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April 19, 2019

Birds large and small sniff their way through life

In the 1820s, painter and naturalist John James Audubon designed an experiment to test if birds had a sense of smell. He dragged a rotten hog carcass into a field, then piled brush on top of it. After none of the local turkey vultures appeared, Audubon concluded that vultures hunted using their eyes alone.


April 17, 2019

Innoko is a long river short on people

A quick comparison of two great rivers in America: One, the Wabash, runs 503 miles through Indiana, flowing past 4 million people on its journey to the Ohio River. The other, the Innoko, slugs its way 500 miles through low hills and muskeg bogs in west-central Alaska to reach the Yukon. About 80 people live on the Innoko, all of them in the village of Shageluk.


April 9, 2019

Iditarod: one of the last Gold Rush towns

Iditarod City was now quiet, except for the whoosh of ravens scanning for frozen morsels in piles of straw. And (Could it be? Yes!) the melancholy howls of a half-dozen wolves, wafting from the derelict buildings 100 yards across the slough.


March 28, 2019

Oldest rock in Alaska is near Iditarod

A few miles northwest of the ghost town that gives the world’s most famous sleddog race its name, Bob Gillis and I were in the neighborhood of the oldest rocks in Alaska. Could this be one of them?


March 25, 2019

Sandy memories of ancient storms

Maio wants to dig deeper into the sediment archived in the lake, to see if there might be clues as to what types of storms occurred in the past. Ancient Inupiat people there dug into the sand, using driftwood and whale bones to build complex homes.


March 14, 2019

Alaska Taking Shape Near Yakutat

The relentless advance of Hubbard Glacier takes center stage in Yakutat, but the area surrounding the town is one of the world’s great examples of geology in action.


March 11, 2019

Pondering the power of the ocean

Yakutat, Alaska, once found quirky fame as a surfing destination for the adventurous. Now, residents are looking into capturing wave energy to provide the town’s power.


March 4, 2019

The Riley Creek pack’s sole survivor

“It’s all very Game of Thrones out there,” Klauder said.


February 15, 2019

Jabbing sensors into the Denali Fault

“For some reason, when I come to this terrain, I know something’s been pulverized.” Cole Richards says this while watching three companions kick their steps Chilkoot-Pass style into an abrupt hill. The slope rises from the pancake floodplain of the Nenana River just behind him. The landscape here seems a bit confused.


February 6, 2019

Fuzzy memories of great Alaska cold snap

This week marks 30 years since I turned my pickup left onto a North Pole road and noticed the clutch pedal did not return to my foot. In a panic, I reached down with my mittened hand and pulled. The frozen plunger oozed back into position.
Driving at minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit is not a smart thing to do.