Monthly Archives: September 2010

Virus strikes salmon fry — Hatchery loses sockeye stock to IHN

By Jenny Neyman


Photos courtesy of Cathy Cline, field assistant at the Bear Creek Weir. A Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association crew collects sockeye broodstock for gametes extraction.


Redoubt Reporter

If Trail Lakes Hatchery in Moose Pass were a motel, the sign out front would be proclaiming vacancies. Though the reason why it’s so empty would probably strike prospective lodgers as being a little too like Alfred Hitchcock’s Bates Motel, since the last batch of fish staying there met an untimely demise.

An outbreak of infectious hematopoietic necrosis virus over the summer led to a loss of 1.9 million sockeye salmon fry — the entire stock being reared for release into Resurrection Bay outside Seward, and another 250,000 sockeye fry being reared for release in Tutka Bay in Lower Cook Inlet.

IHN isn’t a new phenomenon, and this outbreak isn’t the worst the hatchery has seen, but it comes at a particularly bad time for the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, which operates the state-owned hatchery through contract with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. At a recent meeting, the CIAA board of directors voted to keep the hatchery open for the time being, but just like the fry, the hatchery itself may soon be facing execution.

“I think everyone is going to wait and see before they put the kibosh on the program. We have basically a year and three-quarters to ponder what we’re going to do, if the program’s going to go forward and in what form,” said Tom Prochazka, Trail Lakes Hatchery manager. Continue reading


Filed under commercial fishing, ecology, fishing, salmon

Animated allure — Convention brings costumed anime consumers to Peninsula Center Mall

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Jean Kudyba attaches a pin onto the costume of her daughter, Madeline, while Madeline attaches a pin to sister, Anne, at an anime convention.

Redoubt Reporter

The Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna was the site of an elaborate invasion Saturday. Storm Troopers, ninjas and cardboard ax-wielding warriors roamed the common areas, ate burgers at Ginger’s restaurant and browsed in stores, peppered with Japanese schoolgirls toting “Pokemon” creatures, a white-faced geisha and a rainbow-hued troupe of dance girls, each in ribbon-draped, monochromatic dresses with Day-Glo hair in matching shades.

Though not yet October, it looked as though Halloween had broken out early. In a way it had, since many of Saturday’s mall visitors were in costume. But it wasn’t costumes for the sake of trick-or-treating, it was costumes to pay homage to favorite characters, styles or genres of one of their favorite pastimes — anime.

The mall was the site of the Kenai Peninsula Anime Convention, the first held on the peninsula, according to organizer Josh Rutten, who attends Kenai Peninsula College with the intention of being an anime voice actor himself one day. Anime, broadly, is Japanese animation, and refers to the animated TV shows produced in that style, including the widely popular “Dragon Ball Z,” “Naruto,” and “Pokemon.” But the genre’s umbrella encompasses much more than just that, including comic books — called manga — video games, role-playing games and an entire style of artwork, with the characteristic large eyes; lean, angular features; and, typically, bright colors used in anime.

Though originating in Japan, anime and its associated forms of entertainment are a worldwide cultural phenomenon. Saturday’s convention, which drew a respectable-sized crowd of central peninsula fans and visitors from Anchorage and beyond, mostly in the middle-school through college-age demographic, showed the anime revolution has firmly planted roots in Alaska.

“We’re just here to have fun, just to show that we like anime and to show people around the peninsula that there’s a group of people that like anime,” Rutten said. Continue reading

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Lucky looks — Denali road lottery winners get freedom in wildlife views

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. A wolf with an obviously full belly carries away a Dall sheep leg to snack on later, or perhaps to feed young pups. While wolves are a rare sight, even in Denali National Park and Preserve, several were spotted by winners of the fall road lottery, to spend a day driving the park road in a private vehicle.

Redoubt Reporter

Even without the Dall sheep’s hind leg locked in its jaws, it was clear from the tight and heavily distended stomach that the wolf had just gorged on a fresh meal. It was a healthy-looking animal, with a light gray to nearly white coat.

The wolf trotted by quickly, only stopping occasionally to mark its territory as it went. It was not dissuaded in the least by the dozens of vehicles parked just yards away, all filled with camera-carrying spectators click, click, clicking away to photographically preserve this rare sight.

