Tag Archives: travel

Great Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn on 21 December 2020; Photo credit: NASA

A NASA probe, orbiting the moon, took the above image of Saturn and Jupiter during the “Great Conjunction”.


Sharin’ The Blues

Map credit: NWS Caribou, Maine

Alaska and Canada sharing some Christmas weekend love with the Lower 48. You’re welcome!


Operation Santa… by dogsled

Flashback Film Friday; Holiday Edition:

Photo credit: Alaska Archives, UAA, USAF

Airmen out of Elmendorf AFB take packages by dogsled into the village of Savoonga on Saint Lawrence Island. It was -20F when they unloaded their C-123, Christmas Day, 1963. The huskies look to be getting impatient.


Alaska Covid-19 Restrictions

Courtesy of The Onion:

  • Preventing people from dying alone 5,000 miles away from anyone who loves them would defeat the entire purpose of Alaska.
  • Residents advised against pulling down their mask to say, “Hey, there’s a moose” every time they see a moose.
  • Visitors must quarantine for 14 days in the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but a pocket knife and a frying pan.

There was a state by state slideshow on their site. I admit to only looking at Alaska’s, because it was only two slides into the presentation. I am a fan of alphabetical order. Link to the entire slideshow can be found below:

https://www.theonion.com/state-by-state-covid-19-restrictions-1845906521


Taking over the neighborhood

A cruise ship is dwarfed by the mountains of Glacier Bay, Alaska; Photo credit: National Park Service

In a normal year, Glacier Bay receives more than 150 cruise ship visits. In 2020, with the cruise industry in dry dock, Glacier Bay has seen a regular inhabitant take over. The humpback whale has been making the most of no cruise ships.

Humpbacks have been studied regularly for decades in Glacier Bay. Individual whales had been identified as far back as 1973. In 2020, the whales have been seen lounging in the middle of channels, feeding in large groups, and generally enjoying “room to roam”, as one researcher put it. Their underwater vocalizing was way up too, thrilling researchers.

The Park’s whale monitoring system has identified 740 individual whales between 1985 and 2017. The birth year of 311 Glacier Bay whales is known to researchers, because they were sighted as calves in The Bay. The oldest whale is a male, #516 or Garfunkle. Garfunkle was born in 1974. He was last seen in 2016.

The longest documented humpback was #441, who had been seen for 45 years. His carcass was found outside of Glacier Bay in 2016, his age was 66 years. The oldest documented humpback was 98 years old, when he was taken by a commercial whaler. The age of humpbacks can be determined by the layers on their ear plugs.

Most female humpback whales of Glacier Bay are able to have a calf every three years once they mature, which is at 12 years of age in Alaska waters, much later than northern Atlantic humpbacks.

Glacier Bay and Icy Strait is a regular home to 181 humpbacks, with Southeast Alaska being home to 1585 individuals. The most recent estimate has 21,063 humpback whales living in the entire North Pacific.

A link to the sounds of the Glacier Bay humpback can be found below:

https://www.nps.gov/media/video/view.htm?id=FB642F7E-1DD8-B71C-075F52B0E5F2D04A

Sources: Glacier Bay National Park, UAF, Alaska Fish & Game, KTOO


Virtual Cranes

“When we hear his call we hear no mere bird. We hear the trumpet in the orchestra of evolution. He is the symbol of our untamable past, of that incredible sweep of millennia which underlies and conditions the daily affairs of birds and men.” –Aldo Leopold – Marshland Elegy, A Sand County Almanac.

The sandhill cranes of Wisconsin

I’m slow to embracing the virtual world, but now that winter has arrived in the North, and plenty of time on my hands, but without the inclination to travel anywhere, I’ve done some virtual exploring.

In the spring, the Platte River in Nebraska is the place to be, to see the siege of sandhill cranes flying through to eat and rest before heading further north. In the autumn, however, the Wisconsin River near Baraboo, WI is a major stopover for this ancient breed of birds.

