Friday, December 30, 2011

Russsian tanker to save Nome

There has been extra-ordinary weather in Alaska. So severe was an autumn storm from the Bering Sea that it made them cancel a test of the state-wide emergency response system because they were afraid there would be too many real emergencies that might be ignored during their test.

And it has been a very cold autumn. It was in the single digits here in Kodiak for days and days in November. Fortunately, it warmed up to let all the snow melt.

Unfortunately, the single digit cold is back on the week after Christmas.

So, it was particularly problematic for Nome, Alaska, 600 miles north from here, when the early frozen seas made the tug and barge that were carrying their heating oil return to Seattle.

And since the US just doesn't have any ice breaking tugs not committed to their own deliveries, Nome was in a mess.

Never fear, ingenuity will succeed. Even if it takes a contract with a Russian tanker to pick up a load of diesel in Korea, gasoline in Dutch Harbor (800 miles from Anchorage, out in the Aleutian chain of islands), and have the only working ice breaker in the US Coast Guard fleet abandon its expected holiday trip to its home be there if the tanker has trouble breaking the 5 foot thick ice on the way in.

So, on by Jan 1, the Russians' Renda will be about to enter the 300 miles of ice on their way in to Nome. Wish them all the luck.

Yes, it is challenging living in the real North.

As a friend has said, "Remember never to ignore what your grandparents taught you"..... because if the tanker doesn't make it, I think the locals will have to review their igloo making techniques!

To read Nome's paper and their articles on the recent storm, the oil shipment, and other cool stuff, go to:

As a local from Nome wrote in their editorial page:
Here Comes Another One
Hurricanes, blizzards, winter storm warnings— just another normal
day in Nome. Seems as though one storm passes through and another
winds up to test our endurance. Weʼve been geographical explorers
with the Great Wall of China on the East Beach, The Khyber
Pass on K Street, the new Berlin Wall on First Avenue and Mt. McKinley
behind the old Wein Building.
The high-pitched rumble of the state and city snow removal equipment
is sweet music to our ears. While we are stoic about storms we
may find ourselves surprised that family and friends who are not in
Alaska phone to see if we are safe and sound and are not freezing to
death from lack of fuel. Social networking and media hype has
brought us into the spotlight. Does Alaska, with all her oil, really have
to get fuel from Korea brought in on a Russian tanker? We just smile
and try to rationalize why the rest of the nation is suddenly so concerned?
We just do what we always do— dig in and hunker down.
Nomeites were born with snow shovels in their hands. However, we
canʼt be overconfident. Mother Nature is a formidable foe. We have to
be prepared when we take her on and head out into the weather. We
should be smart enough to stay put. If we have to go out we should
have survival gear, leave travel plans with folks who know where we
are going, and when we are expected to return.
When yet another back-to-back blizzard blasts our town we can
feel secure and safe in our homes while the winds howl. We are confident
the Nome Joint Utilities, Nome Public Works, Public Safety and
snow removal crews are doing a fine job for us. So let it snow!
— N.L.M. —

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Kodiak Christmas Lights

You might think we are a little too isolated to do what they do in the big cities. But no. We have fireworks, parties,and decorate for the holidays just like anyone else.

Here is a house, just a few blocks form our house. Turn up your volume and take look at this house's light show, coordinated with music on the radio.

Not a show to apologize to anyone about!

And.... with 90+% of our power form renewable energy (from our hydroelectric damn and 3 wind turbines) we can turn on the lights and not feel guilty about our carbon output during the holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To see another aspect of living in the North Pacific, check out the Weather Channel's show "Coast Guard Alaska", based here in Kodiak.

Pretty real stuff. And popular it seems. It is said to the most viewed program on that channel. So they've decided to continue making new episodes for at least 2 more seasons.

Glad to say that I've met some of those people they brought in.

For a view of their website, go to:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Not all Kodiak bears hibernate over winter. In fact, 15% do not. I heard there has been one hanging around Wall Mart a few blocks form here as recent as a few weeks ago. Makes you be a little more careful when you hike the Island Trail just behind the house.

To imagine what a visit here might be like, here is link to an article by an Australian ...and a picture of the bear they found enjoying the supplies back at their kayak on their return.

