Seward, Alaska: The Great Alaskan Earthquake of 1964

In January, Dale and I experienced our first real earthquake, so now is as good a time as any to talk about a much more famous quake and one of the most significant events in Alaskan history—the Great Earthquake of 1964.

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Seward, Alaska: Our first earthquake

tsunami_hazard_sign_blue
Source: USGS

 

The shower doors clattered obnoxiously, waking us up.  Wondering what our neighbors—normally so quiet—could be doing to at this ungodly hour, Dale climbed out of bed and wandered into the living room.  Even in the dark, he could tell that the blinds and other objects were also shaking.   This was no noisy neighbor; we were having an earthquake.

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Katmai National Park’s Otis the bear: Celebrity, tough guy, and ambassador

Brooks Falls bear--Otis

It doesn’t take long to figure out why Bear 480—better known as Otis—is one of Katmai’s most popular bears, a celebrity on the Explore.org Bear Cams and a reason why people make the trip to Katmai National Park.

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Katmai National Park: My favorite bear

A look at the bear that stole my heart

Brooks Falls bears
My favorite bear (left), in her favorite spot, at the lip of Brooks Falls

 

“That girl’s gonna be the first female president,” I said, and Dale laughed.  He understood what I was talking about.

We were on the Brooks Falls platform, observing the bears.  The falls provide the best fishing on the river, and, while the occasional mom and cubs passed through, the area was dominated by big boars.  Amidst all of them, however, stood a little female, waiting patiently at the lip as the salmon jumped around her.   Continue reading “Katmai National Park: My favorite bear”

Katmai National Park: About Brooks Camp

Brooks Falls

Alaska’s Katmai National Park is an immense, wild place, and there is much to see here, but most of it is undeveloped and challenging to get to.  That’s why the destination for most people is Brooks Camp, a little bit of infrastructure and comfort in all that wilderness.  The camp, which consists of a lodge, campground, and other facilities, is the most accessible part of Katmai, but “accessible” is a relative term.  Even a place as established as Brooks Camp takes effort to reach, and here’s some of what we learned as we planned our trip.

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Trapped in a bathroom: The Katmai bear experience

Photo of Bear 854 Divot and cubs, taken from the bathroom

 

While staying at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park, Alaska, we ate breakfast every morning in the lodge, and it was here, just outside of the dining room, that we had one of our more memorable bear encounters.  Perhaps my favorite story from our trip, it precisely captures the wonderful chaos that is a visit to Brooks Camp.

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How to spend a day (or more) in Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska

In August, we took a short trip to Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow) and in the process learned a lot about this fascinating place.  Here’s a look at what there is to do in America’s northernmost city.

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Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska: The Iñupiat people, bowhead whales, and an ancient hunt

Bowhead whale skull, drying on the beach

Utqiaġvik felt unembellished, bordered as it was by the Arctic Ocean on one side and the treeless tundra on the other, and even in the height of summer the temperature was cold and the skies gray.  There was one impressive, if haunting, ornamentation, however, that added contrast to the landscape—bowhead whale bones, bleached and enormous.  Skeletons were displayed in front of public buildings, and their tusk-like jaw bones, some over 20 feet long, stood erect outside of homes.

A house in the “duck camp” displaying bones from a bowhead whale skeleton, including the lower jaw bones, which are propped standing up

Most breathtaking were the massive skulls lying on the beach, seemingly abandoned; in reality, they were left there to dry, the oils gradually evaporating over months and years.  Eventually they will be moved to a final resting place, which might be anywhere around town, from a front yard to an office building.

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Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska: A day trip to the Arctic

 

iPhone screenshot showing our location–in America’s northernmost town

In August, Dale and I and our friend Jingyi took a day trip to Barrow, or Utqiaġvik, as it is now known

The town of Utqiaġvik (an Iñupiat word that’s pronounced oot- kay-ahg-vik) is the northernmost point in the United States, and this was our reason for going.  We wanted to dip our fingers in the Arctic Ocean, maybe see polar bears or whales, and visit the northern-most point of America before catching the 7:00 PM flight back to Anchorage.

Utqiaġvik sits at 71°18′N 156°44′W and is 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle, so you might think its slogan, “top of the world,” is accurate.  In reality, there are towns in Norway, Denmark, Canada, and Russia that are further north,² but Utqiaġvik is at the top of Alaska (and therefore the U.S.), and it made for a great trip.

A bridge in Utqiaġvik; the sign says “Top of the World Bridge”

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