Biologist Stacia Backensto has fooled a raven. When trying to recapture birds on Alaska’s North Slope during her graduate student days at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, she wore a moustache and beard. She also strapped pillows to her waist.
On the first day of October, a little girl pulls on her rubber boots and rushes outside into crisp fall air. She knows the days are getting shorter, but she doesn’t realize Alaska is a week past the autumnal equinox.
In 2012, an 85-year-old scientist and his son-in-law pulled a cylinder of muck from a faraway island. They carried it home like a newborn baby, froze it and mailed it to a researcher across the country.
I Corinthians 13:11-12 (NIV) — “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. For now I know in part; the…
A few nights ago, stretched in a tent on the blue-gray gravel of the Lowe River floodplain, I woke to a series of sharp jolts. It felt like the earth was a giant halibut, and I was the fishing pole.
While wandering middle Alaska this summer, I noticed orange spruce trees along the entire length of the Denali Highway, from Paxson to Cantwell. In what looked like a dendrological case of frostbite, tips of every branch were afflicted with something.
Early in his career, on a wet, windy, foggy night, Guy Tytgat checked into the loneliest hotel in the Aleutians. His room was 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall, made of fiberglass and perched on the lip of a volcanic crater.
A good friend called me up last week to ask if I could help her with some biological samples. She needed to split her workload, because she realized that with an increased load of home schooling for her two kids, her time was going to shrink away quickly.
People in an 80-foot charter boat out of Petersburg recently saw what a biologist described as a “less-than-once-in-a-lifetime” event: a white killer whale swimming through the sea.
Right now, on the brushy tundra of northern Alaska, grizzly bears are gathering at quiet streams and rivers, attracted by the largest calorie reward they can find — spawning salmon.
In this era of limited air travel, my family and I have spent most of our recent months in Fairbanks. Here, we are surrounded by spruce and birch trees of the boreal forest, a swath of mosquito-laden vegetation that stretches from Alaska all the way to Nova Scotia.
Late in the evening of July 21, 2020, State Seismologist Michael West heard a text alarm. His phone informed him of a large earthquake beneath the ocean, just south of the Alaska Peninsula, about 60 miles southeast of the village of Sand Point.
A scientist recently wondered which animal travels farthest across the landscape in one year. In doing his research, he found a few Alaska creatures near the top of the list.
High summer is here in middle Alaska. North of Fairbanks, in bright sunshine, alder flycatchers are perched in spruce tops, just arriving from Bolivia and Peru. A few steps away, accompanied by the smell of sulfur, dozens of carrion flies buzz on and above a moose carcass.
Glacier mice are soft green ovals, about as big as your hand. Each summer day, they creep an inch across the surface of some Alaska glaciers. They roam in groups, sometimes changing direction together like a herd of caribou.
It is a pleasant day for a walk in middle Alaska, with blue sky overhead, and people perhaps looking for something to do outside, with lots of space and sweet-scented summer air around them.
After the final steps of a long run in early March, Greg Finstad took his pulse rate. His heart was at 38 beats per minute. Perfect. The reindeer biologist and marathon runner was in top shape to run this year’s Boston Marathon.
The recent discovery of the most complete dinosaur skeleton ever found in Japan suggests the duck-billed creatures once stomped across the Bering Land Bridge.
It was the first weekend in May, and Alaskans were getting out. Emboldened by words from the governor to get outside, or more likely their desires to escape the house, people were driving south on the Richardson Highway from Fairbanks.
On these wet, mushy April days, as returning ducks set their wings for landing at Creamer’s Field in Fairbanks, spring breakup is proceeding as it always has. This year is different, though, noticed in the striking quiet of places that would usually be hopping.
Howard Pass, a rock-stubbled tundra plateau in the western Brooks Range, is one of the lowest points in the mountains that arc across northern Alaska. It is a broad gateway between the great drainages of the Colville and Noatak rivers.
One-hundred-two years ago, a strain of influenza virus spread across the globe, eventually reaching Brevig Mission in Alaska. Five days after the flu hit the Seward Peninsula, 72 of the 80 villagers in Brevig Mission were dead.
Last night I went out for a drink with a couple of friends. As we arrived, the band was just leaving after playing for an empty room all evening and we had our choice of, well, all of the tables.
On the cusp of Interior Alaska’s springtime, Melinda Webster will not experience it this year. She’ll miss most of summer, too. Webster will soon head north of Earth’s land masses, to spend the next half year cradled in ice.
Nate Becker lives with his family on a quiet stretch of the Yukon River as it flows into Alaska. On a recent ski trip, I visited the Beckers’ home along with two geologist friends. Nate had a question for them.
Today, I was woken up by the sounds of playing children. There is a lot of shouting and screaming involved, a lot of stomping of running feet, doors opening and slamming shut, and a lot of energy. As the kids were outside in the snow, I spent some time watching as they were totally engulfed …
While skiing with two friends on the frozen Yukon River a few weeks ago, I visited the eight people who live between the towns of Eagle and Circle, which are 160 river miles apart.
We just skied 100 miles of the frozen Yukon River, two friends and I, until it got too cold for our skis to glide, and we flew back to Fairbanks on a plane that landed on both skis and wheels.
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.