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Pencil-beaked shorebirds with the ability to stay airborne for a week — flying all the way from Alaska to New Zealand — rely on a few crescents of mudflat to fuel that incredible journey.

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Charles Deehr will never forget his first red aurora. On Feb. 11, 1958, Deehr was a student at Reed College in Portland, Ore. He asked a Fulbright scholar from Norway named Tone to the Portland Symphony that night.

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The glorious paper birch outside the window that has for the past three weeks beamed a sunny glow is losing its luster, one golden coin at a time. The 10,000 solar panels the tree has worn since early spring are releasing their grip without a sound, and spiraling to the forest floor.

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Here in middle Alaska north of Fairbanks, a trapper wearing a flannel shirt, leather gloves, and a bushy beard tromps through the forest. He spreads his arms wide to part wild rose bushes as he steps toward his traps.

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Last week, I wrote about some of the breaks the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has enjoyed during its 75-year existence.

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What if the country’s largest earthquake in the last half century happened as you were getting ready for bed in the only cabin on a tiny island in the North Pacific? What if the epicenter was just 50 miles away?

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If you had asked me as a youth what I wanted to be, I would probably have said something about a biologist and working near the ocean.

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You may not notice it as you scooped fish out of the Copper River or rode your bike through the tawny light of 10 p.m., but Alaska is about to make a left turn toward winter.

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“I came here 40 years ago, when I just moved up from Juneau,” Kes Woodward says in a South Carolina accent soft as butter. “These trees were just saplings.”

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I have a flock of chickens that have stopped laying eggs. This is my fifth flock of chickens and all the previous ones were productive for three years, while this one is slacking off after less than two.

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To the delight of the local mosquitoes, Nicholas Hasson steps through a tangle of prickly spruce branches while wearing a backpack that holds a scientific instrument.

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Crab Fest was a great measure of the feel of our community and where it stands in this phase of the ongoing worldwide pandemic.

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On a fine June day about 100 years ago, in a green mountain valley where the Aleutians stick to the rest of Alaska, the world fell apart.

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Greenup — the great, silent collective explosion of freed tree buds that had been frozen all winter like a clenched fist — will happen any day now in Fairbanks. The phenomenon is easy to notice here in middle Alaska, which is locked up in black-and-white for much of the year.

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In Alaska’s infinite waters swims a handsome, silvery fish. Until recently, we knew little about the Bering cisco, which exists only around Alaska and Siberia. Then a scientist combined his unique life experiences with modern tools to help color in the fish’s life history.

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It may still be cold, but spring is definitely upon us. Next to my house the daffodils are opening up, no longer able to wait for a sunny opportunity.

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On the final cabin trip of the spring, as my friend Andy and I skied along a packed ribbon of snow, the wolf tracks were a surprise.

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The Alsek, a world-class rafting river that flows into the Gulf of Alaska from its headwaters in Canada, may soon abandon the lower part of its drainage for a steeper one 15 miles away. 

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While out on a springtime snow trail, I recently saw a dozen white-winged crossbills pecking at snow on the side of the trail. When I reached the spot, I saw a yellow stain from where a team of dogs had paused.

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A few years ago, Link Olson wanted students in his mammalogy class to see one of the neatest little creatures in Alaska, the northern flying squirrel. He baited a few live traps with peanut butter rolled in oats and placed them in spruce trees.

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In mid-March, it is snowing once again in Fairbanks, as it has snowed on many days since October. That makes it a good day to pick up Matthew Sturm’s new book, “Field Guide to Snow.”

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In 1900, Alaska was home to Native people in scattered villages and camps and recently arrived miners who scraped the creeks for gold. Many of the 60,000 souls on the rivers and hills of Alaska stumbled through a big shake that fall, especially those living on Kodiak Island.

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As a few scientists hiked a path between the ice towers of a Southeast Alaska glacier and crashing ocean waves in 2016, they topped a ridge and saw massive tree trunks poking from gravel ahead. The dead, sheared-off rainforest stems pointed toward the ocean like skeletal fingers.

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On these quiet, still days, as winter plods on, Alaskans tend to notice any movement outside their windows, such as dancing power wires strung between poles.

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Bowhead whales are true northern creatures, swimming only in cold oceans off Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Svalbard and Russia. These bus-size whales have the largest mouths in the animal kingdom, can live for 200 years and can go without eating for more than a year due to their remarkable fat …

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Jan. 23, 2021, is the 50th anniversary of Alaska’s all-time cold temperature: minus 80 degrees Fahrenheit, recorded by a weather observer at Prospect Creek Camp.

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Some days I am the only person working in the lab, where I do daily maintenance and data recording of a complicated analytical instrument that I am in charge of.