coastal alaska


Brown Bear Cub Lands Right Jab by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
Who needs Mayweather vs. McGregor? We watched these two spring Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) cubs duke it out for over an hour one morning. Every time we thought the brawling was over, one of them snuck up and started it again. Here the lighter-colored cub thought it had “won” a stunning victory of dominance over its darker sibling. Then the darker sibling corrected this insolence with a right jab to the snout. Mother bear was nearby fishing, oblivious to this little drama. The cubs are about 6-7 months old and will be enduring their first winter in a couple months. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

Creature profile: “Sea Wolf”
This elusive cryptid is represented in the art and folklore of Pacific Northwest tribes. To the Haida people, it is the Wasgo, to the Tlingit, it is Gonakadet. Depictions vary, but it is generally described as having only forelimbs, small horns, a long body, and some fur on the back/behind the head. And on top of that, big enough to kill orcas.
Sounds suspiciously… a weird offshoot basilosaur, yea?
Solitary and reclusive, they exist as a bizarre relic of Eocene fauna. Instead of dying out like its warm water relatives, the northern ancestors of the seawolf toughed it out in the cooler seas of the Oligocene onwards, adapting to life on and around the ice sheets near the arctic circle. Nowadays, they exist in isolated pockets on coastal Canada and Alaska, hunting mostly fish such as salmon, halibut and cod. However, they are also capable of ambushing seals near the shore, dragging themselves all the way out of the water and writhing towards prey for short distances. Wearing the skin of a sea wolf or possessing pieces of its body is believed to grant the owner supernatural fishing abilities.

Our Land: The First 100 (or so) Days

When we started the “Our Land” journey in January, I mentioned that I drew inspiration from the words of John Steinbeck: his notion, in the travelogue Travels with Charley, to “rediscover this monster land.”

Four months later, as we wrap up the first phase of our project, I’m turning for inspiration to another John: the naturalist, explorer and author John Muir. 

In the late 1800s, Muir took three trips to southeast Alaska, where producer Elissa Nadworny and I just spent a revelatory two weeks gathering stories. Muir traveled along the Inside Passage by steamer ship and canoe, marveling at the glaciers he watched calving into fjords, the huge girth of Sitka spruce trees, the endless, quivering light display of the aurora borealis. The scenery of coastal Alaska, Muir wrote, was “hopelessly beyond description.” But he managed, beautifully:

In these coast landscapes there is such indefinite, on-leading expansiveness,     such a multitude of features without apparent redundance, their lines           graduating delicately into one another in endless succession, while the whole is so fine, so tender, so ethereal, that all pen-work seems hopelessly unavailing. Tracing shining ways through fiord and sound, past forests and waterfalls, islands and mountains and far azure headlands, it seems as if surely we must at length reach the very paradise of the poets, the abode of the blessed. 

The guiding principle behind the “Our Land” series has been to explore how place shapes identity: how where we live shapes who we are, and how ties to the land determine our sense of self. These ideas are front and center in our most recent Alaska reporting. Among our stories, we’ll hear a father-daughter commercial fishing duo talk about making a living, and a life, on the water. We’ll hear from Alaska Natives about celebrating and revitalizing their ancient cultures, rooted in the land. And we’ll visit a tiny village – with just a post office to its name – where living independently, off the grid, defines the people who make it their home.

Throughout our travels, I’ve been reminded time and again of people’s intense pride in where they’re from. We heard this expressed clearly by the sons of Yemeni immigrants in Hamtramck, Michigan. By a cattle broker along the Arizona-Mexico border. By Chinese-American families in the Mississippi Delta.

And it’s no small thing that on every step of our road trip, we’ve been welcomed into people’s homes and invited to share the bounty at their dinner table. We’ve gratefully shared in a community potlatch in Klukwan, Alaska, a Chinese feast in Clarksdale, Mississippi, an Uzbek dinner in Kansas City, Missouri, and many more.

(Sheila Spores holding a platter of grilled wild Alaska king and coho salmon at the home of our dinner host, Peter Rice, in Ketchikan)

Outside my office at NPR, I’ve hung a laminated map of the U.S., and I’ve marked our travel routes to date with a black Sharpie. It’s satisfying to look at the ground we’ve covered, but it’s also a constant reminder that there’s so much more territory to explore. The road beckons.

–Melissa Block

(Photos: Melissa Block/NPR)

Map: published in Alaska Days with John Muir (New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1915)


Dream On … Little Bear Cubs by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
Spring Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) cubs (twin sisters) enjoy a nap, while their mother looms in the background. Mother bear is fishing for salmon. She caught several that morning and shared them all with her cubs. Her cubs looked healthy, well-fed and occasionally feisty. Just like bear cubs should be. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.
Trump administration working toward renewed drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
A draft rule would remove obstacles that have blocked exploration for decades in this vast Alaska wilderness.

The Trump administration is quietly moving to allow energy exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the first time in more than 30 years, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post, with a draft rule that would lay the groundwork for drilling.

Congress has sole authority to determine whether oil and gas drilling can take place within the refuge’s 19.6 million acres. But seismic studies represent a necessary first step, and Interior Department officials are modifying a 1980s regulation to permit them.