“Looking at the pictures, I still can’t believe I was there,” said Mindee Morning, of Soldotna, who, accompanied by her husband and two friends, saw wolves and numerous other wildlife species in the 6-million-acre Denali National Park and Preserve earlier this month after being picked as one of the park’s “road lottery” winners.

Each September the park hosts the four-day event in which 1,600 lottery-drawing winners are given a single, daylong permit, allowing them to drive as much of the 92-mile Denali Park Road as weather allows.

This year’s lottery dates were Sept. 17 to Sept. 20. Each day 400 winners, who had applied online for a $10 fee, were allocated to one of the four days after their names were picked randomly by a computer.

“This was my first time trying for the lottery and my first time getting it,” Morning said. “I put in for it because I run sled dogs and I’m planning a trip with them through the park this winter, so I wanted to go up and scout it out.” Continue reading

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Picture perfect experience

By Joseph Robertia

Photos by Joseph Robertia, Redoubt Reporter. The Dall sheep in Polychrome Pass provided many close-up shots.

Redoubt Reporter

Like many Alaska adventures, my trip to Denali began with a friend of a friend.

This person, while lucky enough to be drawn as a winner of the park’s “road lottery,” was at the same time unfortunate in having an illness befall a family member. Not able to go north, he gave his permit into the park and preserve to a buddy of mine, who then invited my wife and I, knowing we have a love for wildlands and wildlife.

The park opened to lottery winners at 6 a.m. We were there at 6:01 a.m. Once we had checked in, we started the drive on the park road. In less than two minutes we had our first wildlife encounter. While still dark out, we came upon a large, long-legged lynx sashaying down the road. Like others I had seen on Skilak Lake Loop Road back on the Kenai Peninsula, this normally elusive cat had grown so accustomed to seeing vehicles, it barely batted an eye at us.

A few miles farther in we saw an icon of the north — a bull moose with a full rack, each palm of which was the size of a compact car’s side door. The sun was still below the horizon, but there was already enough light in the sky to see he was just a few paces behind a cow that seemed half his size. Even in the faint light we could hear the big male grunting in the ungulate equivalent of foreplay. We didn’t want to interrupt their nuptials so we pressed on.

Mile after mile we spotted several species of wildlife. In Polychrome Pass we saw the ever-present Dall sheep clinging to the rugged vertical slopes. Not far from the Toklat River we witnessed a grizzly sow and her two cubs crossing the road in front of us. With coats thick and luxurious, and bodies fat and round, they looked ready for their long winter slumber. Continue reading

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Bulls’ eyes — Hunters bag 3 bulls in 10 minutes

By Joseph Robertia

Photo courtesy of Taylor Cunningham. Mike Stacy and Stacy Whiteley display the three racks of the bulls they harvested.

Redoubt Reporter

Many hunters consider themselves fortunate if they bring down one bull moose over the course of the hunting season, so Soldotna hunter Mike Stacy and his hunting partners are justifiably pleased with their take earlier this month in the Caribou Hills — bagging three bulls in 10 minutes.

“We were definitely in the right place at the right time,” he said. “And now our freezers are full for another season.”

Stacy, joined by Stacy Whiteley, his girlfriend of several years, and Whiteley’s 18-year-old son, Taylor Cunningham, rode horses far into the hills to a spot Stacy has used as a hunting base camp for years. The area, on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, is a spot where Stacy has typically found the moose to be many and hunters few and far between due to the logistics of getting in and out without a motorized vehicle.

“In 11 seasons of hunting, I’ve taken 11 moose. Four came out of this same area two years ago, and three came out last year,” he said. “But three legal bulls in 10 minutes, this is the first time that’s ever happened.” Continue reading

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Night Lights: Test offers tricks, sky offers treats

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Diagram courtesy of Andy Veh. The diagram shows the very late evening sky in early October.

Compared to September, the sky shifted somewhat toward the east with Bootes setting in the northeast. Its brightest star, Arcturus, can be seen in the early evening on the northeastern horizon. Prominent constellations and stars are the Big Dipper low and the Little Dipper high in the north, Cygnus with Deneb, Lyra with Vega and Aquila with Altair still high in the west. These three stars form the summer triangle. It’s perhaps comforting that, in Alaska, we can see this summer triangle all winter long, albeit on the horizon.

