Tag Archives: history

Bear Glacier


Bear Glacier

Bear Glacier is the longest glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, at 13 miles, and Bear Glacier Lagoon is a popular kayaking destination.

The Bear is no longer a tidal glacier. Several hundred years ago, the glacier laid down enough terminal moraine to cut itself off from the sea. Bear Glacier now ends at a small, freshwater lake. The lake, which often has icebergs floating in it, has a surface area of 3.5 square miles, and runs 300-500 feet deep.

The lagoon, took on the nickname, Halibut Cove while we were fishing. One of us hooked a nice halibut when fishing for salmon. Unfortunately, patience was a lost virtue, and the halibut was lost as well. To be fair, landing a nice halibut with a salmon rig is no easy feat.


Pawing in Katmai


Viewing platform, Katmai National Park & Preserve

A curious brown bear approached a visitor in Katmai National Park, and pawed at the visitor’s pant leg recently. That bear then wandered off. In a second incident, a brown bear was being chased by another brown bear through Brooks Camp, and a worker at Brooks Lodge was “pawed”. Neither bear, nor person was injured in the pawings.

Katmai draws a large concentration of brown bears once the salmon start to run, which also brings the visitors to view the fishing bears. Some interaction would be expected, but what is really unusual about these events, is that the last time a bear made physical contact with a human in Katmai was 20 years ago. That really is a phenomenal safety record, especially with the unpredictability of both species.

Park Rangers believe the main cause of the interactions, is due to the high number of subadult bears at Brooks River this year. A subadult is a bear between 2.5 and 5 years old. They naturally like to chase each other, and are trying to feel out their place in the hierarchy. The last time Katmai had a similar number of subadult brown bears, was roughly 20 years ago.

Photo credit: Katmai NP&P


Attack of the Cobra


1965 289 Shelby Cobra

The host of some show called Barn Find Hunter has been touring Alaska in his 1965 Shelby Cobra. His tour, which includes three more Cobras and their passengers, had stopped in Girdwood overnight. Girdwood is a small community south of Anchorage, just off of the Seward Highway.

On Wednesday morning, it was obvious that the Cobra had been broken into during the night. There were prints all over the car, some dents in the rear fender, and the convertible top had been ripped open.

Alaska State Troopers, called to the crime scene, confirmed what was apparent from the tracks in the mud.

“Grizzly”.

The stolen item? A small package of Fig Newtons, that had been left behind the seat.

That’s why us residents always say: Don’t bring food into your tents. Or your classic convertibles…

On the plus side, Barn Find Hunter has a good future episode.

Photo credit: Hagerty


Fairbanks Arts

Who says Fairbanks lacks culture?

The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival winds down to a close at the end of the weekend. Hopefully, visitors, at the very least, took in some of the free lunch concerts that have been going on at various locations around town. The Festival started in 1980, and has been a boost to summers in Fairbanks ever since.

I saw the Lowboy Cello Band on Alaska Live Wednesday, which prompted this post. One doesn’t often think of Fairbanks as being a cello hotbed, but we seem to be holding our own. The band consists of four members of the Alaska Cello Intensive. The above video is the ACI doing a beautiful, yet more traditional piece. I will follow that up with a video of ACI getting a little loose and funky.


Valley Spruce by Sara Tabbert

The original piece above, by artist Sara Tabbert, is hand carved and painted on wood. The piece will be auctioned off today at 7:30pm at the Westmark downtown, during the FSAF Orchestra Pops Concert.


Ted Williams on PBS

PBS is airing an incredible documentary through their American Masters series called Ted Williams: “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”, and it is extremely well done.


Ted Williams in 1947

Ted Williams was a fascinating, yet complicated individual. Widely accepted as the greatest hitter that baseball has ever seen, Williams had a swing that was pure artistry. He also had a temper that both riled and endeared fans and sports writers alike.
He was the last man to hit over .400 during a MLB season, which Williams did in 1941. He also refused to tip his cap when on the field, even after hitting a home run. His final at bat at Fenway Park was a home run, yet his cap never left his head. In private, Williams raised millions of dollars for treatment and research for children with cancer.


Ted Williams in Korea

His baseball career was interrupted twice by war. Williams spent three years in The U.S. Navy in WWII, and another year of service in Korea in 1953. He flew 39 ground attack combat missions as a Marine pilot over Korea. Many, as John Glenn’s wingman.

The American Masters documentary pulls no punches as it delves into “The Kid’s” life. Williams was a complicated man, but as the film states, “Williams was real. Ted lived his life with his emotions on his sleeve”. The documentary is well worth the time, even if you have little interest in baseball.


Alaska Ends Holdout

And then there was one…

An era will officially come to an end in Alaska, as the final two Blockbuster Video stores will close by the end of August.

Alaska is currently home to two of the final three Blockbusters in the United States, with a store in both Anchorage and Fairbanks. The two stores have the same owner, and are still making a profit, but with the profits in continual decline and the leases up at both locations, ownership has decided to close down.


Blockbuster Video, Fairbanks, Alaska

In 2013, the state still had 13 Blockbuster locations, but that has dwindled to the final two holdouts over the last five years.

Both locations will open at noon on Tuesday with an inventory sale that will last through the month of August.

With the closing of the two Alaska stores, the last Blockbuster in the U.S. is in Bend, Oregon.


Eight stars of gold on a field of blue


The Alaska state flag

In 1927, when Alaska was still a U.S. Territory, Territorial Governor George Parks persuaded the Alaska American Legion to hold a competition. The Governor thought it would help the statehood movement by having a state flag, so the Legion held a contest, open to all Alaskan children, to design Alaska’s new flag.

142 designs were sent to Juneau from all over the state. A thirteen year old living in Seward, John Ben “Benny” Benson won the contest with a simple, yet elegant design.


Benny Benson holding his design for the new Alaska flag

Benny Benson was born in the fishing village of Chignik. His father was a Swedish fisherman, his mother an Aleut-Russian. Benny’s mother died when he was just three, and the family home burned to the ground shortly afterwards. His father, John Ben Benson Sr, could not take care of his three children alone, so they were divided up. Benny and his brother were put into an orphanage in Unalaska; his sister Elsie was sent to a school in Oregon.

The Jesse Lee Home in Unalaska was home to hundreds of Aleut orphans. It eventually moved from Unalaska in the Aleutian Chain, to the town of Seward on the mainland. It was from here that Benny Benson sent his design for the Alaska flag, as a seventh grader.


The Jesse Lee Home for Children in Unalaska, circa 1901

Benson described his design to the judges this way: “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”

The Territorial Legislature approved the new flag in May of 1927, and Alaska officially flew its new flag for the first time on 9 July 1927. Benny Benson received a watch, with the flag design etched on it, as well as a $1000 educational scholarship, which he eventually used to become a diesel mechanic.

Benson Boulevard in Anchorage, which is a major east-west thoroughfare, is named after Benny.
A Benny Benson Memorial is located at milepost 1.4 of the Seward Highway in Seward.
The airport in Kodiak was renamed the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport in 2013.
A school in Anchorage on Campbell Airstrip Road has been named the Benny Benson School.

Benny Benson died of a heart attack in 1972. He was 58.

The black & white photos courtesy of The Alaska State Library Archives