The Auroral STORM

Ahoy! You might be thinking to yourself “yet another Aurora post”, and I wouldn’t blame you, because I’ve been putting up a lot of them lately! However, this one has a new piece to offer, I hope you’ll check it out!

Last nights Aurora was a true “storm”. The kP (measure of Auroral Activity) was at 5 and there was no chance I was going to miss it! I took myself and my gear to Murphy Dome. This time I snowshoed in a little ways to get away from all the light possible. However, by 11:30 the aurora was yet to show itself! Rather than be disappointed I headed back to the truck and grabbed my sleeping bag. I wasn’t going anywhere.  While waiting for the Aurora I did capture this shot: It’s a 3 minute exposure to deomonstrate the start movement… and also how many of them there are! The skies were completely dark last night due to our new moon. A perfect night for starscapes and the Aurora.

3 minute exposure of the hills north of Murphy Dome. Milky way and a LOT of stars!
3 minute exposure of the hills north of Murphy Dome. Milky way and a LOT of stars!

At about midnight I was still laying out waiting for the Aurora. I was pretty comfortable which makes the eyes heavy. When I woke up at 2 it was finally starting! I caught the beginning of the Aurora which had plenty of reds in it (visible to the naked eye) and was dancing across the sky.

Waiting for the Aurora I spend a lot of time curled up in my sleeping bag. In fact, I got in my bag at 11:30 PM and did not get out until 4:30 the next morning. When I wasnt wathching the Aurora I caught some Zzzz's!
Waiting for the Aurora I spend a lot of time curled up in my sleeping bag. In fact, I got in my bag at 11:30 PM and did not get out until 4:30 the next morning. When I wasnt wathching the Aurora I caught some Zzzz’s!
The reds of the Aurora
The reds of the Aurora

The aurora continued to build, but it was not like an Aurora I have seen yet. There was SO MUCH activity that the whole northern sky became filled with green. Small pieces of bright aurora would pop out of the green fog and dance before disappearing. If I were to face north and stick may arms out straight at my sides, everything in front of my body was green. The whole sky was saturated. These saturated greens do not flicker and dance, but shift like a pale haze.  The video will show you easily the transition from the structured Aurora to the green storm. It reminds me of a movie’s cut scene while looking into a magic ball.

I also think that I got lucky enough to get some blues in the timelapse video, however, that could be wishful thinking. If you think you see them let me know, so I know I’m not just seeing what I want to see! 🙂 . They certainly were not visible to the naked eye… so that only half counts on my Aurora ‘bucket list’ anyway – blues are definitely on the bucket list!

This video has been slowed down considerably from other videos based on the feedback everyone gave. Thanks!

The night ended with me still sitting in the same spot as I had slept. My snowshoes still planted in the snow and the Aurora was still overhead, but you have to call it quits at sometime… right?. What a night!

This photo was taken at the very end of my stay at 4:30 AM. The last pieces of the storm still drifted in the sky.
This photo was taken at the very end of my stay at 4:30 AM. The last pieces of the storm still drifted in the sky.

Lota Lota…Burbota!

Well, I am back on the Burbot trail. Had a great day out yesterday with Ross and Connor. We ended up icing 7 burbot, which was a great pull! The video below is full of disappointment (bare hooks) and elation (my first ‘double’ and ‘single double’). Enjoy! 🙂

Burbot Quesodilla Fixings
Burbot Quesodilla Fixings

Today’s highlighted recipe is Burbot Quesadilla:

  1. Seared Burbot with Cayenne, Cumin, Paprika, Pinch of salt and Chilli Powder
  2. Sweet pepper sauted
  3. Mushrooms sauted
  4. Add those ingredients between two tortillas and cheese
  5. Melt that on your pan, and enjoy with your favorite ‘dilla condiments!

