Monthly Archives: July 2013

Chilling future — Harding study suggests decline of ice field, peninsula’s glaciers

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Exit Glacier flows down from the ice field to its terminus on land. The glacier is expected to melt more than 20 feet this summer.

Photos by Jenny Neyman, Redoubt Reporter. Exit Glacier flows down from the ice field to its terminus on land. The glacier is expected to melt more than 20 feet this summer.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

In assessing the health of the Harding Ice Field, it helps to picture a savings account. Snow accumulation is like money deposited into the account, while melt drains that amount.

More snow deposited than mass withdrawn through melt would mean the account grows. More melt than snow results in a shrinking balance, while snow accumulation equal to melt creates stability.

Just like bank accounts, glaciers can benefit from factors that act like interest to boost the balance. For instance, having the bulk of a glacier at higher elevations, with a limited amount of slope exposed to warmer temperatures below, reduces melt. But bank fees and service charges — those pesky factors that exacerbate depletion — also have an impact. If a glacier terminates in a lake or at tidewater, its rate of loss will be accelerated.

The Harding Ice Field, today covering over 700 square miles of the Kenai Mountains, has weathered many booms and busts in ice-adding and melting conditions since it formed more than 23,000 years ago, during the Pleistocene Epoch. Yet its continued survival, under the current and continuing trend of conditions, appears a less and less bankable certainty.

Hikers survey the Harding Ice Field above Exit Glacier in Seward on July 22. Scientists are measuring the thickness of the ice in order to someday determine its volume, to help predict the future of the ice field and its many glaciers.

Hikers survey the Harding Ice Field above Exit Glacier in Seward on July 22. Scientists are measuring the thickness of the ice in order to someday determine its volume, to help predict the future of the ice field and its many glaciers.

“The ice field essentially is thinning in almost all places,” said Dr. Martin Truffer, from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

In some spots, the thinning has been measured at minus 3.5 meters annually.

“That’s about 10 to 12 feet of elevation change per year — about the size of this room of elevation drop every year, averaged over the last 50 years. These are really large changes,” Truffer told an audience assembled in the Seward Library Community Room on July 22 to hear an update of a project to measure the thickness of the Harding Ice Field.

Studies so far indicate a chilling future for the more than 30 glaciers radiating from the ice field along the eastern spine the Kenai Peninsula, but not yet assured bankruptcy of the field itself. There are still signs of health — primarily that each winter’s snow on the top of the ice field doesn’t all melt come the following fall.

“If you start seeing a lot of exposed ice on the ice field itself at higher elevations, then that’s bad because that means it’s going to thin and it’s going to increase thinning over time. … If the ice field still has snow from last winter then, for the moment, the ice field is still OK,” he said.

Truffer, a physics professor with the Glaciers Group at the Geophysical Institute at UAF, conducted a ground-based radio wave survey of the ice field around Exit Glacier in 2010 as part of a project funded by the National Park Service, and is continuing annual laser aerial measurements with funding from NASA.

This is Truffer’s first opportunity to study the Harding Ice Field, he said, following his glacier research elsewhere in Alaska, in Greenland and Antarctica. The Harding is an interesting chunk of ice, though perhaps not at first glance. It’s not the biggest ice field in Alaska — that would be the Bagley Ice Field in Southeast Alaska, at 127 miles long and six miles wide. But it is the largest ice field contained entirely within the U.S., as the larger fields in Southeast are shared with Canada. The Harding also is unique in that it lies entirely within federally protected lands. And most interestingly to Truffer, it contains a variety of glaciers.

“Basically any type of glacier that exists in the world exists here in this ice field,” he said.

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Lost dog, found relief — Spooked pup reunited with frantic family

Photo courtesy of Linda Harter. Hunter and Nala, Rhodesian ridgebacks owned by Linda Harter, of Anchorage, and Kendra, her daughter, snooze together at the Harter home.

Photo courtesy of Linda Harter. Hunter and Nala, Rhodesian ridgebacks owned by Linda Harter, of Anchorage, and Kendra, her daughter, snooze together at the Harter home.

By Joseph Robertia

Redoubt Reporter

There’s no shortage of “lost dog” flyers on area bulletin boards this time of year, but, unfortunately, there is a shortage of happy endings for those pups. Yet one flyer turned into an advertisement for the power of perseverance as the lost pup pictured found its way back to its owners after more than a week on the lam around Soldotna.

