It has been a rainy week in middle Alaska. Blah.
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.
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.
KODIAK — Late one night in August 1943, far out in the western Aleutians, a US Navy destroyer ran a sonar search for Japanese submarines. The ship curved figure eight patterns across the surface of a calm sea outside Kiska Harbor, while a three-quarter moon flickered through broken clouds. …
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.