Asaf Shalev

Polar Bears Trying to Eat Research Equipment in the Beaufort Sea

With their vessel 150 miles away from the ice in Arctic waters, researchers aboard the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Amundsen were startled to see three polar bears suddenly appear. Then the bears started to chew on a $38,000 cable holding sensitive equipment and the surprise turned into worry. In a video captured last month by University of Victoria undergraduate Kathryn Purdon, scientists yell at the polar bears to back away."Not there, please. Please bears, go on. Go, go, go!" says one of the researchers in the video.Fortunately, the bears lost interest and swam away before the cable tethered to a seawater sampling device -- that cost around $90,000 -- could be damaged. The cord, made of Kevlar and plastic, acts as a sheath for a high-voltage wire carrying electricity to the device. "The fear was also that the bears could be harmed by the current," said Jay Cullen, a chemical oceanographer at the University of Victoria who supervises the research mission but was not on the expedition. The fibrous cord can carry immense weight but -- unlike steel alternatives -- it is sensitive to cuts and tears, he added.Cullen and the researchers aboard the Amundsen are part of the international GEOTRACES and ArcticNet programs that are studying how climate change is affecting the Arctic marine environment. Purdon, a student of Cullen's, and other researchers who witnessed the event are still out at sea and could not be reached. The polar bear video is not the only instance of curious bears scrutinizing equipment. Just a few days ago, a video was uploaded showing an Alaska kayaker trying to fend off a bear chewing on her boat. She was unsuccessful.        
Beth Bragg,Loren Holmes
Alex DeMarban,Scott Jensen


This year’s hefty Permanent Fund dividend splashed into bank accounts today – the first step in a $1.4 billion distribution that will juice the economy as people flock to stores for new TVs, cars and clothes.But anyone who’s played the Alaska budget-balancing game may wonder how long the good times will last.The game – consisting of a scale that must be balanced with small wooden blocks -- is no toy.But it’s a fun and simple way to visualize an enormous problem. Lawmakers in Juneau and the governor will be dealing with that challenge this spring as they try to close a $3.1 billion deficit.  With blocks representing $100 million each and a lottery wheel depicting fickle oil prices, a few things become clear:The state can’t smoke itself out of this problem with a marijuana tax.Alaska is on track to burn through its accessible $7.7 billion savings account – a still-large pile of white blocks -- in less than three years.Capital projects that pay for things like roads and schools have been gutted.A solution will involve multiple steps, such as more cuts, creating new taxes or changing the state’s generous tax structure.The $50 billion Permanent Fund is so big it’s not part of the game – the 500 blocks to represent it would be too huge.The earnings from the fund could be used to help address the problem, but that would slash everyone’s dividend.The game was the brainchild of Gunnar Knapp, director of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA. It was unveiled at a recent fiscal forum in Anchorage, where audience members gave it a spin. It will have another showing at Chugiak High School on Oct. 16 in front of hundreds of young people gathered for a meeting of the Alaska Association of Student Governments.On Tuesday, ISER opened its office for a public demonstration. Lora Jorgensen of the educational nonprofit Ed Connector gave it a try.It took her a while to balance the scale. She spun a favorable oil price that brought a windfall of $200 million, made small cuts but left education unharmed, raised taxes on the oil industry, implemented a $400 million sales tax and cut the dividend by about $250 a person. Still, she needed to borrow more than $1 billion from savings.Playing the game was eye-opening, Jorgensen said.“We always hear this miracle or that miracle will solve things, but the reality is the solutions are all really small,” she said. Watch this video on YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Scott Jensen at sjensen(at)
Mike Dunham,Loren Holmes
The world premiere of Texas composer Barry Hurt’s “Alaska: The Great Land” took place in Palmer on Sept. 24.
Tara Young,Mike Dunham


The world premiere of Texas composer Barry Hurt’s “Alaska: The Great Land” took place in Palmer on Sept. 24. The 10-minute multi-movement work is a panoramic tone poem about Alaska’s history using musicians who play the scores while moving in a complex choreography simultaneously -- all from memory. There are few players in Alaska capable of such a performance. In fact, the only ensemble that can handle it right now is probably the Northern Sound of Colony high school, the band that gave the premiere -- at this time the only high school marching band in the state.Read more: Marching to the championships: Alaska’s only high school marching band prepares to vie for national honorsWatch this video on YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)
Scott Jensen