Come Fly With Me! : Fort Yukon, Alaska

I have spent my last couple of days in Fort Yukon, Alaska. I was gathering data for my thesis as well as some data to fulfill some granting deliverables. As proof of that I offer you this key piece of evidence:

Examining a map of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) at the CATG, NR office in Fort Yukon, AK
Examining a map of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) at the CATG, NR office in Fort Yukon, AK

This was my first time into truly remote Alaska. In fact, Fort Yukon has no roads into it. It is far from the system of pavement which means your options are dogsled, snowmachine or airplane. I chose the latter. An interesting tidbit – villagers do drive cars, and the cars get there by barge when the Yukon is open and flowing. The flight up to Fort Yukon was very special because I got to experience the sunrise coming over the mountains. I attempted to capture the sunrise in my flight to Fort Yukon video. I will just warn  you that the technique I used was a bit ‘experimental’. I wanted to shoot the video as a timelapse so I could get the sun rising as well as the plane in flight. That part worked; the sun definitely rises and the plane certainly moves. However, I didn’t account for the jerkiness of the plane when using a timelapse. I’ve done my best to edit to a smoother product, but you’ll still get tossed around a bit! It isn’t for the weak stomach :p.  For a ‘smoother’ version of the flight, have a look at the flight from Fort Yukon to Fairbanks at the bottom which I think is  a very cool video.

DOH!

Small Antedote. For those who know my woes with laptops. I got off the plane in Fort Yukon and jumped into a vehicle with a stranger. Her name was Hannah. She thought I was someone else and I thought she was just picking me up for the office. So, off we went, but neither of us knew where we had to go :S . It didn’t take me long to figure out that I should head back to the airport and meet up with my actual pick-up. I had extra incentive though, I had left my laptop ON THE PLANE wedged between the plane and the seat. I talked to the Fort Yukon office and they weren’t able to contact the plane, but did put in a contact to the next village. That was lucky enough. On top of that I was fortunate that my plane was to return in 1.5 hours to pick up some freight before heading back to Fairbanks. When they arrived at 11:25 (and yes, minutes count when you are watching the time so closely) I was OVERJOYED to see the pilot step out of the plane with my laptop. Crisis averted!

THE FLIGHT TO FYU (Smoother flight at bottom 🙂 )

The Yukon River just outside of Fort Yukon, AK
The Yukon River just outside of Fort Yukon, AK
You can see many hundreds of years of stream morphology here. See the "oxbow" lakes (remants of stream bed) scattered throughout the area? The Yukon Flats is marked by old stream channels and small lakes.
You can see many hundreds of years of stream morphology here. See the “oxbow” lakes (remants of stream bed) scattered throughout the area? The Yukon Flats is marked by old stream channels and small lakes.
You really can't stop looking, it's all SO beautiful!
You really can’t stop looking, it’s all SO beautiful!
When flying small charter planes there is just you, the luggage, the pilots and a few passengers. It's cozy, but comfortable!
When flying small charter planes there is just you, the luggage, the pilots and a few passengers. It’s cozy, but comfortable!

MY GRADUATE WORK

The purpose of this trip was to gather data for my graduate work. I’ll put down my current proposed thesis, so someday I can look back and read this. I’m sure I will have a good laugh. Currently I’m looking at competition between humans and wolves for the common resource of moose, in the Yukon Flats of interior Alaska. In this area moose populations are as low as anywhere in the U.S. or even the world. These low moose densities are unexpected, with exceptional habitat existing throughout the Yukon Flats. Moose in this system are thought to be controlled by wolves, which keep them at densities well below the carrying capacity of the land. This has been dubbed the ‘predator pit’. To get at competition I’m utilizing a collared wolf dataset through collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) from the Council of Athabascan Government. Those data – which comprise the purpose of my trip to Fort Yukon- were collected during interviews in the mid-2000s and serve as a useful tool to understand landscape usage by the villagers. My intent is to understand where they harvest moose. By comparing the two datasets using resource selection functions in GIS I am hoping to gain insights into competition based on how humans and wolves use the landscape when pursuing moose. I can’t thank enough CATG and FWS the opportunity to work with their data.

FORT YUKON AT NIGHT

Fort Yukon is a really cool place. Due to its location (the middle of nowhere) the night-scapes that occur there are second to none (but probably tied with many). I went out into the night and wandered around Fort Yukon passing through snow covered trees and by quiet houses. The full moon lit the landscape up so that in these pictures it appears to be daytime. You certainly could have read a book by it!

