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From Our Listeners

  • Listeners in Haines are advised that two brown bears have been seen in the Highland Estates area...

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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Are there confrontations ahead in the battle over Arctic oil?

Mon, 2014-04-28 19:32
Are there confrontations ahead in the battle over Arctic oil? As oil starts to flow from the rig that was the site of last year's Greenpeace protests and arrests, Russia's leaders gear up for what may be harsher responses to future opposition actions. April 28, 2014

Canadian web documentary highlights Arctic science

Mon, 2014-04-28 18:05
Canadian web documentary highlights Arctic science Twenty-five scientists researching polar issues in Canada's far north explain their work in a way that the documentary producer hopes is accessible to the general public. April 28, 2014

Crews Work To Refloat Sunken Skagway Ferry Dock

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:30

The community of Skagway in northern Southeast remains cut off from ferry service as the state works to figure out why the dock sank late last week.

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The state Department of Transportation contracted with Western Marine Construction to begin salvaging and repairing the state-owned Skagway ferry dock.

The AMHS dock in Skagway sank overnight. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

The company moved two barges to the town over the weekend and plan on trying to refloat the dock on Tuesday or Wednesday. However, the dock will likely need repairs before it can start having Alaska Marine Highway ferries tie up to it again, according to state DOT spokesperson Jeremy Woodrow.

“We’ll know a lot more once we get the dock floated again be able to access the damage and then we’ll be able to devise a plan from there,” Woodrow said.

Why the dock sank is still unknown, although Skagway Mayor Mark Schaefer says there is a working theory having to do with the potable water supply to the dock. The system consists of a 3-inch pipe running from the terminal to the dock, and part way underneath, making it easy for state ferries to resupply with water. Schaefer says the entire Skagway community averages 300,000 gallons of water from the municipal supply in a 24 hour period. But between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning when the ferry dock sank, Schaefer says the city registered 800,000 gallons of water use. That leads city officials to think the potable water pipe may have burst under the dock, filling the floats and causing it to sink.

“Essentially we think we flooded the float and sank it that way, but we’re not sure yet,” Schaefer said. “We know we used a whole bunch of water and it’s not bubbling up in the street somewhere. It’s a significant amount of water.”

The dock is a 120 by 160 foot platform that sits on 24 hollow concrete chambers that float the structure. Mayor Schaefer compares the floating mechanism to a concrete ice cube tray. The potable water line runs through several of those compartments, hence the theory about the burst pipe flooding the floats, he says.

Woodrow says the state is aware of theory Schaefer describes, but the state isn’t ready to say that is the official cause of the dock sinking.

“We’re investigating all theories and possibilities at this point,” Woodrow said.

The state was able to bypass a bidding process for the dock salvage and established a sole source contract with Western Marine because of the urgency of the situation, Woodrow says. The cost of the operation and repairs is not yet known.

The state has suspended ferry service to the town until at least May 9. Woodrow says none of the Skagway cruise ship docks or the small boat harbor are able to accommodate state ferries and vehicle and passenger traffic.

There are two passenger ferry services based in Haines although neither usually starts operation until May. Both dock in the Skagway boat harbor. One of those companies, the Fjordland, has tentatively scheduled service between Haines and Skagway on days the state ferry sails the Lynn Canal. Owner Alison Jacobson says the company needs at least a dozen or more passengers to break even for fuel and crew costs. But she said the state should look at providing chartered ferry service during this time because many travelers cannot fly to Skagway. Jacobson said school groups use the ferry to keep travel costs down and some travelers have oversized luggage, like one person she talked to who is trying to transport a canoe to Skagway.

“This guy has a canoe and it weighs 120 pounds and he’s about to paddle himself there himself, with all his gear,” Jacobson said. “ It’s all complicated stuff, you can’t fly all these people.”

“It’s why the ferry is unique – it takes all kinds of walks of life. And there are all kinds of different circumstances.”

Jacobson said late Monday, she heard the canoeist was indeed headed to Skagway on his own.

Alaska Seaplanes and Air Excursions have also added flights to Skagway while ferry service is suspended.

