Monthly Archives: October 2011

Art Seen: Focus on fine photography

By Zirrus VanDevere, for the Redoubt Reporter

The Kenai Photographers Guild has member work in the upstairs hallway gallery at the Cottonwood

Photo by Pat Lytle

Health Center on Marydale Avenue in Soldotna this month and next, and a few of them really got my attention.

Ralph Sterling has supplied us with a composite piece called “Tern Around” that requires some effort to take in. It is based on photos apparently taken around Tern Lake and sort of boggles the mind and stretches the imagination. Not only is there a crisp reflection of the mountains in the lake surface, but there is an upside-down mountain emerging from above, and steel pilings floating, or maybe marching, from the right side. The photography is clean and the symbolism interesting. I wish that just one of those pilings had broken the horizon line, though, tying the piece together a little better. His other offering, “Point of View,” is also quite interesting.

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Science of the Seasons: Phantom bugs can barely be seen

By Dr. David Wartinbee, for the Redoubt Reporter

Photos courtesy of Dr. David Wartinbee. These phantom midges are only three-quarters of an inch long. The dark spots are eyes, just behind the pointed mouth area, with two pairs of dark hydrostatic organs in the thorax and far end of the abdomen. These organs control the larval movements up and down in the water column.

Ever since August when I saw a huge mass of bright red larval mites drifting across part of East Mackey Lake, I have been wondering if the mites had been successful parasitizing any of the aquatic insects in the lake.

The experts I contacted indicated that this massive swarm might have been a way for them to find unfortunate hosts. Last week, I took my dip net and collected a number of insects and other invertebrates from the lake. After a lot of very careful looking under a microscope, I did find some parasitized insects, which I’ll discuss in a future article. There were also several creatures in my first sweep that caught my immediate attention — dozens of phantom midges darting about in my collection pan.

Phantom midges are relatives of the mosquito but do not bite. The particular ones I found were in the genus Chaoborus. Thinking back, these were the very first aquatic insects I saw when I was doing a senior project as an undergraduate biology major. I was sampling bottom sediments of a local reservoir and I remember seeing something moving in the collection pan, but was unable to tell what it was. The insects were crystal clear, about three-quarters of an inch long, and only a couple dark spots stood out in clear water. The name phantom midge was certainly appropriate.

These creatures are the larval form of a small dipteran insect found all over the world. Knowing how widely distributed they are, I should not have been surprised to see them here in Alaska. Maybe my surprise came because I have always found them in waters that were tens or hundreds of meters deep, instead of in a waist-deep section of lake. Depending on the species, they spend between six months and two years as a larval individual in a lake. They have a short pupal stage, then emerge as an aerial adult. The adults mate, lay eggs and die within a couple weeks and the cycle starts all over. Continue reading

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Falling to a close — Autumn hunting wrapping up, time to prepare for winter

By Steve Meyer, for the Redoubt Reporter

In the game management world, despite the best efforts of all concerned, things do not always work out as planned. As part of the Kenai-Soldotna Fish and Game Advisory Committee that supported the change in moose hunting regulations eliminating the taking of spike/fork bulls in the 2011 season, it was believed that this change was necessary to rebuild a failing bull/cow ratio on the Kenai Peninsula.

But who knew for sure that it would have an immediate impact? Well, from Oct.1 to Oct. 10, I have seen 11 different spike/fork bull moose. In past years the sightings of spike/fork moose after Sept. 20 was a rare occurrence. So, at least for the immediate present, the change seems to have already drastically bolstered the number of bulls with potential to make it to next fall’s breeding season. In addition, I have seen several bulls in the 40-plus-inch class that may make it to legal harvest status by next fall. Of course, winter road kills and wolf kills will take some of these bulls, but it is comforting to know we are going into winter with a significantly higher number of bulls than we would have without the regulation change.

On the other hand, we still have the late-season subsistence hunt in Game Management Units 15B and 15C that will allow that harvest of spike/fork bulls. It seems there is nothing we can do about it, because it is federally mandated in the name of subsistence. Well, nothing except to continue to vocally oppose the federal intervention of game management in Alaska. Continue reading

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Almanac: Horsepower — real horse power

By Clark Fair

Redoubt Reporter

In autumn 1959, when moose-hunting season was about to open on the Kenai Peninsula and exploration and oil-drilling activity were still going full-tilt on the Swanson River Field, the Standard Oil Company of California posted a sign near its peninsula operations that read, “Please don’t shoot horses or men.”

Most hunters at the time were likely aware that the booming oil business on the Kenai National Moose Range meant that men were scattered throughout the area, and they certainly hoped to encounter plenty of moose. But aside from tales of moose and men, few of them must have expected to encounter any horseflesh.

However, the sign was there for a reason.

According to a 1959 article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, the Western Operations section of Standard Oil was using horses to pull seismic equipment in the moose- and hunter-infested area west of the Swanson River unit.

The horses were necessary because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which controlled the moose range (as it now controls the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge), prohibited the use of mechanical vehicles there during the months in which the ground cover was expected to be soft and therefore susceptible to damage.

