He said he should have been paying closer attention when hiking.

“I’m always a pretty conscientious hiker and camper, but in this particular instance, it was my fault,” he said. “That was part of what was bumming me out so bad was just … on the ambulance ride back, I was just like, remembering everything that I’d seen on the way down. In hindsight, you can easily deduce that there were bears. … If I had seen that and really perceived it and understood it, I would have gotten out of there.”

Umbriaco said he’s healing well and not letting the experience scare him away from the outdoors. On Wednesday afternoon, he was snuggling with Buckley at a firepit on Kenai Lake near their tent.

“It’s a bummer when you have to learn a lesson from experience,” he said. “But I did, so I’m going to learn the lesson and move forward.”


07-04-2021, 07:59 AM


Homeowner fatally shoots brown bear sow and cub on Anchorage Hillside; 2nd cub injured

Morgan Krakow

Anchorage Daily News

An Anchorage Hillside homeowner shot three brown bears Thursday morning, killing two and wounding one, a wildlife official said Friday.

The three bears — a sow plus two cubs that were likely 2 years old — had been getting into trash cans, mostly moving through the area in the middle of the night, according to Dave Battle, Anchorage area biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The homeowner, who lives in the area of O’Malley Road and Stony Brook Drive, shot and killed the sow and one cub while the other cub was injured and escaped, Battle said. Wildlife officials followed the wounded cub’s blood trail for roughly a quarter of a mile before they determined the cub was not going to die from the injury, he said.

Battle said he couldn’t provide specifics of the incident and that Alaska Wildlife Troopers are investigating.

“Alaska Wildlife Troopers are aware of multiple bears being shot on the hillside and are looking into the incident,” troopers spokesman Austin McDaniel wrote in an email. Troopers did not provide additional information about what happened.

The bear trio had become a problem and wildlife officials were planning to kill them eventually, according to Battle.

“Most of the brown bears that survive around Anchorage, they keep to themselves. They move in the middle of night, people never see them. They don’t start feeding from trash,” Battle said. “When brown bears start feeding from trash, we usually have to kill them.”

That’s because brown bears can be more dangerous and aggressive when defending a food source or cubs compared to black bears in the city.

“For the most part, it’s very rare for us to see real aggression from black bears, even the ones that sit there and eat your trash and act like they’re not afraid of you,” Battle said.

Black bears might slap the ground, act mean or chomp their jaws when protecting food or cubs, but he said it’s rare for them to make contact with a human. A brown bear trying to defend itself, its food or a cub, however, is much more likely to charge or attack.

“Whenever brown bears start going this route, we typically have to kill them,” Battle said.

Preventing human-bear interactions is a key reason why wildlife officials continue to urge residents to secure their trash and use bear-resistant garbage containers to keep bear attractants to a minimum.

“Even though for the most part, it’s a human-caused problem — you know, people have left out their bird seed or their trash ... and that’s started drawing them into houses, made them start checking out houses and causing a problem for everybody else — we still have to, for public safety reasons, remove those brown bears,” Battle said.

Every situation with bears is different, but safety basics tend to be the same, he said. If you’re in your driveway and a bear sees you and starts toward you, stand your ground and make yourself big. If you’re in a group, stand shoulder to shoulder so you look like a larger creature.

Most importantly, according to Battle: Don’t run away. It’s hard to keep people from running away, he said. It’s instinctual to turn around and run, but he said that’s the worst thing someone can do.

“If you are not close enough to your house to just take two steps and be back inside, then if the bear starts toward you, you stand your ground, you talk to it, you make yourself big,” Battle said. “You do the same things that you would do out on a trail.”


07-04-2021, 08:05 AM

Yet another bear encounter.


Bear ‘swatted’ Katmai National Park visitor, leaving him with minor injuries

Anchorage Daily News

A Katmai National Park and Preserve visitor was injured when a bear “swatted” him and knocked him backward into a river this week, park officials said.

