Monthly Archives: January 2020
NASA and the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute teamed up with some scientists from Virginia Tech University to launch a sounding rocket over the weekend at the Poker Flat Research Range.
The Polar Night Nitric Oxide (PolarNOx) experiment saw a hang fire on the first night of their launch window, but the rocket was launched successfully on the second night.
The aurora borealis adds nitric oxide to the polar atmosphere, and levels increase in the winter months, but then dissipate in the summer months, with the increase of sunlight. Nitric oxide will destroy ozone under certain conditions. The sounding rocket was launched to collect data to better understand the build up of nitric oxide.
Nitric oxide exists between 53 – 93 miles altitude, with its peak concentration between 62 – 68 miles altitude. The sounding rocket rose to an apex of 161 miles above the earth’s surface, before coming back down to our very frozen Interior.
For those who were up in the early morning hours to witness the launch, the rocket was seen from all over the area. I had planned on being out there, but I was forced to make a quick run to the border instead. At least I saw a lot of caribou.
Driving out to the border, the wildlife viewing was excellent as usual. I spotted several moose, flocks of grouse, and quite a few caribou. I stopped for these three caribou to cross in front of me, and watched them make their way down the roadway slope to a frozen creek below.
One solo caribou earlier in the day, had a harder time of it. The snow was over belly deep, and I watched the animal from a long distance, as it determinably struggled to reach the road. Once it did, it saw me coming, and I could feel its deflation, and hear its sigh of disgust.
The caribou went across the road, considered hopping into the snow there, but then turned to clop down the frozen pavement. I slowed down to a crawl, but still caught up with it. The caribou looked me over as I came to a stop, then resigned to its fate, it crossed back to the side of the road it came from, and went back into the snow. This caribou was stressed enough, so I didn’t take its picture, I just drove on, with the caribou buried well past its haunches in powder.
In my rear view mirror, I could see another truck coming up, and so did the caribou. I think it planned on coming back out onto the road once I left, but now it snowplowed its way back to the treeline where it came from when I first saw it.
No doubt, there are too many people in Alaska for that caribou’s liking. Can’t say that I entirely blame it either.
Jazz saxophonist Jimmy Heath passed away this week. Heath performed on over 100 albums, and wrote over 125 compositions.
Heath’s saxophone play, and slim build, earned him the nickname “Little Bird” by the late 1940’s.
Jimmy Heath was 93.
Chicago – Milwaukee – Saint Paul
1847 – 1986
I had not heard the term Milwaukee Road in years. I came across a plaque honoring the rail line when I was looking around Union Station in Chicago.
The railroad started in 1847 as the Milwaukee & Waukesha. At the time, rail was needed between Milwaukee and the Mississippi River. Changes came and went, the railroad went into receivership in 1859 and was purchased by another railroad and then combined with still another. Out of the chaos emerged the Milwaukee and St Paul. In 1874, the line absorbed the Chicago and Pacific Railroad Company. The name changed once again to the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul: The Milwaukee Road.
The passenger train was the Hiawatha. My grandmother told me stories of riding the Hiawatha from St. Paul to Chicago. It must have been quite the ride for the details flowed smoothly.
By the mid 1930’s the Hiawatha added the famed “Beaver Tail” cars. The streamlined observation cars were a hit, and earned their nickname from the rail car’s shape.
Expansion would begin with the Olympian Hiawatha, which ran out to Puget Sound; the Midwest Hiawatha, which ran between Chicago & Omaha; and the Southwest Limited: Chicago-Milwaukee-Kansas City.
There was a burst of ridership after WWII, and the railroad came out of the bankruptcy caused by the Great Depression. Unfortunately, like much of the railroad industry, hard times returned again. Between 1971-1974, Milwaukee Road lost $100 million. After downsizing, selling of track and assets, Milwaukee Road was finally bought by two competitors: Soo Line and C&NW. By 1986, the Milwaukee Road was on the route to memories.
Today, much of the abandoned Milwaukee Road is now Rails to Trails.
The U.S. Census starts its official count today, January 21, in Toksook Bay, Alaska. Since 1960, the first census year after Alaska became a state, the census has started in Alaska.
With 80% of Alaska communities not on the road system, and with many villages without extensive internet service, the census starts early in Alaska. Getting around remote Alaska is much easier when the ground is frozen. Also, it is much more difficult to count people, after many residents of Bush Alaska head out to their fish camps.
Thus the mid-winter start to the counting in Alaska.
I have a friend who was assigned to Toksook Bay as she works for the Census Bureau this season. I hope she has a wonderful experience. The first person interviewed by the Census is always a village elder. That first village varies, with the Alaska Federation of Natives deciding which village will be initially enumerated.
Toksook Bay is a coastal village on the Bering Sea.
This will be the 24th Census taken in the United States, with the first taking place in 1790. The majority of the country will see census forms start to show up in March.