Palin team tows back to Big Lake: After close to 24 hours of everyone wondering what had happened to the highest profile competitor in Alaska's Iron Dog snowmachine race, race officials Monday morning posted on their Facebook page that Todd Palin is broken down but undeterred. "Our race marshals just informed us that Todd and Tyler (Huntington, his teammate) are planning to leave soon from Skwentna. They will tow back to Big Lake for repairs, and intend to continue just as soon as they can!" The duo obviously suffered major damage to at least one of their sleds only 80 miles into the 2,000 mile race from Big Lake to Nome to Fairbanks. The leaders of that race were resting Monday morning in the tiny community of McGrath on the north side of the Alaska Range and are expected to be on the Yukon River heading for the Bering Sea coast by the time Palin and Huntington reach Big Lake. Their hopes for winning this year's race are over whether they actually decide to continue or not after making repairs.
Reliving a fatal bear encounter: In 2007, John Evans and his wife Katie were hiking in Romania when she was mauled fatally by a brown bear, a species which is especially common in that Eastern European country thanks in part to the hunting practices of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Evans details his experience in his memoir "Young Widower," and Slate has an excerpt of the book that includes a harrowing account of the attack. Many things make this account different from the standard Alaska tales of encounters with the big bears, including the relative proximity to human settlements and companions, and the reluctance of a hostel owner to allow Evans to take his gun to fend off the bear:
He had a rifle, he explained, but he could not let me take it. He would be fined 40,000 Romanian lire for discharging a gun without a state permit to do so. All of the guests were witnesses. His business would be ruined.
Changing plant communities in Alaska's Arctic: The effects of climate change can often be difficult to ascertain from the ground. But look from far enough away -- a satellite, for example -- and over a long enough period of time -- 20 years -- and the trends become much more obvious. That's what University of Alaska Fairbanks researchers have discovered, according to an account by Diana Campbell, who works with the UAF Geophysical Institute, published in the Fairbanks News-Miner. Researchers looking at 20 years of data from satellites have observed changes in the patterns of soil, fungi and plants of Alaska's Arctic. One example is frostboils, an area of ground where thawing soil collapses, forming an indentation. The warmer soil found there makes a good foothold for species such as alders.