Nala, a cream-colored Rhodesian ridgeback, escaped from an RV on July 17 while her caretaker, of Anchorage, was cleaning up at the Wash and Dry near the “Y” intersection in Soldotna after a long day of salmon fishing. Nala was with her companion, another ridgeback named Hunter, but Hunter did not run off.

“My mom had been fishing with a friend and went in to take a shower and do laundry at the Laundromat. She left our friend and told her to not let the dogs out, that they had already gone to the bathroom and were fine,” said Kendra Harter, one of the dog’s owners.

“My friend let them out without leashes despite my mom telling her not to,” Kendra continued. “She expected them to listen to her even though she isn’t their owner, and didn’t put leashes on them in a strange area. So Nala, who is very skittish, would not come to her, and ran off in search of my mom. Our friend chased her, which scared her away more, and by the time she informed my mom that Nala had run off — I’m sure in a panic — she was gone.”

Kendra’s mom, Linda, was frantic upon learning the dog was not only lost, but so far from the home and neighborhood with which she is familiar.

“We spent five hours that night trying to find her,” Linda said.

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Sounds like summer — Orchestra tunes up for gala concerts

Photo by Ray Lee, for the Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai Fine Arts Center hosted a free concert at noon Monday to kick off the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival. Here, Barb Anderson maintains a melodic strum as Sue Biggs improvises on her violin. Concerts continue this week and next.

Photo by Ray Lee, for the Redoubt Reporter. The Kenai Fine Arts Center hosted a free concert at noon Monday to kick off the Kenai Peninsula Orchestra’s Summer Music Festival. Here, Barb Anderson maintains a melodic strum as Sue Biggs improvises on her violin. Concerts continue this week and next.

By Jenny Neyman

Redoubt Reporter

There’s comfort in familiarity. There’s power in discomfort. There’s a music festival about to play on both.

The Kenai Peninsula Orchestra kicked off its 30th annual Summer Music Festival on Monday, with two weeks of live music performances culminating in gala concerts in Kenai and Homer that promise to enthrall as well as challenge.

This year’s program includes two beloved standards of classical music, the boisterous “William Tell Overture,” by Gioacchino Rossini, and Edvard Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite No. 1.”

The “William Tell” piece is the overture to the last of Rossini’s 39 operas, which premiered in 1829. Starting slowly, the piece builds to a rollicking finish that will be familiar to anyone who’s heard much classical music used in popular culture. In particular, the finale theme of the piece has been used in TV ads, Disney cartoons, Stanley Kubrick’s movie “A Clockwork Orange” and, most famously, as the theme to “The Lone Ranger” TV show.

But the pop cultural timing this summer is purely coincidental, said Tammy Vollom-Matturo, conductor and artistic director of the orchestra.

“When I chose this program a year ago I had no idea Johnny Depp was doing a remake of ‘The Lone Ranger,’” she said. “People ask if that’s why I picked it, and I say, ‘No, no, no — I didn’t know.’”

Rather, its selection is due simply to the piece being a heck of a lot of fun — a challenge to the audience to not foot tap or head nod along.

Following will be a performance by Rodney French, singing an aria from Puccini’s opera “Tosca,” a short aria packing a depth of emotion far surpassing its brief length.

“It’s an incredibly beautiful, beautiful aria. He is singing and about dying and it’s just heart-wrenchingly gorgeous,” Vollom-Matturro said.

Lee Johnson plays along with Barb Anderson and Sue Biggs at the Kenai Fine Arts Center on Monday.

Lee Johnson plays along with Barb Anderson and Sue Biggs at the Kenai Fine Arts Center on Monday.

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Family lines — Exhibition draws on artistic talents of mother, daughter, son

“East Kentucky Bridge” by Marlene Pearson.

“East Kentucky Bridge” by Marlene Pearson.

By Natasha Ala, for the Redoubt Reporter

A new exhibit opening Thursday at the Kenai Fine Art Arts Center reflects the talented work of one family spanning multiple generations. The exhibit, “Mother-Daughter II CHOICES,” primarily focuses on the artwork of the mother-daughter duo of Marlene Pearson and Erin Micciche, and also includes artwork work by Pearson’s son, Mark Keene, as well as Micciche’s daughters, Madeline, Sophie and Lucy.

Pearson has included a mixed diversity of two-dimensional pieces ranging from classic landscape watercolors to mixed-media, found-object assemblages. This range reflects a multiplicity of

"Kairos," by Pearson

“Kairos,” by Pearson

perspectives. Her watercolors are straightforward, well-composed classic renderings of nostalgic Alaska scenes, while her abstract paintings evoke introspective reflections on intellectual concepts.

