Tag Archives: Alaska

Yukon Quest Start

Film Friday: 

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Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 35mm, Tri-X 400

 

 

 


Naknek, Alaska

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Looking out over Naknek from the Tribal Hall

Naknek sits along the shore of the Naknek River, where the river flows into Kvichak Arm of Bristol Bay.

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Bristol Bay is Alaska’s famed salmon waters.  It is the world’s most productive salmon fishery.  Naknek is home to both Trident and Peter Pan Seafoods, among many others.

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Hiking along the shore of the Naknek River

Naknek lies less than 20 road miles from King Salmon, which is also on the Naknek River.  It’s definitely fishing country, with over 75% of the jobs in fisheries.

When we visited, the town had only begun to get ready for the fishing season.  Many were worried about what the Corvid-19 virus was going to do to the industry.  At the time, Alaska had no known cases of the virus, but Washington State was already a hotbed.  Many summer workers come up from Washington every year.  Concerns were rampant, and not unexpected.

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The nightlife hotspot of Naknek

The community was welcoming and open about their unique lifestyle on Bristol Bay.  Naknek has a population of less than 600 in the winter months, but explodes to around 15,000 during the summer.  I have always wanted to visit the area in the summer, it must be absolutely beautiful.  The sockeye runs are a major temptation, but I simply could not imagine so many people in such a confined space as Naknek.  There is a nearby alternative, but more on that in a future post.

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Naknek, circa 1946; Naknek Native Tribal Council

 

 


Flying PenAir

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PenAir’s Saab2000

I flew out to King Salmon on PenAir, also known as Peninsula Airways.  I’ve always liked PenAir and their Saab 2000’s, although the airline is now under the Ravn banner.  The twin engine turboprop usually offers a smooth ride out to some of Alaska’s more remote locations.

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The Alaska Airlines & PenAir terminal at King Salmon, Alaska

We landed in King Salmon, and drove over to Naknek.  This is fishing country, both commercial & sport.  Salmon is king here.  Anti Pebble Mine signs were everywhere.  No surprise that the fishing communities did not want to see the world’s largest open pit mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay.

We located our accommodations for our stay, only to find out that there was no heat in the building.  Only in Alaska would the proprietor think that heat was an option.  After scouring Naknek, we ended up back in King Salmon for our room & board.

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Inside the Saab2000

Sitting in the emergency row on the Saab2000 does not really offer much of an advantage.  It definitely cuts down on the view.

 

 


And now for something a little lighter…

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Comic: The Far Side, by Gary Larson

 


Newtok in Widelux

Film Friday: 

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The sun sets over Newtok, Alaska

Camera: Widelux FVI; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100 

 


Vernal Equinox

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A young moose blocks my way to the job site on Wednesday; its twin was eating willows in the slough to the right.

Winter 2019-2020 seems to have dragged on forever.  We are finally turning the much anticipated corner into spring.  I understand, for some of you, briar & tick season leaves you feeling itchy over the upcoming season, but up here in the Far North, I’m more than ready for spring.  Without any hockey, we might as well melt the ice.

Spring officially arrives early this year.  We have not seen a spring this early on the calendar for 124 years. Looking at the snow still on the ground here in Fairbanks, only the warmer temps signal any sign of spring.

Here in Fairbanks, we have finally pushed over the 12 hour mark for daylight.  We gained 6 minutes, 44 seconds from yesterday.  That makes both the moose and I happy.


Doing the wave

I spent close to ten days in King Salmon and Naknek earlier in the month.  Everyone waves at you out there on the shoreline of Bristol Bay.  They wave when you’re driving; they wave when you’re walking, or riding a snowmachine, or simply standing around enjoying being off the grid.

Now, I am back in Fairbanks, and as predicted, the habit of waving at every car I pass has become a habit.  It would seem that Fairbanks isn’t quite as friendly as I thought.  Or at least not as much as a small fishing community.  Yet, I’m determined to continue to wave at strangers until I get one to wave back.

Social distancing in Alaska.