Wildfire Threat Increases As Snow Melts

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:29

As snow melts, wildfire is becoming a threat. Red Flag warnings are in effect for areas of South Central and Interior Alaska, including Fairbanks, Delta Junction and Tok.

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Receding snow has exposed grasses and other dead vegetation, and National Weather Service meteorologist John Lingas says persistent high pressure is allowing them to dry out quickly.

“It [has] really inhibited substantial moisture from getting into it, so we get a little bit of cloud in,” Lingas said. “But the dry conditions near the surface persist and, as each day goes on, they just get a little drier and that’s prompted relative humidity at or around 15 percent here over the last couple of afternoons and we expect the same today.”

Lingas says a weak system is expected to provide some relief for the Fairbanks area tomorrow, with a chance of a little rain, or even snow at higher elevations, before things warm up and dry out again later in the week.

“High pressure over the Alaska Peninsula now is gonna get shoved northward into the Interior and it’s gonna grow and get stronger, so we are looking for even warmer temperatures at the end of the week and then a return also to dry conditions,” Lingas said.

River Watch Teams Prepare For Breakup

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:28

Feeling lucky #akriverwatch is calm today. Prayers for recovery in #tupelo and those in the path of #tornado. pic.twitter.com/02pmv0xGvC

— Alaska DHS&EM (@AlaskaDHSEM) April 28, 2014

Teams are heading out to keep an eye on breakup conditions along Alaska’s largest river systems. The National Weather Service is predicting below average flooding this year, but the state wants villages to be ready just in case.

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Even though flooding caused by this spring’s breakup should be less severe than normal, the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management spokesman Jeremy Zidek says Interior communities could still see some flooding.

Click to find the most recent National Weather Service breakup maps.

“Generally, when we see the below-average years and we do experience flooding, it’s one community, not a series of communities like we saw last year with the flooding all along the Yukon River,” Zidek said.

Galena was devastated last year after an ice jam caused a massive flood, keeping much of the town underwater for days and forcing most residents to evacuate. Once the waters receded, residents returned to largely unsalvageable homes and other problems from lack of power, to spoiled food.

The village of Circle and several other Interior communities were also hit by flooding.

Zidek says the first river watch team has already been deployed to the Upper Yukon River and is stationed in Circle Hot Springs.

“Generally, we do launch our river watch program a little bit later in the year,” he said. “There’s been higher than normal temperatures in the Interior and there’s a lot of reports of ice moving early in the sloughs and small tributaries that feed into the major rivers.”

Keep an eye in the sky for our #akriverwatch teams. Please tweet your #akbreakup pictures and reports. pic.twitter.com/vh0qAYfZHO

— NWS APRFC (@NWSAPRFC) April 28, 2014

Each river watch team consists of three people: a local pilot, a National Weather Service river forecast center hydrologist, and a Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management emergency manager. Zidek says each team monitors a particular section of the river, tracking the breakup process.

“For the most part it is aerial observations,” Zidek said. “The river forecast center takes those aerial observations, past models, and also other observations that have been made along the river system where people just provide their own feedback, put that all together and make their flood potential forecasts, and if there’s any issues, they can issue the flood warnings and advisories.”

If the teams do spot something that might be troubling for nearby communities, the emergency manager will land and consult with the local residents and coordinate with the state emergency office.

Click here for more information on flood preparedness.

Five river watch teams will be deployed – three to the Yukon River and two to the Kuskokwim River.

Whale Earwax Offers Opportunity For Unique Insight

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:27

A biologist from Baylor University in Texas has discovered a unique way to determine changes in hormone and contaminant levels in baleen whales – through their ear wax. Stephen Trumble is a whale biologist who studied at UAF. He says museums have collected these earwax plugs for a century and the Smithsonian alone has more than 500. They are commonly used to determine a whales’ age – like tree rings.

But three years ago an environmental chemist suggested to Trumble the wax plugs were also like sediment cores. It was a moment of insight.