Check it out at:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Here is an email sent out by friend. Tells it like it is, so I just copied and pasted it.

We are having a cold wave. The temp is 7 degrees with a wind of 30 mph and gusts to 50. The radio is predicting 14 foot seas and a rough 12 hour ride on the ferry Tustamena. The radio announcer suggested that everyone with a boat in the harbor go down and check on it. Very lively radio broadcasts.
This is a record cold for Kodiak. Pray for global warming.
Yesterday Monday, Alaska airlines announced that they were suspending flights until Thanksgiving because of high winds. I went immediately to the safeway figuring everyone would decide that meant there wouldn't be any food left for the holiday. It looked like Elizabeth City just after they announced a hurricaine was coming. The store was pandemonium. Half the town was there grabbing milk, beer and potato chips and in this case turkeys and cranberry sauce. Managed to get out of there with my pepperoni bottled pickles.
So far the ocean hasn't frozen. All the snow in our yard has blown away. We have some deer in the back yard. They apparently are eating what is left of the potted plants. We have only seen them once since there is now about 17 hours of darkness but their tracks were everywhere before the wind blew away the snow.
Our new boat is on order. Hope to arrange delivery by late January.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Law of the Sea

Politics are confusing. Here is an issue I had no idea existed.

I first read about this the uear before last Spring in a Kodiak newspaper article about a retiring Coast Guard Commander supporting its ratification. But when I looked it up in the Internet, opposition tremendously outnumbered support.

Apparently, if a disagreement occurs between nations concerning what is referenced in the treaty, it goeCs to an UN court in a Caribbean country. That just won't fly with many Americans. Ronald Reagan opposed it; Bush I opposed it.

Clinton made requests for ammendments and got them into the treaty, but political power in Congress changed hands and he didn't bring it up. Bush II supported it but apparently he had too much on his plate.

Now Obama , I think, supports it. But that really doesn't matter: nothing will pass in this divided Congress.

Look up some Internet sites an make up your own mind. But as I see it, many are loosing sight of the forest because of the trees.

Here is how I see it. 1/4 of the world's undiscovered oil is thought to be in the Arctic, along the Arctic's Continental Shelf. With melting of the ice, this will be accessible to drilling. If we sign the treaty we get access to the oil and minerals in our Continental Shelf beyond our current 200 mile limit; if not, we are limited in access to 200 miles from Alaska.

So, what if we have to pay 1to 7% of the profits of what is removed to the international community?

93% of something is a lot better than none.

I know that some say we should not drill in the Arctic. But let's be real: I've read China has been sending it's ocean floor mapping ships to explore this area.....and they don't even have land bordering this area. They are now building more ice breaker ships than we do. Do you think they just like to explore for the fun of it?

Call me a pessimist, but I think we run a high risk of them drilling just outside the US's 200 mile limit of we don't sign the treaty that gives primary access to those assets. What do you think will happen when they ask the UN's " Court" to let them excersice their "rIghts" to the assets in the unclaimed part of the world?

You read about it; see if I am right. Maybe the melatonin from the long nights is affecting my thinking.

But, if you agree, write your Congressman supporting the signing of this treaty. Don't let the current bickering in Washington affect the squandering away of these assets to an international court who'd decide who can drill just outside the 200 miles in OUR Continental Shelf.

Here is the most recent current local article:

Google "law of the sea treaty" and you will find dozens of articles and opinions. Here is a typical one :

OK, I'll shut up for now...and go on a hike. You research this and see if I am right.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

New USCG show on TV

Have you checked out the TV mini series about the Coast Guard out of Kodiak? Seems like I recognize a few faces.

Look for it on the Weather Channel

Here is what a promotion had to say:

'Coast Guard Alaska' Premieres

November 09, 2011
U.S. Coast Guard|by LT Stephanie Young

Four hundred miles from the North Pole, ice began to break around a research camp, threatening the camp’s shelters. A Coast Guard aircrew from Kodiak, Alaska, launched to provide support for the camp and ensure the threat of breaking ice was no more. Operations like this are commonplace in our nation’s Last Frontier and have largely gone unseen – until now.

