Monthly Archives: June 2009

Big bite — Fishermen find unusual number of sharks off Ninilchik, Anchor Point

Photo courtesy of Dr. Kenneth J. Goldman, research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A salmon shark leaps from the water with a prey fish in its mouth. The aptly named sharks, which like to feast on salmon, as well as sleeper sharks, have been hooked in larger-than-usual numbers offshore from  the lower Kenai Peninsula in Cook Inlet recently.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Kenneth J. Goldman, research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. A salmon shark leaps from the water with a prey fish in its mouth. Salmon sharks and sleeper sharks have been hooked in larger-than-usual numbers offshore from the lower Kenai Peninsula in Cook Inlet recently.

By Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

When Gary Deiman’s niece traveled from New York to visit Ninilchik in early June, he took her marine trolling for king salmon. Deiman has 30 years of trolling experience in the area, but what happened next surprised both the seasoned fisherman and his guest. Fishing from a small boat, using light salmon tackle and bait herring, Deiman’s niece hooked a salmon shark. Deiman estimates it was 9 feet long.

“It just rolled to the surface and I knew it was a salmon shark right away because of the size of it. It was just huge,” said Deiman, who is a setnet fisherman. “It was pretty exciting, that’s for sure.”

The shark bit the bait off his niece’s line three times, but got hooked the fourth time it went after her bait. They fought the shark for four hours and managed to get it up to the boat three times before it got away.

For Deiman and other members of his family who fish in the area, encounters with salmon sharks have been rare. But with respect to sharks, this year seems to represent a departure from previous years. Just the day before Deiman and his niece hooked a salmon shark, Deiman’s daughter, Kelsey Deiman, saw a salmon shark swipe a halibut off of a fishing line on a halibut charter boat on which she was working.

Fishermen in marine waters around Ninilchik and Anchor Point say encounters with sharks have been surprisingly common this year. Gary Deiman says that, in a usual year, he would expect to hear of a couple salmon shark landings over an entire summer. But this year he estimates there have already been three salmon sharks landed and another eight to 10 instances in which people have hooked salmon sharks.
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Fighting the tides — Homeowners lose in battle with wind, water, erosion

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series about bluff erosion.

Photo courtesy of Gary Williams, borough coastal district coordinator. Seawater surrounds houses built on Hawk’s Beach during a high tide in October 2007. The Hawk’s Beach subdivision has suffered severe erosion since houses were built there in the mid-1990s.

Photo courtesy of Gary Williams, borough coastal district coordinator. Seawater surrounds houses built on Hawk’s Beach during a high tide in October 2007. The Hawk’s Beach subdivision has suffered severe erosion since houses were built there in the mid-1990s.

By Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

North of Anchor Point and south of Ninilchik, a grassy bench of land known as Hawk’s Beach once overlooked the surf from below a seaside bluff. It was the perfect place for sea lovers to build houses, or at least that’s what the families who purchased plots on the beach thought. Now a great deal of the bench is gone, and six out of the seven houses built on it remain.

Three of the houses hover precariously on stilts as high as 16 feet above the ground with water surging below them during high tides. Two houses stand surrounded by the destroyed remains of failed seawalls built to protect them.

Just one house remains standing on solid ground ringed by an intact seawall. One of the houses originally built on the beach was removed due to erosion.

The story of Hawk’s Beach teaches an acute lesson about the natural and manmade factors that shape landscapes through shoreline erosion.
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Battleground Redoubt — City-owned parcel becomes ground zero of cemetery debate

Editor’s note: This is the second story in a series about Soldotna’s search for a cemetery site.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter The view from a bluff above the Kenai River on a city-owned parcel of land between RIverwatch Drive and Linda Lane looks over a city sedimentation pond and the Kenai River beyond. The parcel was suggested as a site for a cemetery.

Photo by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter The view from a bluff above the Kenai River on a city-owned parcel of land between RIverwatch Drive and Linda Lane looks over a city sedimentation pond and the Kenai River beyond. The parcel was suggested as a site for a cemetery.

By Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

Peeking through the trees to the west from a bluff above the Kenai River in Soldotna, a man-made pond sparkles stationary below, while a glimpse of the blue-green Kenai River sweeps along beyond it. The vista climbs with rooftops and treetops and comes to rest on the horizon, where Mount Redoubt draws its cloudy veil up around its shoulders.

