Tag Archives: history

Copper River Salmon


Salmon fishing the Copper River near Chitina, Alaska

Alaska’s famed Copper River is seeing a brutal return number of salmon so far this summer. The return is so low, that an emergency order closing the Chitina area to dipnetting was issued last week. Since statehood, Alaska has never closed the river to dipnetters.

This is a blow to Alaskans and their freezers.

During an average summer, 7000 Alaskans head to Chitina to dipnet the Copper River. 170,000 salmon are caught this way every year.

Until 2018.

Dipnetting is an Alaskan tradition, since only residents can get a license to dipnet. It’s how many fill their freezers with salmon for the year, and Interior Alaskans in particular, love making the drive to Chitina for this special personal use fishery.

This really is historic, and it has a lot of people on edge. Biologists have pointed blame at “The Blob”, which was a large mass of unusually warm water that took up residence in the Gulf of Alaska from 2014 to 2016.

Commercial fisheries are also feeling the heat, as they saw the second lowest take in 50 years. The commercial fishery was shut down in May by the Alaska Fish & Game.

There is nothing easy about dipnetting The Copper. The river roars past the steep banks, forcing dipnetters to tie themselves off to rocks or trees to keep from being dragged into the deadly cold water. It’s a helluva workout, holding that huge net out into the flowing water, and if a king hits that net, hold on! It’s quite the experience, and you will sleep well at the end of a long day in the river.


The Chitina River, near Chitina, Alaska. Camera: Kodak 66; Film: Kodak T-Max 120

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Not to be outdone, the Ship Creek King Salmon Derby in Anchorage saw their worst year yet. The contest on Ship Creek has been held since 1993, and they had the smallest king ever win the derby at less than 29 pounds. Only 98 kings were entered into the derby total, when in past years they saw that number entered in a day. The winning angler still walked away with $4000 worth of gold & silver.

Needless to say, the price of salmon will be going up.


Novarupta: Revisited


Novarupta, still steaming in 1923, 11 years after its eruption. Photo courtesy: Katmai NP&P

On 6 June 1912, Novarupta, located in the Aleutian Range, erupted. The 60 hour eruption would end up being the most powerful volcanic event of the 20th Century.

The people in Juneau, Alaska, 750 miles away, heard the blast from the eruption an hour after it occurred. In the end, 30 cubic kilometers of ejecta blanketed the area. That was 30 times more than the 1980 eruption of Mount St Helens; 3 times more than the second largest eruption of the century from Mount Pinatubo; and more ejecta than all of Alaska’s historic eruptions combined. The ash fall was so heavy, that roofs on buildings on Kodiak island collapsed from the weight.

The pyroclastic flow from Novarupta, filled 20 km of the valley of Knife Creek, turning the v-shaped valley into a wide, flat plain. When it was over, the pyroclastic flow would solidify into an area 120 square kilometers at depths of over 200 meters.


Katmai Caldera, photo credit: USGS

So much magma was expended during the eruption, that the peak of Mount Katmai, which lies 6 miles from Novarupta, collapsed, leaving a two mile wide by 800 foot deep crater. Early investigations had Katmai as the source of the massive eruption.


Novarupta lava dome, photo credit: USGS

It wasn’t until the 1950’s, when investigators realized that Novarupta was responsible for the eruption, and not Katmai.

In 1916, the National Geographic Society sent an expedition to Alaska’s Katmai area. Led by Robert Griggs, it was Griggs who named the former valley of Knife Creek, “The Valley of 10,000 Smokes”.

“Having reached the summit of Katmai Pass, the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes spreads out before one with no part of the view obstructed. My first thought was: We have reached the modern inferno. I was horrified, and yet, curiosity to see all at close range captivated me. Although sure that at almost every step I would sink beneath the earth’s crust into a chasm intensely hot, I pushed on as soon as I found myself safely over a particularly dangerous-appearing area. I didn’t like it, and yet I did.”
— James Hine, Zoologist, 1916 Griggs Expedition
*

* geology.com


Road to Omaha


Siebert Field

The Golden Gopher baseball team won all three games at the Minneapolis NCAA Regional over the weekend. Friday night, Minnesota routed Canisius 10-1. UCLA had won earlier in the day against Gonzaga.


Outfield seats at Siebert

Friday night saw a record crowd at the new Siebert Field. Coach John Anderson led the effort to rebuild and keep the aging ballpark on campus, with current Minnesota Twins manager, former Gopher, and MLB Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor the head of fundraising. No public funds were used in the construction. As a student at Minnesota, I spent many a sunny afternoon at the Old Siebert Field, just hanging out, doing a little homework between innings, and enjoying some great college baseball.


Minnesota Coach John Anderson

On Saturday, Gonzaga knocked Canisius out of the tournament, in a rain delayed game. Minnesota took on UCLA in the nightcap, and lightning early in the contest, delayed that game even further. A pitchers’ duel took place after the lightning, with UCLA taking a one run lead late into the game. Due to a freak coin flip, Minnesota was the visitor in their own ballpark. In the top of the eighth, Gopher All-American shortstop, Terrin Vavra, led off with a double. Eli Wilson then followed with a single, bringing Vavra in for the tying run.