Riding aboard the HC-130 Hercules aircraft alongside the Coast Guard aircrew, was a film crew from the new TV show “Coast Guard Alaska.” The film crew has taped Coast Guardsmen and their families for the past few months and will provide a rare insider’s perspective to the missions and lives of Alaska’s heroes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Winter hibernation has begun

With the end of Daylight Savings Time, it now gets dark before 6 PM. And that has already had an effect on us.

At first, I thought it was just me. But, no. People at work are telling me that at 8PM they start thinking of going to bed. We have not even watched the 10 PM news all week. We are asleep by that time.

Compare that to summer, when it got dark after midnight. It was not unusual to put the kayak in the water after 10 PM just to paddle out and watch the sun set behind the mountains behind the city.

Now, imagine December, when darkness will arrive by 5 PM.

Good thing the Holidays will be here to keep us busy and entertained.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Going to school at 8:15 in the morning

Loading the bus at 8:15 in the morning,
this past Friday, before the end of "Daylight Savings Time".

But with the time change, this week they'll have some nice light
on their way to school.

And......for those who like "the full story".......

With the end of DST, dawn today will be at 7:54.
But by 2 weeks form now, it'll be back to 8:22......
so it'll be dark on the way to the school bus.

That is "dawn".
"Sunrise" is not quite the same.
It'll be at 8:37 today and 9:08 in just 2 weeks.

By Dec 21, it'll break dawn just before 10 AM.....
if clouds don't hide the light till about 10:15 or 10:30.

That is why we enjoy it so much when the sun shines up here in the north!
It's the price of living in wonderland.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Marching up Pilar Mtn.

Sunday, after getting used to the sun not rising till after 9 AM, we woke up with the sun in our eyes, thanks to going back from Daylight Savings Time.
What to do when something like that happens?
Go for a hike.

So up Pilar we went, only to be disappointed to have clouds head our way, snow flakes fall on our face at 39 degrees, and wind gusts to 30 mph as we turned into the wind. There was a strong incentive to turn around and head for shelter.

But, weather always changes. So, we continued up.

Sure enough, it was worth it.

Sun started coming out
and even the rat dog seemed to enjoy the view,
1,300 feet down to the sea.

If that does not convince you that it was worth the climb,
check the clouds over Termination Point on the way up,

compared to the sun in our face on the way down.

Moral to the story:
when you feel couped-up, just take a hike.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Alaska's Weed

There is a plant which makes our Autumn fields look like they're on fire.

Of course, that is why we thought it was called "fireweed".

It turns out, according to the Internet, that it got its name because it was the first sign of life that developed after a large fire in mid Alaska sometime in the 30's.

But, just take a look at some of our pictures, and tell us if you think we or the Internet is right about its name.

It doesn't always look like fire. For a while it just colors our views.

Of course, it began as a green, plant, growing as tall as a person

then blossoming its flowers,
gradually turning red...usually in the first week of September around our place.

Then it sprouts it's wispy white plume,

taking on the look of fire,

till the weather takes its toll,

and it readies itself for winter's rest.

May you have a colorful and happy Autumn.

Monday, October 31, 2011

This was the driest and warmest October in our 5 years here. Down to 32 just a few nights, then up to the forties. And....only 1.6 inches of rain compared to the 5 inches expected my the middle of the month. I don't know what the level is at the end of the month but it will surely be LOW.

But, can you believe what the national weather said recently: "Scattered snow-showers with occasional sun where it is not cloudy".

PS It is snowing again at 34 degrees. I must admit, it feels colder when it snow-showers....specially without sun.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The 2nd storm of October was not so kind.

On the last blog I said the 1st October storm was mild. Well, such was not the case last night.

It seemed like our usual 7 mph winds. But the power went out 4 times between 2 and 3 AM (at least that is how many time I woke up because the printer kept turning itself on and off).

Here is an email I got at work this AM. There we get a T1 line that goes under the sea to the mainland. Not so for the home Internet and phone users.

