By the summer of 2020, a landslide will bury a portion of the road from the Denali National Park entrance to Wonder Lake. That’s the conclusion of Zena Robert, a UAF graduate student who visited the park in summer 2019.
For the 20th straight year, in December 2019 I carried a notebook into the halls of the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Most of those years the conference was in San Francisco (as it was this year).
A father wakes, rolls out of bed, and drops his toes to cold carpet. He grabs a flashlight and shines it outside the window. The thermometer reads 40 below zero, the only point at which the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales agree. The red liquid within his thermometer is alcohol; mercury freezes…
North of the village of Hughes, in frigid, sluggish water, dim blue light penetrates two feet of lake ice. The ice has a quarter-size hole, maintained by a stream of methane bubbles. Every few minutes, a brutish little fish swims up, turns to sip air, and peels back to the dank.
In spring of 1946, five men stationed at the Scotch Cap lighthouse had reasons to be happy. World War II was over. They had survived. Their lonely Coast Guard assignment on Unimak Island would be over in a few months.
SAN FRANCISCO — “This picture is what we’re dreaming of today,” Mellisa Johnson said to reporters sitting in a packed press conference room at the Moscone Center, during the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
On December 15, 1989, a pilot who had flown a 747 passenger jet all the way from Amsterdam was looking forward to landing in Anchorage. There, he would take a short break before continuing to Tokyo.
2 Corinthians 3:1-3 – “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our m…
After reading my column about biologists who once stocked a Southeast Alaska island with wolves, a reader mailed me a book. In it, the author detailed peoples’ attempts to import raccoons, wild pigs and other creatures to Alaska.
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.