The game was tied 2-2 at the end of nine, when Vavra again led off the 10th with a single. He would score the winning run on a double by Micah Coffey. Minnesota gets the after-midnight win 3-2.


Golden Gopher baseball

UCLA would beat Gonzaga for a second time, for the right to face Minnesota in Sunday night’s championship game. This game would not be a pitchers’ duel. In fact, the first 1-2-3 inning did not come until the fourth, for either team. Neither starter made it out of the third inning.


Jordan Kozicky #7 tracking down a pop up

Reliever Jackson Rose came in for Minnesota, throwing four relief innings, giving up only one run. Toby Hanson hit a three run homer for Minnesota, and Alex Boxwell hit a two run homer, and drove in four runs, as Minnesota out clubbed UCLA 13-8 in front of another record crowd.


Minnesota advances

Minnesota now travels to Corvallis, OR to play the Beavers of Oregon State University in a best of three Super Regional. The winner of that series travels to Omaha for the College World Series.

All Photos credit: gophersports.com


Murphy Dome Air Force Station


Murphy Dome AFS in 1960

There isn’t much left of the Cold War Era Air Force Station on the top of Murphy Dome, but in its heyday, it was an extensive site. Built in 1951, Murphy Dome AFS was a part of the 532nd Aircraft Control and Warning Group, Ladd AFB . Murphy Dome was one of ten radar sites across Alaska used for air defense and as a warning system against the Soviet Union.

There was a 4500′ gravel airstrip on the dome, along with a power plant, gymnasium, barracks, and other recreation areas. The station even had its own ski slope, complete with a tow rope. All buildings were accessible by tunnel, so one didn’t have to go outside. A tour at Murphy Dome lasted only one year due to the perceived “hardship” of the isolation.


Murphy Dome today

Today, the station consists of the one radar building, and whatever mysteries that lie underground. Rumors abound on that front. The control center station was closed at the site in 1983, and was designated a Long Range Radar under the Alaska Radar System. Today Murphy Dome is active, and is a part of the Alaska NORAD Region.

The Murphy Dome area today is a hotbed of outdoor activities for Fairbanks residents. The Chatanika River valley lies just to the north, and miles and miles of trails lead from the dome into Interior Alaska. Campers can be found in all seasons, blueberries cover the hillsides in late summer, and moose hunters search the trails in September. It’s a great place for ptarmigan too, but if you wound one and it flies too close to the fence, expect to be paid a visit from the watchers inside.


National Trails Day

Saturday, June 2 is National Trails Day, and 2018 is the 50th Anniversary of the National Trails System Act. National Trails Day was started 25 years ago by the American Hiking Society to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Trails System Act. National Trails Day is always the first Saturday of June.

As always, I highly recommend all readers of C-to-C to take a hike. Even if it only means a trip around the block. Get outside and enjoy what this planet has to offer. It’s quite rewarding, in a non gadget, kind of way.


A hike up Rendezvous Peak by the author, Chugach Mountains, Alaska


Who Loves You Baby?

Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater

Legendary Chicago bluesman, Eddy Clearwater died today. He was 83. Born Edward Harrington in Macon, Mississippi, Eddy moved to Chicago in 1950, taking on the nickname “Guitar Eddy”. His agent suggested Clear Water, playing off of bluesman Muddy Waters. Eventually that morphed into Eddy Clearwater.

Clearwater perfected his own style of Blues, which he called “rock-a-blues”, a mixture of Blues, rock, rockabilly, country and gospel. His music career extended over six decades, and he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2016.

I first saw Eddy Clearwater live at a club in Des Moines called “Blues on Grand”. I tell you, it was one hell of a show. Of all the Blues acts I saw in Des Moines, I think Clearwater was my favorite. Eddy was such a showman, and I was mesmerized by his guitar play. Clearwater was self taught, and he played the guitar left-handed and upside down. My buddy who was at Blues on Grand with me said, “Watching him play is giving me a headache!” When Clearwater was on stage, he grabbed your attention, and didn’t let you go until he was done with you.

We sat close to the stage, although at BoG, no one sat very far from it. Just before a break, Clearwater called my buddy and I out from the stage. During the intermission, he came over to us and talked to us like we were old friends. Of course, he gave each of us a guitar pick. To this day, I still have mine; it’s fastened to the dash of my old Land Rover.

Rest in peace, Eddy. You will be dearly missed.


Big Ten Champs


Minnesota Baseball celebrates their B1G title; Photo credit: AP/Nati Harnik

Congrats to the University of Minnesota Gopher baseball team who won the B1G Tournament over the weekend. The Gophers also won the regular season title this year.

Gopher baseball will now host one of the NCAA Regionals at Siebert Field. Minnesota will face Canisius at 7pm on Friday. UCLA will take on Gonzaga in the other game. The regional is double elimination, and the winner moves on to a Super-Regional.


Minnesota Coach John Anderson getting his Gatorade shower in Omaha; Photo credit: AP/Nati Harnik

Top seeded Minnesota beat second seeded Purdue 6-4 in Omaha for the Big Ten Championship. The victory gave the Golden Gophers their 10th tournament title, breaking a tie between Michigan and Ohio State for the most in conference history.