Aurora over Alaska

Now I know why I want to go back. Nothing like seeing an image like this after being on call for an entire weekend.


Aurora Over Alaska
Credit & Copyright: Paul Alsop

Explanation: Are those green clouds or aurora? Photographed above two weeks
ago, puffy green aurora help the Moon illuminate the serene Willow Lake and
the snowy Wrangell and Saint Elias Mountains in eastern Alaska, USA.
Although auroras might first appear to be moonlit clouds, they only add

light to the sky and do not block background stars from view. Called
northern lights in the northern hemisphere, auroras are caused by collisions
between charged particles from the magnetosphere and air molecules high in

the Earth’s atmosphere. If viewed from space, auroras can be seen to glow in
X-ray and ultraviolet light as well. Predictable auroras likely occur a few
days after a powerful magnetic event has been seen on the Sun.

The beginning of a year in the bush

Ok, so the blog that I initially delved into while in Alaska is in the process of being re-activated and polished (bear with me here). The underlying reason is that I am in an area that until two weeks ago, sending a one line text email would entail clicking send and going to bed. If the planets were correctly aligned, the moon was full and there was an un-interupted power supply all night – the email would go through. Receiving a reply would have to wait until the next day. Fortunately Vodacom reponded to my emails and phone calls and have upgraded the signal to this area. (managed a video Skype phone call last weekend).

Sending numerous emails with pictures attached is not the most efficient process in the world even with this new found internet Speed, hence me having another attempt at a blog.

Most of you will have received earlier photos.

This is a view from where I work:

This is how I travel to my residential clinic on most Fridays:

Below are some pictures of the community:

Umkhanyakude, name of the famous yellow-barked fever tree, literally meaning “seen from afar”. The district in which I stay is named after this.

These are the cows on the airstrip outside my parkhome (I live in the one in the middle):

Last weekend I went up the coast to a place called Rocktail Bay: Aimed at overseas tourists, we managed a special price (one third the going rate) as they were quiet due to the Soccer World Cup Final. Dived on the reef – pristine reefs, never commercially dived. The resort dive concession is the only concession to dive there in the last eleven years (nothing before that). The potatoe bass each have a name, the Honeycomb Moray eel likes to have his back scratched – carefully.

View that I woke up to in the morning:

Beaches are quiet – ideal for me to play around with my camera undisturbed.

That’s all for now.


Thursday at Anchorage

McGrath - one of the hubs en route to Unalakleet


Snack shop at the McGrath Checkpoint


McGuires in McGrath - Drinks before flying out the next morning

Alan, Mike, Mike, me, Rich, Bill, Melissa, Norbert.

Crossing the mighty Yukon

Mushing team en route from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik


Shaktoolik Checkpoint - Sunny Shaktoolik - great when there is no wind


Ready for the wind


Lance leaving Shaktoolik - in the lead.

Steam around the checkpoint

SHK Checkpoint at dusk


Watching the finish at SHK comms


Windy Unalakleet

Denali (Mt Mckinley)

Second update from Shaktoolik

Ok – so managed another break with enough time to go up to the school this morning.

Al – yes it is possible to go cycling here – wheels look more like motorcycle tyres and one does a great deal of pushing according to those who cycle here (bumped into two cyclists who had cycled from Anchorage to Finger Lake – 300-400miles – they were waiting for a plane to fly them out as the trail ahead would have entailed a 300mile trip with a climb of about 1000feet – mostly pushing).

Now photos seem to be uploading today.

The leaders are about 60miles away from the finish. So we have the tail enders coming through Shaktoolik (713miles on the trail). Most of them stay over and rest from 3-6hours.

It is interesting chatting to the different volunteers working here. Incredibly varied backgrounds, some being really strange (!)

The temperature here is -10F – wind chilly varies as there is always a wind blowing. Last night the wind speeds were about 10-20miles per hour. Apparently every one mile per hour of wind speed equates to one degree Fahrenheit. Yes it gets cold here! Getting dressed to go outside and check the teams as the arrive takes about 7minutes. No one stays outside longer than necessary.

I will probably be flown off the trail on Thursday – fly to Unankleet (the closest hub) – and a small town which is even windier than Shaktoolik (the latter being a town of 200 people, one street – to the west is the Beiring Sea and to the east is the Shaktoolik river.  Distance from Beiring Sea to the river is less than 100metres). From Unankleet I will probably go straight to Anchorage.

Off to take some dropped dogs to the plane.