A small group that included two park visitors and a guide had stopped on an island near the confluence of the Savoonski and Grosvenor rivers on Wednesday afternoon to eat and sightsee, the National Park Service said in a statement. While the guide and one of the visitors walked downriver, the second visitor stayed near their boat to take pictures.

The visitor who stayed behind noticed a bear that had just swum across the river to the island where the boat was beached, and he alerted the other group members, park officials said.

“The bear was acting aggressively so all three people attempted to haze the bear away by making themselves appear larger and yelling,” the park service said.

They drew the bear’s attention away from the visitor who had stayed by the boat, but before the guide could deploy bear spray,

“the visitor with the guide was swatted and knocked backwards into the river,” park officials said.

The visitor swatted by the bear sustained minor injuries to his forearm. At that point, the guide was able to use bear spray and the bear left, according to the park service. Park rangers provided emergency medical care.

The incident is the first bear-to-human contact in the park since 2018, the park service said. That year, two young bears “pawed” at people at Katmai’s Brooks Camp, and no one was hurt in the incidents.

The incident is the first bear-to-human contact in the park since 2018, the park service said. That year, two young bears “pawed” at people at Katmai’s Brooks Camp, and no one was hurt in the incidents.


07-05-2021, 09:37 AM

Wally Funk was supposed to go to space 60 years ago. Now she’s going with Jeff Bezos.

Taylor Telford

Download now{&quot;default&quot;:&quot;//;,&quot;dpi&quot;:2}© Handout/ReutersWally Funk, one of the “Mercury 13,” holds a photo of herself at the International Women’s Air and Space Museum in Cleveland in 2019. The aerospace pioneer will join Jeff Bezos when one of his Blue Origin rockets heads to space later this month.

By most accounts, Wally Funk should have been to space by now.

In 1961, Funk was the youngest member of the “Mercury 13,” a group of 13 women ( privately tested and trained by a team of aviation medical experts for NASA’s astronaut program at the height of the space race. But the program, which put the women through the same rigorous testing as the Mercury 7, NASA’s all-male team of original astronauts, was canceled.

Sixty years later, Funk, 82, is poised to become the oldest person to reach space. Jeff Bezos announced in an Instagram post ( Thursday that Funk would be joining him, his brother, Mark, and the unnamed winner of an auction aboard Blue Origin’s first crewed spaceflight on July 20, the anniversary of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.

A seat to fly with Jeff Bezos to space sells at auction for $28 million (
Funk is a pioneer in aviation: She was the first female Federal Aviation Administration inspector and first female National Transportation Safety Board air safety investigator. She has logged 19,600 hours of flight time and taught more than 3,000 people to fly, she said in Bezos’s Instagram video.

“Everything that the FAA has, I’ve got the license for,” Funk says in the video. “And, I can outrun you!”

In the Instagram video, Bezos describes the plan for the New Shepard’s journey to a wide-eyed Funk, down to the moment when the rocket returns to the desert surface and its doors open.

“We open the hatch, and you step outside. What’s the first thing you say?” Bezos asks Funk. She does not hesitate.

Jeff Bezos announces he’ll be on first crewed spaceflight of Blue Origin rocket (“I will say, ‘Honey, that’s the best thing that ever happened to me!’ ” Funk declares, pulling Bezos into a bear hug.

Funk is Bezos’s “honored guest” on the flight, which will also be joined by the winner of Blue Origin’s auction for his company’s nonprofit foundation. Nearly 7,600 bidders from 159 countries participated in the auction, which topped out at $28 million. (Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post).

Blue Origin has said travelers must be able to endure three times the force of gravity for two minutes on ascent and 5½ times the force of gravity for a few seconds on the way down. Participants must be between 5 feet and 6-feet-4-inches tall and weigh between 110 and 223 pounds. As a young girl, Funk used to jump off the roof of her parents’ barn in a Superman (, pretending to fly. She loved to build model planes and ships, became an “expert marksman” at 14 and skied competitively for the United States in slalom and downhill races. She has been flying since 1957. She is also an antique car enthusiast and “avid zipliner,” according to her website. (

When NASA finally opened its programs to women in 1976, Funk applied three times and received three rejections. But she has never been the type to let anything stand in her way, she says in the video.

