Luckily, we have not had a bad wildfire season in Alaska for 2021. We did have a fire flare up close to Fairbanks late last week, when smokejumpers, seen above, landed at UAF’s LARS location, where the herd of muskox can be seen roaming the hills. From the muskox field, the smokejumpers hiked the half mile to the fire’s location. That fire was quickly under control, and the firefighters went back to the Munson Creek fire soon after they were dispatched.
With just under 180,000 acres burned within the state so far this season, it puts us roughly equal with 2020 and within the lowest range of burned area since 2008. The Interior remains in a burn ban, but historically, 2/3 of acreage within a season has burned by July 15.
Figures,facts, graphics and video all from the Alaska Division of Forestry
Much of Alaska is seeing diminished returns of salmon this summer. One bright spot is Bristol Bay, and in particular, the Nushagak River. Bristol Bay is the place to be for salmon, and it is really hot in 2021. The Nushagak saw a record number of sockeyes caught last week, with more than 1,820,000 and 1,770,000 fish landed on consecutive days. That’s seeing a lot of red.
We already knew that the King Salmon run for the Yukon River was going to be dismal, but now word is coming out that the chum run looks to be equally bleak. This is a real blow to subsistence users throughout the Yukon basin and all its tributaries.
At the end of June, only 31,000 chum salmon had passed the Pilot Station sonar. The historic average for that date is 500,000 chum salmon. The count is the lowest on record.
Not surprisingly, the Chinook and chum salmon fisheries have been closed throughout the Yukon River system due to the low returns.
The steamboat Yukon was the first paddlewheeler to venture up the Yukon River. It was July 5, 1869, shortly after the Alaska Territory was bought by the United States from Russia. In part, the trip was a reconnaissance mission, but it was also a supply mission for the Alaska Commercial Company, which took over the trade route from the Hudson Bay Company.
By 1885, when gold was discovered on the Fortymile River, there were three steamers working the river. With the discovery of gold in the Klondike, as many as 100 steamers entered the Yukon River at St Michael to make the trip to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory.
Ravn Air, which serves eleven communities within Alaska, is looking at a very big expansion in area covered. The relatively small airline, is considering a plan to fly into Tokyo, Seoul, Orlando, Newark, Las Vegas, Oakland and Ontario, California. The airline would purchase ten new Boeing 757 jets.
Ravn Air went belly up only days into the pandemic in 2020, and was recently bought by California investors out of bankruptcy. I suppose the California connection makes sense for the proposed routes to the west coast, but it seems like a great leap of faith.
I remember Mark Air very well. It also was a small airline serving the small communities within Alaska, then they expanded big into the Lower 48, only to file for bankruptcy when they overextended themselves.
Ravn Alaska currently has a fleet of Dash-8 propeller planes.
The southwestern village of Kwigillingok, which lies on the Bering Sea coast, within the vast Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, is seeing some of the worst flooding anyone can remember. Flooding is not rare at Kwigillingok, but the severity of Friday’s high tide has reached a new threshold.
Buildings within the village are on pilings, so water did not breach any structures, but time does not appear to be on the village’s side.
The melting permafrost is causing land subsidence, which has made the village very susceptible to flooding, especially at high tide. The flooding then speeds up the melting of the permafrost even more, causing a harsh cycle.
Several homes are slated to be moved due to the threat of erosion, but the entire village is now contemplating a move to higher ground.
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.