Category Archives: Alaska

The First Sections of Pipe

The Alaska Maru

On this date in 1969, the first shipment of pipe for the Trans-Alaska Pipeline landed in Valdez, Alaska. On board the Alaska Maru was enough pipe for 8.6 miles of the proposed 800 mile pipeline. There were 1160 sections of 40 foot long pipe, weighing 5 tons each.

Alaska received on average, three shipments a month from Japan. It took ten days for the pipe to travel from Japan to Alaska. The first 300 miles were unloaded at Valdez, and 500 miles to Seward, Anchorage and “other” ports in the state for distribution along the line. The final 150 miles of pipe were trucked up the Haul Road to Prudhoe Bay.


The Summer of 2021

The high temps of summer

Fairbanks hit 89F officially, which was the highest temperature for the Summer of 2021. Seeing 80’s on the North Slope is a bit of a WHOA moment. Not unprecedented, just whoa.

At this stage of the season, only the Aleutians have much of a chance at increasing their number. Fairbanks has already started showing yellow in the hills, and I’m not talking about gold dust.

Map credit: ACCAP/UAF/NOAA


Atka Volcanic Complex

Earthquake activity on Atka Island

The southern portion of Atka Island is older than the north, with some volcanic rock dating back 5 million years. The active northern part of the island once had one large cone, which was lost in a large eruption, and is now peppered with several smaller volcanos.

A volcanic complex can have several vents, and a widely varying composition of lava. Seismic activity within a complex can be difficult to pinpoint the source of the activity. Which vent is rumbling now? Some of those smaller vents have developed into stratovolcanoes.

Korovin Volcano has been very active in recent times, while Mount Kliuchef last erupted in 1812. The Atka Complex recently was elevated to a Level Yellow, due to seismic activity on the island. Interestingly, the swarm of activity is not near the known suspects, but several kilometers the the west and southwest, and approximately 10 miles from the community of Atka.

Source: AVO


Fireweed Burning

The slippery slope has begun


Great Sitkin & other rumblings

The growing lava dome on Great Sitkin; Photo credit: AVO/Dave Ward (8/4/21)

I had to share this shot from the Alaska Volcano Observatory and photographer Dave Ward. Great Sitkin has been at Level Orange and the lava dome has been growing since mid-July. According to AVO, the dome is now 100 meters across. What are the odds of having such a clear day out on Great Sitkin Island? Wonderful shot by Mr Ward.

Great Sitkin has been active most of the summer, although that lava dome build up has occurred in the last couple of weeks.

The glow of Great Sitkin at night. Photo credit: AVO/Peggy Kruse

Both Pavlof and Semisopochnoi Volcanos are also at Level Orange. Pavlof is known to erupt with little to no warning, and it is showing elevated seismic activity, and at least one ash eruption. Explosions and elevated seismic activity on Semisopochnoi Island also continues. At least one ash eruption dissipated quickly, and sulfur dioxide emissions have been detected by satellite.

Cleveland Volcano rounds things out at a Level Yellow. Some seismic activity, but no reported ash eruptions.


Salmonfest

Salmonfest is back for 2021

After a year hiatus, Salmonfest is back this weekend in Ninilchik. Three days, 65 acts on four stages. It’s quite the event, and a true celebration of all things salmon.


A bear ate my four-wheeler

A remote mining camp outside Nome, Alaska; Photo credit USCG

Another Alaska tale that captured some global interest recently, was the man who was rescued outside of Nome by a United States Coast Guard helicopter. Reports came into Alaska first, that a bear had attacked a man on a four wheeler, the man escaped to a mining shack, only to be harassed for days by the rogue bruin. I was an immediate skeptic, but quickly moved on from the story, as I had closer things to worry about.

Now, the Nome Nugget has called out the bear tale. Enough contrary evidence has surfaced to call the ordeal into question. Since Alaskans rarely need much of an excuse to take a ride out onto the tundra, several Nome residents ventured out to the mine claim in question. The door handle on the mining shack looked to have been knocked off by a hammer, and the four wheeler looked to be in great shape, but there are obvious scratches on the trailer that were “either made by a screwdriver, or a bear with one claw.” Also, there was no bear sign to be found around the cabin.  “There’s no hair, no tracks, no scat, nothing.”

The most damming evidence found was the untouched two pounds of bacon in a cooler sitting on the four wheeler. For his part, the man who claimed to be stalked by the bear has not changed his story: “They can believe what they want,” the man told the Nugget. “I was there. I know what happened. I haven’t been that scared in a very, very long time.”

Even though the area is certainly known for its bears, Sourdough Miners in the area believe that the “victim” accidentally crashed his four wheeler, and was too embarrassed to admit it. At any rate, both Sourdough and Coast Guard officials believe the man truly needed rescuing, regardless of the actual circumstances. Another example of the Coast Guard’s vital role in Alaska.


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.


Alaskan Nightlife

Artwork by Ray Troll