“I like to do things that nobody has ever done,” Funk said.

The July 20 flight would have made Bezos the first of the billionaire “space barons” to go to space, a significant milestone for him and Blue Origin, which lags behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX in the competition for billions of dollars in NASA and Pentagon contracts and which flies a more powerful rocket capable of taking people and supplies into orbit. But hours after the announcement that Funk would be on the flight, Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, who will turn 71 July 18, announced that he plans to be aboard ( his company’s space plane on its next test flight, now scheduled for July 11. That would place him in space ahead of Bezos.

Bezos has long been fascinated with space. An avid science fiction reader and big “Star Trek” fan as a child, he has called watching the Apollo 11 moon landing a seminal moment for him, even though he was just 5 years old at the time. He chose “Goddard” as the middle name for one of his sons in homage to Robert Goddard, the founder of modern rocketry.

The New Shepard is named for Alan Shepard, who became the first American to go to space in 1961. Like that first suborbital flight, New Shepard shoots straight up, flying past 60 miles to reach the edge of space before falling back to Earth. The flight takes about 10 minutes in all, with a few minutes of weightlessness in space.

Neither Musk nor Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson have ridden on their companies’ rockets, though there is speculation Branson may be trying to beat Bezos with a secretive launch ( in the coming weeks. In late June, Virgin Galactic won FAA approval ( to take customers to space, making it the first spaceline to cross that hurdle.

In 2010, Funk put down $200,000 for a future Virgin Galactic flight. She has spent years waiting and visiting Spaceport America, anticipating what she thought would be her first trip to space. But by the time she gets to cash in that ticket, she will already be an astronaut.
Christian Davenport contributed to this report.


07-05-2021, 09:49 AM


Katmai bear webcams are back for summer — with higher resolution and better sound

Morgan Krakow

Anchorage Daily News


Some of Alaska’s most famous bears are back on camera.

The Katmai National Park and Preserve webcams are rolling this season in higher definition and with more angles than in previous summers.

And the brown bears that feed on salmon have started lumbering into view.

The Brooks Falls camera on Tuesday showed a closeup of a bear panning its head back and forth at the foot of the falls as foamy white river water flowed past, with more than 1,000 viewers watching online.

The remote park on the eastern end of the Alaska Peninsula draws visitors to its campground and viewing platforms to watch the bears as they feed on salmon and prepare for the long winter. Bears can gain more than 2 pounds of fat each day in summer and fall.

For those who won’t make it out to Katmai’s bear-watching platforms in person, the bear cams come in handy.

The Katmai bears have become even more well-known thanks to the annual Fat Bear Week competition. Last year’s competition — a bracket-style online tournament in which fans vote for their favorite hulking contenders — was said to be fattest of all Fat Bear Weeks. The bears gorged all summer, and Bear 747 reigned supreme.

Upgrades to the cameras were supposed to happen last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily upended those plans, said Candice Rusch, director of new media at, which works with the park to livestream the bears.

There’s a new camera installed at Brooks Falls, and the picture quality should be “significantly improved,” Rusch said.

They also replaced and upgraded an underwater salmon camera; got the Dumpling Mountain camera back up and running; and upgraded the camera microphones, so the audio quality should be better.

“Basically, everything out there is higher picture quality for one reason or another,” Rusch said.

Plus, the park is also getting back to normal operations after a somewhat shuttered pandemic summer last year.

And it’s going to be busy, said Amber Kraft,interpretation and education program manager at Katmai.

“Our campground reservations are completely full, July all the way to the end of the season, and the same with the lodge reservations,” Kraft said. “So we do expect it to be a very busy, very popular summer here.”

Contact Morgan Krakow at


07-05-2021, 09:55 AM

Here is a link to live camera to watch the bears at Katmai national park.


