In a year when the coronavirus pandemic upended life around the world, at least one thing stayed constant: There was no shortage of news about uniquely Alaska happenings.
Take a look at life in the Last Frontier with a subjective list of some of our “most Alaska” stories of 2020.
No one in the plane was hurt when an Alaska Airlines jetliner struck a brown bear while landing in Yakutat in November, but the bear died and the plane saw some damage.
An Anchorage resident’s trip to Knik Glacier, a popular spot in winter for the local off-roading community, culminated with his Jeep breaking through the ice and sinking several feet into the water of the lake near the glacier face. Getting it out took a team effort.
During the 2020 Iditarod, four-time race champion Lance Mackey said he was adding CBD, a non-psychoactive chemical compound derived from the cannabis plant, to food for his sled dogs. There’s no rule against it — but the race’s chief vet wasn’t amused.
Underwater moaning? A foghorn? Metal scratching? A hungry pet dinosaur? A loud, eerie noise heard for miles in February sent Anchorage residents searching for the source. But just as everyone had a different description for the sound, they also had a different explanation.
Anchorage residents mourned the death of a longtime Alaska Zoo resident, an alpaca named Caesar, who was killed by a wild brown bear that broke into his enclosure. (Another alpaca — Fuzzy Charlie — wasn’t hurt, but he was wide-eyed and skittish after the incident.)
Back in February, a huge Arctic drilling rig took an unprecedented drive down Alaska’s Dalton Highway, shutting the road down temporarily as it inched toward an oil prospect on the North Slope.
There have been a few animal encounters that made Donna Rodgers’ stomach flip, but nothing could compare to what she felt when she dodged a “huge, angry mama moose” with two calves. Despite getting kicked, Rodgers said she escaped with only a torn shirt and a few bruises.
Over the years, the dilapidated bus made famous by the book “Into the Wild” attracted a stream of sometimes ill-fated pilgrimages by visitors drawn to the story of Chris McCandless. The bus was finally removed from its longtime resting spot in the backcountry near Healy this summer and is now in Fairbanks, where conservation work is underway at the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North.
Think a kayaker needs a bigger boat to land a 186-pound halibut? Think again. The halibut Jay Hicks caught in Monashka Bay was subdued after it was struck by two harpoons attached to buoys. It took about 45 minutes to get the fish to surface, Hicks said, and another hour or more to bring it to shore.
History shows it depends on who you’re asking. In this column by historian David Reamer, he takes a look at the historical usage of “real Alaskan,” which dates back to 1917.
Residents of Hyder, Alaska, rely on Stewart, British Columbia, for necessities like groceries, gas and even doctor visits. Before the pandemic, people routinely crossed the border several times per day — for many, the two small towns feel like a single community — but in March, the pandemic started disrupting their way of life.
“Dude, that otter is in trouble, man.” That’s what John Dornellas said as a sea otter raced toward his boat in Kachemak Bay one morning in July, apparently fleeing a killer whale nearby. His video of the encounter has since been viewed millions of times.
First things first: Yes, Santa Claus is his legal name. It’s on his government identification, and the mail that arrives at his apartment. But this Santa Claus is a 73-year-old medical-marijuana-using, Bernie-supporting vegetarian monk who lives at the poverty line in North Pole near Fairbanks, does not drive and thinks — truth be told — that Christmas is a “crass commercial secular spectacle.”
Several people in the Anchorage area reported a spate of odd interactions with lynx in January — a lynx was blamed for the death of a dog in Eagle River, another took a swipe at a different dog and one woman said a lynx followed her on a Hillside trail.
At the start of 2020, temperatures in Fairbanks plummeted below minus 30 for nine straight days — not totally extreme, but residents hadn’t seen a cold stretch like that in years. There are colder places on the planet and colder places in Alaska. But perhaps no other American city pulses quite like the Golden Heart City in frigid weather.