To members of the Soldotna Historical Society, two city task forces, the director of the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, the city’s planning and zoning commission and a majority of Soldotna residents who voted on the issue, the spot would make an ideal location for a cemetery in Soldotna.

“It’s peaceful. There are a couple places where you may get a nice view, where you could sit there, look at the mountain and think, ‘Gee, isn’t this pretty.’ And think about Mom or Dad or whoever. There’s no Alaska lawn ornaments — no dead Buicks. No Fords. No wild parties going on. Honest to God, it’s a no-brainer to me,” said Jim Fassler, who has served on two city cemetery task forces.

That same site — a 10-acre, city-owned parcel atop a bluff above the Kenai River between Linda Lane and Riverwatch Drive — is described much differently by neighbors opposed to putting a cemetery there.

“I think a lot of it was the neighbors felt strongly that they would prefer to have a cemetery more outside of town rather than inside a neighborhood.

“Neighborhoods should be for living — for homes, people, kids. The neighborhood association felt it really didn’t belong in a neighborhood,” said Jay Rohloff, who owns two parcels of property along the northern border of the city’s lot, and is head of the area homeowners’ association.

The parcel is alternately described as peaceful and noisy; secure and a draw for vandals; roomy and lacking space for future growth; a manicured, unobtrusive boon for the neighborhood, and a water-contaminating, traffic-clogging threat to property values.

People on either side of the argument — which has been a re-occurring hot topic at Soldotna City Council meetings since 2003 — gained alternate descriptions, too. In public testimonies over the years, neighbors opposing the site have been labeled as unreasonable, selfish, elitist and ascribing to the philosophy of NIMBY — not in my backyard. Those supporting it were also deemed unreasonable, and seen as bullies for trying to force their will on others who would be more directly impacted.

“They’re NIMBYs, they just don’t want it in their neighborhood. They’ll use any old excuse, in my opinion,” Fassler said. “… They want a cemetery. Not a one says they don’t want a cemetery in their town. But all you hear from them is, ‘Don’t put it in my neighborhood.’”

Rohloff disagrees.

“The neighborhoods who are impacted by it, I can understand their opposition or their emotional connection. It’s next door to me, in our neighborhood, it’s next to our school,” Rohloff said. “The group that was pushing it had no real stake in the issue. I was surprised by the emotional connection that was picked up there. … I don’t think it’s the American way to steamroll a group of individuals who are being impacted the greatest.”
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‘Goat woman’ had long, mysterious life — Mather known for being tough, reclusive during time in Kenai

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

From the window of her post office along the bluff in Kenai, postmaster Joyce Rheingans noticed a small crowd gathering to peer over the edge toward the beach below. Leaning out her window, Rheingans called to her daughter, Arlene, who was playing with her friend Evelyn in the Rheingans’ backyard. She told Arlene to go find out what was happening.

The girls raced over to join the crowd. Looking down, they saw that on the beach below lay Marian Mather, known to most only by her reputation as a peculiar recluse and by an odd moniker: the old “Goat Woman.”

Mather was dead.

An investigation of the death was under way, according to Arlene, who (as Lisa Augustine, her modeling name) wrote years later about the incident in her memoir, “The Dragline Kid.”

Allan Petersen, the local territorial marshal, had parked his Jeep on the beach and was interrogating the mail carrier from the Libby, McNeil & Libby cannery while his deputy took notes. The mail carrier was supposedly the last person to see her alive.

After a short time, the marshal and deputy brought out a gray blanket with a wide black stripe, wrapped Mather in it, placed the body in the Jeep and drove away.

For many of those standing on the bluff that afternoon in June 1950, it was likely their most prolonged exposure to this unusual woman whom almost no one knew. And that was unfortunate, because Mather, who certainly was odd and did keep to herself, and who lived only briefly in this area, had done something quite extraordinary with her life.

One woman, who had not been on the bluff that day, knew Mather’s story — or at least more of the story than anyone else. She wrote down some of that story and passed it on to her family. Otherwise, Mather, like many who come and go in the frenetic lives of communities, might have slipped completely and quietly into the obscurity of the past.
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Twist of Caines — Fates of hikers rise, fall with the tides

Photos by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Kelty and Olivia Fair pick their way through a field of boulders draped in seaweed and covered in barnacles and blue mussels. This is typical of the walking conditions between Tonsina Point and Derby Cove on a hike to Caines Head outside Seward.