Cassiopeia appears overhead, in the zenith, and Pegasus’ square/diamond is right above the very bright Jupiter in the south. In the east, Orion rises with Betelgeuse and Rigel, following Taurus with Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster.

Aside from Jupiter, which can be seen all evening, Uranus appears close to the biggest planet, while Neptune can be seen for most of the evening. The latter two can be found with strong and stable binoculars. Try Googling “Uranus Neptune 2010 -astrology” for good sky charts (the minus hopefully eliminates misleading astrology websites).

The other planets — Mercury, Saturn, Venus and Mars — all set and rise together with the sun in Alaska and thus cannot be seen.

I thought I would try something different this month and present a surprise quiz that I hand out early on in class to astronomy students. It is based on trying to eradicate common misconceptions. Here is the first half (the second will follow in a future column): Continue reading

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Almanac: Writing history — Books immortalize early stories of Kenai Peninsula life

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series of articles about some of the histories that have been written concerning the people and places of the Kenai Peninsula. Part one appeared last week. Part three, which will focus on rarities and oddities in peninsula historical writings, will appear next week.

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

When Andrew Berg died of heart failure in an Anchorage hospital in early 1939, his 69 years of life were memorialized in an obituary in the Anchorage Daily Times:

“Of Finnish extraction, Mr. Berg was known in his heyday as the most powerful man of the Kenai country. He was six feet two inches tall and weighed 235 pounds. He out-traveled all others in speed and distance. As a trapper, he built 14 cabins…. Mr. Berg served as guide for many parties and hunted for museums…. The veteran Tustumena resident was the first game warden of that district and also served as fish warden for some time…. Mr. Berg’s name appears often in the Remington tabulations of record trophies, both as hunter and guide.”

Dubbed the “dean of guides in Alaska,” Berg lived a remarkable life, the last 49 years of which he spent in and around Tustumena Lake. A detailed, photograph-filled history of his life can be found in the pages of “Alaska’s No. 1 Guide: The History and Journals of Andrew Berg, 1869-1939.” Thoroughly written and painstakingly researched by Catherine Cassidy and Gary Titus, this book is an open window to a more rugged and wild Kenai Peninsula that existed in the first half of the 20th century.

Other books that open up the sweep of peninsula history to interested readers include: Continue reading

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Art Seen: Zen and the art of pondering

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

A collaborative show at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus from Ellen Chambers and Cynthia Morelli explores spiritual and philosophical meanings.

“Answer if you hear the words under the words — otherwise it is just a world with a lot of rough edges, difficult to get through, and our pockets full of stones.” — Naomi Shihab Nye

“The question is whether the vastness is diminutive or enormous.” — Kazuaki Tanahashi

“Gertrude has said things tonight it will take her years to understand.” — Alice B. Toklas

These are the kind of accompanying quotes one can find with Ellen Chambers’ work currently on view at the Gary L. Freeburg Gallery at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kenai River Campus. She shows her work in conjunction with Cynthia Morelli, a ceramic artist who teaches in Homer.

Chambers is a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche and presents us with varying circle or partial circle drawings that are formed like the enso or Zen circle of enlightenment. Traditionally, the enso is paired with a signature or poem, and in this case Chambers has chosen to add an element that our Western-trained minds have an easier time of tangibly holding — quotes and phrases that speak to each of the subtle and ultimately quite impressive pieces. Continue reading

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Filed under art, Art Seen, Kenai Peninsula College

Plugged In: Virtually efficient — Don’t reinvent the wheel

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Over the past few weeks, we’ve discussed why it’s critical to productivity to adapt your office or business to new technologies, rather than simply doing the same old thing but using faster, more expensive computers.

Constantly spending money on technology is usually wasteful unless you already have good management and a clear, consistently implemented plan in place before making your purchases.

So this week, we’ll take a look at some nontechnical technology management issues. Continue reading

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Cool days, warm colors — Autumn views come at a cost

By Jenny Neyman

Photo by Clark Fair, Redoubt Reporter. Mark Larson ambles up the trail at Exit Glacier near Seward on Monday amid fall colors.

Redoubt Reporter

Huffing up a mountain trail on an alpine hike promises the payoff of wide-open, spectacular vistas above tree line, but can come at the price of raspy lungs that feel like they’re being squashed by something large, heavy and not inclined to ease up.

