Author Archives: icefogger

About icefogger

Just a basic, down to Earth, laid back type of guy here, who loves the outdoors, the indoors, jazz on the turntable, a fire in the woodstove, the northern lights blazing across the sky, and the company of good friends.

Orca Rising

A live killer whale is stranded on shore rocks in the vicinity of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska. Credit: Captain Chance Strickland and Crew of M/V Steadfast

The story of the beached orca near Prince of Wales Island in Alaska caught the attention of many of you. The killer whale, now known to be T146D, was found by locals recently, trapped out of water on some rocks.

Keeping T146D wet

The locals kept it wet, first by pouring water from buckets on the orca, then by spraying water from a yacht that showed up to help out. Eventually, NOAA fisheries experts came along to keep watch over the stranded orca.

A rather unhappy orca

T146D ended up getting some cuts and abrasions from the rocks, but after at least 6 hours of being stranded, the tide came in, and the orca was able to free itself.

T146D is a Biggs Orca, which has a population of approximately 300, and they ply the waters off western North America. T146D is thought to be a female, but that is an educated guess. The killer whale is known to be 13 years old.

There was some speculation early on, that the orca was caught off guard due to the 8.2 earthquake recently off the coast of Alaska. NOAA has disputed that, saying there is absolutely no evidence of the earthquake having anything to do with the stranding. More than likely, the orca was hunting harbor seals and came too close to the rocks. There have been five live-strandings of Biggs Orcas in the past 20 years. All survived the ordeal and rejoined their pod, according to NOAA. The population of Biggs Orcas are known to hunt harbor seals in shallow waters.


Raven Story

The USPS released the Raven Story forever stamp on Friday. The stamp was designed by Juneau artist Rico Lanáat’ Worl. Worl is the co-owner of, appropriately Trickster Company, which uses traditional Northwest Coast art in their designs.

The postal service gets tens of thousands of designs for their stamps, and Worl is the first Lingít artist to have his work featured on a stamp. A ceremony was held in Juneau to commemorate the release.

It’s quite the feat to try to tell the Raven’s story on such a small canvas, but Worl manages to catch the magic. In the story, the Raven steals the sun from a box to release to the world, aka The Trickster. On the stamp, the Raven is depicted as escaping through the smokehole in a long house, surrounded by stars, with the sun in its beak.

If you receive letters from me, expect the Trickster to be on the envelope.


Fair Time

The Tanana Valley State Fair started on Friday, which generally means the slippery slope towards winter is well underway. With Alaska’s size, each corner of the state has its own fair, as opposed to just one for the entire state.

The start of the Tanana Valley State Fair is known for the start of the rainy season. In fact, a booth at the fair gives away prizes for the guessing how much rain Fairbanks will get during Fair dates.

This year, that number is looking to be unusually low. No rain is in the forecast until the fair’s final days, which means attendance could be good after not having one last year. Although, I have heard from many people that they will sit this one out, due to the rise in Covid cases. Time will tell on both fronts.

We are looking at a very warm week here. Not Texas hot mind you, but mid to upper 80’s, which is definitely warm for Interior Alaska.


Shaking in Chignik

The 8.2 magnitude earthquake and the 140 aftershocks

At around 10:30 on Wednesday night, the alarm bells went off, and people across Alaska’s southern coast made a bee-line for higher ground. An 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck the interface between the subducting Pacific and overriding North American plates. This interface is known as the Aleutian Megathrust,and it is a very active seismic region. In fact, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit the area almost a year ago exactly.

Wave action

A tsunami warning was immediately issued for coastal communities, but luckily incoming waves never reached heights over a 1/4 meter, and the warning was lifted a little over two hours later.

This was the first 8.0+ earthquake to hit the United States in 50 years. In the 12 hours after the initial quake, the area received 140 aftershocks, with the largest being a 6.1. In 1938, the same area experienced an 8.3 magnitude shaker.

NWS Priority Warnings Chart

Interestingly, Tsunami Warning is Priority #1 on the National Weather Service priority list. One would hope that Nuclear Power Plant Meltdown is higher on a different agency’s list.


Record Sockeye

The F/V Cutting Edge, loaded with sockeye; Photo credit: KTOO

I spoke with someone from Dillingham yesterday. The salmon run was winding down, fishermen were leaving town, but he described the salmon season as “fast & furious”.

It must have been exactly that. The one salmon bright spot across the state has been Bristol Bay this summer. The salmon run was an all time record for The Bay with over 63.2 million sockeyes returning. It is the fourth time since 1952 that the return has hit the 60 million mark.

The Nushagak also set a record for escapement, with 9.7 million sockeyes swimming upriver. That district had their second best run with 27.2 million sockeyes.

That’s a lot of Red.


Alaskan Nightlife

Artwork by Ray Troll


Jacoby wins Gold

I worked late on Monday, but I arrived home just in time for this:

The 17 year old who had Alaska bouncing off the walls

Lydia Jacoby beat her own career best time, while swimming ahead of the current world record holder, and Olympic record holder, in order to take home the gold medal in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke.

In this case, home is Seward, Alaska.

Alaskans were pumped about Jacoby’s performance in the semifinal, which was 8 tenths of a second slower than her final swim.

Alaskans across the state watched the race, and several hundred fans met at the Seward train depot to catch it on the big screen. Jacoby grew up swimming with the Seward Tsunami Swim Club.

It was the first gold medal in swimming for an Alaskan.


First Cruise

The Serenade of the Seas in port at Sitka, Alaska; Photo credit: Alaska Public Media

The first large cruise ship since 2019 hit port in Sitka last week. From most reports, one could barely tell it came in by the activity level in town.

On a ship that has a capacity of just under 2500 passengers, the crew members outnumbered passengers 804 to 632. The passengers didn’t seem to mind the extra elbow room, however.

In a sign of the times, Sitka was in the midst of the largest coronavirus outbreak in Alaska outside of Anchorage.


“Weather Station in Alaska”

Oil on canvas, circa 1949 by Dale Nichols

Nichols was mainly known for painting the American Midwest, but he also did several with scenes from Alaska. Nichols, who traveled extensively during his lifetime, passed away at the age of 91 in 1995.


Fire Season

Alaska smokejumpers land among the muskox

Luckily, we have not had a bad wildfire season in Alaska for 2021. We did have a fire flare up close to Fairbanks late last week, when smokejumpers, seen above, landed at UAF’s LARS location, where the herd of muskox can be seen roaming the hills. From the muskox field, the smokejumpers hiked the half mile to the fire’s location. That fire was quickly under control, and the firefighters went back to the Munson Creek fire soon after they were dispatched.

With just under 180,000 acres burned within the state so far this season, it puts us roughly equal with 2020 and within the lowest range of burned area since 2008. The Interior remains in a burn ban, but historically, 2/3 of acreage within a season has burned by July 15.

Figures,facts, graphics and video all from the Alaska Division of Forestry