Antiques Roadshow, the most watched show on Public Broadcasting, will visit Alaska for the first time. The show is billed as “part adventure, part history lesson and part treasure hunt”.
Antiques Roadshow will come to Anchorage on July 11, and will tape three episodes to be aired in 2024. The location of filming is still under wraps, and will remain a secret until we get closer to July. Prospective treasure hunters can apply for tickets through the Roadshow website, where a drawing will be held after the deadline of March 13.
An Alaska Railroad freight train found itself stuck in a snowbank, when the train plowed into avalanche debris that had just previously swept across the tracks along Turnagain Arm. The 3144 foot long train was making the run from Whittier to Anchorage, when it hit the debris around 2am on Tuesday morning, just south of Girdwood.
The impact derailed two locomotives, and partially derailed a third. No crew members were injured during the impasse.
The area is known for its avalanche threat, and conditions on Monday were prime. The Seward Highway, which parallels the railway along Turnagain Arm, was not impacted, since the snow did not make it as far as the roadway.
That engineer was living every kid’s dream, who had a train set up in their basement.
Snow was still being cleared from the Anchorage side of the snow drift as of this writing.
2023 is the Centennial year for the Alaska Railroad. U.S. President Warren G. Harding presided over the completion ceremony on July 15, 1923, by driving in the golden spike.
This past weekend, the annual Alaska Railroad print signing took place at the Anchorage Depot. The tradition of a yearly AKRR print was started back in 1979.
This year, Nenana artist Noah Nolywaika was on hand to sign his charcoal drawing of the Nenana Depot, where the railroad was officially completed 100 years ago. William Chase was also there with his painting of the locomotives throughout the railroad’s history, including Engine No. 1. That historic steam engine now sits outside the historic Anchorage Depot.
Prints and posters are available through the Alaska Railroad’s website.
The “other” sled dog race in Alaska is the Iditarod. Like the Yukon Quest, mushers have been slow to sign up to run in 2023. As of last week, 34 mushers had committed to race. Only one year had such a low number, and that was the first year in 1973.
Several factors have entered into the low number, but the price tag to train a team of dogs right now seems to be the driving factor. The price of gasoline, dog food, and even straw has gone up considerably this past year. A team of 45 dogs can go through six pallets of dog food a year. The average price of a pallet of food has increased by $700 in Alaska, if you train on the road system.
Legends of the sport are also seeing their careers wind down. Jeff King, Dallas Seavey, Mitch Seavey, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Martin Buser have won a total of 17 races among them, yet none of them have signed up to run in 2023.
The past ten years have seen an average of 64 mushers at the starting line, and 2016 had 85 mushers in the field.
The race to Nome will follow the southern route through the abandoned mining town, and race namesake, Iditarod. Then through Anvike and north to Kaltag, where it rejoins the main trail to Nome.
The ceremonial start in Anchorage is set for March 4, with the restart in Willow the following day.
The only head on collision in Alaska Railroad history happened on this date in 1943. The northbound freight train coming up from Seward met the southbound passenger train on its way to Whittier at 8:45 am at Bootleggers Cove, just west of downtown Anchorage. Minor injuries were reported, but no deaths. One rail car partially overturned, but the rest remained on the tracks.
During Prohibition, Anchorage had some strict liquor laws. The new town of Anchorage, was a bit of a pet project for then President Woodrow Wilson. Wilson sectioned off the city in grids and auctioned the parcels off to residents. One catch: If anyone who purchased parcels were caught with alcohol, the parcels would be repossessed. The rail line ran between the new residential area and the tidal flats. There was a cove below the rail and between Chester Creek and Ship Creek that was a favorite landing spot for bootleggers and their booty, because it was out of sight of the authorities. Thus the renaming of the cove to Bootleggers Cove.
Lost in the excitement and drama of Fat Bear Week, was the story of how two Russian nationals crossed the Bering Sea in a boat, landed on St Lawrence Island, and turned themselves in to authorities in Gambell, Alaska. The two men were seeking asylum in order to escape Putin’s War in Ukraine.
Gambell, Alaska, population 600, is actually much closer to the coast of Russia, than it is to Nome, which is 200 miles away. The two Russian men were flown to Anchorage.
The incident adds to the drama going on between Alaska and Russia. Russian military aircraft have been veering into Alaska airspace for several years now, and recently, the USCG followed a flotilla of Chinese and Russian naval ships out of the Aleutian Islands.
After a two year hiatus, the citizen scientist event, Cook Inlet Belugas Count, is back on for 2022. The event, hosted by NOAA, will take place Saturday, September 17.
Canaries of the Sea: Belugas are quite vocal: They chirp, squeak, click and whistle. Alaska has five populations of the white whale, and the Cook Inlet population is the only one listed as endangered. At last count, the population was thought to be around 279 whales.
Beluga whales, like humpbacks, can be identified as individuals by their natural markings. Many are known by their numbers, and a few, like the bears of Katmai, have nicknames.
Members of the public are invited to join NOAA at stations around Cook Inlet to identify and count beluga whales. The event is free and open to everyone, and families are encouraged to join the beluga celebration. Details can be found on the Beluga Count facebook page.