Reading the north

Kathleen Macknicki

Alaska's Bush Pilots

Rob Stapleton with the Alaska Aviation Museum (Arcadia Publishing, $21.99)

The blurb: Bush pilots are known as rough, tough, resourceful people who fly their aircraft into tight spots in the worst of weather. Alaska's bush pilots are all of that and more. Acting as pioneers in a land with 43,000 miles of coastline and North America's largest mountains, Alaska's bush pilots were and are visionaries of a lifestyle of freedom. This book examines the pioneer aviators and aircraft types such as the Stearman, Stinson and Lockheed, many of which were tested and crashed in the far-north regions of Alaska.

Excerpt: Merle K. "Mudhole" Smith learned to fly in 1928 and barnstormed all over the Midwest. "Kirk" Kirkpatrick brought him to Alaska in 1937 to fly for Cordova Air Service. Smith got his nickname from Bob Reeve, who according to some accounts observed his plane nosed over in a mud hole. Smith later became president of Cordova Air Service after owner Kirkpatrick was killed in a 1939 crash. In 1952, it merged with Christensen Air Service to become Cordova Airlines, which merged with Alaska Airlines in 1968. Smith was a vice president and director of Alaska Airlines until 1973. He was inducted into the OX-5 Aviation Pioneers Hall of Fame and the Alaska Aviation Museum Hall of Fame. Born on September 22, 1907, in Kansas, Smith died on June 16, 1981, in Cordova. The Cordova Airport is named Merle K. Smith Airport.

9.2: Kodiak and the World's Second-Largest Earthquake

James Brooks (Kodiak Daily Mirror, $39.95; photos courtesy of Baranov Museum)

The blurb: First came the shaking, then came the waves. By the time the disaster ended, the world's second-largest earthquake was an afterthought. On March 27, 1964, Kodiak Island was hit by the largest disaster in its history. Nineteen people died across the Kodiak archipelago. One hundred thirty-one died in Alaska, Oregon and California. Downtown Kodiak was destroyed. Fishing boats were thrown ashore, settling next to the elementary school or atop houses and stores. The villages of Kaguyak, Afognak and Old Harbor were wiped out. Old Harbor rebuilt -- Kaguyak and Afognak never did. In these pages, we share the story of the day 50 years ago that changed the lives of everyone who lived through it. The Marines and Seabees helped Kodiak recover and rebuild, but memories last, and islanders wait for the next time the ground shakes...

Photo, above: A pair of cars rest overturned under a collapsed garage in the ruins of downtown Kodiak. After the tsunamis, even untouched cars had to be scrapped because of immersion in seawater.

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki, Anchorage Daily News

Compiled by Kathleen Macknicki
Anchorage Daily News