Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Point Baker Cabin

by Robert L Gisel

 Here is a little taste of Southeast Alaska, Point Baker being down near Ketchikan. Reminds me very much of my folks' cabin on Colt Island, a cabin on the water, in the woods in Alaska.

 I didn't shoot this video, just wanted to share it.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

ON ALASKA - An Alaskan Boy, A Bush Pilot Dad, In the Last Frontier

Charles A. Gisel, Jr. at Livingston Copters
by Robert L. Gisel

 Long overdue (in my mind) the book has passed that writer's milestone, the second draft. From here it goes to editor, proof readers, and the trial audience readers. (More...)

 So far the reviews have all been laudatory. The few suggestions have elicited only minor paragraph changes, which I wouldn't make unless they helped the delivery of the meaning and message.

 Patty (who is family and naturally prejudiced) says, "Well, I stayed up very late last night, because I wanted to finish your book. I had started it on Friday, read more on Saturday and finished last night. It was wonderful.... It really made me understand you so much better, and actually it made me get to KNOW you much more than ever." Besides being my sister-in-law she is also a writer, so this is indeed a good recommendation.

 There is possibly a title change in the wind. Given to someone who never had an interest in Alaska he says he never would have picked it up and read it, not having been interested in Alaska, but reading it he can't put it down.

 Instead of targeting hundreds of millions who have some interest in Alaska I might have to consider the wider audience of billions who may or may not have an initial interest in Alaska.

 The book opens like this:

Chapter 1

A New Adventure 

     "We journey to Alaska when I am nine. In meaningful respects I'd never leave it. They say, once an Alaskan, always an Alaskan, and maybe it is so. Maybe it is just a larkish Alaskan saying to mystify the uninitiated.

     "Certainly this is so for my Father, being an Alaskan Bush Pilot who dies on the job. He leaves behind a mountain named after him, and that is about as “always an Alaskan” as it gets.

     "This story takes us back to when the Alaskan experience began for me. Roll back the shrouds of time to 1959…

     "Dad has already crashed a helicopter at Glacier Bay, during the summer. He wants more of Alaska. He wants to move north. The adventuresome move promises to be exciting and dangerous. The danger only makes it more exciting."

 Keep your ear to the ground and I'll thump on it when it is available for purchase.

 You can see the full first chapter here

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Close Up Whale Watching Annual

by Robert L. Gisel

 The most visited post last year just had its anniversary. The image definitely captures an OMG moment for which you must discover the outcome. It is worth a reprint. Kayaking, anyone?


 Watching for whale can sometimes reap a spectacular event, like this one, with no guarantee of a repeat performance.

 The usual way to watch whales is from the safety of a local tour boat or from a cruise liner. A kayaker in Katlian Bay near Sitka, Alaska found himself viewing one from the whale's mouth. He must have decided he'd wanted to watch whales from up close and you know how that goes; you have to be careful what you ask for as you may just get its literal rendition.

 Seems he ventured into a herring ball at the same instant a whale breached to scoop up the herring. The end result was to be straddling the gaping wide open mouth. He reported "Paddle fast" was his thought just then.

 He should have seen it coming. The usual reasons herring will swarm in a tight ball are two-fold. One, is that a school of herring will come together is a tight ball for protection against a salmon siege. This time of the year early king salmon would be arriving in Sitka waters so this is one explanation. The other is that a whale will circle a school and send up a curtain of bubbles out his blow hole. The Herring school will feel trapped and ball up in a tight packed swarm for protection, except the next action is for the whale to breach and scoop up the herring. Either way the paddler should have seen the circle of bubbles, quite noticeable in calm waters like this, or at the least he should have seen the swarm of the herring ball on the surface, visible in the picture.

 Note this in your lesson book for Alaska survival tips, along with datums like don't eat yellow snow. Don't paddle your kayak into a herring ball.

The danger to the kayker is probably less than it looks. Whales don't eat objects like a boat and he is more likely to spit out than chew up the unsuspecting kayak. The whale was no doubt as surprised as the kayaker. It was a pretty composed photographer that caught this shot, though.

 One other scenario is that the boater, who is a local Sitka Dentist, was trying to drum up business. In that case he should know that whale don't have teeth, only baleen. And no health insurance. It is a nice publicity stunt for a dentist who can handle any mouth.

 Go ahead and take that trip to Alaska you've always wanted, but don't expect to get this close to the action.


Scroll the blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sled Dog Racing Heats Up

by Robert L.Gisel

 The dog sled racing season is really heating up in Alaska. The Kusko 300 just completed with a surpise win, the 1000 mile Yukon Quest is well enrolled in February, and the Iditarod comes up in March with 69 sign-ups so far. All told there are nearly a dozen mid-range and long range sled dog races in Alaska.

