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Alaska Dispatch

Motorcade transports bodies of Alaska State Troopers

With a clear blue sky and temperatures pushing the 70-degree mark, Friday, May 2 should have been remembered as an unusually perfect day in Alaska's largest city. But it was far from perfect. A long line of Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage police, and other law enforcement vehicles slowly drove through the city's center escorting the bodies of two Alaska State Troopers slain a day earlier 281 miles away in the village of Tanana. Read more: Troopers release details surrounding fatal shootings in Tanana
Tara Young

Rainy Pass Lodge is the oldest continuously operating hunting lodge in Alaska, set deep in the wilderness 120 air miles northwest of Anchorage. 2014 marks the lodge’s 77th year in existence. Exclusively a hunting lodge in its early days, Rainy Pass Lodge is now open year-round to cater to snowmachiners, ptarmigan hunters and the Iron Dog and Iditarod races, as well as summer guests and horseback riders.Buckey Winkley came to Alaska in 1961 and has been the resident hunting guide at Rainy Pass Lodge since 1964. Winkley was born 20 miles north of Boston, and he says, “That’s why I still sound like a damn Kennedy.”As a child in the 1950s, Winkley enjoyed history and reading, and he immersed himself in hunting articles, hunting books, and books about natural history. “To me there was nothing more exciting than hunting a grizzly bear in Alaska.” His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all hunters. He started shooting guns when he was 5 years old, and started collecting them in high school. Winkley says he’s always been a collector, and out of the 145 antique guns in his “museum,” he’s shot more than 70 of them.“There’s guns in here that are over 400 years old," he said.Some things haven’t changed at Winkley’s cabin in the past 50 years -- his closest neighbor is still 35 miles away. But one thing that has changed -- in a positive way -- is the way the Alaska Department of Fish and Game regulates the hunting business and ensures there are animals enough for hunting year after year. Winkley had high praise for “the game wardens that enforce the laws, the biologists that study it. Alaska Fish and Game department is one of the best in the world.”This remote spot deep in the Alaska wilderness is where Winkley calls home. Rainy Pass Lodge owner Steve Perrins says Winkley tends to be a hermit once and a while, but Winkley says laughing, “everybody has their moods. There’s times I like to be left alone, dammit.”Watch 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.
Tara Young

Delta Junction Aurora

Filmmaker and photographer Sebastian Saarloos was born and raised in Alaska and is a land surveyor by trade, and also has also served on the Delta Junction City Council. He's been taking photographs since digital photography started back in the late 1990s, but really dedicated himself to shooting when he got sober in 2011. It gave him a way to focus his energy and passion, and avoid the bar scene.This video was shot with a Nikon D300 near the airport in the Interior Alaska community of Delta Junction on April 23-24, between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. Saarloos uses Facebook, weather and space weather websites, aurora webcams and apps on his phone to help him know when to go take aurora photos. You can see more of Saarloos' work on his Facebook page.
Tara Young
Ryan Lightbourn is a filmmaker from Nassau, Bahamas, who's currently based in Orlando Florida.  He traveled to Alaska on a cruise with some 30 family members for his grandmother's 89th birthday. As usual, he brought along his video camera to capture some of the the raw beauty of the Alaska wilderness with his Canon 5D Mark III camera shooting Magic Lantern Raw, super wide footage.Lightbourn shoot films and music videos professionally, but it's playful shoots like this that he most enjoys. It's the only time he doesn't feel like he's working while standing behind a camera. Lightbourn grew up on a tropical island, so islands, sunshine and crystal clear water, are familiar territory. Nevertheless, he said he found the scale and scenery of Alaskan mesmerizing. In 2011, Lightbourn's short film Roid Rage was screened at Screamfest in LA, went viral on YouTube and had over 3 million views. He continued working on short films, and has just completed his first indie feature, "Sleepwalkers." 
Tara Young

The Musk Ox Farm in Palmer, AK has a new baby musk ox!