The effort represents a twist in a political fight that has raged for decades. The remote and vast habitat, which serves as the main calving ground for one of North America’s last large caribou herds and a stop for migrating birds from six continents, has served as a rallying cry for environmentalists and some of Alaska’s native tribes. But state politicians and many Republicans in Washington have pressed to extract the billions of barrels of oil lying beneath the refuge’s coastal plain…


Bear Cub Posturing … Behind Mom’s Back by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) spring cubs, both female, posture by getting in each other’s face, opening their mouths and raising them as high as possible. Apparently this is one way bear cubs show dominance. These two siblings are pretty closely matched. Mother bear, who is fishing for salmon, is completely oblivious to this entertaining display of bear cub behavior. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

stanzicapparatireplayers  asked:

Suggestion: it's strongly suspected that there's a unicorn herd somewhere in Cape Breton. The place is weird and not entirely temporospatially correct. But the Seattle opinion is that it's best left for whoever's over there to deal with.

I’m decreeing (because this is MY universe now, and my headcanons are CANONS), that there is a whole colony of unicorns on Cape Breton, becuase Unicorns really like nasty cold weather and dense forests, and do badly around cars and domestic dogs.  

Most unicorns live in coastal Canada, Alaska, Scandanavia and Russia, but every so often one is spotted south of the 49th parallel, usually in Olymic National Park or the San Juans, but its always a cause for local panic-  Unicrons can radically alter the ambient magical atmosphere and have a tenuous relationship with space-time, so they have a side effect of making existing magical phenomena much more severe.

There is some (not totally inaccurate) speculation that Wizards sometimes purchase Unicorns on the black market to power magical experiments, which is probably where most Seattle-area unicorns come from


Playing bears by Nedko Nedkov
Via Flickr:
Alaska, Coastal grizlies


Watchful Mother Bear by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
First time we’ve seen this mother bear at Silver Salmon Creek. She had her first litter of cubs this January or February. Here she’s being a dutiful and watchful mom, keeping her eyes on the strange group of humans while her two cubs feed on grass. Haven’t seen Brown Bears feeding on the grass during salmon run - this little family did it quite often. Mom was an excellent fisher, though, so she and the cubs won’t be relying solely on grass to get them through the winter. Don’t think that would work out so well. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.


Hermissenda crassicornis

Sometimes known as the “opalescent sea slug”, H. crassicornis is a species of Facelinid nuibranch which inhabits coastal intertidal zones from Alaska south to Mexico. Like other nudibranch species H. crassicornis feeds mainly on sessile invertebrates, specifically hydrioids and occasionally sea anemones, tunicates, and others. 


Animalia-Mollusca-Gastropoda-Heterobranchia-Euthyneura-Nudipleura-Nudibranchia-Dexiarchia-Cladobranchia-Aeolidida-Aeolidioidea-Facelinidae-Hermissenda- H. crassicornis

Images: Brocken Inaglory and Jmalin


Blood snow

Science fact: blood/watermelon/red snow is caused by Chlamydomonas nivalis, a cryophilic species of algae that becomes concentrated in the melt pockets of summer alpine snow near coastal Alaska. Most people try to avoid it when melting snow for drinking water. The algae itself isn’t toxic, but there are often other bacteria eating Chlamydomonas nivalis that aren’t particularly friendly for humans.

Lynx Peak, Alaska


Okay… let’s talk about this…

1) This is an American Remake of a Japanese Film, Seven Samurai. (It’s also a remake of the original film, which is based on Seven Samurai… but you get the idea.) This is the ONLY acceptable way if you’re going to Americanize stories from other places… you make a new story for the audience it’s intended for (not like the Ghost in a Shell issue)

2) The leader is a Black man (Denzel Washington).

3) Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) is in it.

4) The man that appears to be a Native American is played by… an ACTUAL Native American. (Martin Sensmeier is an American Actor and is of Tlingit, Koyukon-Athabascan, Irish, and French descent. He was raised in a Tlingit Coastal Community in Southeast Alaska and grew up learning and participating in the traditions of his Tribes.)

I’m pretty sure there’s going to be a few problems, but they seem to be hitting more right notes than wrong ones so far.


Morning Walk for Wary Orphan by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
The sun is just coming up over The Cook Inlet. This young Brown Bear and its sibling, orphans whose mother was killed last year, are wary of other bears - their biggest danger during salmon run. Once winter sets in, their biggest danger will be starvation. They look very healthy, and made it through their first winter on their own. Hope they make it. Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.


Eye Level Bearscape by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
7:35 am - we head out in the 4 wheeler. As we rode along the coast of The Cook Inlet, we spotted two small bears approaching. We got in front of them and set up. Two two-year old cubs, referred to as the “orphans,” walked right past us. Apparently their mother was killed in 2016, and these cubs survived. These little guys are now heading into their second winter on their own. When this individual took “the high road” close to the tree line, we got down low, on the beach, and photographed it as it went by. Cool perspective, with the mountains and trees in the background and the bear emerging into the soft morning light. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.


Brown Bear Family Evening Meal by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
Coastal Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) makes a meal of a silver salmon. She left some good bits for her two spring cubs. The Cook Inlet, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.


When Mother Bear Catches a Fish by David & Shiela Glatz
Via Flickr:
This Coastal Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) cub swam across the shallows behind her, to catch up with her mother. When she hit the sand, mother bear caught a nice big salmon. This cub (and her sister, who is out of frame to the left) took off running towards her mother. A real thrill for us, as she ran right past us. It’s like we weren’t even there. Love the look of expectation in her eyes, and her exuberant bounding down the beach. This image is un-cropped. When this cub and her sister got to mom, they shared in her catch. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.