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Alaska Jökulhlaup

A large glacial dam gave way in Southeast Alaska this summer. Known by its Icelandic term: jökulhlaup, the power of this sudden release of pent up water can be incredibly destructive.

The terminus of Lituya Glacier; Photo credit: NPS/J. Capra

Desolation Lake, which sits above the Lituya Glacier in Desolation Valley, collects meltwater from both the Desolation and Fairweather Glaciers. That meltwater is normally blocked by the Lituya Glacier, forming the roughly four square mile lake.

The water level suddenly dropped 200 feet.

A commercial fisherman, Jim Moore, along with his two grandsons, tried to enter Lituya Bay to fish for Chinooks in August. They should have been riding the tide into the bay, but the unusually muddy water was moving outward, and it was filled with trees and other debris. The bay was also filled with small icebergs. Moore managed to bring some of the ancient ice onboard for his coolers, then left the bay, instead of fighting the dangerous current.

Lituya Glacier terminus and delta; Satellite image credit: USGS

It is one of the largest jökulhlaups known to have occurred in Alaska. The water found a path under the Lituya Glacier, causing a rush that would have rivaled the hourly discharge of the Amazon River. It would have lasted for several days.*

Lituya Bay has a history. In 1958, an earthquake triggered a landslide that started one of the largest known tsunamis at over 1700 feet.

*NPS Geologist, Michael Loso


Lidar on Bears

A 3D Scan of Katmai Bear #747

Prior to Fat Bear Week, researchers at Katmai National Park used Terrestrial Lidar Scanning Technology to determine the “volume” of Katmai’s voluptuous bears. #747 above, had over 27 scans of his belly alone. In the scan above, 747 was standing in shallow water.

747 going 3D

747 was the winner of Fat Bear Week, and he topped the Lidar scanning too, coming in at 22.6 cubic feet. Chunk was the second largest bear scanned at 19.78 cubic feet. Walker came in third at 17.7 cubic feet.

Fascinating that the technology is being used on Alaska’s wildlife.

Images courtesy of Katmai National Park


It’s Bat Week

Credit: National Park Service

Believe it or not, Alaska has seven species of bat. The Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus) is the most common. At only 3 to 4-1/2″ long, and a wingspan of 8-9″, the Little Brown Bat, lives up to its name.

Bats are not well studied in Alaska. Even the lifespan of the Little Brown Bat in the state is unknown, although they seem to average 10 years or so in the Yukon. One elderly Yukon Little Brown Bat was known to live 34 years.

Range of the Little Brown Bat

They range from the Yukon River south throughout Alaska. The total population is not known, although it is not thought to be large, considering the territory. I have seen bats sweep overhead at the darkest time of our summer days, but I can not say that it is a common experience. We certainly have the mosquitos to keep them well fed, however.

A Little Brown Bat

Bats usually hibernate from September until May, although it is not a continual hibernation. They seem to wake up on warmer days to hunt, then return to hibernation. They will roost in caves, but these are not common in Alaska’s Interior. Natural weather-protected areas will offer a place to roost, as will attics and out buildings. So the scratching one hears from the attic isn’t always a red squirrel in Alaska, but might be a Little Brown Bat.


Two Pandemics and one Brown Jug

The Little Brown Jug

The Little Brown Jug has already seen one pandemic, and on a field in Minneapolis, Michigan and Minnesota will fight for it once again in the midst of a second pandemic.

The teams were already rivals in 1903, when Fielding Yost, and his Michigan Wolverines, left behind the 25 cent crockery. The Gophers painted the jug brown, and wrote the final score on it. The next time the two teams met, they agreed that the jug would make a nice trophy. Minnesota and Michigan have been battling for the jug ever since.

There was an eight year gap when Michigan left the Big Ten Conference, but the two teams were scheduled to restart their rivalry in 1918. That game never happened.

Minnesota had its first case of influenza in late September 1918. Within three weeks, there were over 1500 cases reported. Businesses were shut down, and gatherings banned by October 9. Like today, there were mixed reactions to the precautions. The University of Minnesota did not reopen until October 23.*

Sports across the country dealt with the pandemic, just like today. Alabama and LSU did not have a season. The World Series was played early, and the Stanley Cup was called off after 5 games because Montreal could not field a healthy team.**

It wasn’t the pandemic that kept Michigan from playing Minnesota in 1918, but the war effort. The Army had instituted a travel ban, so teams had to keep their games close to campus.

The two rivals did meet again in 1919. The Gophers won 34-7, with 1919 being the only year Yost finished with a losing record (3-4).

The Big Ten returns on Saturday, which many consider a good thing, and just as many probably do not. In any event, we have been here before, even though it predates the vast majority of us. We did get through it.

The very same 25 cent Jug will be up for grabs for the 104th time on Saturday in Minneapolis.

The Little Brown Jug at TCF Bank Stadium

*influenzaarchive.org

**Minneapolis StarTribune


Sid

Sid Hartman with his trusty tape recorder

Growing up in Minnesota, there were two people that everyone knew by only their first name. One was Prince, the other was Sid.

Sid Hartman was the sports reporter for the Minneapolis paper. He also had a show on the juggernaut, at the time, WCCO radio.

Sid literally started out on the ground floor of the newspaper business, selling the papers on street corners of North Minneapolis when he was nine years old. In 1936, he dropped out of high school in the 10th grade to take over the best intersections. By 1944 Sid had made his way to the sports department, and he wrote his first column for the Minneapolis paper in 1945.

