Tag Archives: history

Trending Brown

Graph credit: ACCAP, UAF, NOAA, NWS

Between 1930 and 2015, Fairbanks had a total of five Halloweens with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Counting this year, we have had five years since 2015 with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Currently, we have a dusting, and with 40F degrees forecast for Halloween Weekend, the odds are in favor of a brown Halloween for 2021.


The Chugach Transients

The Chugach Transients; Photo credit: North Gulf Oceanic Society

Over the past several decades, scientists out of Homer & Seward, Alaska have tracked a pod of killer whales that they have dubbed The Chugach Transients. In 1989, this particular pod swam through the Exxon Valdez oil spill. That year, the pod had 22 members. The following year, nine members had died.

Today, only seven remain, including a 46 year old male known as Egagutak. Individual whales can be identified by photographs, which is what happened with Egagutak this summer, when a tour group sent his photo to the North Gulf Oceanic Society. Individual pods of whales are also identified acoustically, because a pod’s call is unique.

The Chugach Transients have not had a calf in the thirty plus years since the oil spill. The exact reason is not known, but most killer whale pods in Alaska waters are doing well, but the two that swam through the oil spill are not.

At 46 years of age, Egagutak is nearing the end of his lifespan. Killer whale males typically live 45-50 years. The pod also seems to be nearing its end. With no calves being born, this particular pod of killer whale and their unique song will go extinct.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council was tasked with spending the money from the civil settlement after the oil spill. They have funded the research into the study of the Chugach Transients until this year, when they decided that the council would no longer support the research.

Sources: North Gulf Oceanic Society, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Public Media


The slumping of the Denali Park Road

A drill rig taking core samples at Pretty Rocks

The Denali Park Road has a slump in it. The road was cut into the rocks 90 years ago, and a section at Mile 45 in Polychrome Pass, in an area that is known as Pretty Rocks, is built over an underground rock glacier. The existence of the glacier was unknown at that time, but it has been melting at an accelerating rate the past three years.

In 2018 the road was dropping an inch a month, by 2019 that had grown to an inch a day. This August, the road has been dropping over a half inch an hour. More than 100 dump truck loads of gravel were dropped over this span every week this summer, but even that proved pointless, and the Park Road was closed to traffic at Mile 43 in August. The landslide has moved far enough down the hillside to expose the ice below the roadway.

Winter should put the freeze into the ground once again, so that the road can be used early next spring, but the plans are for the road to be closed for all of the summer of 2022. There is solid rock on either side of the glacier, so a bridge will be anchored into those to span the slump zone.

Time lapse of the landslide in Polychrome Pass

Photo and time-lapse credit: NPS


1870’s or 1970’s Alaska Advert?

A 1970’s ad for Alaska Airlines

Across the centuries the lure of gold has been consistent.


Welcome to the Freeze

Graph and data credit: ACCAP, UAF, NOAA

Starting on Tuesday, the official average daily high temperature for Fairbanks dropped below the freezing mark. It does not rise above 32F until March 30.


Happy Alaska Day

The Big Dipper dominates Alaska skies

Today is the anniversary of the formal transfer of the Territory of Alaska from Russia to the United States.

The $7.2 million U.S. Treasury check for the purchase of Alaska


“Northern Lights, Alaska Highway”

Oil on canvas, by Canadian artist Alexander Young Jackson, circa 1943

Otis retakes Chunky Crown

Otis enjoying a salmon meal

A little bit of controversy this year for Fat Bear Week. Otis beat out Walker for the fattest bear of Brooks Falls. This may have been a bit of a popularity contest in 2021, with Team Otis coming out in droves to vote for the fan favorite. With that said, it is hard to dismiss the amount of weight that Otis put on in just a few short months. It was a lot of poundage, especially considering that Otis showed up at the river later than usual this summer, and that he is now missing two canine teeth, and many of his teeth are worn down.

Congrats to the now 4-Time Champ, and best wishes in the off season.


Battle of the Bruins

Fat Bear Week Title Match:

Bear 480, more widely known as Otis

Otis is no newcomer to Fat Bear Week. A three time winner of the championship, Otis was the inaugural winner back in 2014. He also took the title in 2016 & 2017. First identified at Brooks Falls in 2001, he is one of the older bears in Katmai. A patient fisher, Otis rarely chases salmon, and has one of the higher catch rates at Brooks Falls. One of Katmai’s all-time fan favorites, the aging bruin once again appears in the finals.

Walker, or Bear 151

Walker first showed up at Brooks Falls in 2009 as a two year old. Once known as a tolerant, playful bear, Walker has become a lot less tolerant as he has aged. As he has grown into a larger, dominate male, Walker has realized he can throw his weight around to gain prime fishing spots. Estimated to have weighed in at 1000 pounds last autumn, Walker looks to be even bigger in 2021.

Voting for the title round takes place today. Polls close at 5pm ADT.

https://explore.org/fat-bear-week?fbclid=IwAR2bAe6uPjVl6RnBELlWRCMUfMhP8O5E8tg0lUNGuWK-Zwm-1YG5Wgy0L34

Images and descriptions courtesy of Katmai National Park and explore.org


“Tyonek, Alaska”

Oil on canvas, by Sydney Laurence; circa 1905