Sunday, October 17News That Matters

Tag: Alaska

A Stunning Look at the Hidden Mysteries of Glacier Caves

A Stunning Look at the Hidden Mysteries of Glacier Caves

Travel
I was dangling from a thin nylon rope, some 250 feet from the bottom of an icy shaft. Looking up, I noted the spindrift — blinding snow whipped into a frenzy by howling winds — that was sandblasting the entrance, some 20 feet above me. I was glad to be out of the weather, hanging in near silence.As my eyes adjusted to the lower light, I found myself staring down into a chasm that was far bigger than anything I thought we might find beneath the surface of the Greenland ice sheet.All I could think was: “This shouldn’t be here.”It was 2018, and I was on an expedition with Will Gadd, a Canadian adventure athlete, to explore moulins, or giant vertical caves, in the Greenland ice sheet. Will was already at the bottom of the shaft. From my vantage point, he looked like an insect with a headlamp.A...
Court Blocks a Vast Alaskan Drilling Project, Citing Climate Dangers

Court Blocks a Vast Alaskan Drilling Project, Citing Climate Dangers

Technology, World
WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Alaska on Wednesday blocked construction permits for an expansive oil drilling project on the state’s North Slope that was designed to produce more than 100,000 barrels of oil a day for the next 30 years.The multibillion-dollar plan, known as Willow, by the oil giant ConocoPhillips had been approved by the Trump administration and legally backed by the Biden administration. Environmental groups sued, arguing that the federal government had failed to take into account the effects that drilling would have on wildlife and that the burning of the oil would have on global warming.A federal judge has agreed.In her opinion, Judge Sharon L. Gleason of the United States District Court for Alaska wrote that when the Trump administration permitted the project, the Inte...
In Alaska, the Salmon Catch Hints at the Chaos of Climate Change

In Alaska, the Salmon Catch Hints at the Chaos of Climate Change

LifeStyle
This summer, fishers in the world’s largest wild salmon habitat pulled a record-breaking 65 million sockeye salmon from Alaska’s Bristol Bay, beating the 2018 record by more than three million fish.But on the Yukon River, about 500 miles to the north, salmon were alarmingly absent. This summer’s chum run was the lowest on record, with only 153,000 fish counted in the river at the Pilot Station sonar — a stark contrast to the 1.7 million chum running in year’s past. The king salmon runs were also critically low this summer — the third lowest on record. The Yukon’s fall run is also shaping up to be sparse.The disparity between the fisheries is concerning — a possible bellwether for the chaotic consequences of climate change; competition between wild and hatchery fish; and commercial fishing ...
A Woolly Mammoth’s Tusks Reveal a Map of Where It Roamed in Life

A Woolly Mammoth’s Tusks Reveal a Map of Where It Roamed in Life

Technology
More than 17,000 years ago, a woolly mammoth known today as Kik wandered far and wide across Alaska during his 28 years of life.When Kik was young, he spent most of his time in the Alaskan interior, a less mountainous area. Then, when he turned 15, his patterns of movement shifted, spending much more time to the north, where the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve are found today.During some years, Kik migrated with the seasons. Other years, he largely stayed put in the same area all year around.In the last couple of years of his life, his movement slowed, and he was confined to a smaller area above the Arctic Circle. At 28 when he died, Kik was still middle age for a mammoth.This map of where Kik roamed during his life was pieced together by studying signatures of elemen...
Stranded Killer Whale Survives With Help of Good Samaritans

Stranded Killer Whale Survives With Help of Good Samaritans

Technology
Boaters in Alaska came upon a peculiar sight on Thursday: A 20-foot-long killer whale was on the shore, stuck in a crevice of rocks.Someone on a boat had spotted the orca on Prince of Wales Island near the coast of British Columbia, Julie Fair, a spokeswoman for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in an email.The first call to the U.S. Coast Guard came around 9 a.m. about the whale, which was stranded on the rugged shores at least four feet above the tide line.Soon, Chance Strickland, the captain of a private yacht in Alaska, and his crew anchored and came ashore to spray the whale with seawater. The mist kept the whale cool and scared away birds that had gathered nearby in the trees, waiting for a chance to eat the orca alive.Mr. Strickland and his crew hoped that wh...
It’s a Grizzly Bear Survival Program. For Grizzly Bears.