Photos by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Kelty and Olivia Fair pick their way through a field of boulders draped in seaweed and covered in barnacles and blue mussels. This is typical of the walking conditions between Tonsina Point and Derby Cove on a hike to Caines Head outside Seward.

By Clark Fair
Redoubt Reporter

A s soon as Kelty and I reached Derby Cove once again, I knew we were in for a delay. While we had been exploring the remains of a World War II fortress on Caines Head, the tide had come fully in, and now gray cliffs and the sea stood as obstacles to our quick return to the cozy public-use cabin just three-quarters of a mile away.

A beach stroll that should have taken 15 to 20 minutes took us, instead, two full hours — and we saved time by scrambling over wave-slickened shale and leaping from rocky perches in our attempt to thwart time and tide.

Of course, my son and I might have been better off to simply relax and bide our time on the crescent of sea-smooth stones that make up the beach on Derby Cove. Kelty might have hurled hundreds of perfect skipping stones into the waves while I lay back and eased into dreamland, almost oblivious to the tiny red spiders crawling like dots of laser light among the shale.

But back at the cabin we had left behind my daughter, Olivia, who had not been feeling well that morning. We had been gone for four hours already, and I didn’t want her to worry. I wanted nature to work at my convenience so I could make sure she was all right.
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Hiker dies on Devil’s Creek Trail

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. The logbook at the head of Devil’s Creek Trail shows an entry by “Sarah and Betsy,” of Girdwood, on June 17. After they started hiking, Sarah Thorn became ill and died, possibly of a stroke.

Photo by Patrice Kohl, Redoubt Reporter. The logbook at the head of Devil’s Creek Trail shows an entry by “Sarah and Betsy,” of Girdwood, on June 17. After they started hiking, Sarah Thorn became ill and died, possibly of a stroke.

Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

Last week, Sarah Thorn, 25, and her childhood friend Betsy Bradbury planned three days of hiking on the Kenai Peninsula followed by a trip to McCarthy to celebrate solstice.

The two friends would not make it to McCarthy together.

Thorn and Bradbury hiked onto Devil’s Creek Trail on June 17. As they hiked, Thorn began to complain that she was having a severe headache. About eight miles into the hike the two women stopped earlier than planned.
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Science of the Seasons: River of fire, and a whole lot of mud

By David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of David Wartinbee. Above is a photo of Mount Redoubt covered in ash, taken last week. Below is snow-capped Mount Redoubt, as it usually appears, taken in July 2008.

Photos courtesy of David Wartinbee. Above is a photo of Mount Redoubt covered in ash, taken last week. Below is snow-capped Mount Redoubt, as it usually appears, taken in July 2008.

On a clear day from just about anywhere on the Kenai Peninsula, we can see two of the dominant peaks across the inlet, Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna. I don’t mean to ignore the more northerly Mount Spurr, especially since it is about 1,000 feet taller than either of the other two. However, Mount Spurr just doesn’t stand out so starkly against much lower background mountains the way Iliamna and Redoubt do.
Tuxidni Bay 2 July 08 004 Web
If you have lived here or visited the peninsula in the past, I’ll bet you have a couple photos of these two picturesque mountains. I have a collection of Mount Redoubt and Mount Iliamna pictures that number in the hundreds and date all the way back to 1977.

When I look back at these pictures, no matter what time of the year they were taken and no matter how close I was when I tripped the shutter, they all show a 10,000-foot white mountain. But not today. If you take out your binoculars on a clear day this summer you will find that Iliamna is still snow-covered and white but Redoubt is dark with only a hint of white in selected spots. Redoubt has belched ash all over its normally pure-white bib.
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Art Seen: Lighthearted look

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

“Reds in Blue: Almost Home” is a large-scale watercolor by Sherri Sather.

“Reds in Blue: Almost Home” is a large-scale watercolor by Sherri Sather.

The walls at Coffee Roasters are full of light. Whether Sherri Sather is drawing with charcoal or painting with watercolors or acrylics, there is a light-bearing quality to everything she does. Even when the piece seems somber or especially quiet, there can be found an underlying spirit that shines forward, illuminating the thoughts and inspiring the senses. It is present whether she is dealing with a subject or working completely in the abstract.
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Battle plan for combat fishing

By Mark Conway, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photo courtesy of Mark Conway. Kyle Bryant of Kennewick, Wash., shows off the sockeye salmon he caught in the combat fishing zone at the confluence of the Kenai and Russian rivers.

