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5 August 2022
When my little Ford pickup chugged into Alaska 36 years ago this month, I didn’t know a wheel dog from a dog salmon. You could have told me the North Slope was connected to the Panhandle by the Chain and I would have believed you…. I could have avoided that awkwardness if I had possessed the Dictionary of Alaskan English.
29 July 2022
In late summer, a few months before this mossy valley will feel the sting of 40-below air, bright red salmon dart through a crystal-clear pool amid fragrant green vegetation. The Gulkana Hatchery has a Garden-of-Eden feel, which is fitting since millions of sockeye salmon begin life here each year.
14 July 2022
To put the largest eruption in Alaska’s written history in context, Robert Griggs pondered what might have happened if the volcano that erupted in summer of 1912 was located on Manhattan Island rather than the Alaska Peninsula. “In such a catastrophe all of Greater New York would be buried under ten to fifteen feet of ash and subjected to unknown horrors from hot gases….”
7 July 2022
Dan Mann hands me a clump of orange dirt the size of an almond. He instructs me to put it in my mouth.
“What’s it taste like? Does it crunch? Ash crunches because there’s glass fragments in it.”
“It’s from Mount Edgecumbe,” he says, referring to a volcano 100 miles away, near Sitka. “From an eruption 13,000 years ago.”
5 July 2022
A salmon head at its final resting place on the upper Chena River, one of the most important birth streams for Chinook salmon. Photo by Ned Rozell. That’s the finding of scientists who study Alaska streams and rivers that are teeming with salmon.
29 June 2022
“These are museum-class bonsais,” Ben Gaglioti says as we walk through an elfin forest. Gaglioti, a University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist, has led me into another landscape I have never seen in Alaska. This terrace of spongy ground above the rainforest is home to trees that Dr. Seuss might have dreamed up.
22 June 2022
To the woman wearing earbuds and sitting next to me in seat 7E: I’m sorry; I did not get to shower before boarding the plane after 12 days of accompanying four scientists in the hills north of Lituya Bay. I will try to keep my arms pinned to my side and lean toward the window.
19 May 2022
Snow geese flew in a ragged V overhead, rasping as they looked down upon Alaska’s bumpy face for the first time in 2022. Nine hundred feet below, the Yukon River flowed by quietly, except for the dull thuds of icebergs skidding along the river bottom near the shore. Sensing a break in the ice traffic, U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist Heather Best — wearing chest waders with a hole she would soon discover — stepped into the river.
13 May 2022
While most of the town was sleeping, the ice slipped out. Breakup happened on the Yukon River here at its first settlement in the United States at around 2 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, 2022. That’s when meltwater rushing from side creeks into the colossal groove of the Yukon lifted a winter-hardened sheet in front of the town.
12 May 2022
Andy Bassich lives on the south bank of the Yukon River, about 12 miles downstream from Eagle, Alaska, the first community in America along the largest waterway in Alaska. Like all of the few-thousand people who live along the big river in Alaska, Bassich hopes that river ice formed by the cold air of winter will continue to disappear in a mushy fashion, one that does not cause flooding.
2 May 2022
As much of Alaska’s landmass crosses the magical temperature threshold that turns ice and snow into water, it’s time to consider the state’s richness in a resource more essential to humans than oil or gas. Clear as gin, brown as iced tea or tinted aquamarine by glacial dust, Alaska’s freshwater supply is so abundant the numbers are hard to comprehend.
22 April 2022
This June, George Divoky will refurbish a cabin that sits on a lonely gravel island north of Alaska. He was not planning a remodel this year. Sometime during the winter, a polar bear tore through a plywood wall of the cabin Divoky moved 20 years ago to Cooper Island.
11 April 2022
Knut Kielland, a professor with UAF’s Department of Biology and Wildlife, used to trap lynx for their fur. Here, he has captured this 22-pound female lynx as part of an Alaska-wide project he leads to better understand the ecology of the animal.
31 March 2022
Though the calendar calls it springtime, the thermometer on the truck reads minus 28 F on this sunny morning a few days past spring equinox. I am riding shotgun with Knut Kielland, an ecologist at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has invited me to join him for a week north of the Arctic Circle — 66.6 degrees north latitude, about 150 miles from Fairbanks.
4 February 2022
Caribou wearing cameras around their necks have filmed a secret world of mushroom nibbling, desperate head-shaking during bug episodes, and nuzzling of wet newborns seconds after they fall to the tundra.
2 February 2022
By Ned Rozell A recent winter storm that featured a heavy rainfall caused hardships for many animals of Interior Alaska, but some people found the event fascinating. Two men who live up here and study the cryosphere — the frozen and snow-covered portion of the Earth’s surface — squinted for a closer look at what the storm threw at us. When the snow-rain-snow storm began just after Christmas 2021, Matthew …
31 January 2022
At the end of this month, Vladimir Romanovsky will retire after 30 years as a professor and permafrost scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. This comes at a time when people — finally — no longer squint at him with a puzzled look when he mentions what he studies.
10 December 2021
Librarian Judie Triplehorn solved the mystery of Elephant Point with a yellowed document she placed on my desk. In it, a writer for the Edinburgh Museum in Scotland in 1829 hailed the arrival of “two tusks of the Mammoth, brought home by Captain Beechey.”
18 November 2021
Hannah Myers has listened to many hours of orca calls in the Gulf of Alaska. The University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate student often knows a killer whale’s family group after hearing just a few syllables of its call.
11 November 2021
A bar-tailed godwit recently arrived in New Zealand on its second attempt to get there from Alaska, after a storm had blasted it back north. Keith Woodley of the Pukorokoro Miranda Shorebird Centre on the North Island of New Zealand reported that a male godwit carrying a satellite transmitter first left the mudflats near the Kuskokwim River on Sept. 11, 2021.