There is a lot of snow on the ground still. Anywhere from 12-18″ of depth, but the 50F degrees this past weekend has put the melt on. Lots of sun right now too:
Length of day: 16 hrs, 53 mins
Length of visible light: 19 hrs, 17 mins
Today will be 6 mins and 59 secs longer than yesterday.
The beavers have open water in front of their lodge, which happens for two reasons. Their swimming back and forth helps to keep the ice thinner, but there is also a methane release point in the same location, which helps to do the same thing. In fact, the circles of diminished ice in the background, are also methane pockets.
Residents of Sitka awoke that morning to beautiful, clear skies. It was a perfect day, until someone looked across Sitka Sound to Kruzof Island and its dominate feature: The long dormant volcano, Mount Edgecumbe. Black smoke could clearly be seen rising from the volcano’s crater.
Word spread quickly. Residents poured out to the beach to stare across the Sound. The authorities began taking call after call from concerned citizens. A U.S. Coast Guard commander radioed the admiral in Juneau. A helicopter was sent out to investigate.
As the Coast Guard pilot approached the crater, the smoke plume grew in size. He eased over the crater edge and peered down into the abyss, only to see a pile of burning car tires. Spray painted into the snow, in 50 foot tall letters was : APRIL FOOL.
“Porky” Bickar first thought of the idea of the fake eruption in 1971. He hoarded old tires for the next three years, and when April 1, 1974 neared, with its perfect weather forecast, Porky knew the time had come. His wife had one request: “Don’t make an ass of yourself”.
There ended up being one catch. The first two pilots contacted to fly the tires into the crater refused to go along with the prank. But the third one proved to be the charm, and Earl Walker of Petersburg was enlisted.
The tires were loaded up into two slings and hauled out to the crater along with several gallons of kerosene, and a few smoke bombs for good measure. When the pilot went back to Sitka for the second sling, Porky worked on writing the message in the snow.
The pranksters were not totally irresponsible. They had contacted both the FAA and local police, and clued them in on the joke. They did forget all about the Coast Guard, however.
The reaction in Sitka was overwhelmingly positive after residents realized that the volcano was not going to blow. The Admiral who sent the helicopter out to investigate, met Porky at a 4th of July party years later. He admitted to Porky that the prank was a “classic”. Alaska Airlines even used the stunt in a 1975 advertising campaign that highlighted the “irreverent spirit of Alaskans”.
Oliver “Porky” Bickar, was 50 years old at the time of the prank. A WWII vet, having taken part in the D-Day invasion, Porky came to Sitka with his wife in 1960. He was known for ending the All-Alaska Logging Championships, by felling a tree on a target. The target was usually a hard hat. Porky was also a talented artist working in metal.
Most importantly, Porky may be Alaska’s top prankster. On a personal note, I enjoyed reading how he would place pink, plastic flamingoes in trees along the shore for the tourist boats. A man truly worthy of his legend status.
The storm that took over the Alaskan skies last night was pretty impressive. The entire sky lit up to the point that the snow on the ground glowed green.
I heard that last night’s magnetic storm was rated a Kp7. The Kp index rates the magnitude of a geomagnetic disturbance. A 0, 1 or 2 is considered “Quiet”. A Kp3 is “Unsettled”. Kp4 = “Active”. Kp5 is a “Minor Storm” G1. Kp6 is a “Moderate Storm” G2, while last night’s Kp7 is considered a “Strong Storm” G3. Kp8 and Kp9 top the index as “Severe Storm” G4 and “Extreme Storm” G5, respectively.
There are some really incredible images out there online from last night’s Strong Storm. The two here are only cell phone images, and they do not do the aurora justice. It was really a phenomenal show. As you can see, we were not limited to just the green northern lights, but quite a bit of red was visible to the naked eye.
The skies were crystal clear, as expected, with temps dipping down to -32F at the cabin. I can’t wait to see if we get a second round tonight.
There was a somewhat unexpected traveler through downtown Fairbanks on Wednesday. A wolf was spotted alongside a major road in town. Wolves tend to not seek the social media limelight, so they are not often spotted in town. I have seen them outside of town on several occasions over the years, but never anywhere near town.
That said, the wolf was the talk of the town all day, although I was late to the party with my limited social media presence. Fish & Game officials believe the wolf came down the Chena River and took a sight seeing tour of the town. They were keeping tabs on the wolf’s whereabouts, but remaining mum.
We often see test vehicles roaming our roads in the winter, although these stood out more than most. The first time I saw them, there was an entire convoy in line, but since then it’s been mostly in small groups.
Amazon is in Fairbanks testing their new EV delivery vans. This is probably not the winter to give an EV a thorough cold weather test, as it has been one of the milder winters I have experienced. Still, Amazon is having a go at it, and it should be a good test for how they handle on icy roads.
The Yukon Quest Sled Dog Race starts on Saturday morning from downtown Fairbanks. The race, 550 miles long, is roughly half the distance from what it was pre-pandemic. Gone is the international flavor of the race, with Alaska and The Yukon going their separate ways.
In addition to the 550, there will also be a 300 mile run and an 80 mile youth mush.
Only time will tell if the race can survive without the international aspect of the Whitehorse – Fairbanks cooperation.