Palmer's Musk Ox Farm, in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough north of Alaska's largest city, welcomed Jasper on Thursday, the first baby of the season. At birth, musk oxen weigh 18 to 24 pounds, and mother Aquarius was soon busy licking and tending to Japser, who worked to stand. The farm is a nonprofit organization that aims to preserve the animal that dates back to the ice age. Musk oxen once roamed the tundra beside such creatures as the wooly mammoth and saber-toothed tiger. The name musk ox name comes from the strong odor emitted by males to attract females during the seasonal rut.Musk oxen are more closely related to sheep and goats than oxen. Modern-day musk oxen are believed to have migrated from Siberia to North America up to 200,000 years ago. Along with the bison and the pronghorn, the musk ox is one of the few North American species to survive the Pleistocene/Holocene extinction event and to live to the present day. It is thought to have survived by finding ice-free areas away from prehistoric peoples.In the 1940s and 1950s, musk oxen were close to extinction. John Teal started the Musk Ox Project in Alaska to save the animals valued for their warm and soft fur. The first domestic musk ox farm was started in Fairbanks in 1965. As the herd grew each year, their qiviut was combed and spun into exquisitely soft yarn for garments. Today, the farm is located in the Matanuska Valley near Palmer, where you can go visit the new baby ox.In 2000, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska was home to about 4,000 musk oxen. In recent years, herds in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and adjoining areas have declined. Alaska's musk ox harvest has increased steadily in recent years, growing from 98 animals in 2003 to 258 by 2007.  Males and females both have horns, but those of the bulls are larger. Males can weigh up to 800 pounds, while cows seldom reach 500 pounds.  They eat a variety of plants, including grasses, sedges, forbs, and woody plants.
Colleen Mondor

Aloft Over Alaska! (1940)

As reported a few days ago, the newsreel archive company British Pathé uploaded its entire collection of 85,000 films, in high resolution, to YouTube last week. Dated from 1896 to 1976, the collection included several films set in Alaska primarily from the middle of the 20th century, including several on topics of aviation.In "Aloft Over Alaska" the narrator announces the pending construction of a new highway from Canada through Alaska as pilots depart from British Columbia in an amphibious aircraft. Future plans, he intones, include a highway to "the Bering Straits" and "a tunnel 40 miles under the sea joining North America to Asia".British Pathé newsreels were once a dominant part of the movie theater experience in Great Britain and include countless subjects shot all over the world. The Alaska films in the release contain footage of "U.S. jets patrol Alaska (1951)," a 1955 look at the Sign Post Forest in Watson Lake, and a record of the 1953 Mount Spurr eruption.In order to find Alaskan films, viewers should search by not only the name of the state but also specific features, like "Mt. McKinley". That's how I found an outstanding two-and-a-half minute film from 1936 of a Pacific Alaska Airways flight out of Fairbanks that recorded the first complete set of photographs of Mt. McKinley's peaks.PAA was a subsidiary of Pan American World Airways that operated throughout Alaska. It was founded in 1932 and became completely absorbed in Pan American in 1941. This footage is from the National Geographic Society-Pan American Airways Mt. McKinley Flight Expedition during which famed mountaineer Bradford Washburn used a special aerial camera to take the first large-format photographs of the mountain. The Lockheed Electra was flown by S.E. Robbins, who was one of the first pilots to land on McKinley in 1932. Washburn later wrote about the expedition in 1938.The British Pathé film is the best way to appreciate what Robbins, Washburn and the rest of the expedition accomplished. Flying with the door removed with temperatures inside the aircraft of 14 below, the photographs (and film) showed the world the most complete picture of Mt. McKinley ever captured at the time. As the film makes clear, it was the vantage point of an aircraft that made those pictures possible, and the steady hand of a pilot like Robbins was critical. Now in newsreel footage, Alaska aviation was on its way to becoming famous around the world.Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

