Tag Archives: Denali

Denali Fault Quake

Photo credit: Daily News-Miner

This week is the 17 year anniversary of the 2002 Denali Earthquake. At a magnitude of 7.9, to date, it is the largest quake I have personally experienced.

On 23 October 2002, the Denali Fault released a magnitude 6.7 quake. That would be a foreshock of what was to come on November 3.

Highway Shift; Richardson Highway, circa 2002

After the 6.7, I remember the Alaska Earthquake Center saying that the Denali Fault was capable of producing an 8.0. Sure enough, the fault came very close.

I was at an intersection in my ’66 Chevy C-20. All of a sudden, the truck was lurching all over the place, and I found it hard to stay on the brake pedal. There were two university students in the next lane, the passenger rolled down his window and asked what the hell was happening. I said, “Earthquake”. He then promptly hit the driver on the arm and said, “I told you it was an earthquake”.

The light changed, I drove on, but had to stop at the next light. The earth was still shaking. An elderly couple had been walking on the sidewalk, and the wife fell to the concrete, the husband was struggling to stay upright by hugging a signpost. Then the shaking was over. I rolled down the other window, to see if the couple was all right. They were, and I headed home to see if there was any damage.

The quake had ruptured 205 miles of earth along three different, yet connected faults in Interior Alaska. It was the largest ever recorded in Alaska’s Interior. It was the largest inland quake North America had seen in almost 150 years.

Both the Parks & Richardson Highways saw major damage. The Trans-Alaska Pipeline moved sideways 18 feet, and rose 5 feet. The engineers had designed for the fault, and the pipeline behaved exactly as it was designed to behave. Although, it did come within two feet of its sideways movement limit.

The Denali Earthquake was felt as far away as Louisiana.

Previously, the largest earthquake Fairbanks had experienced was a magnitude 7.3 in 1937.


Walter Harper

A book review, of sorts:


Walter Harper’s biography, cover

Prompted by the post on here about the sinking of the Princess Sophia, I had to read Walter Harper’s biography by Mary Ehrlander. It turned out to be a well written, and fascinating read.

Walter Harper was the youngest child of the famed Irish gold prospector Arthur Harper and Athabascan Jenny Albert. He was born in Nuchelawoya, which is now the village of Tanana, in December of 1892. Walter did not know his father, as his parents separated after his birth, and Jenny raised him in the traditional Athabascan ways.

At 16, Walter met the Episcopal archdeacon, Hudson Stuck. Stuck was immediately impressed by Walter, and he soon became the archdeacon’s trail assistant. It was a role that Harper flourished in. Already an accomplished hunter and fisherman, Harper quickly mastered the river boat and dog team, as Walter traveled with Stuck throughout the Yukon River basin.


Walter Harper with a pet fox kit

It didn’t take long for Harper to become vital to Stuck’s operation. In 1913, Stuck and Harry Karstens decided to attempt to climb Denali, North America’s highest peak. There was never any question that the 21 year old Harper would be a member of the expedition. Missionary Robert Tatum also joined the group. On June 7 of that year, Walter Harper became the first known person to step on the summit of Denali. By all accounts, Harper was the glue that held the expedition together, allowing it to succeed.

Walter Harper led an incredible life, in many ways he experienced the very best that Alaska had to offer at that time. Hudson Stuck was a prolific writer, and Harper kept his own journals of his experiences, although only Walter’s journal of the Denali summit has survived. Ehrlander is a great storyteller, and does a wonderful job of recreating Harper & Stuck’s adventures, as well as exploring what had developed into a father/son relationship.

Harper packed a lot of life into his short time on earth. Fresh off of his marriage at the age of 25, Harper and his new bride, Frances Wells, left for a camping trip, spending their wedding night in a tent along the Porcupine River. They did a hunting-honeymoon, for food to stock the Fort Yukon mission & hospital for the coming winter. Having such a good time in each other’s company, they stayed longer than planned, missing a steamer to Whitehorse, for their trip Outside. Eventually, the couple did leave Fort Yukon on the steamer Alaska for Whitehorse. From Whitehorse, they took the White Pass & Yukon Railway to Skagway, where they booked passage on the Princess Sophia’s last trip south for the season. The Princess Sophia would strike Vanderbilt Reef, and rough seas would eventually sink the ship. All lives on board were lost.

Walter Harper and Frances Wells were buried in Juneau.


“Here Lie the Bodies of Walter Harper and Frances Wells, His Wife, Drowned on the Princess Sophia, 25th October 1918. May Light Perpetually Shine on Them. They Were Lovely and Pleasant in Their Lives, And in Death They Were Not Divided

Harper Glacier on Denali is named after both Walter and his father, Arthur. The ranger station in Talkeetna is also named after Walter Harper. I highly recommend Walter Harper: Alaska Native Son to anyone interested in this unique time and place in history. Nothing is quite like early 20th Century Alaska, and Walter Harper makes an extraordinary subject. The sky is the limit as to what this Alaskan could have accomplished if he had lived a longer life. Which is simply amazing in itself, considering what he did accomplish in such a short time span.