The Great Race of Mercy

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Ryan Redington comes into the village of Ruby, Alaska; Photo credit: ADN/Loren Holmes

Due to the coronavirus scare, about the only sporting event still taking place in the United States is the Iditarod sled dog race.  Interestingly, the Iditarod commemorates the 1925 Nome Serum Run.

 

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Known at the time as the Great Race of Mercy, the race against time stands alongside the Good Friday Earthquake as one of Alaska’s defining moments.

Curtis Welch was the only doctor in Nome in the autumn of 1924.  He had placed an order for diphtheria antitoxin, but it had not arrived by the time the port was entombed in winter ice.  In January of 1925, Welch had diagnosed the first case of diphtheria.

His pleading telegram to the outside world read as follows:

An epidemic of diphtheria is almost inevitable here STOP I am in urgent need of one million units of diphtheria antitoxin STOP Mail is only form of transportation STOP 

With the area population around 10,000, and close to 100% mortality rate, the situation was dire.  After the 1917 influenza, in which half the native population perished, time was of the essence.

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Nome, Alaska circa 1916

The mail route between Nenana and Nome was 674 miles.  The only diphtheria antitoxin was in Anchorage.  The antitoxin was put on the Alaska Railroad to Nenana and then hauled west by dogsled.  The rural Alaskan mail carriers were the best dog mushers in the State, and the vast majority were Athabaskan.  “Wild Bill” Shannon was the first musher to take the serum from Nenana.  The temperature was -50F when he left Nenana with a team of 11 dogs.  When Shannon reached the village of Minto at 3am, it was -60F, and Wild Bill was suffering from hypothermia and frostbite.

The serum went from relay team to relay team.  At times, the serum was brought into various roadhouses to warm up.  One musher at Manley Hot Springs had the roadhouse operator pour hot water over his hands so that they could be broken free of his sled’s handle bars.  It was -56F.

By January 30, a fifth death, and 27 cases of diphtheria had occurred in Nome.  Plans were made to fly serum in, but they were rejected by the Navy and experienced pilots because of the weather.  The relay went on.

Leonhard Seppala left Nome for Shaktoolik to take his place in the relay.  He faced gale force winds and -85F wind chill.  His lead dog Togo traveled 350 miles in total.

Henry Ivanoff’s team was tangled up with a reindeer.

Charlie Olson took the serum from Seppala, his team was blown off course by the winds. He passed the serum to Gunnar Kaasen in Bluff, AK.  Kaassen waited for the weather to improve, but it only became worse, so he set out into a nasty headwind.  His lead dog was Balto.  Kaassen could barely see the first two dogs in front of his sled because of the blowing snow, but Balto led the team through high drifts, river overflow and heavy winds.  At one point, a gust of wind flipped the sled.  The serum was thrown into the snow, and Kaassen’s hands were frostbit trying to recover the cylinder of serum.

In spite of the hardships, Kaassen reached Point Safety ahead of schedule.  The next man up, Ed Rohn, was sleeping, so Kaassen and his team led by Balto continued on.  They arrived in Nome at 5:30am.  The relay of dog teams traveled the 674 miles in 127-1/2 hours.  Not one vial of serum had been broken.

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Gunnar Kaassen and Balto

For the first time since the Last Great Race first ran, mushers this year are not being allowed into villages due to coronavirus concerns.  Checkpoints are in tents out on rivers away from communities.  Spectators have been told not to show up in Nome to cheer as teams cross under the famed burled arch on Front Street.

If nothing else, 1925 shows us how vital it is to step up and come together at a time of crisis.


On the shoreline of the Ninglick River

Film Friday:

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Newtok, Alaska: After the storm

Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X 400 

 


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Newtok Post Office

The lean in the post office building is quite visible here.  This was the day after the storm, and when we first walked by, you could not see the building under the snowdrift.  On our return, a couple of hours later, the front had mostly been shoveled, but the front steps and door were still encased in snow.

Camera: Rolleiflex 3.5MX; Film: Kodak 120, Tri-X 400