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Alaska Beat

AK Beat: Pumpkin puncture sends Alaska farmer back to the greenhouse (+VIDEO)

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 27, 2016
  • Published August 27, 2013

Pumpkins punctured, dreams dashed: His gourds are the stuff of legend. But for the second year in a row, Alaska farmer Dale Marshall misses the pumpkin patch winner's circle when judges found a tiny hole alongside the 1,723-pounder's bottom side. The little wound squashed what would have been a record-breaking entry for Marshall, a near miss known well to the Palmer farmer, wouho narrowly missed a record pumpkin last year, and who hauled in an 800-pounder the year before, as shown in this video:

Sizable quake rattles Interior: The Alaska Earthquake Information Center reports that a 5.09 earthquake struck in the vicinity of Cantwell and Talkeetna at 1:41 p.m. Tuesday, at a depth of 80 miles. According to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, the temblor was felt even in the seven-floor Elvey building in Fairbanks, 143 miles to the northeast, where the Geophysical Institute is housed. Such Interior earthquakes aren't exactly unusual -- the AEIC reports that there were 15 earthquakes in the central region of the state by Tuesday afternoon.

Sourtoe swallowed: An unusual scene went down at the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City, Yukon, on Saturday night when a man reportedly came into the bar, ordered the infamous "sourtoe" cocktail -- a shot of whiskey with a necrotic human toe in the glass -- and apparently intentionally ate the toe before slapping down the $500 "fine" for swallowing it on the bar counter. CBC News reports that at least eight toes have gone missing over the years, but this appeared to be the first time it was deliberately eaten. The man who ate the toe had apparently just had a rent deposit returned and was on his way out of Dawson when he decided to stop in and consume the toe. The fine for swallowing the toe has now been raised to $2,500, and the bar reports it has a backup toe ready to go.

Another 'Into the Wild' tragedy?: CNN reports that the body of a teenager who had developed an obsession with the movie "Into the Wild" -- based on the book by well-known adventure author Jon Krakauer in which a young uan goes on a journey of self-discovery only to end up starved to death in the Alaska wilderness -- has been found in Oregon, a mere 1,000 feet from his abandoned car. Investigators in Riddle, Ore., where the body of 18-year-old Johnathan Croom was discovered, said they are investigaing Croom's death as a suicide. Croom's father tells CNN that the young man had increasingly talked about "Into the Wild" in the months leading up to his death, and wonders if maybe the teenager had sought to emulate McCandless's actions, as others have done.

Separating farts from fires while fighting mosquitoes: Three cheers for British academia, which has consistently married good writing with scientific inquiry across the centuries of colonialism and conquest. Bog-hopping biologists have spent the summer swatting "mozzies" and gathering data on the methane gas pockets that pockmark the Arctic tundra, combustible climate-warming farts slowly seeping into the atmosphere as permafrost melts. The MAMM team (Methane in the Arctic – Measurements and Modeling) has deployed from Scandinavia and Saskatchewan, separating carbon-dense C-12 methane -- which spends a millennia in the carbon cycle on the path to fossil fuel -- and the C-13 methane that's released in wildfires and is far less consequential in the greater scheme of greenhouse gas emissions. Follow MAMM's adventures in Scientific American, on The Barometer podcast.

Shifting winds: After an aggressive, costly summer for Alaska wildfires, some Alaska firefighters are now headed out of state to help battle blazes in the Lower 48, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Five 20-man firefighting crews are headed to California to help fight wildfires that have cropped up in that region, threatening giant sequoias in Yosemite National Park. Another five crews are set to fly out on Thursday.

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