The Aldo Leopold Foundation usually offers tours and blinds for crane viewing and photography in the fall, but 2020 is not the year for those types of activities. Instead, they offered a virtual visit to the Wisconsin River and the over 10,000 cranes that are camping out along its banks. I joined one of these visits this week, and found it incredibly informative, and well produced. Still, no virtual visit compares to seeing the sandhill crane in person, or hearing and feeling that prehistoric bugle as it flows through you from across the terrain and the eons.

Luckily, next spring, I won’t have to go beyond my deck to experience them again.

The above video is one done previously by the International Crane Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Foundation.


Light Side Up

The powerful lure of the aurora borealis:

Light Side Up trailer

After a year of planning, three photographers came to Fairbanks to attempt something never accomplished. They would try to “capture cinema-quality footage of the northern lights” from the stratosphere.

The new film from Lost Horizon Creative, documents the team’s efforts to overcome not only the technical aspects of filming above 100,000 feet, but also the incredible vastness that is Interior Alaska. The 30 minute short film is well worth viewing if you are even remotely into the aurora borealis, Alaska or photography.

The trailer for the film is above, the entire film can also be viewed on youtube.


Tree Shopping

Hauling the tree back to the cabin…


Alaska’s Bald Eagle Festival

A lone, bald eagle looks out over the Chilkat River; Photo credit: Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve

November in Haines, Alaska normally means bald eagles. The largest concentration of bald eagles in the world happens at the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, where the Tsirku River, warmed by ground water, meets the Chilkat River. This span of open water, and a late run of chum salmon bring in eagles in large numbers. In normal years, one spot on the river can contain 500 eagles, with the total number of the raptors in the thousands.

Haines is the home of the festival, and it brings in visitors from around the globe. People come year after year to photograph and hang out with the bald eagles, mingling with fellow birders and outdoor enthusiasts. This year, the festival was canceled due to Covid-19. It’s just another blow to local businesses, in a year full of them.

Oddly enough, the eagles didn’t show up either. One count had 46 bald eagles on a spot along the river, when in normal years, there would be around 500. The eagles didn’t come to the Chilkat, because the chum salmon never showed up. The run was a record low, and that has hit eagles, bears and fishermen alike. The bears, who normally fatten up on the late season salmon bounty, have been breaking into local homes and cabins more than usual, seeking out food.

Like all of our salmon runs that have been in decline, no one can answer the “Why question”. Is it the warming ocean and rivers? Over fishing? Are the hatchery fish too much competition for the wild ones for food out in the ocean? Or, are all these theories tied in together?

One thing is for certain: The entire ecosystem up here runs off of a strong salmon run. And so does the economy.


STR White Horse

Flashback Film Friday:

STR White Horse in Five Fingers Rapids, YT, circa 1904; Photo by Hamacher & Doody

The sternwheeler White Horse was built in 1901, and ran the Yukon River for 54 years. She had a length of 167 feet, a beam of 34.5 feet, and a gross tonnage of 986.65 tons. She accommodated 64 people.

The White Horse had an interesting history. Declared a “plague ship” in 1902, due to a 2nd Class passenger being suspected of having small pox. The sternwheeler was quarantined for 16 days, and the disease did not appear, so she returned to service.

In 1935, the White Horse was sent to rescue the passengers of the STR Yukon, which had been severely damaged by ice on the infamous Lake Labarge. Aircraft from the British Yukon Navigation Company, guided the White Horse through the ice to the beached Yukon.

In 1916, the White Horse took her first venture into the pure tourist trade, by making one of many Midnight Sun runs to Fort Yukon. The trips were a huge hit at the time.

The STR’s Casca & White Horse

The once proud White Horse came to a fiery end. She was passed up for restoration in 1955 in favor of the STR Klondike, which can still be seen in Whitehorse, YT. She was sold in 1960 along with the STR Casca and two other ships to the Canadian Government, but no restoration was attempted, other than to put them behind a chain link fence.

On 20 June 1974, both the White Horse & Casca caught fire in dry dock, and burned down to the gravel bed. No cause of the fire has ever been officially stated.

The sternwheeler White Horse

Sources: Alaska State Library, University of Alaska, CBC.CA