Saturday, February 28, 2015

Sending Snow to Anchorage, AK


Anchorage, Alaska normally enjoys the third largest snowfall average of any American city--and the local residents do enjoy the snow. They live outside in the winter almost as much as in the summer.  Boston, whose average yearly snowfall doesn't even register among the top 101 cities in the United States, by now has over four times the amount of snow as Anchorage.

Lurking behind this apparent anomaly is the "inconvenient truth" that climate change is real, and 97% of scientific studies agree that global warming is man-made.  This situation--which ought to demand 100% of the attention of our legislators--certainly is not helped by the fact that three-quarters of our Republican Senators are climate deniers.

Among our Senators who show little interest in lessening the obvious causes of global warming are Alaska's senior Senator, Lisa Murkowski, and its new junior Senator, Dan Sullivan, who egregiously shills for the oil companies by spouting nonsense like this: "we shouldn't lock up America's resources and kill tens of thousands of good jobs by continuing to pursue the President's anti-energy policies."

Could it possibly be that these representatives of the great state of Alaska are unaware that ice is melting, the sea is encroaching and villages like Newtok, AK are washing into the sea to create "America's first climate refugees?" 

Could it possibly be that these representatives are unaware that Alaska's glaciers, a big tourist draw, are melting rapidly, to the endangerment of marine life, agriculture, hydroelectricity capture, and water supplies?

Could it possibly be that they haven't visited the far north of their state to see how the permafrost is thawing, causing shifts of the earth and collapsed buildings?

Alas, all this is possible, even if it might call into question the level of representation these two Senators are giving their state. 

What is not possible, however, is that they would be unaware of the fact that the Iditarod, Alaska's most famous, international sporting event, will not have its start in Anchorage this year. There simply isn't enough snow.

The Anchorage start is actually only ceremonial. The sleds, carrying an extra passenger or two for this short run, head through the city before loading up on the outskirts for the real start, eighty miles north in Willow, AK.  However, even Willow and the first legs of the race don't have enough snow, so this year's start will take place on March 9 in Fairbanks, Alaska, some 300 miles north.

Were it possible, I would send Anchorage and its surroundings the 100-inches of snow that Boston has had so far this year. That gesture being impossible, I instead offer the following photographs taken two years ago to my friends in this wonderful northern playground--CindyV., Alison K., Kalani C., Carlette M., Greg K., Chrystal M., Veronica E., Steven J. and Richard Z.


 


Iditarod, Ceremonial Start, Sled # 2: Martin Buser, Anchorage, Alaska, March 2, 2013

I start with one photograph from that ceremonial start on March 2, 2013.  For more shots, open the blog that I posted eleven days later, when I arrived back in the Bronx. 





Anchorage, Alaska, February 2013, Domestic Scene on 5th Avenue

If less snow this year means more available trees and bushes for foraging on the outskirts of the city, local moose may be withholding their landscaping duties from inner city residents. Two years ago, however, the moose teams were hard at work inside the city limits.





Anchorage, Alaska, February 2013, View from the Mud Flats toward Point Woronzof

Here is a view of the snow-covered mud flats, just at the northern edge of the city, looking west at sunset.







Anchorage, Alaska, February 2013, Golden Wheel Amusements, Apollo Ride




Anchorage, Alaska, February 2013, Golden Wheel Amusements, Steel Pole with Rime Frost

Here's proof of the outdoor proclivity of Anchorage locals in the middle of winter, as a traveling fair had been invited to set up in an open market area right in the downtown. 

When not snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or riding fat-wheeled bicycles (of which I saw many), go buy some cotton candy and take a ride on a ferris wheel.   Just don't then lick that steel pole!







Approaching the Foothills of the Alaska Range from Anchorage, February 2013

Here is an air view I took as we flew to Mount McKinley. For more photographs of this trip and of the highest mountain peak in North America, see my blog post, “An Alaska Pictorial: Denali--Mount McKinley.”







Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, View with Lake Tiulana

Finally, here is the snow accumulation that Anchorage did not receive this year. My visit to the Alaska Native Heritage Center one afternoon in late February of 2013 took me to this veritable winter wonderland. Encircling the lake are traditional dwellings that represent several of the native Alaskan culture groups.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Haida/Tlingit Dwelling [L] & Carving Shed [R]




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Haida/Tlingit Dwelling and Shed

These two buildings and totem pole are identified as representative of an "Eyak, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian Village site." 

From my little knowledge of native Alaskan culture, I would guess that these four cultures share certain traits, but as the Tlingit (of Alaska's Southeast panhandle) and the Haida (originally from the Queen Charlotte Islands of B.C.) are Alaska's two most powerful groups, I cite only them in my photo captions.

The houses are built of cedar, spruce and hemlock timbers and planks. The roof, so I have read but of course can't see with all the snow, would either be made from cedar bark or spruce shingles.




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Haida/Tlingit Totem

A totem pole normally would have figures that would identify the clan of the families that lived in the house and reveal something of their ancestry. This totem, however, was carved in 2003 by a master carver: Nathian Jackson. In the top section shown here, a young man opens a box in order to share wisdom with his people, while the elder, above him, is the clan's instructor of values.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Alutiiq/Unangax Dwellings

Clearly quite different in structure, these houses appear to have roofed their wood frames with grass and sod. Some Alutiiq and Unangax houses were semi-subterranean, but I can't recall if that was the case with these two.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Alutiiq/Unangax Dwelling, Interior

The Unangan kayak, which is here displayed in the center, has been described as "one of the most highly refined sea-going vessels ever designed anywhere," and was usually constructed solely of driftwood and the skin of sea mammals.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Cu'pic Qasgic Dwelling




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Cu'pic Qasgic Dwelling

This site has three houses, two smaller ones flanking a larger one. All are made from driftwood posts and beams covered with sod. The larger one is called a qasgic and was the men's house. In it, the men of the community, including the younger ones, worked, ate, slept and trained. Women and girls, who lived in the smaller houses, would join the men in the evenings and for dances and other community celebrations.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Cu'pic Qasgic Dwelling




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Cu'pic Qasgic Dwelling, Interior




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Cu'pic Qasgic Dwelling, Interior



Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Cu'pic Qasgic Dwelling, Interior

This is a particularly elegant interior. I wish I knew more about the many items on display, but I'll just leave them, unidentified, even if I could make a educated guess on a few of them. By the way, the interior was cozy and fairly warm, even with no fire in that central fire pit. Clearly, the sod insulates very well.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, View to Inupiac Qargi




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Inupiac Qargi




Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Inupiac Qargi, Entrance

This is another semi-subterranean structure with a tunnel-like entrance that descends and then turns to the right to lead into the house itself. In this manner, the cold air at the open entrance does not invade the living space. 





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Athabascan Log House

The Athabascan natives inhabit Alaska's interior, and this log house can be rented from the Center for special events.  I am guessing that the small structure raised high on poles and seen in the background is for food storage.





Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Athabascan Log House



Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Athabascan Log House, Entry with moose Antlers






Alaska Native Heritage Center, Anchorage, AK, Shed with lashed logs

That's all the snow I have for now. 

I hope my friends in Anchorage can enjoy these photographs--possibly as much a memory for them, alas, as for me.

I also hope that my friends in Boston forgive my inability to transport all the snow from the 6th state to the 49th state. They may as well just enjoy it. As the Turkish author and playwright, Mehmet Murat Ildan wrote, “Snowing is an attempt of God to make the dirty world look clean.”

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