I’ve seen it … I’ve been there

Long term changes in global weather patterns is a popular topic of discussion today. First, this isn’t some liberal rant about “climate change.” I’m not smart enough to understand whether or not it’s all man-made, whether it’s a natural effect, or whether it’s a combination of both. I do know how it’s affecting those who live in the Bering Sea region and Alaska because I’ve been there (five times since 1999) and seen it first hand. In 2009, for example, my wife and I spent two weeks exploring via small cruise ship the remote Bering Sea region from Kodiak Island, to Dutch Harbor to Eastern Siberia in Russia. It was, to say the least, a trip of a lifetime.

Bering Sea-2

This is Savoonga, the only town on St. Lawrence Island, located in the northern region of the Bering Sea, and as far as I’m concerned the most remote town in the United States.¬†Below is the U.S. Post Office, Zip Code 99769.

Bering Sea-18

Below are photos of a few of the Native Americans who live in Savoonga. They were “dressed up” and welcoming of our visit. They shared native foods with us. They also gathered with us in the high school gymnasium to share their joy in song and dance. These are proud and very wise people.

Bering Sea-28

Bering Sea-19

While there we learned how much these Americans depend on finding and gathering enough sea life annually, as a primary food source. There was a small General Store that sold basic subsistance items, but each was relatively expensive given the need to bring supplies in via air and boat from the Alaska mainland. Seal and Whale meat was hanging in various locations throughout the town, drying to make it less prone to spoiling.

Bering Sea-7-1

We were told how it has become increasingly difficult over the past several years to find enough whales, walruses, seals and other sea life to sucessfully hunt. For example, a single whale, captured and killed using harpoon and small outboard motor boats, might result in enough food for 100 people, for one year. Do the math to figure out how many whales must be found to feed a town of 700. Warming ocean water, the hunters said, seems to be the main cause of the reduced numbers of their usual and traditional prey. These are subsistence hunters. They waste nothing and take only what they need.

Another sight I’ve seen since 1999 is relatively rapid glacial melting, again caused by unusually warm temperatures. On our first visit to Portage Glacier south of Anchorage, for example, it was possible to see the glacier face on Portage Lake from the Visitor’s Center. In August 2017 I was there again at the Visitor’s Center, and the glacier had retreated so far back into adjacent mountains, one had to take a lengthy boat ride to see the face. I saw the same thing in Prince William Sound (August 2017 photo below). While many glaciers there are most impressive by their size, I note that they were much more impressive the first time I saw them.

P1050659

I recall when it was impossible for us to get as close to this glacier as we did this past August. That was because glacier ice clogged the bay almost to the point where I made this photo. I submit that warming temperatures are causing this.

Maybe we’re now going through another “cycle” that earth has experienced many times before. Large climate swings back and forth that may take decades to document. However, I’m weary of listening to and reading theories by so-called experts, and politically motivated bloggers who’ve never been there to see first hand what’s going on. I submit my “facts” observed over almost twenty years of “being there” are worth much more when discussing this situation. Blaming someone or some “thing” does little to help the Native Americans that live in these remote regions.

The Magpie

P1050521

I’ve only seen Magpies in Alaska. Like crows, which I am very familiar with, they are not at all shy of us humans. Inquisitive birds. As I was getting into our parked rental car high up in mountainous terrain north of Anchorage, this bird landed on the car adjacent and watched me. A few years ago at the same location, I watched two Magpies harass a Fox that was trying to get near one of their small chicks huddled in a sheltered spot. The Fox gave up, being chased away by the swooping pair. The one on the car was not so hostile. To me at least. I’m pretty sure he was just looking for a hand-out of a tasty snack. Too bad for the beggar I don’t believe in feeding birds or any other critter in nature. I prefer to look and marvel at what i”m seeing.

P1050523

When to be Thankful

P1050649 (3)

There have been many times over the years when I’m presented with a view in front of me that makes me say, “Wow!” Last month while in Alaska, we took a five-hour high-speed boat cruise in Prince William Sound, with its beautiful glaciers. When we departed Whittier, the weather wasn’t good. The best part of it was that it wasn’t raining, but low clouds, fog, and generally dark conditions made me think I’d have to change my photo focus to closer up views versus far away. But, having been to Prince William Sound several times before, I was prepared for whatever the weather gave us. When I spotted a brightening in the sky far away, I thought maybe our luck might change. And it did. The sun started to pop out and what I saw made me really thankful.

