Images of Newtok

Sticking the landing:

Newtok, Alaska: That wasn’t a landing, as much as it was an arrival.

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When we landed in Newtok, the little airstrip was a hive of activity.  Two small planes were parked at one end of the runway, with people, gear and supplies being quickly unloaded in the -20F degree air.  Two men with four wheelers offered us rides on the back to the heart of the village: The School.

In the summer, Newtok is a village of boardwalks.  The entire village is sinking into the tundra, with the melting of the permafrost, and many of the boardwalks will be under water when break up arrives.

Today though, the ground is frozen firm, and the village is encased in snow.

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The Yup’ik village of Newtok, which roughly translates to “rustling of grass”, first saw a permanent settlement in 1949, although the ancestors of the residents have lived in the area for over 2000 years.  By 1958, the BIA had built a school.  The location was determined because it was the farthest up river that barges could bring in supplies.

The Ninglick River has been taking dozens of feet of shoreline annually by erosion, leaving much of Newtok balancing precariously.  A new location for the village has been staked out 9 miles away at Mertarvik, which roughly translates as “good water” from Yup’ik.  Approximately one third of the village moved across the river onto higher ground this past autumn.

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The church of Newtok

The church was empty, as the priest travels from village to village.  The sunset is glowing through the windows on the opposite side.

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Go Jaegers!

We spent a lot of time in the school, as it acted as a community center for the village.  Everyone seemed to go through the school at some point.  The teachers, administration, and students were all very welcoming, and I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction.

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Bear, aka Dimitri

This little guy became our constant companion and guide.  Bear would see us out walking from across the village, and he’d come running for us at a gallop.  We often had a pack of village dogs following us, and competing for our attention when we were out & about.  Like all the residents of Newtok, they were incredibly gracious hosts.

 

 


Flight to Newtok

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The flight to Newtok took us across a vast expanse of seemingly endless white.  As far as one could see, from one horizon to the other, nothing but white.  Out here, the wind is an artist, leaving mesmerizing patterns in the snow.   Even in the air with two other people, I could feel the grip of isolation.

Earlier in the month, four children became lost in blizzard conditions out here, when they went out on a snow machine.  It was not hard to imagine losing your bearing, especially when the wind picked up.  The kids were found, huddled around the youngest to keep him warm.  They were flown to Bethel with severe hypothermia, but they were alive, against long odds.

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Newtok through the windshield

That’s the village of Newtok, with the airstrip dead ahead.  It’s located on a bend in the Ningaluk River.  River erosion and the melting of the permafrost is taking a huge toll on the village, forcing a move to a new location.

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Newtok, Alaska


Bethel, Alaska

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Grant Aviation in Bethel, AK

I had the opportunity to travel out to Newtok, Alaska this month.  Newtok is a Yup’ik village on the Ningaluk River, on Alaska’s southwestern coast.

I flew to Anchorage, only to have the Ravn Air flight cancelled due to mechanical issues.  The next day, the flight did leave Anchorage for Bethel, but the flight to Newtok was called off due to heavy winds, and drifting snow across the Newtok airstrip.  Day three proved to be the charm, as the Grant Aviation flight left Bethel for Newtok.

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One of Grant Aviation’s aircraft waiting for the winds to die down.

Of the five of us, three went in the aircraft pictured above.  I flew out in a much smaller Cessna with the pilot and one other passenger.  I can’t say enough good things about the people with Grant Aviation.  A class organization all the way through.  Even though Bethel is not an inexpensive place to find oneself stranded, I had a good time there.  Taxi rides are $5-8 per person, per ride, depending on distance, and take out food seems to dominate the options.

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Our pilot getting ready to leave Bethel

The Cessna took a little less than an hour to get from Bethel to Newtok, flying 120 knots, at 2000 feet above the ground.

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The community of Bethel, Alaska from the air

 

 


Through the Frosty Looking Glass

Film Friday:

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Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, T-Max 100


Flying to Bethel

The view on the way to Bethel, Alaska, through a very milky Ravn Air window.


But they sure can run…

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Comic: “Nuggets”, by Jamie Smith


Alaska State Parks turn 50

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2020 is the 50th Anniversary of the Alaska State Parks system.  Events will be held at all state parks throughout the year.  The first one starts today down in Homer.

Check out the Alaska State Parks website for an event schedule.


Shadows

Film Friday:

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Camera: Leica M3; Film: Kodak 35mm, T-Max100

 


Cold Trusses

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Whole Lotta Shakin’

The Alaska Earthquake Center reported 50,289 earthquakes in the state of Alaska for 2019. That did not break the record that was set in 2018, but it’s enough for the year to come in second place.

In the video above, each frame is a day, in a time-lapse of 2019 earthquakes. Pretty amazing to see it in this form. Kudos to AEC.