07-05-2021, 11:27 PM

Nathan's Hot Dog Contest 2021: Joey Chestnut wins for 14th timeBy Wayne Sterling, CNN

(CNN)Defending world champion Joey Chestnut ( broke his own world record Sunday, devouring 76 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes during Nathan's Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

It was the 14th time the top-ranked hot dog eater in the world won the title in the last 15 years, slinging down 26 more than second place finisher Geoffrey Esper and one more than Chestnut managed last year.
On the women's side, Michelle Lesco (, ranked ninth overall, picked up her first championship after consuming 30 3/4 hot dogs and buns, 6 3/4 more than runner-up Sarah Rodriguez.
Miko Sudo (, the defending seven-time champion, did not compete this year as she's expecting her first child later this month. Sudo set the women's record in 2020 when she ate 48.5 hot dogs and buns.
The annual Fourth of July event took place in front of spectators in Coney Island.
Last year's contest was held in a private location for media only due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Nathan's (, legend has it that the first contest of its kind was held on July 4, 1916, as four immigrants competed to show how patriotic they were by eating hot dogs at Nathan's stand in Coney Island.
The contest has only been recorded since 1972.

CNN's Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.


07-23-2021, 12:08 PM'He only had two bullets left': Grizzly bear terrorises Alaska frontiersman for a week

Nick Allen
Thu, July 22, 2021, 10:10 AM·3 min read

A man has been rescued after being terrorised for a week by a grizzly bear in the Alaska wilderness (
Experts said it was unusual for someone to be attacked repeatedly by the same bear over a period of time.
The victim, who has not been identified, had just two rounds of ammunition left, and had suffered injuries to his leg and torso, when he was spotted by a Coast Guard helicopter.
He crawled towards the helicopter waving a white flag in the air.
The encounter was reminiscent of the plot of The Revenant in which Leonardo DiCaprio's ( fur trapper character is mauled by a grizzly bear and left for dead in the wild.
DiCaprio won an Oscar for his performance, but in his case the bear was computer-generated.
In the real-life struggle the modern day frontiersman was attacked at a remote mining camp, about 40 miles from Nome, where he had been staying in a shack since July 12.
Nome is a town of less than 4,000 people near the Bering Strait.

A grizzly bear in the wild - Reuters

It was unclear how the man got from Nome to the camp, where he was alone, and there was no phone reception for him to call for help.
The bear initially attacked him and dragged him toward a river before he escaped and got back to his shack.
He then spent several nights repelling the bear, and not sleeping, but was about to run out of bullets.
The door was ripped off the shack where he was sheltering.
He climbed on top of the shack and wrote "SOS" and "help me" on the tin roof.
The Coast Guard helicopter passed over him by chance after diverting to avoid some clouds.
It was on its way from Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak to Nome to pick up some researchers who wanted to look for dead whales and walruses along the coastline.
The crew on board then saw the man waving both arms in the air. They circled back and landed.
Lt Cmdr Jared Carbajal, the helicopter pilot, told the New York Times ( "At some point a bear had dragged him down to the river.
"He had a pistol. He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in a few days."
bear - Getty

AJ Hammac, the co-pilot, said he looked down and saw the man, who appeared to be aged about 60, staggering out of the shack.
He said: “We don’t really come across people in the middle of nowhere. He was kind of struggling. When we came around he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag.
"He definitely looked like he had been out there for a while."
The man had taped up the injury to his leg and was also bruised on his torso from his encounter with the bear.
The flight to Nome took about 15 minutes and, after the helicopter landed, the man refused to get on a stretcher, instead walking to an ambulance on his injured leg.
An Alaska Coast Guard spokeswoman told the New York Times: "He only had two rounds left. I’d imagine you’d be a little loopy after not sleeping for so long."
The man's injuries were not life-threatening.
Grizzly bears are common in the area where he was staying, particularly at the time of year.
Between 2001 and 2017, 10 people were killed in bear attacks in Alaska and 68 were treated in hospital.
Already in 2021 five people have been killed in bear attacks in North America. Four died in the whole of 2020, and two in 2019

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