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Bethel’s Megan Leary Takes First Runner-Up At Miss Indian World

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:26

Bethel’s Megan Leary is the 2014 first runner up of the Miss Indian World competition, which concluded Saturday night at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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The contest brings together young, indigenous culture bearers from all over North America. Leary won the competition for best speech and best talent for her skin sewing.

Arriving at the Bethel Airport to cheers from family and friends, Leary, says it was them who made it possible for her to compete.

“Knowing that they were here at home watching me and I was a role model for them, and I was a leader for them When I there I was saying Win or lose, I came here to represent people back home, just thinking of them,” Leary said.

Twenty-three-year-old Leary is Yup’ik and Athabascan. She grew up in Kalskag and Napaimute, and graduated from Bethel Regional High School. She was Miss Cama-i 2013 and went on to become Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, or Miss Weio. The Miss Indian World competition involved a personal interview with judges and an impromptu public speaking competition.

“It was a funny question, my question was describe traditional food from your tribe,” Leary said. “So I described akutak, stinkheads, blackfish, stuff like that people were kind of grossed out the things we eat,”

For a traditional talent presentation, Leary showed off traditional skin sewing, which was done with the help of people all along the river. She was also judged on a dance performance in front of 20,000 people. Leary says she was thinking of all those she represents.

“You know, it made you so proud of who you were and what you’re representing,” Leary said. “You’re not going down there as yourself, you’re going down as everybody in your family, everybody in the Kuskokwim, everybody in the state of Alaska, because I was representing my title of Miss World Eskimo Indian Olympics, I’m going as an ambassador of Alaska Natives, I went down there for everybody, and all my ancestors.”

Taylor Thomas, a 21-year-old member of the Shoshone Bannock tribe, was crowned Saturday night as Miss Indian World.

Forestry Trainees Brush Up On Essential Fire Suppression Skills

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:25

Photo by Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage.


It’s only April, and already a dozen brush fires have erupted in the Matanuska Susitna area. State foresters are looking ahead to a busy fire season, and fire suppression trainees are brushing up on essential skills – including driving the fire truck.

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Alaska News Nightly: April 28, 2014

Mon, 2014-04-28 17:07

Individual news stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Crews Work To Refloat Skagway Ferry Dock

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

The community of Skagway in northern Southeast remains cut off from ferry service as the state works to figure out why the dock sank late last week.

Wildfire Threat Increases As Snow Melts

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

As snow melts, wildfire is becoming a threat. Red Flag warnings are in effect for areas of South Central and Interior Alaska, including Fairbanks, Delta Junction and Tok.

River Watch Teams Prepare For Breakup

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

Teams are heading out to keep an eye on breakup conditions along Alaska’s largest river systems. The National Weather Service is predicting below average flooding this year, but the state wants villages to be ready just in case.

Breaking Ice Pack Sets Kwigilngok Hunters’ Snowmachines Adrift

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

Earlier this month, about a dozen snowmachines drifted off into the Bering Sea near the village of Kwigilngok when a large chunk of ice broke off and drifted to sea.

Whale Earwax Offers Opportunity For Unique Insight

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A biologist from Baylor University in Texas has discovered a unique way to determine changes in hormone and contaminant levels in baleen whales – through their ear wax. Stephen Trumble is a whale biologist who studied at UAF.  He says museums have collected these earwax plugs for a century and the Smithsonian alone has more than 500. They are commonly used to determine a whales’ age – like tree rings.

But three years ago an environmental chemist suggested to Trumble the wax plugs were also like sediment cores. It was a moment of insight.

Bethel’s Megan Leary Takes First Runner-Up At Miss Indian World

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Bethel’s Megan Leary is the 2014 first runner up of the Miss Indian World competition, which concluded Saturday night at the Gathering of Nations in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Forestry Trainees Brush Up On Essential Fire Suppression Skills

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

It’s only April, and already a dozen brush fires have erupted in the Matanuska Susitna area.  State foresters are looking ahead to a busy fire season, and fire suppression trainees are brushing up on essential skills – including driving the fire truck.

