Brent Saas, in his seventh Iditarod, won the 2022 race. He crossed under the famed burled arch in Nome early Tuesday morning. Local temps were hovering around zero. It was the first Iditarod win for Sass. Five time winner, Dallas Seavey came in second. A win would have given Seavey a record sixth title, but Sass, who ran a phenomenal race, held on for the victory.
Brent Sass first ran the Iditarod in 2012, winning rookie of the year when he came in 13th. Sass has won the Yukon Quest three times.
Bering Sea ice is at its highest level this late in the season since 2013. Which is good news for Alaska in 2022. Not only does the extended sea ice help out our wildlife, but it offers protection for communities like Nome from fierce winter storms.
The Iditarod Sled Dog Race will go back to a normal route in 2022, and finish in Nome for its 50th running. Last year, the race was a “there and back”, and did not venture into the historic gold rush city.
The Iditarod will require mushers to be vaccinated for the anniversary race. Even with the vaccination requirement, the usual checkpoint at Takotna, will not take place, as the community has decided not to host the checkpoint this year due to pandemic concerns.
It should be noted that the Iditarod race commemorates the 1925 “Great Race of Mercy”, when several teams of dogs and their mushers relayed the diphtheria serum to Nome to combat an epidemic.
The Iditarod is scheduled to start the first weekend of March.
Mostly used out of Nome on the Seward Peninsula, the pupmobile, was a small railroad car that was pulled by a team of dogs. It was common practice in the first 2-3 decades of the 1900’s, as most of the railroad tracks had been abandoned, and sled dogs were the main mode of transportation.
Another Alaska tale that captured some global interest recently, was the man who was rescued outside of Nome by a United States Coast Guard helicopter. Reports came into Alaska first, that a bear had attacked a man on a four wheeler, the man escaped to a mining shack, only to be harassed for days by the rogue bruin. I was an immediate skeptic, but quickly moved on from the story, as I had closer things to worry about.
Now, the Nome Nugget has called out the bear tale. Enough contrary evidence has surfaced to call the ordeal into question. Since Alaskans rarely need much of an excuse to take a ride out onto the tundra, several Nome residents ventured out to the mine claim in question. The door handle on the mining shack looked to have been knocked off by a hammer, and the four wheeler looked to be in great shape, but there are obvious scratches on the trailer that were “either made by a screwdriver, or a bear with one claw.” Also, there was no bear sign to be found around the cabin. “There’s no hair, no tracks, no scat, nothing.”
The most damming evidence found was the untouched two pounds of bacon in a cooler sitting on the four wheeler. For his part, the man who claimed to be stalked by the bear has not changed his story: “They can believe what they want,” the man told the Nugget. “I was there. I know what happened. I haven’t been that scared in a very, very long time.”
Even though the area is certainly known for its bears, Sourdough Miners in the area believe that the “victim” accidentally crashed his four wheeler, and was too embarrassed to admit it. At any rate, both Sourdough and Coast Guard officials believe the man truly needed rescuing, regardless of the actual circumstances. Another example of the Coast Guard’s vital role in Alaska.
The cruise industry has put Nome in dry dock for the 2021 season. The city was hoping to get five cruise ships in this summer, but the Harbormaster, Lucas Stotts, confirmed this week that the industry has pulled the plug. No blaming the Canadians this time, however. The ships that visit Nome also dock at Provideniya, Russia. Like Canada, Russian ports are closed to tourists for 2021. No alternative was found, so the season officially ended before it began.
I think it is safe to say that the tourist industry is looking forward to 2022.
“What can we learn about ourselves looking back in time”?
A short film that came out recently inspired by the story of Ada Blackjack. The 6-1/2 minuet short, was filmed and produced in Alaska. Based, in part, on the biography Ada Blackjack: A True Story of Survival in the Arctic, by Jennifer Niven.
In 1921, Ada Blackjack had been abandoned by her husband outside of Nome, Alaska with a five year old son who suffered from tuberculosis. She needed money to care for her son, so she joined an Arctic Expedition to Wrangel Island, which was being put together by explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. The expedition sought an Alaska Native seamstress who spoke english. Ada was hired on, and left for Wrangel Island in September 1921.
The expedition itself, was on thin ice from the very beginning. The goal was for the team to travel to Wrangel Island to claim it for the British Empire, even though the British government had shown little interest in the island previously. Stefansson, who organized the entire expedition, had no intention of going himself. Instead, four men: Allan Crawford, 20, Lorne Knight, 28, Fred Maurer, 28, and Milton Galle, 19, went with Blackjack, 23, and Vic the cat, age unknown, to claim the island.
The team had enough supplies to last six months, although Stefansson assured the expedition members that wild game would be easy to find.
The first year went relatively well, but by the end of autumn 1922, game had suddenly diminished from the island. By January 1923, the expedition was in trouble. Crawford, Maurer, and Galle left on foot across the sea ice to Siberia for help. Knight, who was suffering from scurvy, was left behind with Blackjack and Vic. The three men who went out on foot were never seen or heard from again. Ada cared for the ailing Knight for six months, until his death in June.
For the next three months, Ada Blackjack was alone on the island. She trapped fox, shot birds, and patrolled for polar bear. She even used the expedition camera gear to take selfies outside of camp.
On August 20, 1923, almost two full years from first arriving on Wrangel Island, the schooner Donaldson arrived to rescue the last surviving member of the expedition. The crew found Blackjack doing quite well for herself, stating: she “mastered her environment so far that it seems likely she could have lived there another year, although the isolation would have been a dreadful experience.”
Blackjack took her money from the expedition, which was less than promised, retrieved her son, and avoided the spotlight. Stefansson profited greatly from the failed expedition, but none of that money went to Blackjack. She spent much of her adult life in poverty. She did remarry, and had a second son, Billy. Bennett died in 1972 at the age of 58 from a stroke. Ada Blackjack passed away on May, 29 1983 at the Pioneer Home in Palmer, Alaska. Blackjack is buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, next to her son Bennett.