The Miss Amazing pageant made its debut in Alaska last weekend at Dimond High School. Six contestants participated in this event created specifically for girls and women with physical and intellectual disabilities. Part of a national pageant program, Miss Amazing is open to girls and women age 5 and up. All that is needed to enter is documentation of disability and an entrance fee of five cans of food for the community. Anchorage contestants experience a range of disabilities, from fetal alcohol syndrome and epilepsy to Down syndrome and autism. There’s a Rising Star division for girls ages 5 to 9, designed to give younger entrants a feel for what pageants are all about. Then there are six different age divisions, as well as Shooting Star division for ages 36 and above. The pageant has several areas of competition: an interview with judges, introduction to the participants, talent show, and evening wear walk. The categories are intended to develop social interaction skills and boost self-confidence. Participants are judged on opportunities taken during the event to use as tools for self-improvement.Many of the contestants had never performed in front of a group before, and keeping focused was a challenge. But all were excited to have their hair and makeup done, and to parade their finest evening gowns. Contestant Bianca Pagel-Miller, age 9, was most excited about the evening wear portion of the night. “Dressing up is so much fun! And I’ll be so pretty,” she said, although she added that she was nervous about “looking at all of the people.” Rami Pagel, Bianca’s mom, was excited and anxious as well.“This will be the first time she’s in the spotlight by herself,” Pagel said. “So I’m a little nervous about what’s going to come out of her mouth. With Bianca you never know what you’re going to get, so tonight should be a hoot.”Pageant officials said all the Miss Amazing contestants are made to feel like winners, each receiving a trophy. Top-scoring “queens” from each division win a trophy and a sash and continue on to the national pageant, where they will compete against contestants from more than 30 other states.Watch 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.
Colleen Mondor

Towed Behind an Airplane on Skis

Here's the latest stunt that maybe shouldn't have happened in the first place: a skier being towed behind a plane on a large snowfield. From the description, the skier is Reese Hanneman, the winner of the classic sprint at the 2014 U.S. Cross Country Championships, and the towing took place somewhere on the Alaska Range. Hanneman later tweeted the video to his followers on Twitter.In case you were wondering, the Federal Aviation Regulations do address towing specifically, under Part 91. There is a section (FAR 91.309) regulating the towing of gliders and unpowered ultralight vehicles. And there is a subsequent regulation (FAR 91.311) that states "No pilot or civil aircraft may tow anything with that aircraft (other than under 91.309) except in accordance with terms of a certificate waiver issued by the Administrator." There's also a regulation against "careless and reckless" operation, which would probably apply here as well.So, either the pilot of this Aviat Husky holds special permission to pull Hanneman around the mountains, or he did well to make sure the videographer never captured his tail number in the video.If you think this looks a little too chilly, you can check out the wakeboarding-behind-an-aircraft video that was posted over at Flying Magazine's website last fall. It also included a champion athlete -- wakeboarding world champion Bernhard Hinterberger -- though it was filmed in Italy. In this case, Hinterberger actually became airborne, along with the aircraft. Maybe Hanneman and his pilot friend will take this as a challenge -- unless the FAA catches them first.Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

Back in 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the organization that became Special Olympics, the world's largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. The first official Special Olympics Winter Games were held in 1977 in Colorado. Since Eunice’s daughter Maria Shriver was married at the time to a former Mr. Universe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, it makes sense that powerlifting was added to the roster of the Special Olympics competitions.Powerlifting consists of three lifts: squat, bench press and deadlift, all with the maximum weight possible. In a typical competition, an athlete has three attempts at each lift. Since Special Olympics athletes have a range of abilities and disabilities, they can choose to attempt all or only one of the lifts during the competition.Southside Strength and Fitness is an Anchorage gym that specializes in strength training. Hal and Marvel Lloyd have volunteered the gym and their time to help train the Special Olympics powerlifting team since becoming owners of Southside in 2010. The gym is its own little community, and the athletes working out there show support for their Special O colleagues. Bobby Hill, who has Down syndrome, has been powerlifting 15 years and is a top competitor in Alaska, with a cumulative lift of about 830 pounds over all three events during last year's state competition. He’s also known and loved in Anchorage as the mascot for the Anchorage Aces hockey team. Richard Renwick, another top Special Olympics athlete, is good pals with Bobby, and it’s not uncommon to hear them trash-talking as they recover from a set of lifts.Renwick has been powerlifting for 16 years, and over all three events in last year's state Special Olympics competition, he cumulatively powerlifted 924 pounds. Renwick began weightlifting in high school and says it helped him “get more stronger, more endurance, and more in shape.” The competition makes him happy. “I hear people cheering me on and stuff, and I feel that,” he said. Southside Strength and Fitness will host the qualifying meet for the 2014 Special Olympics state competition on May 10. The state games will be held at East High School in Anchorage on the first weekend in June. The Special O powerlifting team coaches are all volunteers. You can help by coaching, sponsoring an athlete, or by cheering them on at the competitions, which are open to the public.Watch 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.
Tara Young