P2131151
Full moon night at Fort Yukon,AK
CATG Natural Resources Office Lit up by a full moon
CATG Natural Resources Office Lit up by a full moon
Back-lit trees during the big full moon.
Back-lit trees during the big full moon.
Full moon night at Fort Yukon,AK
Full moon night at Fort Yukon,AK
There was some wind out this night. Notice the tops of the trees? That blurring is a ruffling of the branches.
There was some wind out this night. Notice the tops of the trees? That blurring is a ruffling of the branches.
Out for a hike! AK survival gear : canvas boots, facemask, down jacket, fleece lined pants
Out for a hike! AK survival gear : canvas boots, facemask, down jacket, fleece lined pants

VILLAGE HIGHLIGHTS

Unfortunately I did not get to partake or see much of life at the Fort Yukon. I spent most of my time indoors going through data and maps. However, before leaving I got a small tour of town. Here’s just some of the things to catch my eye.

The wind out on the Yukon River looked COLD!
The wind out on the Yukon River looked COLD!
This place has not always been called Fort Yukon, and some still refer to it as the place that it was. Gwitchyaa Zhee

By the way, I had this pronounced to me many times. If there is someone reading this who could phonically write it out for me that would be a huge help. I’m having a hard time getting it.

The yukon is wide at the Fort Yukon landing (pictured here). It is amazing it is a river at all, could be a long lake just by the size of it.
The yukon is wide at the Fort Yukon landing (pictured here). It is amazing it is a river at all, could be a long lake just by the size of it.
This old school was one of the first (maybe the first?) in Fort Yukon. It lies along the river and is boarded up now. The square logwork still looks tight though and it is a very, very cool old building.
This old school was one of the first (maybe the first?) in Fort Yukon. It lies along the river and is boarded up now. The square logwork still looks tight though and it is a very, very cool old building.
I am not sure of the owner of this house. It was along the river and had so much character you had to love it!
I am not sure of the owner of this house. It was along the river and had so much character you had to love it!

THE FLIGHT TO FAI (smoother video! :D)

The flight home was a much different flight. It started out clear, but then below us a cloud bank formed. However, just after we got past the Yukon Flats (as denoted by a rising mountain range) the skies cleared again and created a beautiful juxtaposition of clouds, light, and shade. 

Here's some of the mountain scenery coming from Fort Yukon to Fairbanks.
Here’s some of the mountain scenery coming from Fort Yukon to Fairbanks.
A juxtaposition of clouds and valleys. Shadows and light. It is quite stunning when you are up there looking down on it.
A juxtaposition of clouds and valleys. Shadows and light. It is quite stunning when you are up there looking down on it. Here’s the edge of the Yukon Flats. The mountain range that rises up is controlling the cloud cover pretty effectively.
We flew into Birch Creek for a pickup and some cargo. Here's a few as we were flying back out. Not many people living in Birch Creek!
We flew into Birch Creek for a pickup and some cargo. Here’s a few as we were flying back out. Not many people living in Birch Creek!
Going over the Yukon heading south this time. What a huge, daunting river!
Going over the Yukon heading south this time. What a huge, daunting river!
Fort Yukon Aerial
Fort Yukon from the air.

BRAIN TANNING

On the way home I met a really unique and talented individual. His name is Donovan Felix and he is currently on a mission to revive native tanning practices (brain tanning) in the interior. He was pulling on a chunk of moose hide while the flight was happing to make it supple part of his cargo for the trip was a caribou hide he had just been given. He specializes in caribou, but in recent years has started tanning moose asl well. Donovan is obviously very passionate about what he does and his mission. He was constantly giving me tips on how to tan hides, and what he was doing with the hide. In fact, what he is is doing is so novel that he was covered by www.culturesurval.org . Click the link to read the story. Also, if you are interested in learning about brain tanning UAF holds a workshop! http://www.uaf.edu/iac/traditional-learning/animal-hide-tanning/. This is certainly something that I will be looking out for this spring. I ended up giving Donovan a ride to town after we got off the plane.

