It is a pleasant day for a walk in middle Alaska, with blue sky overhead, sandhill cranes croaking above the UAF farm, and the sharp scent of sliced blades of grass, mowed for perhaps the last time in 2019.
One fall day in Interior Alaska, a lion stalked a ground squirrel that stood at attention on a hillside. The squirrel noticed bending blades of grass, squeaked an alarm call, and then dived into its hole. It curled up in a grassy nest. A few hours later, for reasons unknown, its heart stopped.
Alaska had been a state for one year in 1960 when its department of fish and game conducted a wolf-planting experiment on Coronation Island in southeast Alaska. At the time, the remote 45-square-mile island exposed to the open Pacific had a high density of blacktailed deer and no wolves. Tha…
KODIAK — LeConte Glacier near Petersburg is the farthest-south glacier that spills into the sea on this side of the equator. Where that ice tongue dips into salty water, scientists recently measured melting much greater than predicted.
KODIAK — The Piper Super Cub is a nimble favorite of Alaska bush pilots who land on and take off from gravel bars and mountaintops. Engineers who designed the plane in the 1940s found a simple model that still works.
During Patrick Druckenmiller’s not-so-restful sabbatical year of 2015, he flew to museums around the world. In Alberta and then London, the Univer-sity of Alaska Museum’s curator of earth science looked at bones of dino-saurs similar to ones found in northern Alaska.
The relocation of an Alaska village is happening fast this summer, after many years of planning and work. Observers say Newtok’s transition to Mertarvik is flying along because it has to — the Ninglick River bank is crumbling less than 10 yards from a Newtok home.
KODIAK — On a Saturday morning near summer solstice, nine people stood on a smoothed pile of gravel at Mile 5 of the Dalton Highway. A man talking to the group, the fur of a wolverine wrapping his head, had invited us to what he called AlaskAcross 2019, a nonstop 60-mile hiking traverse in n…
YAKUTAT — On sandy barrier islands between mountains and the sea, two different birds that look alike lay their eggs side-by-side. Biologists here are learning more about the less-common, more mysterious one.
RUSSELL FJORD — Standing on this smooth gravel shoreline, 15 miles northeast of the town of Yakutat, you can tell something big happened. A forest of dead trees encircles the shoreline. The dry, bone-white stems poke from mint-green alders and willows, 100 steps from the water.
KODIAK — Not long ago, a glaciologist wrote that the number of glaciers in Alaska “is estimated at (greater than) 100,000.” That fuzzy number, maybe written in passive voice for a reason, might be correct. But it depends upon how you count.
KODIAK — Every spring, millions of ducks touch down on Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, a spread of muskeg and dark water the size of Maryland. These days, more ruddy ducks seem to be among them. Recent sightings of this handsome, rust-colored bird — the males with a teal-blue beak — su…
Following the warmest March Alaskans have ever felt, forecasters are predicting a mellow transition from ice to water for most big rivers in the state.
In the 1820s, painter and naturalist John James Audubon designed an experiment to test if birds had a sense of smell. He dragged a rotten hog carcass into a field, then piled brush on top of it. After none of the local turkey vultures appeared, Audubon concluded that vultures hunted using th…
A quick comparison of two great rivers in America: One, the Wabash, runs 503 miles through Indiana, flowing past 4 million people on its journey to the Ohio River. The other, the Innoko, slugs its way 500 miles through low hills and muskeg bogs in west-central Alaska to reach the Yukon. Abou…
The mushers were gone, and so were the 640 dogs that pulled them out of town. A few days earlier, the volunteers who gave life to Iditarod had climbed into their single-engine planes and lifted off the ice, carrying their noise along with them.
Cape Espenberg is an eyebrow of sand, driftwood, and low plants on the northeast corner of the Seward Peninsula. It is now quiet except for the swish of the wind through cottongrass and the songs of birds, but archaeologists have found a large village site there.
As I was driving down the highway, I saw a shaggy, gray-black canine cruising along on the snowpack, right next to the road. Could it be one of the hardest animals to spot in Alaska, a wolf?
Bogoslof Island is the gray tip of a mountain that pokes from the choppy surface of the Bering Sea. The volcano stands alone just north of the Aleutians, far south of the larger islands of St. George and St. Paul.
This week marks 30 years since I turned my pickup left onto a North Pole road and noticed the clutch pedal did not return to my foot. In a panic, I reached down with my mittened hand and pulled. The frozen plunger oozed back into position.
At the approach of a canoe, the wolverine tears into the woods, its claws spitting mud. Seconds later, ravens scatter from what resembles two branches reaching from a driftwood log.
The magnificent creature was fooled by vocal plumbing — similar to its own but much smaller — imitating the groan of a receptive female. The bull moose grunted twice, then strode through spruce trees at the far side of a river. Brushing branches away with its antlers, it emerged, expecting t…
KODIAK — Stone spear points from Serpentine Hot Springs on the Seward Peninsula hint that ancient people may have migrated northward between ice sheets from warmer parts of America, bringing their technology with them.
KODIAK — On a November morning long ago, Jeff and Annette Freymueller were feeling the effects of the 1 a.m. flight that had carried them home, to end-of-the-line Fairbanks. There was no rush to get up on that Saturday 16 years ago. They slept in.
As we pull on our winter coats to shield our tropical bodies from the cold, there is a creature in our midst that survives Alaska’s coldest temperatures bare-naked.
KODIAK — Recently the church family of the Assembly of God Church said their goodbyes to pastors Tracy and Pam Hodges at a potluck in the church social hall. The couple left Kodiak on a ferry two days later.
KODIAK — Leaving cloven hoofprints from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, more than 3,500 muskoxen live in Alaska. All of those shaggy, curly-horned beasts came from one group of muskoxen that survived a most remarkable journey in the 1930s.
KODIAK — Maybe she has the right idea, the arctic ground squirrel. Sniffing the chilly air, looking up to see the first stars of the season, she has decided to check out. A few weeks shy of fall equinox, the squirrel is now bunkered up for winter, three feet beneath the tundra of the North Slope.
KODIAK — Floating down the Fortymile River, we saw a cut in the green hills that hinted of a creek. My canoeing partner and neighbor, Ian Carlson, 13, wanted to see a ghost town. The map told us one should be dead ahead.