So on last Christmas Eve, I was up on a park overlooking Glendora California, and I noticed the way the sun light was reflecting off some of the buildings below. I kept trying to take pictures of it, and they were kinda neat, but they really didn’t pop, so to speak. I moved up and down the trail I was on, looking for the best angle, and nothing I did seemed to make this potentially interesting picture work. Finally, I glanced over to my right and saw this…
The occasion was Whalefest, which was held at the beginning of this November. My colleague, Linda Nicholas-Figuroa, turned me on to this gathering a couple years ago, and I found the event both enjoyable and instructive. So, I was excited to hear that the conference was back on for this year.,
We attended most of the regular conference panels by zoom, but they still had a few in-person events, hands-on stuff (necropsy goodness!) and out-doors (whale-watching). I love the area. So, my baby and I packed our cameras and headed down there with a colleague and a couple students.
Utqiagvik joined the list of communities throughout the U.S. that saw demonstrations in support of women’s reproductive rights today. About a dozen folks participated in this event, encouraged by occasional honks and waves from passing drivers. They gathered at the Barrow Whalebone Arch and marched out to the front of the bank building where, a few of the organizers gave speeches before the event came to a close.
This is a small voice from a distant corner of the nation, but it’s nice to hear it just the same. I can only hope it joins a chorus loud enough to be heard in all the right places.
Way back when I first saw the ad for a social science professor at Iḷisaġvik College, I remember pulling up the college website to fight a polar bear alert on the front page. Now some might have found this a bug, but I can assure you that for me this was a definite feature. I really wanted to see this place. As it happens, polar bears don’t show up that often, and when they do, it seems that I’m always busy. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to get up close and personal with one of these guys; I just enjoy seeing them from time to time, and especially when I have a camera handy.
So, I’m sitting in the cafeteria during the orientation for this semester when a notice goes out telling us there is a polar bear on the beach, just across from our buildings. The point of the alert is of course to let us know that we shouldn’t wander out that way (at least not on foot), but they do sometimes have an ironic effect. I desperately wanted to take a really long bathroom break right then and then, but I managed to hold myself together long enough to take advantage of a legitimate lunch break.
…and then the bear stuck around for a couple of days. Apparently, a walrus carcass had washed ashore nearby and he was munching on that in between naps on the beach and out on the ice. Eventually the local Wildlife department moved the carcass, but not before I and half the town got plenty of pictures.
It’s been awhile since I have posted anything, and we are now in 24-hour sunlight here in Barrow, so I am missing the light displays we had this winter. The northern lights don’t always make a substantial showing up this way, but this year, they put on a show that wasn’t half bad.
Of course, being a grumpy old bastard, I’m not always keen to drive out of the light pollution here in town to take pics in the freezing cold, and it doesn’t help that my camera these days isn’t great for night pics, but my gal, Moni, is still blessed with joy when she sees them, and she is always happy to drag me out onto ‘cake-eater road’ where we can take these pictures and I can grumble about the whole thing here in this gigantic run-on sentence.
Yeah, that’s just how I roll!
Often as not, I am glad that Moni makes me go out and take pictures with her, but I’ll be damned if my fingers don’t stay mad sometimes for hours. Hot chocolate helps.
In any event, we gots pics!
I took mine with my phone, so they aren’t the greatest, but some of these are kinda cool.
I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but I need a cuteness break, right about now.
So, I’m going to post some pics of these little birds we get here over the summer. they usually arrive in April or May, and it seems like they disappear with the first few snows of the Fall, so usually by October. I’m told they are called “snow buntings.” I don’t think these critters are really all that unusual. I probably saw plenty of snow buntings when I lived in the lower 48, but I sure notice them a lot more now. Their arrival is a welcome sign that what counts as Spring here is actually starting to happen. I hear them singing first in the Spring often without actually seeing any for a couple weeks. Finally, the numbers get large enough to enjoy the sites.
Love these little guys!
I took these pics over the last couple summers. (Click to embiggen!)
One of the first things I did when I moved to Barrow was walk out onto the tundra with my little Backberry phone and try to get some pictures of a snowy owl that stayed out behind the college here. He would stare at me as I approached and then fly away just as I was almost in range for a decent photo, only to land a hundred feet or so away and stare calmly at me as I repeated my efforts. I almost got some decent pics of that guy. All day, I almost got them.
There was something the way that owl just watched me approach. It was a forgone conclusion. It wasn’t going to get THAT close, so he was in no hurry to fly away. He took off just as I was about to get close enough for a decent pic, and he went just far enough to re-establish his own comfort zone, and incidentally to tempt me to engage in one more round of effort.
These days, I have an actual camera. I’m still a bit clumsy with a lens, but my camera is smart enough to compensate for some of my photo-foolishness, and the result is a (hopefully) passable batch of owlitations. Most of them were taken the summer before last. This year, there just didn’t seem to be enough hot lemming action to draw a big owly crowd. Anyway, …owls!
I had already booked a work-related flight to Fairbanks when Covid19 began spreading through the U.S. I remember talking about it with Moni in the days before I flew, and especially the night before I was to go. We seriously talked about cancelling the trip, but I thought it best to follow through with my plans. By the time the plane hit ground the next day, pubic sentiment had shifted from something along the lines of “maybe wear a mask, wash your hands a lot, and avoid crowds” to something more like “don’t go out at all, definitely wear a mask, and start shutting down the businesses. By the time I left Fairbanks 3 days later, the University was all but closed and restaurants were take-out only. Touching people, even to shake hands, was not done. Needless to say, I didn’t get much done. I felt pretty relieved to get home safely.
And then there was a period when we were all just locked down and travel wasn’t really an option.
I felt this.
I felt it in my teeth.
And in my stomach.
I had already scheduled a visit with an oral surgeon. He was to take the remains of 2 molars out the right side of my mouth, hopefully before the botched cap on my left side fell out and left me on a solid yogurt diet.
As the time of Covid stretched on, and people began to realize this wasn’t ending any time soon, I started to think about flying south to get my teeth done after all. With the help of her sister (a nurse), Moni had the safety precautions down to a science, and we started making limited forays out of the arctic. I still cringe at the thought of leaving the state, but with a little planning, I feel like we can get down to Anchorage and get what needs doing done. We can even venture pout of our room a bit, in which case we figure it’s best to keep going right out of town.
One good thing about Alaska, some of the best things about it take you well away from other people.
Still got one last procedure before I can sink my teeth into a proper steak. I would prefer to hunker down completely for the next few months, but I may need to risk one more trip. In the meantime, it occurs to me that I haven’t done a proper poto-gallery in awhile. So, here are a few pictures from recent travels. This of course includes a few drives around town, and maybe a few from before the pandemic. Anyway, …pics!
(Click the pics to embiggen them. You know you wanna!)