Jack Hébert, president and founder of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, walks into a headwind toward a café in Bethel where he will wait out a flight to a neighboring village.
Photo by Ned Rozell.
BETHEL — Outside the Fly By Café, the ravens are flying backwards. At least they appear to be, as a powerful wind suspends them in time and space.
A rocket part recovery in summer 2012 from the Marsh Fork of the Canning River in northern Alaska.
Courtesy Poker Flat Research Range.
Following up on a NASA promise to recover spent rocket parts scattered for decades across northern Alaska, workers for Poker Flat Research Range recovered more than 7,000 pounds of debris from 17 different sites in 2012.
Craig George at work watching for bowhead whales on a sea-ice platform north of Barrow.
Photo by Ned Rozell.
From my notebook, here’s more northern news presented at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, a five-day gathering of more than 20,000 scientists held in early December 2012 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco:
In almost every patch of boreal forest in Interior Alaska that Glenn Juday has studied since the 1980s, at least one quarter (and as many as one-half) of the aspen, white spruce and birch trees are dead.
“These are mature forest stands that were established 120 to 200 years ago,” said Juday, a professor of forest ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences. “Big holes have appeared in the stands.”
HALL ISLAND — On this windy, misty August day, there are perhaps one million birds clinging to the cliffs that buttress this Bering Sea island. These seabirds, crazy-eyed and with bodies both sleek and clumsy, need solid ground for just a few months to hold their eggs. When their summer mission is complete, the birds scatter to the vastness of the sea.
A couple of summers ago, David Tomeo was exploring a creekbed in Denali National Park, preparing for a field seminar on the park’s dinosaurs he would help lead a few weeks later. With a trained eye for the impressions dinosaurs pressed into mud millions of years ago, Tomeo walked to a large boulder in the middle of a landslide.
“Right in the middle of it, a four-toed track stood out,” said Tomeo, program director for Alaska Geographic at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali Park.
Dennis Griffin with a walrus tusk that people used on St. Matthew Island about 400 years ago.
Photo by Ned Rozell
ST. MATTHEW ISLAND — “Oh look, another tooth,” says Dennis Griffin, dressed in rain gear and caked with wet soil.
Griffin, the state archaeologist with Oregon’s State Historic Preservation Office, has traveled to one of the least-walked hillsides on the planet to search for evidence of his species. On a tundra rise with a gorgeous view of Hall Island and a nice panorama of St. Matthew Island, he has today found a fox tooth in a decaying jaw, chips of rock where someone made tools, pottery, a plate-size anvil stone and a yellowed walrus tusk cut with deep grooves.
ST. MATTHEW ISLAND —I’m resting on a mattress of tundra plants that are growing more than 200 miles from the nearest Alaska village. While I have snuck away here to my own private ridge top, eight other people, all scientists, are somewhere on this 30-mile-long wedge of tundra, rocky beaches, lakes and bird cliffs in the central Bering Sea. We nine make up the entire human population of the island.
“Out of the million square miles of basin, range, peaks and prairies that compose the interior West, the farthest it’s possible to be from a road is a trifling 28 miles.”
Richard Forman, a Harvard professor of landscape ecology, once visited a mangrove swamp in the Florida Everglades that he described as the most remote place in the eastern U.S. The swamp was 17 miles from any road.
FOX, ALASKA — Bison have not thundered through this neighborhood for thousands of years. But there’s one now, Matthew Sturm said, as he pointed to a horn cemented in a cold, dark wall 30 feet beneath the boreal forest.