Alaskan Brewing Co. Now Selling Beer In Cans

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Alaskan Brewing Co. is entering the growing canned microbrew market. Starting Monday, the Juneau-based beer maker will sell its flagship Amber Ale and its Freeride American Pale Ale in 12-ounce cans. In recent years, consumers have become more accepting of craft beer in cans. But is it as good as bottles?

April Schedule Highlights

Mon, 2014-04-28 15:28

April Schedule Highlights

Alaska Public Media is proud to bring you the finest public television available. To stay up to date on our programming for the rest of April, check out our complete April schedules.

Early Morning (PDF)

Daytime (PDF)

April Primetime Schedule (PDF)

Our May schedules are available here.

Police seek suspect in fatal Anchorage bar beating

Mon, 2014-04-28 14:37
Police seek suspect in fatal Anchorage bar beating Police issued an arrest warrant for Kenneth D. Moto, 39, after he allegedly killed one man, punched another and broke a woman's jaw in the early hours of April 19 outside of a bar in Downtown Anchorage.April 28, 2014

Board gives green light to mine’s next phase

Mon, 2014-04-28 13:44
The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board is recommending approval of the next phase of development at the Minto Mine.

Government cancels request for proposals

Mon, 2014-04-28 13:42
The territorial government has cancelled a request for proposals (RFP) for surveying work following Yukon Employees Union (YEU) concerns over the layoffs of four surveyors.

Pelly airstrip is in for series of upgrades

Mon, 2014-04-28 13:36
The Yukon government plans to upgrade the Pelly Crossing runway so medevacs can land in the community all year round by 2018.

VIDEO: Spring aurora over Delta Junction

Mon, 2014-04-28 12:37
VIDEO: Spring aurora over Delta Junction

The days may be getting longer in the Last Frontier, which means the nighttime auroras that grace the skies above the state are becoming just a memory. But there are many ways to relive dancing northern lights in the summer months, including this video by Sebastian Saarloos.

April 28, 2014

Report looks at Alaska's violent crime trends from 1980 to 2012

Mon, 2014-04-28 12:35
Report looks at Alaska's violent crime trends from 1980 to 2012 Compiling 32 years of data, the University of Alaska Anchorage Justice Center released a fact sheet last week that shows some notable trends in violent crime arrests across the state. April 28, 2014

Bachli, Bruns rally to win table tennis titles

Mon, 2014-04-28 12:27
It’s becoming tradition.

Alaskan Brewing Co. Now Selling Beer In Cans

Mon, 2014-04-28 11:58

Juneau-based Alaskan Brewing Co. is now selling its flagship Amber Ale and its Freeride American Pale Ale in 12 ounce cans. Initially they’ll be available only in Alaska. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

Alaskan Brewing Co. is entering the growing canned microbrew market.

Starting Monday, the Juneau-based beer maker will sell its flagship Amber Ale and its Freeride American Pale Ale in 12-ounce cans.

In recent years, consumers have become more accepting of craft beer in cans. But is it as good as bottles?

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Alaskan Brewing Co. co-founder Geoff Larson stands next to cans of Amber Ale stacked in the Juneau-based brewery’s warehouse. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

I set out to answer that question on a recent sunny afternoon. I grabbed six-pack of Freeride APA bottles and a can of the same beer supplied by the brewery, and got together with a few friends for some grilled halibut and a side-by-side taste test.

Before we started there were a lot of theories about the differences between bottles and cans. My girlfriend, Kate, thought there might be a change in the level of carbonation. Our friend Quinn thought the can itself might affect the taste of the beer.

Ultimately, we decided there wasn’t much difference. None of us are beer snobs, and to our untrained palettes, the stuff from the can tasted a lot like the stuff from the bottle.

In light of that, Quinn brought up the next logical question, at least to our group of friends: “If you were to hike to a cabin, would you grab a six pack of cans or a six pack of bottles?”

Everyone answered cans.

Bottles vs. cans

Alaskan Brewing Co. co-founder Geoff Larson is banking on a lot of beer drinkers being into cans. They’re lighter and more portable than glass, especially when empty, making them great for outdoor activities. Larson says the company had numerous requests for cans, and wants to provide its beer in places where customers want to drink it.