Kayak Surfing Turnagain Arm Bore Tide - April 3, 2014

A bore tide is a phenomenon in which a tide that creates a wave goes against the current of a narrow body of water. Bore tides typically occur after extreme minus low tides created by the full or new moon. There are just a few places in the world where this occurs -- extremely few in North America. One such place is Turnagain Arm in Cook Inlet. Each season, the bore tide brings kayakers, surfers, and paddle boarders to Southcentral Alaska, to ride the waves. In some parts of Asia, bore tides can reach up to 30 feet high. The ones in Alaska are closer to 6 feet, but they are considered some of the largest because of the length of the waves, at times more than 40 miles. The word bore derives through Old English from the Old Norse word bára, meaning "wave" or "swell".Whitewater kayakers Chad Hults and James Russell set out April 4, 2014 take on the bore tide. The result is a wonderful ride using a natural phenomenon in Anchorage’s backyard. Be sure to watch them ripping the second wave farther down Turnagain Arm past Girdwood, action set to the tune of "Riders on the Storm." The official 2014 tide schedule is distributed by Chugach State Park.
Tara Young
Nome Stories is a multimedia project created by artists Katie Basile and Erica Rudy. Inspired by projects like One in 8 Million, StoryCorps, and Boise Voices, the series was designed to teach multimedia skills to students at the Anvil City Science Academy while capturing an oral history of the Northwest Alaska hub community of Nome. Teachers Todd Hindman, Lisa Leeper and Teresa Hargung worked with fifth through eighth graders who came to the project with a wide range of video and audio production experience. The intent is to celebrate local people who are connected to the places they live in meaningful ways. From a boatmaker to a painter to a King Islander who grew up in Nome and then moved back as an adult, all of the subjects have a strong connection to the community.Nome is a tight-knit community with a diverse group of residents from many different ethnicities and Alaska Native tribes. The harsh environment can be isolating but also tends to spur creativity. Many artists and craftsmen inhabit this gold rush town.Basile and Rudy say they feel perceptions of Alaska are skewed by reality TV, and they wanted to present an alternate narrative. “So much of the media we come in contact with is either sensationalized or completely fictitious. I think we tend to make heroes out of celebrities who don't necessarily look or act authentically. I'd like to see Alaskan youth exposed to media and creating media that is representative of real people in their communities,” says Basile.The production tasks were divided, with the younger students conducting the interviews and the older kids running audio and editing video. The students used point-and-shoot cameras, iMovie, and Garage Band to shoot and edit the pieces. The interviews were recorded at KNOM radio station, and the website was designed by Rudy with input from the students. 
Tara Young
Filmmaker Luc Mehl and his friend Derek Collins decided to ski from Aniak to Dillingham through Wood-Tikchik State Park in southwestern Alaska. Their 250-mile route took 14 days to complete and was completely self-sufficient. What's more, they only spent $105 on airport fees and white gas.The trip was a way for the two friends to traverse the landscapes of their youths. Luc grew up in McGrath, a remote village with a population of 500 off the road system on the Kuskokwim River, and Derek grew up in Dillingham and in the village of Aleknagik at the southern end of the Wood-Tikchik lakes.Since it's been such a dry winter, Mehl was concerned about snow conditions, and he put out a call to friends to see if there was enough snow to ski the route. According to Mehl's website, "Alan Dick, a family friend from Lime Village, told me about the cat-track to Cripple Creek mine. Eventually a low-snow plan emerged ... we’d put tech ski bindings on Nordic ice skates for the Aniak River, then jump up to the cat-track once there was enough snow."The highlight of their adventure was ice skating 50 miles of the route on Nordic skates. It was an epic adventure on a route through the raw wilderness of the Alaska landscape.

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