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Tara Young

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Sporting costumes and gutsy smiles, more than 1,000 people willingly leaped into the frigid waters of Anchorage’s Goose Lake on Saturday for the sixth-annual Polar Plunge.  Participants braved freezing temperatures for the event, a fundraiser for Special Olympics Alaska. Organizers were expecting to receive $400,000 in donations to support athletes with intellectual disabilities as a result of the event.“Where in the world would you rather be today?” said Special Olympics Alaska president and CEO Jim Balamaci, watching the event unfold in a deerskin and red fox fur hat. “Every year, it gets bigger and stronger.”This year’s crop of “plungers” included Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen.-elect Dan Sullivan, who jumped in with their families. This was the first time making the plunge for Murkowski, dressed in a work suit and acting on a promise made to Special Olympics athletes last year. Asked how it felt after her plunge, the dripping-wet senator replied, "Refreshing!" with a broad smile.SEE PHOTOS: 2014 Special Olympics Polar PlungeWatch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Yereth Rosen
Clam shells found in the Beaufort Sea floor during a 2010 mapping mission belong to a genus previously unknown to science, according to a new study. The clam shells date back more than a million years.
Devin Kelly
More than 1,000 people jumped into the frigid waters of Goose Lake in Anchorage for a good cause on Saturday, part of this year's Polar Plunge event that organizers expected would raise more than $400,000 for Special Olympics Alaska.
Bob Hallinen
The Alaska Aces defeated the Bakersfield Condors 5-2 on Friday at Sullivan Arena.
Erik Hill

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The Shell contractor that broke environmental and maritime safety laws during the oil giant’s troubled 2012 drilling season was sentenced on Friday to pay $12.2 million in fines and community payments, serve four years’ probation and undergo a company-wide environmental compliance program that will be subjected to the scrutiny of third-party experts. Noble Corp.’s senior vice president for operations, Bernie Wolford, entered eight guilty pleas on behalf of the company’s U.S. unit and admitted that the government’s allegations of violations aboard the Discoverer and Kulluk drill ships were true. U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline imposed the sentence, under terms of a plea agreement reached between federal prosecutors and the company and filed in court on Dec. 8.Read more: Shell drilling contractor's sentence includes $12.2 million fine
Alaska Dispatch News

White Christmas Quinhagak

Four years after the Yup'ik village of Quinhagak in Southwest Alaska achieved worldwide fame via YouTube, the town's schoolchildren are back with another Christmas-themed video. This time, though, the message is more poignant than festive.In December 2010, the villagers delighted viewers with a silent rendition of Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" performed with handheld signs in a video shot by teacher Jim Barthelman. On Dec. 18, Barthelman uploaded a new video set to "White Christmas," featuring the children trying (and failing) to celebrate winter in a mostly snowless Quinhagak.Read more about the original "Hallelujah" video and watch it here
Jerzy Shedlock
Lane Douglas Wyatt, 24, was sentenced to nearly 18 years in prison on Friday for killing 20-year-old Citari Townes-Sweatt in a drunken driving accident last June. 
Yereth Rosen
The Shell contractor that broke environmental and marine-safety laws during the oil giant’s troubled 2012 drilling season was sentenced on Friday to pay $12.2 million in fines and community payments, to serve four years’ probation and to undergo a company-wide environmental compliance program. 
Bob Hallinen
The ghost of Anchorage Christmases past is recycled in an ambitious outdoor art installation that makes use of gaudy holiday street decorations from the boom years.
Alaska Dispatch News
A group of Anchorage firefighters is taking it off -- at least some of it -- for a good cause.
Alaska Dispatch News

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Anchorage firefighters on Wednesday demonstrated the dangers of a Christmas tree fire.Within a minute of being ignited, a tree decorated with ornaments and yellow caution tape was completely engulfed in flames. The demonstration took place at the Anchorage Fire Department Training Facility near Merrill Field.According to firefighters, Christmas tree fires aren’t the most commonly occuring home fire, but they are very dangerous.
Megan Edge
Two unrelated black bear cubs are getting acclimated to life in captivity and to one another at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage before being shipped to a new home in Texas. Until their 2015 departure, the zoo will be allowing the public to view the duo. 

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