Tag Archives: ice

Thin ice on the Tanana


2nd Place Winner from Wasilla, for the Ice Classic poster contest

Nenana Ice Classic officials announced the ice thickness of the Tanana River recently. It was the thinnest ice ever recorded on the Tanana in January. To be fair, the Nenana Ice Classic contest may be over 100 years old, but officials only started announcing the ice thickness back in 1989.

January ice thickness usually falls between 30 and 45 inches in January. In 2019, the thickness was only 16 inches. The previous low was 21.5″ in 2004.

The Tanana River froze over in October, which is normal, but we had such a mild first half of the winter, that the ice has not thickened to normal levels. That is the case for rivers throughout Interior Alaska right now. River travel has been sketchy in spots.

The annual Nenana Ice Classic is Alaska’s longest running game of chance. Every year we guess the date & time the ice “goes out” on the Tanana River. Tickets for the 2019 event go on sale February 1.


Operation Ice Bridge

Operation Ice Bridge is a NASA mission to monitor the changes in polar ice. The program was started in 2003. Here are some photos that NASA took during their time over Alaska.


Pools of meltwater atop Columbia Glacier; Prince William Sound, Alaska


Miles Glacier, near Cordova, Alaska. Cordova’s “Million Dollar Bridge”, was officially known as “The Miles Glacier Bridge”. The glacier terminates at Miles Lake, which has formed in the past 100 years.


Icy Bay in the Wrangell-St Elias Wilderness, Alaska. A century ago, the body of water was covered in glacial ice.


A refurbished DC-3 takes off from Kulusuk, Greenland on a survey of Eastern Greenland. I just think it’s incredibly cool that they are flying a DC-3.

All Photos credit: NASA, DC-3 photo credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech


Methane Study


Katey Walter Anthony & a member of her methane hunting team, with high tech tools

I was fortunate enough to join a group from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, when they toured an Interior Alaska lake, as a part of their ongoing study of methane.

With Alaska seeing the melting of its permafrost, the organic material that has been locked in the frozen ground for thousands of years, is now being released in the form of methane gas. Katey Walter Anthony, and her team, have been studying lakes throughout Interior Alaska for years, in order to get a better understanding of this transfer.

HBO was in town, with a group from Oslo, Norway, making a documentary. We all joined the fine folks from UAF out on some local lakes. Methane is being released year round, but in winter it is trapped under the ice. The ice often shows the tell tale signs of methane release: whether in the form of bubbles in the ice, or a thinning of the ice where the methane rises from the lake bed. An ice fishing chisel and torch can make for an interesting day out on an Alaskan lake.

Warning: Do not try this without the professionals from UAF!

Lakes all across the arctic are releasing methane at an astonishing rate.

Photos courtesy of Nicholas Hasson, UAF Geophysical Institute


The puck drops on 2018

Golden Gopher Hockey at Mariucci

The 2018-19 Division 1 college hockey season is now underway.

The University of Minnesota opened the season against last year’s national champion Minnesota-Duluth with a home and home series.

On Saturday the two programs skated to a tough 1-1 tie in Duluth.

Stub & Herb’s, a campus tradition

Minnesota came out in a flurry for new coach Bob Motzko’s first home game. At the end of the first period, the Gophers held a 3-0 lead, with sophomore Brannon McManus netting two.

The Gophers were overtaken by an unnatural desire to sit in the penalty box for period two, which gave Duluth some life. The Bulldogs would score the first two goals of the period, but Sammy Walker would follow up with a goal for Minnesota and Rem Pitlick would add a short handed tally for the Gophers. Minnesota now led 5-2.

The two teams would trade goals in the final frame, giving Minnesota a 7-4 win over their in-state rival.

The Bulldogs outshot Minnesota 46-23, mainly due to the nine penalties the Gophers took. Junior goaltender Mat Robson was solid in net for Minnesota.

It was a good atmosphere at Mariucci, with 8000+ fans in the stands for a Sunday night game.


Montreal Canadiens

Centre Bell; Montreal, Quebec

When in Montreal…

Brazil Lucas, The Curator and I spent much of Saturday exploring downtown Montreal. With a Habs game on the agenda for that night.

It would be my first game at Bell Centre, home of the Canadiens.

Warmups

The Ottawa Senators were in town to play the Habs. It was a preseason game, but when you’re traveling and have the opportunity to take in a home game of one of the Original Six, you can’t be fussy.

Opening face off

Ottawa drew blood first in the opening period , as Brady Tkachuk beat Carey Price. Cody Ceci doubled the Senators lead in the second.

Montreal finally got on the board with a goal early in period three on a score by Tomas Tatar. Nikita Scherbak would tie the game, and Paul Byron would put the Habs up for good. Price would end the game with 15 saves on 17 shots. Montreal outshot Ottawa 32-17 In the 3-2 Canadiens win.