IMG_1149 (2)

Waiting for the Train

In the wilds of Alaska, it’s not always a simple matter to “get there.” A primary mode of transportation is via small “bush” and other forms of private aircraft. There are roads for vehicular traffic, but depending on where you’re headed there may be none. Then there’s my favorite form of transportation, Alaska Railroad. Major cities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks have large passenger depots, but at many locations, such as Girdwood where I was, with our daughter and grandson, it’s a “depot” in name only. Take a look and I think you’ll get the idea.

IMG_1107

IMG_1111

IMG_1106

IMG_1115

Right on time, the trains Conductor stepped off, checked our tickets, and helped us climb aboard, and we were underway in less than five minutes. My main point here is to note that Alaska Rail stops at many locations much more remote than Girdwood. That says a lot about just how “frontier-like” Alaska is compared to much of the rest of the United States.

Exploring Alaska Streams

Regular readers of my Blog might think I’ve changed it’s focus completely on Alaska. It’s true I have lots of recent photos from there I want to share. The main reason for doing that is because we were exceptionally fortunate during the five days spent traveling via car, with just about perfect photo weather. I’ve been home for two weeks and am still in awe about the weather. Mainly because it went completely downhill after we flew home. Sadly for others who came after us. I’m going to keep sharing what I saw. Thankfully I wasn’t alone. My youngest daughter and her son went along. My fifth time, their first. What a way for them to start.

IMG_0932

IMG_0971

IMG_0986

IMG_0934

Alaska Waterfalls

During our recent week-long trip to my favorite place in the world, we saw many beautiful waterfalls. And I do mean “many.” There are also spectacular waterfalls outside Alaska, here in the lower forty-eight, but put the large ones we saw in Alaska down here, and I suspect they’d each be a major tourist attraction. Alaska is so wild, so remote, so varied in terrain, that our senses can be easily be overcome. I love that!

P1050493

P1050490

P1050717

Wide Open Alaska

P1050479

The scenery in Alaska is just incredible … no other word describes it better. Other than photo opportunities by living full time there, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have visited our great frontier state five times since 1999 and thus I’ve accumulated a very nice collection of photos. Of course, weather plays a key part up there because much can be hidden from view with low clouds, fog and misty conditions. I’ve said to many of my friends, if you’re worried about weather in Alaska, don’t go. My latest visit this month was just about perfect in that regard. But the week after, it all went downhill. In a way I felt like we stole all the perfect photo weather. Having said that, however, there really is no “bad” weather in Alaska. It’s what you make of it.

P1050474

P1050473

IMG_0919

IMG_0924

World’s Largest

Lake Hood is the world’s busiest seaplane base, handling an average of 190 flights per day. It is located on Lakes Hood and Spenard, next to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, three miles from downtown Anchorage. Last week I was there, enjoying a picnic supper with our daughter and grandson, watching float planes land and take off. As you can see, the weather was perfect for photography.

P1050544

Along most of the lake’s shoreline there are small “hut’s adjacent to the dock where planes are secured. Some are decorated in unique ways.

IMG_0958

IMG_0959

The best part of our evening was making photos of planes, close up. It took my telephoto lens to make a few, and the images I was able to capture made me smile.

P1050547

P1050551

There is lots to do in Alaska, watching small planes is just one activity. There are more small planes in the state than anywhere else in the country, because that’s the primary way to get around such remote and wide open spaces. That’s what makes our “last frontier” so special. Go if you can.

I’m back … from Alaska

IMG_0932

My fifth time in my absolute favorite place on the planet. Each visit had its own character and experiences, but this one was special to me because I was able to share my joy with our youngest daughter and youngest grandson. Over the next several blog posts I’ll share with you some of the best things we saw. I’m almost 76 and whether or not I’ll be able to go back again is a question to be answered later. But for now, I’m sitting here kinda tired, because long distance traveling isn’t as easy as it once was. However, for the first time ever, we flew First Class both ways and that made it much, much more comfortable and enjoyable. Thank you Alaska Airlines! Commercial intended. So, here we go, my first entry. Mind you, these photos were all made within a relatively short drive from Anchorage. These were made near Portage Lake¬†with its surrounding glaciers. Oh yes, over five trips up north I’ve learned to take the weather as you get it. Some days are perfect, others not so much. If you’re more worried about the weather than the place you’re standing, don’t go.

P1050497

Three “hanging” glaciers on the peak of the mountain in the first photo. (top left, right and bottom center)

P1050489

That’s Alaska Fireweed in the foreground. It’s all over up there and beautiful every time.