“Backpacking, boating, fishing, being on the beach,” he says.

But Larson says Alaskan isn’t willing to sacrifice quality for convenience. While some small breweries like Colorado-based Oskar Blues have had success with canned beer for more than a decade, Alaskan took its time getting into the market. Larson says the company researched several canning lines before finding the right one at a brewing festival in Germany. The line reduces the amount of oxygen picked up during the canning process.

“That’s the key. Anytime you’re dealing with filling bottles of beer, or cans, or kegs, it’s exposure to air, exposure to oxygen that can lower the life,” Larson says. “And this canning line is right now packaging the cans at the same quality as our bottling line.”

He says the biggest difference between cans and bottles is that you’re drinking from a different vessel.

“Just the way the beer comes out of the can. It comes out in these little gurgles,” he says. “In that way you’re actually getting a different kind of experience. But as far as the quality of the beer, it’s spot on.”

Plant expansion

The Alaskan Brewing Co. plant is a maze of staircases and narrow walkways. As the company has grown over nearly 30 years, the footprint of its operation has stayed relatively small, even for a craft brewer. The new canning line is wedged in near the bottling line and a packaging area in the main brew house.

Alaskan Brewing Co. co-founder Geoff Larson (left) and Plant Manager Curtis Holmes stand next to the brewery’s new canning line. (Photo by Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau)

“When we made the commitment to go ahead and put the line in, we knew exactly what size we had and it had to fit only in here,” Larson says from a platform above the new line. “It looks like it fits perfectly, but it took a little bit of effort.”

Initially the cans will be available only in Alaska, because the company doesn’t have enough space to produce canned beer for its markets in the Lower 48.

The brewery recently broke ground on a multi-million dollar expansion that will link its two buildings in Juneau’s Lemon Creek area. The larger facility will allow the cans to be more widely distributed.

While it’s too soon to say what new beers Alaskan might produce, Larson says the expansion will let the company grow comfortably over the next decade.

You can’t really know what’s going to happen 12 months down the road. But now I think we’re looking at five to 10 years with a lot more certainty and clarity,” Larson says.

The expansion project is scheduled to be complete by early next year.

In addition to the new canning line, Alaskan recently started distributing its beers in two new states — Michigan and South Dakota. Alaskan Brewing Co. beer is now available in 17 states nationwide.

Birch Syrup Season

Mon, 2014-04-28 11:25

Erik Johnson tapping one of his birch trees.

Click for the full audio story:
http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/birch-final.mp3

Today we’re making birch syrup. Peter’s Creek resident Erik Johnson never misses a chance to harvest Alaska’s bounty, and recently he expanded his gatherings to birch sap. He says now is the perfect time to start.

“The sort of folk sign that the birch is ready is when you see your first mosquito, it means its time and the birch is running,” Johnson says.

Johnson says the sap will run until about mid May. And although the window of time is short, you won’t need to spend much time setting up.

“All you need is a five gallon bucket, a hammer, a drill with 7/16 bit, and what is called a spiel,” Johnson says. The spiel is a cone-shaped piece of plastic that is hammered into the tree, allowing the sap to flow into the bucket. As far as which birch tree to tap, Johnson looks for one with a wide diameter.

“First thing I like to do is take off any lose pieces of bark, because undoubtedly that will fall into your bucket as you mess with the tree,” Johnson says. He then drills a hole about 2 inches deep into the tree. He says you’ll want the hole at about chest height, on the north side of the tree.

“The bucket then hangs on the north side, mostly out of the sunshine. The reason you want that is because if the bucket warms up with the sun in the warm spring weather things can start growing in the sap and contaminate it. So it’s best to keep it out of the sun as much as possible,” Johnson says.

Next, he hammers the spiel in.

“You don’t want to tap it too hard, because you don’t want too much wood pressure where you won’t have the sap flow out. And you certainly don’t want to put it in so far that you crack the wood and damage the tree more. So now we have it in the tree and you’ll see in just a moment, it will start to flow out,” Johnson says.

