December 2011 Alaska trip of Martin Jay Grumet

Here are photographs from my December 2011 trip to Alaska.  December 5, 2011 I flew from Boise to Kotzebue (via Seattle and Anchorage).  December 8, 2011 I flew from Kotzebue to Fairbanks with a stop in Nome and a plane change in Anchorage.  I returned to Boise December 12, 2011.

All photographs were taken with a Nikon D90 digital single lens reflex camera.  Most were taken with an AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm VR.  For one I used an AF-S Nikkor 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR, and for one a Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG fisheye.  I started with a Lowepro TLZ 2 case and chemical handwarmer heat packs. With the zipper on the old case falling apart, I bought a new Lowepro TLZ 55 in Fairbanks. I made a lot of use of a Benro C0580F tripod that fits in my medium size pack. I started using a Manfrotto 460MG three-way head, which, although very good in milder temperatures, was a bit balky to adjust in the cold. I bought a Manfrotto 494RC2 ballhead in Fairbanks. The ballhead was mostly easier to adjust, but not as good as the 460MG with the front-heavy 55-300mm lens.  For one I used a Giottos RT-8000 8-section Tripod that fits in my parka pocket.

My first day in Kotzebue Fahrenheit temperature was below zero with mild wind. Next day it warmed up above zero, but there was strong wind and wind-blown snow.  Fairbanks was unusually warm with temperatures in teens and twenties above zero. Except for Nenana, there was hardly any wind in the Fairbanks area. Weather was mostly cloudy. Full moon was Dec 10, 2011.

Clicking on the 500 pixel photos will bring up a version that is 2000 pixels long.

Monday December 5, 2011


View from the top of the parking garage at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
I had plenty of time before boarding the plane to Kotzebue,
so it didn't matter that I had to go back through security.


Alaska 153 arrives in Kotzebue. There are three flights a day in a loop of Anchorage,
Kotzebue, and Nome. The usual plane is a 737-400C with cargo in front. However,
cancellations due to wind are frequent, and they run full passenger planes as needed
to make up for the backlog.


A map of native languages in the Nullaġvik Hotel.
The native people here are Iņupiat, but the language has been mostly displaced by English.

Tuesday December 6, 2011


St. Francis Xavier Catholic church, Kotzebue


The new Nullaġvik Hotel that opened this year. "Nullaġvik" means "place to sleep".


Bayside Inn & Restaurant next to the Nullaġvik Hotel on Shore Avenue.


Empress Chinese Restaurant


Standing on Kotzebue Sound. The snow-covered ice has breaks, but it seems to lie very flat here.
Out on the open Chuckchi Sea beyond the horizon that might be different.
At Barrow the sea ice terrain is far more cluttered, with currents crashing huge ice plates together.


The hospital, Mannilaq Health Center


On Ted Stevens Way is a memorial to former Senator Ted Stevens, who died in a plane crash 2010.


EZ Market


Bison Store (on Bison Street)


Otto's Pizza (named after Otto von Kotzebue)


Alaska Commercial Value Center


Kotzebue City Hall

Wednesday December 7, 2011


Sign at Kotzebue Airport. Today is a very windy day with much wind-blown snow.
Flights have been canceled, and many passengers are rescheduled for tomorrow.


NANA Regional Corporation, formerly known as Northwest Arctic Native Association.


Standing in front of a satellite dish, apparently owned by AT&T. Nullaġvik Hotel in background.
The local mobile phone service is not AT&T, and T-mobile GSM does not detect a signal here.
T-mobile roams to AT&T in Anchorage and Fairbanks.
Someone told me that Verizon gets roaming in Kotzebue, so local wireless service must be CDMA.


Here is the older, now vacant Nullaġvik Hotel. The new hotel appears behind it.


The head of an Iņupiat family out fishing for tomcod on Kotzebue Sound.


Biology lesson:
Humans are warm-blooded, tropical animals. Our survival in the cold relies on our ability to
maintain a core temperature well above our surroundings. With some insulation we can last a lot
longer in sub-freezing air than near-freezing water, because water pulls the heat away faster.
Tomcod are cold-blooded, cold-tolerant animals. In near-freezing seawater they thrive, because they
have evolved to function with a body temperature that low. However, out in the sub-freezing air they
have no store of body heat, and they lack the physiology to warm themselves above the ambient
temperature. The fish cannot fight the thermometer, and so they freeze.


Some of the women ice fishing.
The afternoon twilight is fading, and some streetlights are seen starting to come on in the background.

Thursday December 8, 2011


Kotzebue Airport, getting an early start getting checked in for Alaska 151 to Nome and Anchorage.
There is wind and snow, but it is milder than yesterday.


Stopped at Nome. Departure to Anchorage is delayed while they clear the runway. Then there is deicing.


My luxurious layover between flights was trimmed to a mad dash, but I made it.
Alaska 187 from Anchorage prepares to land in Fairbanks.


Fairbanks International Airport


Fairbanks International Airport

Friday December 9, 2011


Back to the Ranch Motel, Fairbanks.
Although very economy-ish, in the winter off-season they are very conscientious about cleanliness.


Rabinowitz Courthouse, Fairbanks, named after former Alaska Supreme Court Justice Jay Andrew Rabinowitz


Date-Line, where I used the computer in Fairbanks again


Hilltop Truckstop, about 5― miles up the Elliott Highway. The pavement continues for about another 60 miles,
but the conditions get more risky.


Congregation Or HaTzafon (Light of the North), northernmost synagogue in North America.


Alaska Camera, where I had bought my new camera case yesterday.

Saturday December 10, 2011


Looking south on the George Parks Highway by Julius Creek.
On a clear day there is supposed to be a gorgeous view of Denali (Mt. McKinley). This was not a very clear day,
but it is visible. A 300mm lens makes Denali look nine times as close as the eye sees it.
Some software tinkering has enhanced the contrast, making the spruce trees look darker than reality.


Nenana on the George Parks Highway


Tower and tripod to be used later for the Nenana Ice Classic, a betting pool on when the river ice will break up.


The Tanana River at Nenana
There is a strong east wind here, and you can see how this has affected how the snow lies on the river ice.


Moocher's Bar, Nenana


Back in Fairbanks. This is the northernmost Walmart in the world.

Sunday December 11, 2011


It is 3:00am, but 15 seconds at f3.2 and ISO 500 make the light of the full moon look almost like daylight.
This is the Steese Highway near Fox looking about northwest. The green light is auroral activity,
my only glimpse of it this trip. On the right is the headlight of an oncoming car.
Orange illumination of the bottom of the cloud at right is probably from the truck weigh station at Fox.


Chena Hot Springs Resort, east northeast of Fairbanks.


Aurora Ice Museum, Chena Hot Springs Resort
LED's and fiber optics are used to illuminate without warming the ice sculptures.
Sculptures at the left are supposed to be a pit bull terrier and Sarah Palin.


Aurora Ice Museum, ice sculpting room.


The barstools are made of ice and padded with caribou pelts, which are terrific insulators.
Software correcting the white balance to normalize for skin tone subtracted a lot of purple light from this view.


Aurora Ice Museum, Chena Hot Springs Resort


Chena Hot Springs Resort


Chena Hot Springs Resort.  The sign is in English and Japanese.

Monday December 12, 2011


Just browsing the gift shop at Fairbanks International Airport, while I wait for the plane
that becomes Alaska 124 to arrive from Anchorage and board for Seattle. It was delayed for deicing.

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