That effect can intensify this time of year, as Priscilla Tapangco, of Soldotna, discovered during a hike up Mount Alice overlooking Resurrection Bay near Seward on Saturday. But in this case, diminished lung capacity was a good thing, resulting in part from bulging eyes, not just physical exertion.

“It took my breath away, it was so beautiful,” Tapangco said of the hike, which was her first foray out to catch fall colors this year. “It was just wonderful.”

Tapangco and her fellow hikers, members of the Kenai Peninsula Outdoors Club, timed the hike just right to make the most of the shift in seasons. It was still green, summery foliage at the trailhead, bursting into reds and golds on the

The shoreline of Turnagain Arm and the Hope Highway are covered in fog Thursday.

By Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Hope Point Trail is bracketed in red fireweed. Color change begins at higher elevations first, so now is the time to hike for good views.


“It was a progressive beauty. You go through a forest and it was so lovely because the sun was shining through between the branches, and it caused like little sun stoplights in the forest. It was very magical,” she said. “It was very cool and misty in the forest, and above tree line you break out into a meadow and the flora just changes in a snap. It was still summer at the bottom level, but as we went up higher the bushes, like the low-bush blueberries, were all red. I don’t know all my lichen and moss names, but fall was up there.” Continue reading

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Draw for help — Art guild reaches out for support

By Jenny Neyman

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai Fine Arts Center has a cheery exterior that belies the building's utilitarian beginnings.

Redoubt Reporter

Being creatively inclined, the membership and the board of directors of the Peninsula Art Guild don’t have a problem imagining what the organization’s role in the community could be.

They can conjure up images of the potential expressions shared, ideas explored, budding inclinations encouraged and established artists supported, all using the Kenai Fine Arts Center as a home for exhibition, learning, creation, collaboration and outreach.

Just like a power plant and associated infrastructure provides electricity, a hospital enhances health and educational facilities generate learning, the arts center can be a source of nourishment for the creative elements of the community’s soul. And while that vision could be depicted in oils, rendered in clay or represented through mixed medias, it doesn’t seem to be penciling out in pen and paper, in terms of paying the bills and scheduling enough volunteers to translate those ideas into reality.

“We don’t want to let go of the community arts center idea. It’s something that serves the community in a lot of different ways, and at the same time educated people about what art is and how it serves the community,” said Connie Tarbox, board secretary of the Peninsula Art Guild, which runs the Kenai Fine Arts Center in Old Town Kenai. “But we’re really feeling the crunch with the fundraisers, and that so few people are available to help with what all that fundraisers entail.”

If things don’t change, and quickly with the group’s annual Harvest Art Auction this weekend, the guild may have to hang it all up — and not in the positive, art gallery sense of hanging a piece for exhibition, but in the sense of closing the center and shutting down the programs and opportunities it provides.

“We really had a scare when we were talking with our fundraising consultant. He was saying, ‘If you can’t get the volunteers to help make this happen and not rely just on your board of directors,’ he said that we were dying on the vine,” Tarbox said. Continue reading

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Filed under art, community, Kenai

Bear witness — Polar bears: Go before they’re gone

By Dr. David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. Male polar bears are seen on a barrier island off the coast of Kaktovik. The bears are initially startled by viewers’ approach. Once they decided photographers were not getting any closer, they went back to sleeping in their excavated beds.

Like the characters in the movie, “The Bucket List,” played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, I have a number of items on my list of things to do before I “kick the bucket.”

I don’t have a known and limited timeline, like the characters in the movie, but I certainly have a couple places I would like to go, some things I want to do and some things I would like to see. This year, I was fortunate to have accomplished a couple things from that list. I have always wanted to see polar bears, being polar bears, in their natural habitat.

While I may have a little time to actually go and see them, polar bears in Alaska might not be around much longer, so I figured I’d better get to it.

Some individuals refuse to read the scientific literature and, thus, stumble along in an ignorant fog about the Arctic. What keeps getting verified over and over is this — the Arctic is warming at a rate unlike any time in known history. That warming is changing the environment around polar bears, and their mere existence in Alaska is in danger.

Polar bears feed on seals out on the Arctic pack ice, but that ice is quickly melting away. Continue reading

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Filed under bears, ecology, science of the seasons, wildlife