Sid with Twins legend Rod Carew

From the sports desk, Sid became the de facto GM of the Minneapolis Lakers, when he was 27. He delivered the $15,000 check himself, at the Detroit airport, to have the Detroit Gems, of the NBL, to move to Minneapolis. The Lakers won the NBL title their first year. Behind George Mikan, the Minneapolis Lakers would go on to win 5 NBA titles before moving to Los Angeles. While doing that, he kept his day job as a sports reporter. He was also instrumental in the Washington Senators moving to Minnesota, to become the Minnesota Twins.

Sid came out of an era where the term conflict of interest was rarely uttered. He considered himself a reporter, not a writer. Sid based his entire reporting ethos on building relationships. Sid was an unapologetic “homer”. He loved Minnesota and its sports teams, but nothing was more dear to his heart than the University of Minnesota.

Sid with UofM great Tom Chorske, and Lord Stanley’s Cup

The gag line, “Sid’s close, personal friends” started on ‘CCO radio. From Bud Grant to George Steinbrenner to Bobby Knight, everyone in the sports world seemed to be Sid’s close, personal friend. When Grant was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it was Sid who introduced him.

Callers to Sid’s radio show who disagreed with him on any issue, were dismissed as “Geniuses”. How dare we second guess the “experts”. Of course, disagreeing with Sid was half the fun, it was the main reason we called in.

Sid passed away on Sunday at 100 years of age. His final column was in that morning’s paper. It was his 119th column of 2020. Impressive. Sid had 21,235 bylines with his name on them for the Minneapolis paper over a career span of 75 years. He also spent over 65 years on the radio, doing one sports show or another.

STRIB writer Jim Souhan wrote recently that it wasn’t like Minneapolis had their version of Sid Hartman, Minneapolis had the only one. There wasn’t another version in New York, or Chicago or Los Angeles. Sid was unique; there was only the one.

There have been a lot of tributes and online salutes, but the one by Ryan Saunders, the coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was the one that hit home the most. The final line says:

Sid was a remarkable example of living life to the fullest and finding your passion – may we all learn from the legacy he leaves.

Rest in Peace Mr Hartman


My neighbor with lakefront property

Film Friday:

The Beaver in warmer days

Camera: Minolta SRT201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Tri-X400


Beaver Lodge

The beaver lodge and pantry

The lodge has grown some since last year, and this year’s collection of birch, aspen and willow branches is larger than the previous year. As far as I know, there are still three beavers in the lodge, although I have not seen the kit in several months.

The beavers really kick into food gathering gear in September. From that time on, there is seldom any time of the day, when one, if not both beavers, are collecting trees and branches. It becomes an evening event, to watch the large rodents swim across The Pond, with the tree branches in tow. When they reach their food pile, they dive underneath the pile, trapping the freshly collected branches at the bottom of the pile. The Pond and its ice will soon become a giant tupperware container.

One of many beaver trails

The beavers have branched out, going further and further from the lodge to collect saplings. The yard, and I use that term loosely, was fenced when they first showed up. The beavers have now worked their way to the very edge of that fencing. For now, there is a reprieve. The Pond has iced over, and the beavers will cut back on their tree cutting. The ice should now be in place until spring, and the beavers will spend most of their time in the lodge, venturing out under water to their pantry for meals.


I try to avoid politics on this site…

Walking bridge over the Chena

It is a conscious decision on my part to keep the politics to a minimum, here between The Circles. Whether that is good or bad is open to interpretation, and we will keep that discussion for another time.

Recently, however, a nasty debate has been growing in Fairbanks. The debate has divided families, and wedged itself between friends. Today, I feel obligated to throw in my two cents.

The question: Now that we are into mid-October, are you excited to see snow?

When I say that people in Fairbanks are passionate about this question, I am not exaggerating.

Since we have not seen so much as a flake, other than the residents, the question is getting asked more & more. On average, our first snowfall occurs on September 22. Only twice since record keeping began, have we had a later first snowfall than today. October 16, 1911 & October 20, 2018. The current forecast remains snow free.

Snowshoes, skis, snowmachines and dog sleds all remain off to the side, in limbo, and dead grass.

Many are desperately anxious to see some powder. I think it’s safe to say that an equal number of people are thrilled with the idea of a Brown Halloween.

The Interior is divided. The tension thick. Personally, I’m just going where the Chinooks send me.

Camera: Minolta SRT201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Tri-X400


We are making ice

although, not sea ice… not yet…

The Pond is now iced over

The switch has been flipped.

October started out fantastically mild. Fairbanks even saw three consecutive days over 60F, which is quite rare. As in, three times in the past 100 years, rare. The high temps have consistently been 10-15 degrees above average.

Temps in the teens this morning

For the next week, lows are looking to be in the low to mid teens, and highs hovering around freezing. I think The Pond will remain coated with ice until the spring. Of course, we can certainly hope for some strong Chinook Winds, which drive our temps upward.

Winter seems to be entering the neighborhood.


Seven-Four-Seven

Katmai Bear #747; Photo credit: Katmai Bear Cams

The winner of Katmai’s Fat Bear Week, is Bear #747. The bear that shares a number with a wide-body jet airplane, is the champion of 2020.

747 first appeared on the Brooks River scene in 2004. At that time, the young, male bruin could not maintain prime fishing spots against the other bears. That is no longer the case.

747 is now one of the most dominate bears at Brooks Falls, and he is a talented catcher of salmon. He is not the most aggressive of the bears, but 747 does not have to be. Most bears get out of his way just because of his size. In 2019, 747 was estimated to weigh 1400 pounds. He has attained that weight, if not more, in 2020.

In full disclosure: 747 was my personal favorite for this year’s Fat Bear Week. No attempt was made to influence voters.