Twenty-one states have enacted legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s sexuality, and Alaska has been grappling with the same question since 2008 when similar legislation failed.On Tuesday night, the Anchorage Assembly expanded anti­discrimination protections in the city.A broad social question exists about how to balance equality with religious freedom. Should we allow individuals or businesses the right to refuse services to members of the LGBT community on the grounds of religious freedom?A public debate on just that issue took place at the Bear Tooth Theatrepub in Anchorage Wednesday evening, co-sponsored by the UAA Seawolf Debate Team and Alaska Dispatch News.  The issue: “Individuals and organizations ought to be free to refuse service to patrons on the basis of religious objection.”Pro:  Jim Minnery, president of the Alaska Family Council, and Bernadette Wilson, host of KFQD’s "Bernadette Live."Con:  Josh Decker, executive director of ACLU Alaska and the Rev. Martin Eldred, Joy Lutheran Church.Related: Anchorage Assembly passes LGBT rights law
Erik Hill
Barrow slowly eases into winter as days become shorter and snow makes an appearance in late September. Here's a tour of the nation's northernmost town.
Alaska Public Media

Pilgrimage to Spruce Island | INDIE ALASKA

Spruce Island near Kodiak is considered by many Orthodox Christians to be one of the holiest sites in North America.The island was home to the hermitage of Herman of Alaska during the early 1800s.Every year, in early August, the Orthodox Church in America celebrates the canonization of St. Herman with a Liturgy, pilgrimage, and banquet.INDIE ALASKA is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. The weekly series captures the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.
Alaska Dispatch News

Seth Boyer - All Star

Seth Boyer killed it with his latest music video, a melancholy, emotional cover of Smash Mouth’s "All Star." As Boyer’s video caption says on YouTube, “I went back to my hometown of Eagle River, Alaska to play A Very Important Aong.”Boyer, who grew up in Eagle River but now lives in Seattle, needed to come up with something to perform for the Cards Against Humanity comedy show during the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle in late August. He decided to cover the '90s pop hit in way similar to Ryan Adams' cover of "Wonderwall" -- straight, without any sarcasm.The style was fitting for a musician who characterizes his own music as "bummer jams." After he performed the song in Seattle, he knew it needed a video.Boyer recorded the piece with Anchorage filmmaker Josh Lowman at Joy Lutheran Church in Eagle River with the permission of pastor Martin Eldred. It premiered at Open Projector Night in Anchorage on Sept. 26, 2015.Since then, the video had been picked up by USA Today, and ultimately Smash Mouth tweeted about it.Boyer says he “lost his shit” when he saw that the band's tweet and has been in contact with them since.The response Boyer has received has been overwhelming and unexpected, he said, adding he's heard over and over again from people who never thought they'd have an emotional connection to Smash Mouth. “I might have done something right here," Boyer says.To submit your video to Alaska Dispatch News contact Tara Young at tara(at)
Scott Jensen


Each Friday afternoon conservator Sarah Owens brings out an object or two from the Anchorage Museum's 26,000-piece back-of-house collection, to a public area for cleaning and restoration. The time is an opportunity for her to visit with museum patrons and educate them about artwork and her profession. Owens says the weekly "Conservator's Corner" gives the public a chance to see artwork up close, not behind glass, and ask questions about materials, science and culture as they pertain to art restoration. "I'm incredibly privileged to be allowed to handle and touch the objects and be close to the objects as part of my day-to-day job," she said.Many of these art pieces go on display for the museum's "Object of the Month." For instance, the paint box that Owens is seen cleaning in this video is October's object of the month. The box has been part of the museum's collection since 1986. It is reported to be Sydney Laurence's wife's paint box that she used in the 1940's.Watch this video on YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Scott Jensen at sjensen(at)
Laurel Andrews,Loren Holmes
On the outskirts of this Interior Alaska city, a strange structure rises above the trees: A blue, 16-sided house perched atop a 75-foot crane.
Alaska Dispatch News
The first blanket of snow fell on Anchorage and Eagle River on Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.