Author Topic: The Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips  (Read 8350 times)

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #15 on: February 04, 2021, 03:17:36 PM »
Wow, so cool! It looks like a really cool place to visit, especially when you chose to go. I mean going in the summer when it's 30F isn't nearly as exciting. Looking forward to the next installment.

Summer does have certain advantages, such as oilfield and Arctic Ocean tours, but overall winter is definitely a lot more unique and interesting IMO.
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Offline whYME

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #16 on: February 04, 2021, 05:58:12 PM »

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #17 on: February 04, 2021, 05:59:36 PM »


We should do some sort of tzedaka raffle, the winner gets to see that video. $10000 buy in.
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Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2021, 03:22:40 AM »

Trip 1, February



Part 2

After a long day of traveling, we finally made it: Barrow airport. The northernmost airport in the U.S., in the northernmost town.



There are no road connections to Barrow (recently officially renamed to its Inuit name of Utqiaġvik), and so everything gets in by plane. Cars, pre-fab building modules, food, you name it. In the summer they sometimes have barge service, but that's just a tiny percentage of it all. The airport regularly serves giant cargo planes, but the passenger terminal is a chaotic one-room affair.

Here's their high-tech baggage belt:



And this is the entirety of the terminal, just sitting there on the side of the main road:





There are two hotels in Barrow, both quite similar. The King Eider Inn however was right across the street of the airport, so that won out:



Accommodations here are... basic. Nothing fancy, but perfectly serviceable for one night:



Not something you'd see in a hotel in the Maldives:



...and not something you'd want to see in any hotel:



I make sure to check every hotel room for signs of bed bugs right when I get in, and thankfully so far it's all worked out - including here. I actually only noticed this can the next morning, which I suppose was a good thing.

After dinner and a bit of relaxing, we took a short walk to the other end of town to check out what is commonly termed the most expensive grocery in the country. Since everything has to be flown in, bulky or heavy things like diapers and potato chips cost a fortune here.

The main street - it was coooold:



Local transport:



$6.29 for a bag of potato chips - honestly not as expensive as I thought it would be, but still quite high:



All cereal is sold in bags here, as it takes up less space during shipping:



And yet the strawberries were cheaper than my local supermarket:



Things take a while to get up here... At a time when fidget spinners in the lower 48 had been collecting dust for months, they were the hottest new trend in town. The cashier told me they can barely keep them in stock:



Had a good night's sleep, and woke up for an early sunrise - at 11am:



We walked around town, schmoozed with some school children, stalked a distant arctic fox, and in general had a good time while freezing our noses off:



Our goal today was to visit Point Barrow, the very northernmost point of land in the United States. The points is essentially the end of a miles-long sandbar sticking into the Arctic Ocean:





There's only one problem: it's pretty much impossible to get to. For starters, only native Inuit ("Eskimo" is no longer politically correct) are allowed on that land. And secondly, you kinda need transport. There are no roads or markiers out here: all you have is endless white desert as far as the eye can see. Hiking for miles in minus 40 is a surefire way to, well, not come back. And as an added feature, you got polar bears looking for food here too.

Anyways, in the summer you can take a Hummer tour out to the point, but in the winter nobody is crazy enough to visit. Except us, of course.

So I found a crazy Inuit whaler who had a rusty old rifle, a snowmobile, a rickety wooden sled, and a frayed bit of rope, and off we zipped into the wilderness.

If you think I'm exaggerating, well... have a look at this video:



Lay-flat seating!



After about 20 minutes of craziness, we arrived near the point:



The landscape here was essentially a huge, flat white plain, bordered all around by gigantic pressure ridges. Basically, with the Arctic Ocean frozen over, massive winds break up the ice into floes and then pile them against the shoreline. Throughout the season these wind-driven floes pile up into miles-long ice ridges:



Climbing to the top - this was a lot more difficult than it seems, as snowdrifts covered up many spaces between the ice floes. It was basically two steps forward, one step back:



Let's see if there's any wildlife around...



Looking through my lens, I thought I saw something move off in the distance - a smudge slightly yellower than the ice, all the way at the end of the ridge. It could have been a polar bear, a fox, or maybe just my eyelash. But off we went to investigate.

Getting closer - can you spot it?



Bingo - a pair of arctic foxes:



Over the next half hour or so, we veeeeery slowly made our way closer and closer. They had clearly seen us, but were mostly going about their business and ignoring us - so far. They were playing, chasing each other, disappearing under this bit of ice and popping out from behind that one.

Doing the shuffle, getting closer...



Boom.



Right after this the foxes decided they'd had enough and disappeared onto the frozen ocean.

Another view from the top of a pressure ridge - here the wind had scoured a bit of ground clear and you could make out the shoreline:



This area was littered with massive whale bones, left where subsistence whalers like our guide cut them up during the summer season. This one is a bowhead whale jaw that was bigger than me:



Whale spine:



Mincha:



Caribou skull:



My boy Herman:



Time to head back - I claimed the back snowmobile seat this time:



We headed back to town and switched to Herman's truck, where he gave us a tour of the town in near-whiteout conditions. Seriously, check out this road we were driving on:



A pair of caribou, way out in the distance:



Snowy owl on an antenna:





Herman then took us to his house to show us his whaling gear. He's one of just a handful of whaling captains still around, who go out every summer on subsistence bowhead whale hunts.

