Tag Archives: USCG

Kotz Polar Bear

Let the sleeping polar bear lie

Kotzebue, which is on Alaska’s northwest coast, had a rare visitor over the past weekend. Word quickly traveled through town that a polar bear had wandered into the area.

The gawkers woke the bruin

It is not unheard of for Kotz to see a polar bear. In fact the world’s largest documented polar bear was found in Kotzebue in the 1960’s. That bear weighed more than 2200 pounds and stood at 11 feet. Still, it does not happen often that Kotz gets to see the great white bruin.

Time to swim away from the bear watchers

The bear this weekend, more than likely, was left stranded by no sea ice to escape to. It hung around fish camp, just outside of Kotzebue, for a while. It didn’t take long for onlookers to come out to see the bruin. People were curious, but cautious, by all accounts. Eventually, the bear took off for a swim in Kotzebue Sound, and escaped the gawkers.

Photos credit: Lt. Scott Kellerman; USCG


A bear ate my four-wheeler

A remote mining camp outside Nome, Alaska; Photo credit USCG

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.


USCGC Healy to sail Northwest Passage

USCG Cutter Healy 700 miles north of Utqiaġvik, Alaska; Public domain photo: Credit USCG

The largest icebreaker of the three in the service of the United States Coast Guard, will sail through the Northwest Passage at the end of this summer. The sailing will be a joint venture with the Canadian Coast Guard.

The Cutter Healy is named after Captain “Hell-Roaring” Mike Healy, who was captain of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Bear. The Bear sailed the Alaskan coast for decades. The icebreaker Healy has accommodations for the entire crew, as well as for up to 50 scientists. The Healy can continuously break through ice up to 4-1/2 feet thick at 3 knots, and up to 10 feet thick, when “backing & ramming”. The Healy is designed to operate at temperatures down to -50F, and was the first U.S. surface vessel to reach the North Pole unaccompanied.

The upcoming mission through the Northwest Passage is officially a joint research and educational collaboration. That may very well be true, but it’s hard to ignore the geopolitical message that will be sent along with the research.

As the sea ice in the Arctic diminishes, clearly transport through the Northwest Passage will increase.

Currently, plans have the Cutter Healy leaving Dutch Harbor in mid-August for the Northwest Passage. By mid-September the icebreaker expects to do exercises out of Nuuk, Greenland around Baffin Bay.


Alaska Volcanoes

Bogoslof by USCG
Bogoslof’s eruption of 23 December 2016. Photo credit: Crew of USCG Cutter Alex Haley

With Bogoslof being as active as it has been recently, there has been an increase in interest regarding Alaska’s many volcanoes. Since mid December, Bogoslof has erupted ten times.

Bogoslof plume
Plume from the eruption of Bogoslof on 20 December. Photo credit: Paul Tuvman/AVO

According to Alaska Volcano Observatory, which is a joint program by the U.S. Geological Survey and the University of Alaska – Fairbanks, Alaska has 90 volcanoes that have erupted in the past 10,000 years – and could erupt again. Of those 90, 50 have erupted since records started being kept in 1760.

Unlike volcanoes in Hawaii, which tend to ooze lava, Alaska volcanoes usually explode, sending ash as high as 50,000 feet in the air. Airlines get anxious when ash gets above 20,000 feet, and Bogoslof has consistently sent plumes into the 35,000′ range.

FAA estimates that roughly 80,000 large aircraft fly downwind of the Aleutian volcanoes yearly, with 30,000 people doing so every day. When Redoubt erupted in 1989, a KLM jet, which was 150 miles away, flew through Redoubt’s ash path. The jet lost all four engines with 231 people on board. The aircraft had dropped two miles, down to just over 13,000 feet, when the crew managed to restart the engines, and safely land in Anchorage.

Bogoslof change
Changes in Bogoslof Island with the recent eruptions. Credit: USGS/AVO

Photos and statistics come courtesy of AVO and their website. A special shoutout to the USCG Cutter Alex Haley: Nice photo, I hope its inclusion in the post is acceptable.