Pearson has included literary elements to several of her pieces, such as her self-portrait painting entitled “Kairos,” where she has embedded the word “kairos” throughout the painting in the artistic technique of an underpainting. This image, to me, suggests layers of life choices rooted beneath the surface of her reflective expression. Kairos is a Greek word for a life-changing moment, and it is a brilliant concept for an artist with which to explore his or her own identity.

In her abstract, mixed-medium painting “East Kentucky Bridge,” Pearson has included a poem with the artwork. There are varying opinions in the art world regarding the inclusion of verbal enlightenments hung alongside the artwork in an exhibit. Some purists see it as a distraction from the art, while others, including myself, enjoy the additional commentary by the artist.

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Gutting it out on the gut line — Chinese cannery workers faced tough conditions

Photos courtesy of the H.M. Wetherbee Collection, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Polar Regions Archives. The gut line of the Alaska Packers Association Cannery at Kasilof in about 1890.

Photos courtesy of the H.M. Wetherbee Collection, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Polar Regions Archives. The gut line of the Alaska Packers Association Cannery at Kasilof in about 1890.

By Dr. Alan Boraas

For the Redoubt Reporter

As boys growing up in the 1930s, Herman Lindgren and Herman Hermanson hung out at the canneries, particularly the Libby Cannery across the river from Kenai. Young Lindgren and Hermanson were told by their fathers and uncles to never go near the Chinese barracks. That, of course, was a challenge to any self-respecting, rambunctious boy.

As Hermanson later told the story at a Kasilof Historical Society meeting, during the lunch break they would sneak over to the

Chinese cannery workers coming north to the Kasilof cannery aboard the Corea.

Chinese cannery workers coming north to the Kasilof cannery aboard the Corea.

Chinese barracks and peek in the windows. What they saw were Chinese workers lounging on their beds smoking opium. Then the boys ran.

The canneries were cosmopolitan places with fishermen from the West Coast and Europe, Chinese cannery workers, and local Dena’ina working to catch, can and export the summer salmon runs. The West Coast, European and Dena’ina fishermen built the fish traps, ran the tenders and did some drift-netting. The Chinese and, later, Filipino workers operated the gut line. Each ethnic group had its own barracks and mess hall.

Of the many ethnic groups, the Chinese workers’ history is the most enigmatic. Some who have written about Chinese opium use and the many pipes found at cannery sites have implied they were a bunch of decadent dope-smokers robbing the cannery of a decent day’s work. That is not true.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the Treasury Department was entrusted with commercial oversight before Alaska became a territory and sent special agents to the canneries to report abuse of fishing and alcohol laws, among other regulatory and

Retorts at the Kasilof Cannery, about 1890.

Retorts at the Kasilof Cannery, about 1890.

legal wrongdoings. Howard M. Kutchin was one of the special agents and visited Alaska canneries, including those of Cook Inlet, during that time. In 1901, he described the gut line operated by the Chinese workers:

“The fish are thrown from the piles up to within easy reach of the butchering tables, where the butcher … puts a row of a dozen or more upon the table, regularly arranged with the tails toward him. At the further corner of the table is a chute into which he sweeps the offal, which falls into the water under the house (cannery).

“Here he stations himself, and seizing a fish by the tail with one stroke beheads it; with another sweep of his long, sharp knife he removes the back fins; then one swift cut lays it open, and about two or three scrapes takes out the roe and entrails; another cut removes the tail; and all of the body fit for use is pushed into a tank of fresh water at the end of the table.

Photos courtesy of Alan Boraas. Libby Cannery’s docks in Kenai in 2001.

Photos courtesy of Alan Boraas. Libby Cannery’s docks in Kenai in 2001.

“Not to exceed eight motions are made from the time the fish is put on the table until it is in the tank; and the process is kept up with machinelike regularity from 10 to 14 hours a day, with a brief interval for dinner. A good butcher will handle from 250 to 300 an hour, or four to five every minute.”

Gutting four to five salmon every minute would have taken a harsh toll on the workers’ bodies, particularly the hands and wrists, leading to the more believable reason they smoked opium — to kill the pain. Opium contains about 12 percent morphine, as

Libby Cannery in Kenai in 2001.