And almost immediately, the sap starts to drip. It looks just like water; clear, with a high viscosity. Johnson says it doesn’t take long to get a substantial amount of sap.

The sap simmering.

“I’ll come back in 24 hours and there will probably be a gallon of sap in the bottom of this bucket, and then it will be time to process. This is the easy part,” Johnson says.

The hard part as you might guess is the processing. Johnson will have to boil the sap down into syrup. He says it takes longer than most people think.

“Birch sap does not have a lot of sugar in it. And because of that, compared to say maple sap, you have to evaporate it a lot more. So it takes 100 gallons of birch sap to make one gallon of birch syrup,” Johnson says.

To evaporate it, Johnson pours the sap into a roasting pan. He filters it through a nylon mesh bag to get rid of the bark and stray bugs. Next, the roasting pan goes on a hot stove top. “My guess is it will take four to five hours to reduce this much sap down to syrup,” Johnson says.

Birch extract is used in brewing and other preparations.

Johnson says you can use the sap different ways, at different times. The most common is to boil it down to syrup, but Johnson says you can reduce it until it starts to turn a light amber color. That sap can be used to brew birch beer or wine. Or, Johnson says you don’t even need to reduce the sap, you could just drink it right out of the tree.

“Some people simply tap birch trees to drink the sap the same way they would fill up a water bottle. So this year I’ll probably do that, take a few gallons of sap, put it in a big jug, and drink it as a spring tonic,” Johnson says.

Needless to say, Johnson loves the flavor of birch. But he says it’s an acquired taste. “Birch is a very different flavor. It’s not for everyone, I do enjoy it on my pancakes and my beer, but there are some people like my wife and kids for instance that reach for the maple syrup every time,” Johnson says.

I’m eager to try this stuff, so Johnson pulls a jar of last year’s birch syrup out of his fridge.

The final product – birch syrup.

To my palate, it tastes like birch syrup. And, that’s the best description I can think of. Alright, so I don’t have a future as a food critic. But maybe it’s because the syrup is so simply made, that is tastes so simple. Or maybe I’m just used to the smell of birch, and thus the flavor. Whatever the reason, Johnson says tapping birch sap is something every Alaskan should try at least once.

“It’s April, and there’s not much else to do. The skiing sucks and it’s not time to get into the garden yet. So in terms of finding a way to live within the seasons and harvest what’s out there, this is the time for birch.”

 

Breaking Ice Pack Sets Kwigilngok Hunters’ Snowmachines Adrift

Mon, 2014-04-28 10:39

Thin ice caused a scare for many seal hunters from Kwigilngok when about a dozen snowmachines began floating into the Bering Sea after a large chunk of ice broke off and began drifting away.

The snowmachines were roughly three miles from shore before the hunters discovered what had happened.

“Those who went home ahead of us spotted them, we called them on the VHF’s to ask if they got home, then we hurried home once alerted that the snowmachines were 3 miles from shore,” Johnny Andrew Jr., one of the hunters from Kwigilngok, said. “Then we brought them back to shore by boat.”

Village rescuers pulled one snowmachine out of the salt water.  Another machine had already disappeared under the ice.

Andrew says both machines that were attached to sleds were dragged into the water when the ice was drifting in the currents.

Andrew speculates the incident was caused by increased wave activity causing the ice to break off.

Seal hunting in the spring is known for its many hazards. The most significant considered the unpredictable nature of the sea and wavy conditions – even in calm weather. Those conditions can get the best of even the most experienced of hunters, according to Kwigilngok elder Roland Phillip.

“Since I’ve been hunting and traveling as a boy, I was repeatedly told that in the spring, the sea is wavy even when there’s no wind, breaking the ice even though it’s thick,” Phillip said. “The sea doesn’t tell you what it’s going to do, even on a good day, there are many dangers, even the most experienced hunters run into hardships from time to time.”

“We talk about it but you can’t completely avoid hardships, that’s the way it’s always been.”

Since the incident, the Kwigilngok River opened up, giving hunters a safer, more direct approach to seal hunting.

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