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December 10, 2021

Elephant Point and trees growing on ice

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.”

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October 29, 2021

Bus 142 to embark on final journey

“The bus is a touchstone for many things Alaskan: wilderness, exploration, personal discovery, survival,” said Patrick Druckenmiller, director of the museum. “It evokes very strong emotions. It’s exactly for these reasons that the museum is an ideal place to display the bus.”

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May 28, 2021

Alaska writer awarded an honorary degree

In “The Firecracker Boys,” Dan O’Neill explored “a piece of university history most people were happy to move on from.” He detailed a UAF president’s support of a 1950s Atomic Energy Commission proposal to create a harbor with nuclear detonations not far from the village of Point Hope.

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March 4, 2021

Finding the great earthquake of 1900

The largest earthquake on the planet for the year 1900 happened somewhere near Kodiak, Alaska, on Oct. 9. Scientists know it was big, but how big? And could it happen again?

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November 6, 2020

Goodbye to a raffish glacier scientist

Will Harrison, who knew the world’s bumpy plains of ice as well as his old neighborhood in Saint John, New Brunswick, has died. He was 84. From his arrival at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in January 1972, the Canada-born Harrison mapped out and executed studies of glaciers from Antarctica to Greenland. He and his charges measured and reported great changes before they became obvious.

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July 16, 2019

The thin line between Alaska and Canada

The boundary between Alaska and Canada is 1,538 miles long. The line is obvious in some places, such as the Yukon River valley, where crews have cut a straight line through forest on the 141st Meridian. The boundary is invisible in other areas, such as the summit of 18,008-foot Mt. St. Elias.

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June 7, 2019

The sound of silence in Russell Fjord

Standing on this smooth gravel shoreline, 15 miles
northeast of the town of Yakutat, you can tell something big happened.
A forest of dead trees encircles the shoreline.

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May 21, 2019

The man who broke through the Northwest Passage

Fifty years ago, a ship long as the Empire State Building sailed toward obstacles that captains usually avoid….Begging his way aboard was Merritt Helfferich, then 31 and a do-all guy at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Helfferich, whose life of adventures also included the first hot-air balloon flight from Barrow, Alaska, died in New Mexico on May 2, 2019. He was 83.

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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.

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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.

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