Reading the North

Alaska Airlines

By Cliff and Nancy Hollenbeck (Hollenbeck Productions, $39.95)

The blurb: This book is a visual celebration of Alaska Airlines, providing a glimpse of the airline's rugged ancestors, variety of aircraft, colorful printed materials and unusual memorabilia.

Excerpt: "On a cold 1932 winter morning, where the temperature has been known to reach -80° Fahrenheit, and in the middle of a countrywide economic depression, a struggling and nearly broke businessman, Linious 'Mac' McGee, did the almost unthinkable. He started a one-plane airline in the Territory of Alaska. The primary mission of his risky, new enterprise was to transport trappers and their furs between Bristol Bay and Anchorage. It was his second foray into Alaska's still adolescent world of flight and, as fate would have it, the launch of an extraordinary and continuing saga like no other in the history of aviation.

"Through some eighty years of mergers, purchases and back-room deals, McGee Airways has grown into one of the most successful and admired airlines in the world. Alaska Airlines. Today this vibrant air carrier group operates a fleet of some 165 aircraft and serves 90 cities in Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico and across the continental United States, with a growing force of nearly 13,000 dedicated and professional employees."

Caribou Herds of Northwest Alaska, 1850-2000

By Ernest S. Burch Jr. (University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, $29.95)

The blurb: In his final major publication, the late Ernest S. "Tiger" Burch Jr. reconstructs the complex history of caribou herds in Northwest Alaska using ethnohistoric and ethnographic data. He explores the factors that contributed to the decline and recovery of regional caribou populations for well over a century, including human hunting, wolf predation and ecological change.

Excerpt: "The words caribou and reindeer are often used interchangeably. This is not unreasonable since they are both members of the same species, Rangifer tarandus. However, R. tarandus is divided into a number of generally recognized subspecies, which differ from one another in size, pelage, antler structure, maturation rate, geographic distribution, and, to some extent, behavior. Only two of these subspecies are relevant to the present work. The caribou native to Northwest Alaska belong to the subspecies Rangifer tarandus granti, or 'Grant's caribou.' They belong to a larger grouping formerly known as 'barren-ground caribou,' but which is now referred to generally as 'migratory tundra caribou.' Alaska reindeer, on the other hand, which were initially imported from northern Asia, belong to the subspecies Rangifer tarandus tarandus."

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News

Compiled by Matt Sullivan, Anchorage Daily News