Here, Donovan is twisting and pulling the moose hide to break down the fibers and make it supple.
Here, Donovan is twisting and pulling the moose hide to break down the fibers and make it supple.

The planes that bring people back and forth are not that big. They are carry as much freight and cargo as they do people. At each stop cargo is loaded and unloaded quickly and planes do not stay around long. I must say though their service is excellent and is needed by the villages. During my ride to Fort Yukon I sat next to Dr. Pepper and milk. Here’s a picture of the plane that got me back to Fairbanks.

Wright Air standard issue plane
Wright Air standard issue plane

Here’s the last bit. I’m really happy how this video turned out of the flight to Fairbanks. Have a look and let me know what you think!

 

New Life in the Village

I must say the newest young life in our household is much anticipated. I’ve watched patiently for several days waiting their arrival, and finally, they’re here! I’m not talking about any mammals, rather, some brand new shoot of Cilantro :).

Time to start thinking spring and summer with this timelapse of plant growth! It’s not too soon to start drooling over warm weather. Is it??!

Aurora Borealis : Science!

Ahoy Readers!

Well, last night was a stunner here in Alaska. I went out for the Aurora, and was yet again bowled over by just how wonderful it is/was! First things first, I need to toot my horn a bit here. Aurora Tech (http://goo.gl/9x4yk1) insulating technology worked like a charm. Coupled with a Zippo handwarmer and another hand-heater my camera operated for over 2.5 hours at -20 degrees Farenheight on one battery! That’s a tremendous improvement! I was able to shoot 2 different angles for over an hour each, results in a pretty great timelapse and some great photography. That’s at the bottom!

Aurora tech in action! My lunch bag insulator worked perfectly last night. After 2.5 hours my camera was still snapping shots with no stop on one batter! I added a Zippo heater pack and one other hand warmer to the box to help my camera out.
Aurora tech in action! My lunch bag insulator worked perfectly last night. After 2.5 hours my camera was still snapping shots with no stop on one batter! I added a Zippo heater pack and one other hand warmer to the box to help my camera out.

I thought I would do some research for myself on the Aurora and the science behind it. All information that I disseminate here can be found on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(astronomy)) – sorry for you non-wiki-trusters. But for this instance I think it will be OK 🙂

THE BIG QUESTIONS

What causes the Aurora?

Auroras are a emissions from photons (light) which are in the Earth’s Atmosphere above 80 km (50 mile). They are excited when they collide with solar wind and the magnetospheric particles which are ‘funneled’ and sped up by the Earth’s magnetic lines.

Aurora terms:

Aurorae are classified as diffuse and discrete.

  • “The diffuse aurora is a featureless glow in the sky that may not be visible to the naked eye, even on a dark night. It defines the extent of the auroral zone.”
  • “The discrete aurorae are sharply defined features within the diffuse aurora that vary in brightness from just barely visible to the naked eye, to bright enough to read a newspaper by at night. Discrete aurorae are usually seen in only the night sky, because they are not as bright as the sunlit sky.”

Where do the colors come from?

  • RED : At high latitudes Reds come from excited oxygen.
  • GREEN : at lower altitudes reds are suppressed and green shines out. Green can be generated by the collision of oxygen and nitrogen.
  • YELLOW and PINK : Just mixes of red and green!
  • BLUE : At the lowest altitudes there is no more atomic oxygen and there is lots of nitrogen. It radiates at blue and red – which can give you purple!

What does the Aurora sound like?

Apparently there are records of people ‘hearing’ the aurora! Scientists actually were able to record a sound, which they describe as ‘clapping’ from the aurora. I’m not sure I agree with their analogy of the sound, but have a listen!

Source: http://www.space.com/16498-northern-lights-clapping-sound-explained.html

What colors are the most common?

Apparent ranking of colors is this :

Green –> Pink –> Pure Red –> Yellow –> Blue

I have never seen blue!!

Images from last night:

Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 - 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 – 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 - 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 – 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 - 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 – 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 - 02/08/14
Northern Lights over Tanana River, Fairbanks, AK 02/07 – 02/08/14

Slower, or faster?