Libby Cannery in Kenai in 2001.

well as codeine. Today morphine, of course, is used in hospitals for severe pain, and hydrocodone, derived from opium, is a powerful prescription painkiller.

There were other abuses regarding the Chinese workers. The workers were controlled by a “boss Chinaman,” who was part of what is sometimes called the Chinese mafia. The system emerged during mid-1800s Western railroad construction, where a boss provided the railroads with a crew that worked for lower wages and endured longer, harsher hours than other laborers. The 1900 census for Kenai and Kasilof indicates many of the Chinese cannery workers had been in the United States for decades,

presumably once working for the railroads, and averaged over 40 years old, with many in their 60s.

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Habitat needs helping hand to help others

Photos by Ray Lee, for the Redoubt Reporter. Above and below, volunteers,  from the central Kenai Peninsula and from the Lower 48 with Habitat for Humanity’s Care-A-Van program, work on a build site in Kenai last month. When finished, this will be Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity’s 18th home.

Photos by Ray Lee, for the Redoubt Reporter. Above and below, volunteers, from the central Kenai Peninsula and from the Lower 48 with Habitat for Humanity’s Care-A-Van program, work on a build site in Kenai last month. When finished, this will be Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity’s 18th home.

By Ray Lee

Redoubt Reporter

The warm effervescence of a sunny afternoon in late June illuminated the construction of a new residence in Kenai, and even though a shadow would soon fall on the site, it wouldn’t be enough to darken the mood irrevocably.

The project, on Second Avenue in Kenai, is the site of the newest home built by Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity, continuing its mission to provide safe, adequate housing for families in need.

The location also, unfortunately, became the site of a theft, when a person or persons broke into a shed on the property and stole habitat hammering$1,300 worth of tools.

“In all our 18 builds we’ve never had anything like that happen — knock on wood. We’ve never had so much as a broken window or anything. It’s so discouraging,” said Sharon Radtke, executive director.

It appears the thief or thieves knew what they were doing, expertly breaking into the shed and taking the highest-value equipment. The theft was reported to police, but wasn’t allowed to stop work from happening. New tools were purchased, and volunteers went back to work.

The initial week of construction was helped by a crew of Habitat “Care-A-Van” volunteers — people who drive to Habitat build sites to assist in construction.

Men and women worked in tandem in every direction one might turn, from bracing a beam for measurements all the way to running the electric saw for halving boards. Some were from the central peninsula, while others were from all across the country.  The majority of the work force was composed of retirees and people willing to contribute to benefit the families in need.

“It brings out … the camaraderie, and you make new friends,” said one retiree, a Care-A-Vanner from South Dakota. “Now that we’re retired, we have the time. That’s something we have that we can give much more generously than others, more so than younger people. Time is the most valuable thing that almost anybody has. We have more, so we can give it.”

Central Peninsula Habitat for Humanity is a small organization with a big goal. The local group is a chapter of a worldwide organization. Individuals involved in this organization are helping to build homes for families in need throughout the U.S.

“The international overall mission is helping neighbors one home at a time,” Radtke said. “The mission is giving a hand up, not a hand out, partnering with people in the local communities to build homes. Neighbors helping neighbors.”

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Plugged In: Intangible elements have real impact on photos

By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter

Intangible factors that can’t be reduced to hard-and-fast rules often make or break a photograph, especially photos of people.

  • Energy: Good photographs have a lot of energy. They’re not static compositions, nor boring. Much of the time that energy is psychological rather than something blatant, like fireworks or a storm at sea. Still, there’s no question that powerful subjects and circumstances often impart a sense of awe and energy if you’re at the right place and time.
  • Emotional connection: Typically, we take photographs of people we already know, particularly our families. An evident sense of emotional connection between subject and photographer at the instant the shutter clicks can turn an otherwise ordinary snapshot to something special.

Making that connection and capturing it at the right instant is a skill that usually requires quite a bit of work, the least of which is photographic. More important is the ability to be sensitive and respectful of the person in front of your lens. Not uncommonly, people use a camera as a way of being “sort of” involved with others, even our own families, but from a psychological distance that reduces authentic interaction and is thus less threatening to the photographer. Almost all of us do this from time to time, some more often than others.

This column is not the place to explore these psychological and cognitive questions, and I’m the wrong Kashi to address them (as my wife, Terese, is the psychologist). But think about how you can gradually learn to use your camera to reduce emotional distance between you and your subject, rather than using it as a barrier. That’s easier said than done, but doing so can make a powerful difference in your photographs and family memories.

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