Serpentine Hot Springs and early Alaskans

John Shook of Fairbanks skis into Serpentine Hot Springs on the Seward Peninsula, not far from a hillside where hunters fashioned stone spear tips thousands of years ago.

Ned Rozell

Skiing across the raw, open landscape of the Seward Peninsula a few weeks ago, my friends and I dreamed of getting out of a big wind and into the tub at Serpentine Hot Springs.

 

Denali air still pristine, with a few specks

Denali has the clearest air of any monitored U.S. national park.

Ned Rozell

Fairbanks's air turns bitter every winter as we fill it with woodsmoke and other things, but just down the road Denali National Park has the clearest air measured among America's monitored national parks.

 

Digging up Augustine's top-heavy legacy

Augustine Volcano during its 2005-2006 eruption.

Cyrus Read, Alaska Volcano Observatory/USGS.

Augustine Volcano sits alone, a 4,000-foot pyramid on its own island in Cook Inlet. Like many volcanoes, it has a tendency to become top heavy. When gravity acts on Augustine's oversteepened dome, rockslides spill into the ocean. A scientist recently found new evidence for an Augustine-generated tsunami from a time when Egyptian pharaohs built their own pyramids.

Your hair knows where you've been

Michelle Chartrand of the University of Ottawa performs isotopic analyses on human hair to find out more about a person’s whereabouts and diet.

Photo by Ned Rozell.

Sprouting from your head at the rate of more than three inches a year, hair is a recorder of the things you eat and drink and where you ate and drank them. An Ottawa-based researcher has just assembled a countrywide database of Canadians’ hair designed to help the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

           

Alaska creatures without us

Songbirds like this ruby-crowned kinglet would probably do better if people flew away.

Photo by Ned Rozell.

In Alan Weisman’s book, The World Without Us, the author ponders “a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Tomorrow.”

 

In last week’s column, a few experts discussed the fate of Alaska structures if Alaskans were to disappear. This week, people who study Alaska’s wildlife donate some thought to the subject.

The experiment that never ends

A plastic disc from an experiment 30 years ago, found by Paul Boots on Alaska’s North Slope in late July 2011.

Photo by Paul Boots.

Some experiments never end. Especially ones involving plastic objects released in the far north.

In late July 2011, Paul Boots, a supervisor at an
oilfield on Alaska’s North Slope, found a small, yellow plastic disc on a
creekbed. Scientists 30 years ago tossed the disc into the sea as part
of a study on arctic oil spills.

Boots, who works at the large gravel pad that hosts the
Badami oil field, was with his coworkers on an annual cleanup day along
a nameless creek just west of the gravel pad.

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