Yereth Rosen

A Shell-contracted icebreaker damaged earlier this month in Unalaska Bay had up-to-date navigational charts on board, but the ship's draft went deeper than a previously unidentified shoal rising up from the bay's floor, according to initial findings of an investigation into the accident, the U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday. The Fennica , a 381-foot Finnish ship hired by Shell to support the company’s planned Chukchi Sea oil drilling program, sustained a 3-foot-long gash in its hull while heading out of the Aleutian bay to start its journey north to the Arctic. The July 3 incident resulted in a ballast tank leak and put the ship temporarily out of service. The Fennica is now in Portland undergoing repairs, Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino said in an email. Initial findings of Anchorage-based...Yereth Rosen
A 6.3-magnitude earthquake that hit south of Mount Iliamna around 6:35 p.m. Tuesday rattled Alaska from Kodiak to Fairbanks, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center. The quake struck roughly 70 miles below the Earth’s surface across Cook Inlet from Homer, said Michael West, a seismologist at the Alaska Earthquake Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The epicenter was about 144 miles southwest of Anchorage. “It’s deep -- that’s important,” he said. “That means the shaking was not as strong, but spread widely.” Linda Hull of Clam Gulch, about 65 miles away from the earthquake’s epicenter, said she heard a very low rumble before a slow rolling motion started. That lasted for several seconds before she felt a jolt. “Pictures didn’t fall off the walls, but they are all crooked,” she...Tegan Hanlon,Yereth Rosen
Waves grew bigger and spaced farther apart as ice cover diminished in the Arctic and sub-Arctic waters off Alaska and western Canada, new research shows. Since the 1970s, the biggest waves in the Beaufort, Chukchi and Bering Seas have grown at a rate of 0.3 to 0.8 percent per year, according to a comprehensive study led by Environment Canada. The time it takes waves to cycle, a measurement known as period, has grown even more, by 3 to 4 percent per year, more than tripling since 1970, according to the study, published by the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate . The study tracks significant wave height , which is the height of the biggest third of the waves, and mean wave period , which is the average of time for wave crests and troughs to complete their cycles. It uses a...Yereth Rosen
An orphaned and injured seal pup rescued this week from a Southeast Alaska beach was one of several found this summer, federal agency officials said. The female seal pup found on Douglas Island was taken to the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward and is in stable condition, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement. The pup was lethargic and very thin -- only 16.5 pounds -- and bore wounds on her face and upper body, probably from predator attacks, officials said. "She was one of a number of seal pups very recently reported abandoned in Southeast. It's unusual to get pup reports this late in the summer, but it's been a very unusual marine mammal year in many respects," Kate Savage, a veterinarian for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, said in the statement...Yereth Rosen
Herbicide applications are scheduled to start Friday to rid Anchorage's Lake Hood -- the nation’s busiest floatplane center -- of a newly discovered invasive plant infestation , a state official said. The work to combat elodea at Lake Hood Seaplane Base in Anchorage will start quickly, thanks to an emergency authorization from state environmental officials and other speedy permitting and funding, said Heather Stewart, invasive weeds and agricultural pest coordinator for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation invoked its emergency authority last week to grant a special herbicide permit, and other authorizations are falling into place to allow DNR’s invasive plants program to start the Lake Hood project quickly, Stewart said. “We...Yereth Rosen
Decades ago, fishermen, fishery managers and environmentalists from Alaska and the Soviet Union put aside their nations’ differences to try to stop uncontrolled high-seas pollock catches that were imperiling stocks throughout the Bering Sea. That effort led to a 1994 international agreement that banned fishing in the Bering Sea “Donut Hole ,” an international area lying between U.S. and Russian territorial waters Now the United States and Russia, along with the governments of Canada, Norway and Denmark/Greenland, are trying to accomplish something similar in the Arctic Ocean, another area of international waters with no controlling authority. On Thursday, the five nations signed a declaration promising their fishing vessels will stay out of a 1.1 million-square-mile zone in the central...Yereth Rosen
Forget the Funyuns and drop the Doritos. New research out of Arctic Canada suggests that marijuana users, for some yet-to-be-understood reason, are slimmer and less at risk for diabetes than non-users. A study by Quebec researchers found that among Inuit residents of Nunavik, the province’s northernmost region, use of cannabis was correlated with lower body-mass-index measurements, lower body-fat percentages and less insulin resistance. Body-mass index , or BMI, and body-fat percentages are used to determine obesity or overweight conditions; insulin resistance , a condition in which the body fails to respond properly to the hormone insulin, is a precursor of Type 2 diabetes and is associated with other poor health conditions. The study was published in the journal Obesity ; results were...Yereth Rosen
A new study of contaminants known as persistent organic pollutants -- various pesticides, preservatives and industrial chemicals -- in the bodies of Alaska fur seals suggests that despite regulations and treaties banning or curbing their use, it might take a long time to eliminate them from the northern environment. POPs have been accumulating for a long time in the northern latitudes, where they are carried on atmospheric and ocean currents from distant industrial and population centers. The study, published online in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology , analyzes blubber and liver samples from northern fur seals harvested over two decades by subsistence hunters from St. Paul, one of the Pribilof Islands in the northern Bering Sea. Some of the contaminants have...Yereth Rosen
Scientists investigating the mysterious deaths of nine endangered fin whales spotted in late May and early June in the Gulf of Alaska report that the death toll has increased. Decomposing carcasses of five additional whales -- one fin whale and four humpbacks -- have been reported by fishermen, pilots and survey crews, said Kate Wynne , a marine mammal specialist with the Sea Grant program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks . Those reports came in over the past several weeks, and all the whales appear to have died at about the same time, said Wynne, who is working with her colleagues to investigate the deaths. So far, the only sample taken from any of the dead animals has been from a single dead fin whale that was already partially decomposed when it came ashore, Wynne said in an email...Yereth Rosen
The federal agency that manages polar bears concedes the most important action needed to protect the threatened animals – reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions to curb Arctic warming that is thinning sea ice – is beyond its powers. So a polar bear conservation management plan , issued in draft form Thursday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, focuses instead on actions the agency says it has the ability to accomplish. “Addressing climate change will take a global commitment but in the meantime the Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners are committed to do everything within our control to give the bear a chance to survive while we await global action,” the agency’s Jenifer Kohout, a co-chair of the team who wrote the plan, said in a teleconference. The plan calls for enhanced...Yereth Rosen