It’s a Grizzly Bear Survival Program. For Grizzly Bears.

Technology
One morning in mid-July, Lana M. Ciarniello, a bear biologist in British Columbia, caught a flight from Vancouver Island, where she lives, to a wildlife sanctuary in the northwestern part of the province to meet two baby grizzlies, the newest subjects in an unusual study she is conducting.The two cubs — brothers, born this spring — were orphaned when their mother was shot. Traditionally, grizzly mothers in North America tend their offspring for at least two years, teaching them to find food and keep out of trouble before nudging them to live on their own. These cubs were far too young to survive without her.Most grizzly cubs orphaned in North America — say, in the lower 48 U.S. states where they are endangered, or in Alaska and Canada where they are more plentiful — are shot on the spot, l...
Biden to Restore Protections for Tongass National Forest in Alaska

Biden to Restore Protections for Tongass National Forest in Alaska

Technology
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration is expected to announce on Thursday that it will move forward with a plan to fully restore environmental protections to Tongass National Forest in Alaska, one of the world’s largest intact temperate rain forests. The protections had been stripped away by former President Donald J. Trump.Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, whose agency includes the United States Forest Service, is expected to announce the news, according to two people briefed on the matter who asked to speak anonymously because it had not yet been made public.Spokespeople for the White House, the Agriculture Department and the Forest Service did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday night.Alaskan lawmakers hoped that the Biden administration might restore protections to some p...
Tiny Fossils From Alaska Reveal Dinosaur Life in the Arctic

Tiny Fossils From Alaska Reveal Dinosaur Life in the Arctic

Technology
The hot dinosaur has captured the public imagination. Our favorite prehistoric giants are often depicted roaming dry savannas or munching on tropical leaves.But some dinosaurs had a chiller lifestyle. Deposits of baby dinosaur bones and teeth in northern Alaska, reported Thursday in Current Biology, suggest that a number of species survived year-round above the Arctic Circle — enduring freezing temperatures, food shortages and four straight months of darkness, as well as the occasional snowstorm.The first polar dinosaur footprints were found in 1960, stomped into the Svalbard archipelago. Over the following decades, evidence of dinosaurs at both Arctic and Antarctic latitudes emerged. This led to curiosity about how they managed — especially in the northern regions, which, while warmer tha...
Touring Alaska in an R.V.

Touring Alaska in an R.V.

Travel
The land yacht surged and swayed over frost heaves at 65 m.p.h., each bump nudging the seemingly physics-defying craft as it hurtled down the highway. The engine purred its way up and down topographic reliefs and, with little hesitation, roared to life to climb the steeper passes.Despite the motor home’s sedate and boxy exterior, the refinements of design and automotive engineering somehow manage to coalesce around a single idea: What if I could drive my house from my couch?Rounding the next bend, I was greeted with yet another mountainous vista in a seemingly endless chain of snow-capped peaks that line the Glenn Highway, which runs from Anchorage to Glennallen, and the Richardson Highway, which stretches from Valdez in the south to Fairbanks in the north.I gazed out the window at the lat...
Biden Plans to Restore Protections to Tongass National Forest in Alaska

Biden Plans to Restore Protections to Tongass National Forest in Alaska

Technology, World
The Biden administration plans to restore environmental protections to Tongass National Forest in Alaska, one of the world’s largest intact temperate rain forests, that had been stripped away by former President Donald J. Trump.The administration intends to “repeal or replace” a Trump-era rule which opened about nine million acres, or more than half of the forest, to logging and road construction, according to a White House document published on Friday.The Tongass, in southeastern Alaska, is home to more than 400 species of wildlife, fish and shellfish, including nesting bald eagles, moose and the world’s highest concentration of black bears. Among its snowy peaks, fijords and rushing rivers are stands of red and yellow cedar and Western hemlock as well as Sitka spruce trees at least 800 y...