Mike Reilly, #28

Mike Reilly, the product of Chanhassen, Minnesota, is now a member of the Montreal Canadiens, after being traded last year from the Minnesota Wild. I realized at the game that I have seen Reilly play for four teams now: the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Iowa Wild, Minnesota Wild, and Montreal Canadiens.

Reilly, a 25 year old defenseman, was the Second Star of the game against Ottawa. It was probably the best game I have seen him play since he wore Maroon & Gold.


Revisiting the Exit


Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park

Another year, another wonderful day, and another hike up to Exit Glacier. According to the park ranger I spoke to, the glacier had receded 70 meters, or roughly 200 feet since we had last visited Exit in August of 2017.


The view from 2010

The signpost marks where the toe of Exit Glacier was just eight years ago. Due to the sunny weather, the trail was a busy place to be, and the glacier’s toe was an ice fall hazard zone.


Exit Creek

Exit Creek rushes out from under the glacier, on its journey to Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska.


Battle of Attu

Operation Landcrab
11 May 1943
75 years ago:


Map of the Aleutian Chain

On 7 June 1942, the Japanese Northern Army landed, unopposed, on Attu Island. The island of Kiska had been invaded the day before. Allied command for the Aleutian Campaign spent the better part of the next year preparing to repel the Japanese from the Aleutian Islands.


Attu Island with 1943 Battle descriptions

On the morning of 11 May 1943, visibility off the coast of Attu was estimated at a “ship’s length”, due to the heavy fog blanketing the island. The 7th Division’s Northern Force was to land at Beach Red, a few miles north of Holtz Bay. Beach Red was a narrow strip, maybe 100 yards long, and surrounded by 250′ walls of rock. The Japanese had no defenses nearby, because they never considered it a viable landing point.

Captain William Willoughby had 244 men in his Scout Battalion. They came up to Attu in two submarines: the Narwhal and Nautilus. They shoved off in their rubber boats with 1-1/2 days rations, landing at Beach Scarlet in Austin Cove. The air temperature was 27 degrees.

The 7th Division’s Southern Force was the largest of “Operation Landcrab”. They landed at Massacre Bay All three landings were unopposed. The beach heads were secure and all forces had made gains, but they were now stalled. The Americans could not see the Japanese up in the fog, but the Japanese could see down out of it.

The very first shot fired by American land forces was a 105 mm howitzer. The big guns had been mired on the beach. Cat tractors tried to maneuver them, but their treads broke through the muskeg, and were quickly spinning uselessly in the black muck underneath. A Japanese mortar crew was spotted on a ridge, and a howitzer was moved into position by brute strength. The howitzer fired, and the recoil of the big gun slammed the gun’s sled 18 inches into the muskeg.*


Massacre Bay, Attu Island 12 May 1943

The following day, men and equipment streamed onto the beaches. The Navy ships bombarded the ridges. The Battleship Nevada unloaded her 14″ guns onto the mountain tops above Massacre Valley. The Japanese positions were heavily entrenched, the progress for the Allied forces was slow. The Arctic conditions were brutal, and exposure-related injuries common. Travel over the island was through mud, snow, ice and the unforgiving muskeg. After two weeks of endless fighting, the Japanese were finally pushed up against Chichagof Harbor.


Japanese troops lie at the bottom of Engineer Hill after the banzai charge

With no hope of victory, and little hope of rescue, Colonel Yasuyo Yamasaki led his Japanese troops in one final banzai charge. The Japanese broke through the front lines, and rear echelon troops suddenly found themselves in hand to hand combat with the Japanese. The Japanese charged Engineer Hill in an attempt to gain control of the big guns set up there. The 50th Engineers held their ground, however, and the charge failed. Almost all of the Japanese in the charge were killed, many by suicide by grenade after the charge failed. The failure of the banzai charge effectively ended the Battle for Attu.


American troops making their way across Attu

Officially, the Battle of Attu ended on 30 May 1943, but isolated Japanese troops continued to fight until early July.

549 men of the U.S. 7th Division were killed on Attu, 1148 wounded, and over 1200 suffered severe cold weather related injuries, 614 disease, 318 other casualties: accidents, drowning, self-inflicted.

The Japanese lost over 2350 men. Only 28 were taken prisoner.

The Battle of Attu, when considering numbers of troops engaged, would rank as the second most costly battle for the United States in WWII – second only to Iwo Jima.*

The Battle of Attu was the only battle of World War Two to have taken place on U.S. territory. It was also the only battle between the U.S. and Japan to have taken place in Arctic conditions.

The Japanese had assembled a massive fleet in Tokyo Bay to repel the Americans from retaking Attu. The fleet had 4 carriers, 3 battleships, 7 cruisers and 11 destroyers. The Allies captured Attu before the fleet could leave the bay.

*The Thousand Mile War by Brian Garfield