"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, April 30, 2021

Road Trip: Leg One--Snipe Hunting


"A snipe hunt is a type of practical joke or fool's errand,  in which an unsuspecting newcomer is duped into trying to catch a nonexistent animal called a snipe. Although snipe are an actual family of birds, a snipe hunt is a quest for an imaginary creature whose description varies.

The target of the prank is led to an outdoor spot and given instructions for catching the snipe; these often include waiting in the dark and holding an empty bag or making noises to attract the creature. The others involved in the prank then leave the newcomer alone in the woods to discover the joke".--Wikipedia



We four photographer gals were not off on a snipe hunt;  we were traveling 200 miles into the Interior of Alaska to find grouse, in particular, sharp-tailed grouse because this is the time of year the males perform their mating rituals in an attempt to woo the females.  

Looking like birds possessed, as one fellow said, the males gather in what is called a “lek” and begin their dances, puffing out feathers to reveal inflated purple neck sacs, stamping their feet 20 times a second, rattling their tail feathers, cooing to attract a female.

My journey to the lek had me driving through Turnagain Pass where the snow stake indicated the snow depth was still over seven feet deep, and the road signs beginning to emerge from snow banks.





Passing through Anchorage, I spotted something and had to go back for a photo.   There are huge piles of plowed snow here and there and the melting reveals the debris of winter.




One pile in particular indicated how tired we are of the never-ending winter.




                                                                  My feelings, exactly.


Driving north to Palmer to meet up with Leilani took me past a plowed field waiting to be planted.   This valley is where 203 families were resettled by the federal government in 1935 in a project under the New Deal.  Things didn’t work out as hoped, but today the Valley is well-known for wonderful potatoes, record-setting cabbages, sweet peas, and crops amenable to a cool climate and short growing season, with plenty of daylight.




The next morning, Leilani and I headed northeast to Glennallen, almost two hundred miles away, to find the dancing sharp-tailed grouse.  Janet and Jane would follow.   First-hand reports did not bring hopeful news, so we were hopeful, but prepared for disappointment.


This is going to turn into a snipe hunt, I thought to myself.   BUT!   A road trip with friends after all the masking and social-distancing was worth the miles.   And, hey, photographs of those cute little Wilson’s snipe were an award in themselves.




 Even from the backside, they're cute.






Thursday, April 22, 2021

Spring has yet to spring in Turnagain Pass

With blue skies and temperatures in the fifties, you'd think that spring has arrived in Turnagain Pass.   The many avalanches  tell the story of the danger to skiers and snowmachiners.   It's a spring-time threat for sure, but everything else shows that spring is far from the pass.

I stopped my truck alongside the highway recently where a large divot had been plowed into the roadside snow pack.

This wasn't necessarily to enable runoff of thawing snow, but to make the post visible that measures the depth of snow in the pass.   The snow was so deep alongside the highway, that you couldn't see the post.

Here's a better look:

And, closer still:


 Yes, over eight feet of snow remaining.

Meanwhile, a few hundred less elevation, Tern Lake is starting to thaw around the edges and the waterfowl are slowly returning, either to rest for the next leg of their migration, or to claim their spot in the lake for breeding and chick-raising.


A pair of Barrow's goldeneye.

A Greater Yellowlegs

Common merganser drake and females

Mallard drake

And a female mallard.

The resident swans have returned to claim their lake, although they don't migrate like so many of their kind.   They stay at Tern Lake until it freezes over, then fly to open water nearby.   I usually see them come back whenever there's a brief thaw and then they leave again when the cold returns.

Plus, there are many other waterfowl at the head of the lake where it's impossible to get decent photos.

 Can't wait for the rest of the species to return.  It's been a long, hard winter.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

"A Night to Remember" and a book well-worth reading



On this night, April 14, one hundred and nine years ago, the colossal, “unsinkable” passenger liner called the RMS Titanic received a mortal wound from striking an iceberg during her maiden voyage from England to New York.  She sank by the bow two and a half hours after midnight.

 Titanic II - Wikipedia



 A Night to Remember, first published in 1955 and now available in e-book format, author Walter Lord interviewed all the survivors he could find, carefully researched the events of that night, and examined the sociological and other international ramifications of this tragedy as he described the events of the Titanic’s last hours.  Thereafter, communication watches were extended to 24 hours a day, Ice Patrols were established to watch for icebergs in shipping lanes, and the complicated formula that decided how many lifeboats were required was simplified:   enough lifeboats for everyone on board.



 (This book is available free with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited.)





In an era where the code of conduct demanded “women and children first,” men who survived were subject to cruel criticism.   J. Brice Ismay, chairman and managing director of the flagship’s owner White Star Lines, was vilified for surviving.   He became a recluse for much of his life thereafter.

J. Bruce Ismay - Wikipedia 

It was also the end of class distinction in filling lifeboats, as passengers in steerage accounted for far more deaths proportionally than did first and second class.

 In the Foreword to his book, Lord mentions a novel published fourteen years before the Titanic was launched.    Futility by Morgan Robertson invented a fabulous Atlantic passenger liner, much larger than any ship built to that date, loaded her with “rich and complacent people,” and then wrecked her on an iceberg one April night.

 The similarities are astounding:

 Robertson’s ship was called the Titan.   It displaced 70,000 tons, whereas the Titanic displaced 66,000 tons.  Titan was 800 feet long;  Titanic measured 882.5.

 Both used the same type of propulsion system and could make 24-25 knots.    Both lacked enough lifeboats.

I’m sure you’ve seen the movie and/or the documentary of its discovery at the bottom of the sea.    Even with the abundance of information available today, I found this book interesting on several levels, enough to keep me up until 4 A.M. for two nights.


Now, I highly recommend you read this book.


The Sinking of RMS Titanic