 The finish of the Kuskokwim 300 Sled Dog Race sees Rohn Buser first across the line. That is Rohn, not his four time Iditarod winning father Martin. This is an outstanding win for Rohn, considering the high caliber of his opponents in the all-out dash for the $20,000 prize for first place.

 This is a high-purse race that pays prize money all the way to 20th place, you just have to finish without scratching. This year, of 16 teams, 15 finished, one scratched, and last place still made $2500. The top 5 usually get paid $20,000, $15,000, $10,000, $7,000, $6,000, and it slides down from there to make this a popular race of the legendary racers.

 This is a good race to test your dogs, so it gets a number of Iditarod veterans preparing for that key race coming up in March, or for the Yukon Quest. So far, only one of the K300 racers is entered in the Quest, Lance Mackey. 13 of the 16 racers have all run the Iditarod multiple times and all but three of the 16 have entered the 2012 Iditarod.

 The list of who Rohn beat reads like the Hall of Fame Honor Roll of dog mushers. With a finishing time of 41:12:02 he beat out the rest of the top five by as little as 31 minutes, to 2 hours 26 minutes. Only 31 minutes behind him to finish second was last years Iditarod record breaking winner Greg Baker. 16 minutes behind Baker is the last years K300 winner, Paul Gebhart. Another Iditarod veteran, Lance Mackey, came in fifth, two and a half hours behind Rohn. Lance is the only Iditarod winner of four consecutive years and four consecutive wins of the Yukon Quest, said to be the toughest of them all, that runs 1000 miles between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Canada. His father, Martin Buser, another four time Iditarod winner, plus two times winner of the Kusko, finished the 300 mile race in ninth place. He won the K300 his first time in the race in 1994. All told, competition was tough, the best of the best.

  Rohn's time averages to about 7.3 miles per hour, including all the stops and the four hour mandatory layover at Tulusak, making this a fairly high speed race. Rohn comments that his dogs did all the right things, stayed happy, ate when they should and slept when they should so team and driver were tracking together well. Sunday morning they mushed through a headwind and chill factors to 50 below.

 He started with 13 dogs, as one of his pick got loose and went AWOL before the race, and finished with 10. He and his father brought 28 dogs from their 100 dog kennel and divided them up. Looks like Rohn got the fastest dogs, or else they just cooperated well with him for the race. By winning this Rohn has made himself known as one of the best in dog sled racing.

 It you have observed the dogs when staging for a race they are excited and their eyes are bright as they leap up and down raring to go. This is what they live for. They get to travel, go on beautiful road trips, get their picture taken lots, and eat steak when they win or finish well. Alaska celebrities.

  A couple other race wins are worth mentioning. Bill Kornmuller wins the two day speed classic in 1:21:32. For the 32 mile race that is an average of 21.3 mph. We are talking fast dogs! In 17:41:19 Jennifer peeks became the first woman to win the Bogus Creek 150.

 There is still time to book your flights to Fairbanks and Anchorage to catch the action of the long range Iditarod and Yukon Quest races. It you haven't been training with your dogs, it is too late to enter these.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Claus Charged With Benefice

Is this Santa's Church in Arctic Village?
by Robert L. Gisel

 An investigative team is in Alaska trying to track down Santa Claus, to get some hard answers from the internationally renown world traveler and philanthropist, who appears to be in hot water.

 It has been determined Mr. Claus, who also uses the aliases Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Father Christmas and Kris Kringle, is the single most sought individual for answers to the real concerns of peoples today. It is yet to be decided whether he has been answering the questions or causing their origination. For this reason he has been accused by overzealous Prosecuting Attorney Ebenezer Scrooge of deceitful manipulation of information to children of the world, insider trading called gifting, and discretionary favoritism.

 The Prosecutor further alleges he has evidence of a Santa's List with naughty and nice designations. Scrouge claims that on the charge of benefice alone, if found guilty, Santa could be looking at hard time for 6 billion counts of a 100 years.

 The intensity of the widespread search to find the fugitive Santa Claus is so much more than previous years there has been a record high disrespect to the pretend Santa's in the malls of the world. This has resulted in unprecedented reports and more than the usual number of complaints filed for pulled beards and exploratory punches to the stomach pillows.

 Rumor has it that a log cabin church in Arctic Village in the Brooks Range is being staked out for the possible appearance of the famed woolen-garbed jet setter. The sagging roof is believed to be the indication of repeated landing of a reindeer sleigh. Special hoards of eggnog and cookies were flown in for a sting operation to attempt to snare the suspect.