Photo courtesy of Mark Conway. Kyle Bryant of Kennewick, Wash., shows off the sockeye salmon he caught in the combat fishing zone at the confluence of the Kenai and Russian rivers.

June 21, 1984. I crossed the Kenai River at the Russian River Ferry in Cooper Landing for the first time to step into something I had only seen before in photos and thought, “Who could ever fish like that and enjoy it?”

I had been lured up to Alaska from Washington state for the first time to experience sockeye salmon and trout fishing with a fly in June. As I entered the parking lot that summer solstice afternoon, I felt like I was entering into an amusement park with everyone going this and that way. There was a carnival atmosphere of fishermen and women, children and dogs — you name it, everyone was so excited about fishing for sockeye.

The reality of the combat fishing sank in about the time I got off the ferry and looked down over the hundreds of fishermen standing shoulder-to-shoulder with fishing lines whipping up into the air from behind them over and in front into the water almost in perfect synchronization. It was poetry in motion to see for the first time. I stopped to take a picture, not believing my eyes that this was really happening. How could so many people line up along the river, fish so close and seem so content?
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Bound to be good — Used book sale ready to share stories with other readers

library book sale WebBy Jenny Neyman
Redoubt Reporter

The content of a book can captivate the attention and imagination. Sometimes the pages tell of fanciful lands, journeys, mysteries and life stories. Other times it’s tragedies and triumphs, heartbreak and heroism, or just a darned good recipe for never-fail homemade bread.

And sometimes, the book itself tells a story, regardless of what’s printed on its pages. Since librarians do as good of a job instilling a love of reading as they do fear of what will happen if a book is mistreated, books are rarely thrown away. Over the years they’re traded, borrowed, sold, stored, lost, found, read and re-read, so that they lead as quirky, well-traveled, long lives as some of the characters they present.

In the state office building in Kenai this week, there are thousands of stories to be shared, as used books from around the community will be recycled on to new owners to begin yet another chapter of their lives.

The Friends of the Kenai Community Library organization is preparing for its annual used book sale this weekend to raise money for the library, especially its expansion plans.
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Plugged In: Focus on quality — Good lenses go a long way in creating good photos

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Last week, I discussed developing your figurative “photographer’s eye” as the single most critical element in making good photographs. That’s all well and good, but, ultimately, your visualization needs to become real.

Making your photos real is the job of your camera’s lens and digital sensor. This week, we’ll start exploring your camera’s optics and how they affect your photos. More than anything else, the technical quality of your digital photographs is determined by the quality of your lens.

All optics obey the same basic laws of physics, and all lenses work in the same manner, bending incoming light in controlled ways to produce an image. A simple magnifying glass is a basic lens.

Simple, high-quality camera lenses will use between four and seven individual internal glass elements, while more complex zoom lenses will use anywhere from eight to 17 glass elements.

The same basic physics that allows a lens to form a sharp image also ultimately limit the sharpness of an image, resulting in what lens makers call “aberrations” that degrade an image. Designing a quality lens calls for carefully balancing the various aberrations so they cancel each other, at least partially, in order to achieve the best overall product within a given price range.

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Whale of a phenomenon — Fishermen reporting seeing more marine mammals than usual

By Patrice Kohl
Redoubt Reporter

Anglers taking halibut and king salmon charter trips out of Deep Creek this spring got extra bang out of their buck as fishing trips turned into inadvertent whale watching trips. The word on the saltwater among sportfishermen off the lower peninsula has been whales, whales and more whales this spring.

Charter boat fishermen who have fished in the area 20-plus years say they have never seen anything like it. Fishermen have been spotting whales in shallow and deep water in an area roughly as far south as Anchor Point and as far north as Deep Creek, and particularly in shallow waters near Happy Valley and Twin Falls.

It’s not uncommon to see a few whales passing through the area in late May and the first few days of June. But this spring, area fishermen regularly spotted whales, some of which stuck around for long periods of time and swam much closer to shore than they had in the past. As of Friday, Walt Barton, owner of Kenai Alaska Fish On, said he had seen whales on every saltwater trip he’s done this year, other than his first two trips he took in early May.

“They’ve been very, very consistent. Since the 15th of May I’ve seen them every day I’ve been out and that’s not normal,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never seen it like this. There’s some kind of a phenomena out there and I couldn’t tell you what.”
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