On December 23, 2009, Crowley Maritime Corporation’s tugboat Pathfinder was serving as an ice scout vessel in Prince William Sound. At about 6:18 pm that evening, the 136-foot vessel ran aground on Bligh Reef, the same reef on which the Exxon Valdez grounded twenty years earlier. The Pathfinder grounding investigation released by Coast Guard showed areas of concern in the operation of the tug.
The grounding of the Pathfinder caused extensive damage to its hull opening two fuel tanks along its centerline. Crowley initially estimated that 6,410 gallons of diesel fuel were released into the water, based on its estimate of the amount of fuel in the tanks at the time of the incident. However, when the vessel was subsequently dry-docked, 1,088 gallons of diesel were found remaining in the damaged fuel tanks, resulting in Crowley reducing its estimate of the amount spilled to 5,322 gallons.
The Coast Guard’s official report on the Pathfinder incident, released in May of this year, lists a number of factors that contributed to the event. At the root of these factors lies a story of inattention and complacency on the part of the tug’s master and crew, resulting in their failure to follow standard procedures, poor communication between them, and a loss of situational awareness. Read More
It is important to aggressively treat victims of drowning, especially in cold waters. Research and experience shows cold water has a positive effect on odds of potential survival in a submersion incident. Having guidelines for treating cold water near drowning are vital to improving marine safety.
Research and practical experience shows that rescuers shouldn’t give up prematurely on those that have apparently drowned in cold water. Chances for survival are much better for people inadvertently submerged in frigid waters. Statistically, drowning is the second leading cause of death in Alaska and a leading factor in most regions. The State of Alaska has been a national leader in development of guidelines for the treatment of cold related injuries and suggestions offered are based on this northern experience. Read More
For over a hundred years, Skagway has served as the primary port access for the Yukon Territory. A small town at the northern reaches of Lynn Canal, Skagway attracts nearly a million visitors a year. They come to see the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park, ride the White Pass and Yukon Route Railroad (WP&YR), and hike the Chilkoot Trail. Most visitors arrive by cruise ship making the Port of Skagway the third busiest cruise ship destination in Alaska. The Klondike Highway and WP&YR rail bed represent the only land routes out of town, both crossing north over White Pass. The Alaska Marine Highway System and a single runway airport serve Skagway. Read More
Working with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (AMSI), Alaska Airlines launched an updated version of its fish themed Boeing 737-800, the “Salmon Thirty Salmon” to replace their original effort introduced in 2005. The iridescent, three-dimensional King salmon boasts 3,500 scales, each applied by Associated Painters of Oklahoma City. A crew of eight took nearly a month to complete the impressive project using 21 different colors of paint.
Weighing 91,000 pounds and having a length of 129 feet, this salmon would be a world class catch in any fishing record book. Flying at some 530 miles per hour, it will be difficult to catch. Ambitious fishermen can watch for this one to be flying across Alaska Airlines entire route network in the next year. Read More
Naturalist John Muir first explored Alaska during a trip to the Island of Wrangell on July 14, 1879. Muir wasn’t impressed, saying “the most inhospitable place at first sight I had ever seen…There was nothing like a tavern or lodging-house in the village, nor could I find any place in the stumpy, rocky, boggy ground about it that looked dry enough to camp on until I could find a way into the wilderness to begin my studies.” Fortunately Muir fell into a group of Presbyterian missionaries that would leave their own historic mark on the state. One was the well-known Reverend Sheldon Jackson who started the Wrangell mission and was seen as a national spokesman on Alaskan affairs. Working with Benjamin Harrison, he obtained funds to begin a school system in the state and later established a self-named college in Sitka.
Another Fort Wrangell minister who befriended Muir was Samuel Hall Young who described Muir as a “lean, sinewy man of forty, with waving, reddish-brown hair and beard, and shoulders slightly stooped. He wore a Scotch cap and a long, gray tweed ulster…” Young accompanied Muir in many adventures, some that he have regretted. Read More
The Park Service issues one permit coveted by Alaskans to winners of the Denali National Park Road Lottery. Every fall, on the weekend after Labor Day, the Denali Park Road is opened four days to travel by winners of their road lottery.
These winners are issued a rare one-day permit to drive the road for as far as the weather will allow. Depending on seasonal snowfall, drives may range from Savage River at Mile 1 to Wonder Lake at Mile 85. Routine travel in the park with personal vehicles is prohibited and visitors must use buses operated by a concessioner. The one-day permit runs from 0600 to 2400 hours on the day selected. Read More