 Some of the burning questions flooding in to his usual hideout in North Pole, Alaska, which been of highest interest are these:

-- What effect will today's economy have on Santa's deliveries this year?
-- Is good will and giving as important as it used to be?
-- Has joy to the world lost its meaning?
-- Will the loss of value in the world's currencies falsely inflate the value of loving friendships?

 In spite of satellite surveillance and drone technologies Santa has miraculously managed to fly under the radar and escape detection. Numerous Elves have been pulled in for questioning as to Santa's whereabouts but no data is forthcoming.

 Mrs. Claus is quoted as saying "Santa is such a quizitive youngster, there's no telling where he and the Elves are playing today." As the Prosecutor says, "This Claus fellow has been illegally crossing borders, transporting goods with no customs checks, or any regard for hallowed authority. We have got to crack down on this beneficious giving before people start getting the idea it is possible to live free and be happy."

 The reward of great satisfaction is being offered to any verified leads on Santa's whereabouts. Just leave the data in the comments below.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Clever Whales and Clever Tour Guides

 by Robert L. Gisel

 As I mentioned in my earlier post Close Up Whale Watching, the bubble net is a trick used by groups of whales to round up their very own smorgasbord. One particular Alaskan company, Alaska Passages Adventure Cruises takes advantage of this.

 You have to come to Southeast Alaska for the event as it is one of the few locations in the world where you can see this phenomena of the humpback whale. Alaska Passages hails out of Petersburg.

 Whales work together as a team activity to create the feast. Freaking out a herring school with an encircling "curtain" of air bubbles, the humpback causes the herring to come together in a tight ball. One, or several whales, creates the bubble net, while others swim below to drive the herring up to the surface, then others yet herd the fish into the bubble net by vocalizing. All together they sweep upward through the center scooping mouthfuls of herring, thousands at a time.

 It is most usually multiple whales, but single humpbacks have been seen feeding with the bubble net technique. When you come to think about it, it is a very ingenuous method.

 In a South Pacific nation the native fishermen would float slats of wood on the surface casting shadows through the water. Creating the appearance of solid bars this way, fish were driven into the shallows where they could be netted. Perhaps they learned this from the intelligent whales.

 It is obviously a very practiced trick. In this video you can see the herring ball before the whales breach together into it. Here is another video that shows the tightening circle of the bubbles around the herring ball.

 Alaska Passages Adventure Cruises is a private yacht that is familiar with this and home in on the group breaching activity for an exciting tourist adventure. Here they have posted their explanation of how it works. They know of the trick and look for it.

 It would be bad business to promote whale watching and not see any whales, but Alaska Passages is clever about this. They utilize a radio network of fishing boats, other whale watching tours, aircraft, and their knowledgeable experience to locate whales. They have seen groups as many as 25 whales strong breaching in mass. That is really delivering the money's worth.

 It must be the massive size of these wild mammals that is such a high interest item. Alaska Passages don't only engage in whale watching, though. They are aware of the other high interest items, fishing, wildlife, glacier touring, and kayaking, or whatever else you might come up with. It is a flexible and cozy private cruise, 6 persons maximum.

 Please note, when it comes to whale watching, close to, not in the middle of, a bubble net is most recommended.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Exposure Alaska -- Active Tours

by Robert L. Gisel

Now this is what I have been talking about -- swing a paddle, left an ice pick, extreme Alaska, go anywhere the tour boat isn't. The tour guide company Exposure Alaska has a trip for everyone, and if you don't see it in their itinerary then they will help you make one up.

The owners say about the business "After living, working and traveling around the world, we've made Alaska our home because there's really no place else on earth quite like it." (Emphasis mine.) This is what prompted me to write a book about Alaska, to start the blog Once An Alaskan, and to help promote tourism for people who really want to reach out to the wilds of Alaska.

To stand and look from the deck of a cruise liner you will see memorable scenerama. When you spend some time paddling with whales in the salt water mist, tossing down the rapids, backpacking through remote woods, or mounting the glacier, this is live experience which will impact you even more with its rich experience.  "Sure you might get a little tired and wet, but the rewards will be well worth it."
You can see I am a firm believer in activities that put one hands on with the wilds of Alaska, so I can relate to the guiding services provided by Exposure Alaska.

This site came up on a Google search for a winter dog sled tour but I didn't find this on their site. The winter tours button went to a "page cannot be found", however. The principles Don and Tina document their having worked at the South Pole so this would very likely include dog sledding experience, but I'm stretching. Perhaps they will fill me in when I can get my cell phone back from where I left it.