Denali

Denali from air

Denali, as seen flying into Fairbanks. Until Saturday night’s snowfall, The Mountain had been unusually social, showing itself off in the clear, subzero air.


The Great One

Denali

Denali has been very visible the past couple of weeks. Here’s a view from the south, as we traveled up the Parks Highway from Anchorage.


Officially Denali

Mount-Mckinley-Fall-Colors

We can file this one under the heading: I didn’t see this coming.

On the eve of the President’s visit to Alaska, the White House announced on Sunday that Mount McKinley would officially be changed back to its Athabascan name Denali.  Alaska has had a standing request to change the name since 1975 when the state legislature passed a resolution, and then-Governor Jay Hammond officially appealed to the federal government.

Alaskans have long referred to The Mountain as Denali, but Ohio politicians have blocked the official change for decades.  The Interior Department cites a 1947 law that allows it to change names when the U.S. Board on Geographic Names refuses to act in “a timely manner”.  The Board has been deferring to Congress since 1977 on the issue, which seems to qualify.


Ban The Plan

So I have this friend who is an excessive planner. If he ever got a tattoo, it would be of a calendar. He’s the type of guy that buys his Franklin Planners five years in advance, and follows them on Facebook. He subscribes to the app “What Happened on This Date 10 Years From Now”.

I have another friend who is visiting the area. The Excessive Planner bemoaned the fact that the visiting friend could not make plans with him months in advance, because he had to remain flexible. Upon hearing this, my feelings for the visiting friend went soaring. We’re talking Denali heights.

To celebrate the news, I went out and bought a planner for myself. It’s getting cooler out now, and I’m going to use it for firestarter in my wood stove.

Fighting to make life loose-goosey again.

I may have to make up a t-shirt.


Found: One Fageol Interurban Safety Coach

Fageol Safety Coach at DNP
A 1924 Fageol Safety Coach in Denali National Park. Photo credit:Frances Erickson

During the 1930’s, the Mt. McKinley Tourist & Transportation Company used a Fageol Safety Coach to haul visitors into Denali National Park. The Fageol had a 218-inch wheelbase and could carry 22 passengers. In 1941, MMT&T Co lost the National Park concession, and the Fageol was brought to Fairbanks, where it has sat outside for the past 70+ years.

1924 Fageol Interurban Safety Coach
The Fageol Interurban Coach after 70 years of Fairbanks weather. Photo credit: Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

An old photo of the coach in Denali, led to a rumor that the coach was in Fairbanks. It was found, surrounded by willows. After sitting out in the elements for 73 years, the Fageol Interurban was in extremely rough shape. The coach was donated to Fountainhead Auto Museum in Fairbanks, which went about preserving the vehicle for exhibit.

The refurbished Fageol
Photo credit: Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

The refurbished Fageol Interurban Coach, complete with its Hall-Scott 4 cylinder engine, can now be seen on display at McKinley Chalet Resort.


Leave it to the Sourdoughs

I love the sourdough reference:

“In the spring and summer of 1910, as (Hiram) Bingham sat in New Haven sifting through the evidence about Vilcabamba (Peru) … the newly self-described explorer would have found it almost impossible to pick up a newspaper without reading about one expedition or another. (Dr. Frederick) Cook and (Robert) Peary were feuding publicly over who had reached the North Pole first. Norway’s (Roald) Amundsen sent England’s (Robert Falcon) Scott a telegram announcing that he planned to beat him to the South Pole. And a group of amateur “sourdoughs” shocked the mountaineering world with their claim to have climbed the north summit of Mount McKinley, fueled by doughnuts and hot chocolate.”

from: “Turn Right at Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams

Alaska Sidenote:

Frederick Cook claimed, in 1906, to have been the first to summit Mt McKinley. His claim has since been discredited.

Fake Peak

Noted explorer and photographer (among other trades) Bradford Washburn, later proved that none of the photographs that Cook took on his 1906 McKinley Expedition had been taken anywhere near the summit. In fact, the peak in the photo above, which Cook claimed was Denali’s summit, is now known as Fake Peak.

The four locals, Tom Lloyd, Peter Anderson, Billy Taylor, and Charles McGonagall, which became known as “The Sourdough Expedition”, attempted the North Summit in 1910, while carrying a spruce pole. Two of the Sourdoughs did make the summit. Their claim was not believed until 1913, when another team climbed the North Summit, and found the spruce pole that the Sourdoughs had erected near the top. The team of sourdoughs had absolutely no climbing experience whatsoever.

A special shoutout to Mr Mark Adams. Love the book so far. Don’t forget your second pair of socks.