Standard Oil was allowed to move equipment via helicopters, but the company opted for horse power over chopper power, largely because of the expense and the frequent unavailability of large helicopters when especially heavy or bulky equipment needed to be moved.

The News-Miner said that Standard Oil’s use of horses was the second such effort in Alaska in recent months. The first involved Nikiski-based independent oilman, Mike Halbouty, who had used a horse-drawn rig to haul seismic survey equipment.

Halbouty had covered approximately 20,000 acres with seismic surveys, and he employed three teams of horses to pull rubber-tired wagons filled with recording and drilling equipment. In addition, 10 pack horses hauled cables, geophones and water for drilling.

Although Halbouty’s method meant no tracks of motorized vehicles on the moose range, it certainly meant plenty of horse tracks. Continue reading

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Night lights: Shedding light on phases of the moon

By Andy Veh, for the Redoubt Reporter

Looking at the sky in the late evening around 11 p.m., prominent constellations and stars are the Big Dipper, part of Ursa Major, high in the northeast, and the Little Dipper high in the north, Cygnus with Deneb, Lyra with Vega and Aquila with Altair now low in the northwest. These three stars form the summer triangle. It’s perhaps comforting that in Alaska we can see this summer triangle all winter along, albeit near the horizon.

Cassiopeia appears overhead, in the zenith, and Pegasus’ square/diamond is visible to the upper right of the very bright Jupiter in the southwest. In the east, Gemini with Castor and Pollux, Cancer with the Beehive cluster and Leo have risen, following Orion with red Betelgeuse and blue Rigel, which are now quite high in the southeast. Auriga with Capella and Taurus with Aldebaran and the Pleiades star cluster appear now high in the south.

Mercury and Venus are too close to the sun to be viewed this month.

Mars and Saturn rise after midnight and can be seen in the south and southeast, joined by the half moon Nov. 18 and the crescent Nov. 22, respectively.

A very bright Jupiter can be seen all night long, seemingly traveling east to west, pairing with the full moon on Nov. 8 and 9.

Uranus and Neptune can be seen low in the southwest early in the evening. Google “good sky charts” for sky charts and use good binoculars. The gibbous moon leads the way on Nov. 3. Continue reading

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Plugged In: Outlook blurry for fallout in photo industry

Photo contest: Remember our first Redoubt Reporter photo contest. Photos must be taken on the Kenai Peninsula with a “Fall on the Kenai” theme. The deadline is Nov. 1. Email JPEGs to: You can find all of the rules and requirements at

We’ll publish some of our favorite entries and choose some for the monthlong June 2012 Redoubt Reporter exhibition at the Sterling Highway Kaladi Brothers coffee shop.

By Joseph Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

There’s a lot of black news for photo and electronics consumers in the monsoon clouds drenching Thailand and in Olympus’ sudden descent into a legal abyss.

We’ll likely see some shortages and higher prices well before Christmas. If you’re planning to buy a new computer or a Sony, Olympus or Nikon camera, you should order soon. We’ll conclude our discussion of digital black-and-white imaging in a later issue and instead take a timely look at how our readers may be affected. Continue reading

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Flights of fall — Autumn aviation a popular, dangerous endeavor

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter photo. Planes are tied down at the Soldotna Airport. Fall is a busy time for private aviation, as pilots get out for hunting season. Aviation accidents also increase in fall.

Redoubt Reporter

These days — with the convenience of grocery stores, the expedient marriage of microwaves and frozen dinners, and the lure of topping off your gas fill-up with a quick meal from beneath the heat lamps — fall hunting season is no longer a do-or-die necessity to surviving the winter.

But the pull to harvest can still retain that sense of compulsion.

Complications come along with the convenience of the modern world — more commitments to jobs and bills, and communications technology that is ever harder to shut up and off. Most Alaskans don’t have to stock up on fish and game to survive the winter these days, but when they attempt to assuage the want to do so the challenge of breaking the chains to civilization and finding time to hunt can impart the feeling of urgency that necessity once did.

When an attitude of now or never ventures into the fall weather of Alaska, dangerous situations can result. That’s particularly true when airplanes are involved, as they often are in hunting season. Having a plane multiplies accessible hunting terrain, a prospect that’s even more appealing when the hunting outlook locally is dim, as it has been this year for moose on the Kenai Peninsula.

For some pilots, when the commitments of life get too demanding or the price of aviation fuel too daunting, hunting season can be the only time to do much flying. That can lead to far worse situations than an empty freezer come winter, with more people flying in fall, some with rusty skills, often into remote areas, in capricious weather conditions and under the challenges of hauling extra weight.

“In hunting season there are a lot of people flying who haven’t been flying much the rest

Photo courtesy of Joe Kashi. With views like this, it’s easy to see the appeal of fall flying in Alaska.

of the year — a little bit, maybe, but not very much, maybe not at all. Here comes hunting season, they get their airplane out, they load it up real heavy and they go out in the Bush. They just aren’t practiced enough or prepared enough, and they may have some unrealistic ideas about their own personal limitations,” said Dr. Alex Russell, a pediatrician and flight instructor in Soldotna.

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