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AK Beat: Cruise ship stranding takes toll on tourists' idea of Alaska

Alaska Dispatch
Stephen Nowers photo

Alaska cruise nightmare: Hundreds of people have been displaced in Ketchikan, Alaska, after the 965-foot-long Millenium Celebrity Cruise ship encountered mechanical issues in southeast Alaska. However, that's not stopping passengers from making the best of a disastrous trip, with some enjoying lumberjack shows, totem pole parks and zipline adventures. Still, others have not been as enthusiastic. The AP reports that one family ended up booking a trip back home after "spending a depressing day in the small town" of Seward. A cruise line spokeswoman said the company will be reimbursing the costs of the cruise fares, as well as offering certificates for future cruises.

Mad mama moose: Bernie Barringer and a hunting buddy on their way back to camp in British Columbia encountered a traffic jam all too familiar to Alaskans -- a moose and her two calves in the roadway. But this mama moose wasn't too eager to move out of the way, even going so far as to ram the flatbed truck Barringer and his friend were traveling in four times. Barringer told CNN that they suspected a bear or wolf was somewhere nearby, making the mother less than eager to leave the roadway. Check out the video:

 Barrow gets new hospital: The North Slope community of Barrow will get a new, improved 109,000-square-foot hospital next month. The Arctic Slope Native Association is hosting an opening ceremony Thursday Aug. 22 for the much needed Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital, which will replace 25,000-square-foot hospital built in 1963. Services offered at the new hospital include physical therapy, CT scans and an eye clinic. The hospital has brought 50 new jobs to the region in the last eight months and plans to add 30 more as the hospital opens for service and becomes fully staffed.

Russians say Greenpeace too thin-skinned for Arctic operations: Russia to Greenpeace: “Go home, and take your Warrior Princess with you.” The nation you can actually see from parts of western Alaska has turned back a Greenpeace ship trying to get into Russian Arctic waters, where oil and natural gas drilling is set to take place next year.  The Russians said the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise does not have a strong enough hull to operate in the Kara Sea, north of western Siberia.  Greenpeace claims its ship is tougher than many of the vessels Russia has allowed to sail into its Arctic waters.  The crew of the Arctic Sunrise wanted to shadow Russian oil giant Rosnet and Exxon Mobil’s joint drilling operation in the Arctic.  Greenpeace members, including actress Lucy Lawless – who played the title role in the 1990s mini-series, “Xena the Warrior Princess”, have repeatedly scaled drill rigs off Greenland and Northern Russia, to protest Arctic drilling.

Alaska motors in as second-cheapest state for drivers: It is perhaps just another curious contradictory fact about the Last Frontier – similar to Alaskans eating the most ice cream per capita despite living in the coldest US state.  An annual report ranking US states for the cost of driving shows the 49th state is second-cheapest. The Bankrate Car Cost Index puts Alaska – at an annual cost of $2,227 per year – just behind Oregon ($2,204) on the list of states with the lowest yearly cost for operating a motor vehicle. Georgia is most expensive; its residents pay $4,233 per year.  The report ranks each state based annual fuel expense, insurance costs, taxes/fees, and repairs.  The report said Alaska’s high fuel prices are offset by the fact its residents don’t drive as much as their Lower 48 counterparts.

Alaska politics 'model of biparatisanship'?: United Kingdom-based newspaper The Guardian is hosting an analysis of Alaska's political landscape, penned by a professor of politics and public policy in Edinburgh, who claims the Last Frontier is now a "model of bipartisanship." Opening with a critique of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, author Daniel Kenealy moves on to his central thesis: the talked-about possibility of Independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker teaming up with Democrat Bill Wielechowski -- who has been floated as a potential candidate for lieutenant governor -- for a dual Bill W. ticket in 2014. Alaska might have softened a bit in the years since Palin, but the state is still staunchly Republican, and Alaska's Democratic Senator, Mark Begich, frequently sides with his conservative counterparts on such issues as resource development and gun control.

Bush pilots, you’ve been warned: The Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve has again put Alaska aviators on notice that gravel-strip landings are no longer kosher at Gelvin’s Airstrip. Says the park service: This unmaintained landing area suffered damage from spring floods earlier in the year ... It is strongly recommended that pilots inspect the gravel bar prior to attempting a landing. The park service adds that the public is still welcome -- a change from language that had said the Gelvin Airstrip was "permanently closed" -- but needs to recreate responsibly.

2016 Arctic Winter Games hockey assist: There was minor controversy when 2016 Arctic Winter Games host city Nuuk, Greenland, announced last year that there would be no hockey, curling, figure skating, speed skating, gymnastics and dog mushing in 2016 because the city lacks the facilities. But the city of Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian Arctic province Nunavut, gets credit for an assist. On Wednesday, the two cities, which co-hosted the biennial games in 2002, announced that Iqaluit will host women's and bantam ice hockey in 2016. Next year's Arctic Winter Games will be held in Fairbanks, Alaska.