Tag Archives: history

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An introduction to Fairbanks and Interior Alaska:

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International Polar Bear Day 2019

Wednesday, 27 February, is International Polar Bear Day.


Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) close-up. Hudson Bay, Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

There are 25,000 estimated polar bears world-wide. On average, a male polar bear weighs 1500 lbs, and can stand close to 10 feet tall on its hind legs. The largest known came from Alaska, and stood 12 feet, and weighed 2210 lbs. Females are quite a bit smaller, weighing on average 500 lbs, and only standing 8 feet tall.

Polar bears are closely related to brown bears. The two populations likely became isolated around the time of the last ice age, around 150,000 years ago. The two species can interbreed, but have adapted to very different habitats. Neither species would last long in the other’s habitat. For example, the polar bear is so adapted to the Arctic climate, that they can not take temperatures above 50F for very long.

Only female polar bears who are pregnant hibernate. Male bears are active year round.

Polar bears can, but rarely, live past 25 years in the wild. Although, in captivity, they have reached 43 years.

Russia outlawed the hunting of polar bears in 1956, the United States began protecting them in 1972. Regulation in Greenland started in 1994. Currently, Canada allows the hunting of up to 500 polar bears annually.


Grand Prix of South America Rally 2018

2018 Grand Prix of South America Rally

The Grand Prix of South America Rally took place this past autumn, starting in Buenos Aires on October 18, and ending in Cartagena on November 17. The rally covered 10,000 kms through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Columbia.


1938 Chevrolet Coupe

This was the 70th anniversary of the event, the first taking place in 1948. The route followed the original’s as much as was possible.


Twists and turns of the South American Rally


1946 Bentley Special


1929 Chrysler 75


1925 Buick Standard Six


1941 Dodge Carryall Power Wagon – Support vehicle

The winner was the 1929 Chrysler 75 by Andrew Davies and Paul Dilley. 2nd place a 1972 Porsche 911; 3rd: 1933 Lagonda M45; 4th: the 1938 Chevrolet Coupe.


2018 Grand Prix Rally Route

The story comes to CtoC from The Land of Badger; all photos credit: Sports Car Digest


Rover & Out


Mars Rover selfie; Photo credit: NASA’s Opportunity Rover

NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover was designed to operate for just 90 days, but it ran on for 15 years. NASA officially declared Opportunity dead on Wednesday, after trying to wake up the little rover one final time.


Looking back on Mars’ Perseverance Valley; Photo credit: NASA’s Opportunity Rover

Opportunity has been silent since June 10 of last year, when a massive Martian dust storm engulfed Opportunity. The dust storm overtook the entire planet 10 days later, and that would have prevented the rover from using its solar panels to recharge its batteries.

The final message from Opportunity to NASA was “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” Rest in peace, Opportunity.

NASA’s final wake up call to Opportunity was Billie Holiday’s “I’ll be seeing you”.

The Onion also had a final tribute to the golf cart sized explorer:

https://www.theonion.com/spacecraft-travel-from-all-over-galaxy-to-honor-end-of-1832602862


Yukon Quest Finish Line


Brent Sass leaving Two Rivers on Monday morning; Photo credit: Yukon Quest

Brent Sass won the 36th running of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race at 12:40 Monday afternoon. Sass finished with a full team of 14 dogs. It was the second Yukon Quest win for the Alaskan from Eureka.


Sass travels down the Chena River to the finish line; Photo credit: Robin Wood/FDNM

Yukoner Hans Gatt, coming in 90 minutes later, took second place. Alaska’s Allen Moore came in third. It should be noted that all of the top three mushers have previously won the Quest.

The Yukon Quest travels the historic Klondike gold rush mail and supply route between Whitehorse, Dawson City and Fairbanks. The 2019 race started on February 2nd, with 30 teams. Three teams have dropped out.


February Ice Count


The Nenana Ice Classic tripod, circa 1925

The monthly ice thickness check on the Tanana River took place recently for the month of February. I find this fascinating, so don’t be surprised if I post the March report too.

For most years, the ice thickness can run around 40 inches in February. Even after a week of -30F weather, and lows in the -44F range, there was no change in ice thickness from January. The Tanana River still has 16 inches of ice above the flowing water.

The earliest date on record for the ice to go out on the Tanana is April 20, which happened twice: 1940 & 1998. It certainly looks like that record could be on thin ice.


Behind the Ice Classic

I received a request for more behind the ice information regarding the Classic.


The Nenana Ice Classic Tripod on the Tanana River

In 1906, six gentlemen bet on the date the ice would go out on the Tanana River. The contest returned in 1917, when railroad engineers bet $801 on the date. The contest has been held every year since then, and has become an Alaskan tradition.

The tripod, is technically a quad pod. It’s made out of local logs and weighs several hundred pounds. A trough is dug in the ice for the tripod base to sit in, then a hole is bored through to allow river water to fill the trough and freeze the base in place.

Now things get really cool, but keep in mind the system was designed by railroad engineers in the early 1900’s.


The Ice Classic cleaver

A cable is fastened to the tripod, and four ropes run from the cable to a tower on the shoreline. The main rope runs through a pulley system that connects to a barrel weighted with several hundred pounds of rocks at the base of the tower. When the ice starts to move, this rope takes all of the stress and lifts the barrel of rocks several feet into the air.

A second rope has a foot of slack. This one triggers a siren in the town of Nenana to signal that the ice has started to move.

The third rope runs to a cleaver. This one has a bit more slack. The cleaver has been weighted, and also has over the years gained the nickname “Eldridge”. Named after the one time Black Panther leader, Eldridge Cleaver. However, Fred Mueller of Nenana, who designed this elegant system way back in the day, said he received his inspiration for the cleaver from the guillotine.*

When the tripod moves 100 feet, the rope to “Eldridge” pulls a pin, the cleaver is released, cutting the main rope. The counterweight crashes to the ground, and the tripod is free to float down the river.


The Official Ice Classic Chronometer

Once the main rope is cut, it falls pulling the final line, which is attached to a copper wire on the clock. The clock is then tripped, after the tripod moves 100 feet downstream, signifying the winning time.

There are actually two mechanical clocks. The one pictured here, which is a ship’s chronometer, was manufactured by the Elgin National Watch Company – which stopped making clocks in 1967 – needs to be wound once a day. The second, back up clock, needs to be wound only once every eight days.


A closeup of “Eldridge”

Photos and *behind the scenes credit: Dermot Cole/ADN, as well as other local sources