Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cold-Hard-Fact #1


What goes up must come down and sometimes it's a bumpy landing.

I took this photo from my porch about a week ago. Not terrific photography, I know. The light was spare and it was in the -30's at the time, so I didn't spend a lot of time trying to get a better shot.

It always amazes me when I see airplanes this enormous on our tiny, unpaved air strip. I had heard, a few days before, that a plane was blown off the runway while landing, but I hadn't realized when I took this photo that this was the plane.


When I got to work the next day, I asked about it and was told that the airplane I'd photographed was a cargo plane that was hit by a 40 mph crosswind just before touchdown. Remember that really windy day I mentioned a while back? That was the day.

As the pilot attempted to land, the right wing dipped suddenly causing the wheels to edge off the air strip onto softer, unpacked snow several feet below. And that drove the prop on the far-right engine into the ground. Ouch!

My photos were taken several days after the accident, days after tireless crews worked with machinery on-hand to haul the aircraft back onto the air strip for assessment and repair. As I understand it, they used bulldozers to pull the plane and a front-end loader to move/remove the damaged engine.

A big thank you to Mel, our plant manager, for donating the following photos from the airport.

Several vehicles were being used as light sources while the work was going on. I am astounded that they were able to do all of this under such challenging conditions.



Notice the engine sitting on the ground!


Being off the road system, this village depends on air transport for just about everything. This particular aircraft was carrying building materials and possibly furniture. It could just as easily have been carrying fuel, a completely different scenario. Thankfully, no one was injured in the accident. In fact, I don't think the cargo was seriously damaged either.

It seems we were blessed with an uneventful ending to what could have been a tragic tale.

My hope is that we never take that for granted.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cool Rays


According to the Weather Underground sticker on the sidebar, we enjoyed three hours and fifteen minutes of sunlight today. That doesn't include ambient light, of course. On the Weather Underground website, they also report that the sun's time above the horizon is currently increasing at a rate of 14 minutes and 53 seconds per day. That increase does vary some from day to day....strange, but true.

Also, I would say those numbers are close, but not exact, for Atqasuk. Weather Underground reports our weather conditions and moon/sunlight using Barrow airport information which isn't always accurate down here (55 miles southwest of Barrow).

I like to get my weather info from NOAA (see weather link in sidebar) because those readings are taken hourly with instruments that are actually at our airport. Their numbers always jibe with my home thermometer and I like that! But I haven't found any sunlight information from that source, so I've kept the Weather Underground sticker on the sidebar. And it's pretty close.

The point of all this is...
We're gaining sunlight quickly! It won't be long before sunglasses are standard gear and aluminum foil graces windows all over town.

As the next photo illustrates, a little sunlight brings out the frisky in everyone...even, maybe especially, at twenty below.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Solar Sighting...How Exciting!


Our first day of sun was January 21st, but my classroom is on the north side of the school and I missed it! I heard about it, though. Kids were buzzing. Adults were humming. I must have been asked more than twenty times, "Kimberlee, did you see the sun?"

The second day, I was determined to catch a glimpse and I wasn't disappointed. This time of year, the sun stays low in the sky, splashing clouds with buttery gold, blazing a tangerine trail from southeast to southwest. It's not much of a trek at this point and it's over before you know it, but that doesn't seem to diminish the impact...and may even serve to heighten it.

Even unsightly telephone poles take on a regal appearance against a gilded backdrop such as this. At least it seems that way to me, but I'll admit that my perception may be a tad skewed.


What is it they say?

Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

I think, in this case, the old adage rings true.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Almost There


Cloud cover broke on Saturday revealing, for a few short moments, a slim stretch of southern sky, ablaze with long-forgotten glory. I stood on a snowy hill captivated by the brilliance and intensity. Nuna seemed to be yawning, stretching a little, stirring from her long winter nap. Her eyes fluttered, but never completely opened.

Not yet.

Tomorrow, I think. Or maybe the next day.

The faint breeze was warm enough to prompt lowering my parka hood, yet cold enough to make me sorry that I'd done it. Ears stinging, I lifted my hood and walked eastward, toward the river where snow fences stand at attention, while the building breeze nudged me from behind.


By the time I reached the snow fences, only a few minutes later, the wind was already picking up and kicking up lots of snow.



Heading home, I passed the spot where I'd just taken pictures of the sunlight. Gone were the oranges, purples, and pinks. Nuna's eyes had shut tight again with the covers pulled up over her head.

Not today.

Not yet.

Maybe tomorrow. Or the day after.


Riders on snow machines raced around the village, hunkering down against the sting of blowing snow. I was actually enjoying the wind and the tapping sound of snow pelting my parka.


I held tightly to my dog's leash as the wind whipped it sideways with ferocious jerks. I smiled at the (silly) thought of my dog, if only a few pounds lighter, suddenly becoming airborne like a kite.
It could happen.


Judging by his pace, as he struggled to get back home, I think my dog might have had the same idea.


But, somehow, he didn't seem at all amused.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Weekend at the Beach


Some southern friends of mine spent time at the beach recently. Slightly envious, I headed for a beach of my own. The ambient temperature was in the negative thirties. I know, not exactly typical beach weather, but beautiful nonetheless. This shot was taken from the shore of the Arctic Ocean in Barrow. I spent the weekend there visiting with friends, enjoying restaurant food, and shopping in actual stores...all rare luxuries.

The whale bones and umiaq (skin boat) frames in the photo above mark the historic site of a former whaling headquarters from the days when ships had sails, whale oil burned in lamps, and whale baleen was used to make women's corsets. Today, Brower's Cafe inhabits that space. And they make a great breakfast, no corsets involved (thank goodness!).

This time of year, the moon is seldom visible (at least in Atqasuk) because of persistent cloud cover. So it was an unexpected treat to be graced with this mesmerizing, pearl-like glow throughout the entire weekend.


I've heard it said, though reports are conflicting, that Alaska consumes more ice cream per capita than any other state. Well, we must be at the top of the drive-through coffee shack list as well. These little businesses are popping up everywhere across the state and now Barrow boasts one of its own. Unfortunately, when we stopped by on the way to my flight, it was closed. Maybe next time.

Aarigaa Java...what a great name!


The visit was way too short, but the flight home was uneventful. That's a reasonable trade-off, in my book. Now my freezer is relatively full, as is my heart after precious quiet time spent with friends.


I can honestly say, it was a great weekend at the beach!

Thursday, January 1, 2009



Potential: existing possibility, not yet evident or realized.

What will this new year bring?

What will
I bring to this new year?