This is his boat, made out of sealskin and hand sewn by the local Inuit women:



A small flotilla of these boats would head out every day, and when a whale was sighted the hunt would begin. They use a combination of old-fashioned harpoons and modern rifles, and then the whole town gathers to beach the whale and cut it up. The bones are left on the beach, but everything else is divvied up equally between whoever helped and they eat it raw throughout the winter. Herman was going to fetch us a plate but we politely declined.

The underground bunker where the whale meat is stored and kept frozen:





Herman in his living room, demonstrating how the "whale bombs" (foreground) are loaded into the harpoons behind him. The harpoon is triggered like a gun, the bomb shoots out the front attached to a rope, and then enters the whale and explodes inside:



He ended up enjoying this too much, and it was difficult to convince him to drive us back to the hotel and our return flight. He kept on saying that we still had time, but we were getting antsy. We had forgotten however that we were in a tiny little town, and so in the end we went from hotel room to plane seat in under 17 minutes.

As we're going through TSA, the agent looks up at me and says "Boro Park?" Turns out he had grown up on 48 St. and New Utrecht.... In all the airports in all the towns in the country, he ended up here. Go figure!



Aaaand that was the end of Barrow for us. We had been there for exactly 24 hours, and it was just enough time to see everything there is to see, and have some crazy adventures to boot.

Next up: Fairbanks aurora chase!

Off we went, with a stop in Anchorage. Picked up our car, grabbed some snacks at Walmart (you guys know the drill by now...), and headed north out of town. Conditions were looking favorable; all we needed now were dark places and clear skies.

It wasn't long before we frantically pulled off the side of the road:



Let's see if we can find a slightly more scenic spot before it fades:



And then it faded. But no worries, the night is but young! Further north we go....









One final celebratory group picture, before it's time to head to the airport and home:



Made it to the airport with plenty of time, only to find a Whatsapp from Dan asking if I wanted to be interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

Say what? But sure!

Had a fun conversation with their reporter while doing a final sorting of winter gear, food, and suitcases, which you can read about here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/translating-harry-potter-into-yiddish-isnt-totally-meshugge-11582649480

So there are two ways of getting back home: the normal way, and the Something Fishy way. Why fly something like Fairbanks-Seattle-New York when you can fly Fairbanks-Anchorage-Juneau-Petersburg-Wrangell-Ketchikan-Seattle-New York?

This of course is the famous Alaska Milk Run hopper, and is how these tiny remote communities get their stuff. It's an incredibly scenic trip, and the 31-mile hop from Petersburg to Wrangell is considered one of the most beautiful in the country.

So we settled in for the long haul, expediting spectacular views all along. Takeoff from Anchorage did not disappoint:





......and that was the last we saw of anything. Nasty weather moved in and would stick around for the rest of the day. All we saw from here on out was gray, gray, and more gray, with a quick glimpse of a runway as we landed every now and then. In short, it was a total bust - which means we'd just have to do it again one day!

The one exciting part of the trip was a missed approach in Petersburg - we were 40 feet above the runway when the pilot aborted the landing and headed right back out. Apparently the issue was winds, and so he was going to try again.

We ended up flying nearly to our next stop - Wrangell - before hooking a 180 and trying again at Petersburg:



The best part of all this was that we were delayed enough to miss our Jetblue Seattle to NY flight, which they quickly rebooked us as Seattle-Boston-NY. We made a mad dash for it - the plane was already boarding, and it was at the complete opposite end of the airport, which meant we had to take three (THREE!) different airport trains. We were the last on the plane, and they insisted we check our carry ons. I said no way that's happening with 5 digits worth of camera gear, so I basically sat on my backpack the entire night.

And did I mention that there were only middle seats remaining...? In the end nothing mattered, as I fell asleep the instant I sat down and didn't stir until Boston.

It was Friday morning when we arrive in Boston, which means that the plane is contractually obligated to go mechanical. A series of rolling delays followed, so we made up a time at which we'd rent a car and drive if we weren't on the plane yet. In the end they moved us onto a later-but-now-earlier flight, והכל יבוא על מקומו בשלום.

The end.
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Offline Yehoshua

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2021, 09:57:41 AM »
Wow! How close to the northern most point in the US did you actually get?

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2021, 10:01:37 AM »
Wow! How close to the northern most point in the US did you actually get?

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Offline etech0

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2021, 12:01:04 PM »
Posts like that need more than one LIKE button
Workflowy. You won't know what you're missing until you try it.

Offline lubaby

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2021, 12:14:30 PM »
Posts like that need more than one LIKE button
:-X ;)

Offline jj1000

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Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2021, 01:10:33 PM »
FTFY

HT: MMS

LOL, my first thought was this really needs an MMS HT. Turns out you're way ahead of me.
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Offline lakewood34

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2021, 01:12:10 PM »
wow!!!

just curious how did you find the whaler captain did you book him in advance or just ask around when you were there

also how do you check for bed bugs?


so in essence you were on the ocean but it was frozen over

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2021, 01:15:22 PM »
wow!!!

just curious how did you find the whaler captain did you book him in advance or just ask around when you were there

also how do you check for bed bugs?


so in essence you were on the ocean but it was frozen over

- Asked around when I got there.

- Basically this, mainly around the edges and seams of the mattress.

- Correct, the pressure ridges we climbed were over the frozen ocean.
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Offline whYME

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #27 on: February 05, 2021, 01:45:00 PM »

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2021, 01:52:44 PM »
You forgot the special guest:

E. P. I. C.
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Offline Yehudaa

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Re: Call of the Wild: Something Fishy's Four Alaskan 2020 Trips
« Reply #29 on: February 05, 2021, 01:56:25 PM »
You forgot the special guest:
ALOL