I have a question for you, the readers. I have created 2 timelapse videos below of the same aurora from last night. One is played slower than the other. Which do you prefer? I would love to know for future timelapse video making!

 

1 Down 1000 to Go : The Yukon Quest Dog Sled Race 2014

This weekend marked the beginning of the Yukon Quest race which started in Fairbanks this year, and ends in Whitehorse, YT. Mushers navigate the Yukon River as it winds its way into Canada. One of the racers has been doing this race for nearly 20 years. At 1000 miles per year that’s 20,000 miles just in this race; incredibly that equates to almost a trip around the earth! These mushers are incredibly dedicated to the sport and their dogs. On top of that they have to be tough as nails. In 2010 Hans Gatt ran the course in 9 days 00 hours and 26 minutes. That’s averaging well over 100 miles per day! There is a great guide for the race which can be found here : YUKON QUEST MEDIA GUIDE. However, I thought I would pull some information out of there that I though was cool!

For instance:

  • “Mushing” is a general term for any transport method powered by dogs and includes carting, pulka, scootering, sled dog racing, skijoring, freighting, and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marche, or go. It is the command to the team to commence pulling—Mush! Although this term is seldom used in the modern day, it still gives name to the sport.
  • The Yukon Quest Trail links together a series of shorter travel routes that were the only means of winter travel over a century ago. When Yukon Quest founders began looking for a route to follow between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, they resurrected many historic routes and combined them to cover 1,000 miles.
  • The Yukon Quest Trail dates back to 1870s to the Forty Mile Gold Rush Era. The Iditarod dates back to the 1925 Serum Run from Nenana to Nome

There is a great resource of tracking the status of the mushers here : LIVE TRACKING!

The day was a tremendous community event. Crowds of people lined up to watch the mushers take off. Each time the announcer would begin the countdown and the crowd would yell “10…9…8…7..6!…5!!…4!!…3!!!….2!!!!!…..1!!!….GOOOOO!!!!!” and the dogs would take off down 2nd ave. All in all 18 teams were launched in this fashion. It is amazing how excited the dogs are. If you have been around sled dogs about to run you know they yip and howl until they are finally released. They jump in the air and are constantly pulling at their harnesses. I learned at the race that these smaller dogs are made for distance, and larger dogs are used for shorter sprints.I compiled this video of the starting day. I think it does a pretty good job of capturing the community of the event, but also how excited the dogs are!

Here’s the route and profile from the race! 1000 miles and some elevation to boot.There is a race within this race as well. At Dawson city there is a required 36 hour layover to rest the mushers and inspect the health of the dogs. The first musher to Dawson City get 4 ounces of Yukon gold!

Source : Yukon Quest Media Guide 2013
Source : Yukon Quest Media Guide 2013
Source : http://adventurelearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BeringiaYukonRoute.jpg
Source : http://adventurelearning.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/BeringiaYukonRoute.jpg

DOGGY FACES

After going through my pictures I was pretty entertained by the dog faces that I had captured. Some of them are humorous, and one (you’ll know which!) looks just down-right ferocious. All of the dogs were very, very excited to head out provided a cacophony of barking. If you have a caption for any of these, I would love to hear them!

Laughing dogs.
Laughing dogs.
WOW! Now that's scary! Even if he is just yipping in excitement
WOW! Now that’s scary! Even if he is just yipping in excitement
Same dog, much more innocent looking!
Same dog, much more innocent looking!
I want to go nowwwwww!!
I want to go nowwwwww!!
It looks like someone just told these two a story. They have that "you did what?!" face on them.
It looks like someone just told these two a story. They have that “you did what?!” face on them.
Look at those blue eyes!
Look at those blue eyes!
Who's Holding up the line?!?!
Who’s Holding up the line?!?!

HATS! HATS! HATS!

One of the things on display were a variety of fur garments. I only took a couple pictures when the opportunity came and I wasn’t point my camera at the dogs. Very cool to see some creative furry headresses though.

Tail still attached on this red fox hat.
Tail still attached on this red fox hat.
Now that's a hat!
Now that’s a hat!