GCI Managed Broadband Major Outage Notification
Initial Notification

Site(s) Affected: All Kodiak Sites
Date/Time of Outage: 10/25/2011 0516
Services Affected: All Services

Outage Summary: High winds collapsed a building by Mill Bay road that took down a power/aerial fiber cable. All services are down in Kodiak. Technicians are on site accessing damage and secondary crew is coordinating a dispatch to Kodiak from Anchorage to assist. Tentative estimated time of repair is 1900.

Imagine: having to flyin a crew 280 miles to fix a power outage.

Living in "heaven" has its price, but we accept it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Another famous ship in Kodiak

You might have read about the pile of debris floating to the US form the tsunami in Japan. There was a recent story about it being located by a Russian ship, the Pallada.

Isn't it strange how you can read a story in the national news and suddenly realize: I know something about that?

Well, guess what. The Pallada was here in Kodiak this July, as it made a voyage with crew of Russian military and merchant marine academy students in training. This was their first sea crossing and a requirement for their certificate.

Here is a pic from the Kodiak's KMXT public radio's staff (which I pirated from the internet) as the ship came into Kodiak. The rest are those we took during our tour.

Boy, did those guys look young!

Here is part of what an article says about the Pallada's encounter with the debris:

"Early computer models predicted that the debris would not hit the United States for two to three years.

But a Russian training ship, the STS Pallada, following a map of the computer models, hit an extended field of debris in mid-Pacific, close to Midway Island, a U.S. territory about 1,700 miles from Hawaii.

The ship’s encounter with the 1,000-mile-long mass of tsunami debris came in September, 300 miles ahead of schedule, and nearly 2,000 miles from the site of the tsunami in Japan."

Read the article at:

For more Pallada pics and story:

The Pallada is a 354 foot long three-masted frigate "tall ship", meaning that it is rigged the classic sail pattern. But, in fact, it is said to be the tallest such ship in existence. Now you know the rest of the story.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's green....but autumn's in the air

The first October storm has come and gone.....just the usual high winds, rain, and high seas. But, actually, not as strong as usual for an October storm.

The deciduous trees have changed their colors. The grass has slowed its growth, but is bright green still. Our coffee-stimulated flowers keep blooming, despite the dip to 28 degrees.

The sun has now returned. So, we took the opportunity to mow for one last time. And put the tractor away till spring.

Hope the burning heat has ended, wherever you may live.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's the 18th of October: Alaska Day

Today is Alaska Day. A day to celebrate the transfer of AK from Russia to the USA, back in 1867.

The original ceremonies where in Sitka. And from what I hear and read, that is still a day for a great parade there. Here are some pics I downloaded from their website of their parade in 2009.

And they party, dressed up in time-appropriate costumes.

For those who want more detail: Secretary of State Seward bought it for over $ 7 million or 2 cents an acre. At that time many called it Seward's Folly.

Since the discovery of gold and then oil in the North Slope, many have come to consider it a great deal.

But not all agree that Alaska was such a great buy. These claim that it cost a heck of a lot to develop the infrastructure to get out our natural resources. It would have been cheaper to invest that original 7 million, let Britain buy AK, let Britain (and subsequently Canada) develop it and just buy the resources form them (in view of our friendly business relations with them both). Check out their thoughts at:

But if the current history is any guide, I bet Washington would have wasted that money on something else and we'd be a third rate country.

So, lets just celebrate Alaska Day and party like the folks in Sitka!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Back into pictures again

The scars from surgery have finally healed from the tears this summer. The arm comes out of the sling this Wednesday. But, I have been practicing my one-and-a-half arm camera-holding technique.

Here is a flower that recently bloomed around our house. Isn't October rather late for things to bloom in Alaska? Not if you plant the bulb in May, in a special nutrient: fully concentrated used Bustelo espresso coffee grounds.

A cafecito cubano is magic food: gives energy to humans as well as bulbs!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why we live here

Yesterday we showed you what sports people get to do here.

But, if you area a couch potato, you too might ask,
"Why would anyone want to be live so far away from the comforts of life?"

Maybe its the water, and how they reflect the sunrise.
Or maybe its the clouds
putting on their psychodelic show,

without the need for drugs,
or even a TV to numb your mind.

Anyway, this place gives fine reasons

for getting out of bed

and watching what's around you,

like these pics at 6AM,
August 11, 2011
in Kodiak, Alaska