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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

The Best of Town Square 49 Radio 2013

Mon, 2013-12-30 13:43

Click for the full audio story:

best of 2013 final

Today we’re looking back at the top five Town Square 49 Radio stories of 2013.

How did we pick our top five stories? I’m glad you asked! We figured it would be best if we let you decide. So we tallied up your Facebook “likes” for each of our stories and came up with this list. Now, let’s catch up with some of our favorite people.

Luc Mehl and company on Mt. Fair Weather.

Our first story aired back in May. I interviewed Luc Mehl, an extreme hiker, rafter, and skier. Mehl’s specialty is embarking on epic Alaskan adventures for little to no cost. When I last spoke with Mehl he was planning on hiking Mt. Fairweather. So I asked him about it.

“It was a four week trip, and it was sunny the entire four weeks in Southeast Alaska which I don’t think anyone has experienced before in the history of the world,” says Mehl with a laugh. 

And, true to form, he spent very little; only about $600 for the entire month-long trip. He began cutting his costs by using frequent flyer miles.

“I spent $2.50 on the ticket to Yakutat, and then I hitched a ride back from Haines to Anchorage.” But it sounds like Mehl may have loosened his wallet a tiny bit. Instead of carrying all their food for 30 days like they usually do, Mehl’s group had some of it dropped off by helicopter.

“We had ham dropped, and steaks, and cookies and frosting. It was awesome,” Mehl says. “It felt a little bit like cheating, but in a really good way.”

Our next story aired just last month, and it highlighted the work of the Alaska Farmland Trust, located in Palmer. I caught up with Louisa Yanes, who heads the AFT. She says this time of year is fairly quiet for the AFT and for farmers.

“Farmers right now are still kind of recuperating from the busy growing season and thinking about next season,” says Yanes.

But there has been one major development for the AFT. They recently co-hosted their first indoor farmers market, and it was a huge hit.

“And that actually spawned a winter market. So every Monday in Palmer from 11 to 7 you can go to the depot and buy bread, there’s people still selling produce, jams, jellies, chocolates. So, it’s really exciting that this event got the ball rolling for a winter farmer’s market in Palmer, which is the first of its kind.”

Next up is a story that aired in March about a group of Girl Scouts that went by the name Electronically Overdressed Señoritas. These Girl Scouts sold cookies to fund their LEGO robot constructions and tournaments.

Back in March the Señoritas were on their way to compete in a national tournament in Carlsbad California. I reconnected with team member Sabrina Sexauer to find out what was new. The first thing was their team’s name change, which is now the Electronically Overdressed Survivors.

“This year’s theme for the robotics tournaments is “Nature’s Fury.” We thought survivors worked with it because this group of girls has survived a lot in the past year with all the tournaments and everything. And plus it has to do with surviving natural disasters,” says Sexauer.

The Electronically Overdressed Survivors.

In addition to a new name, the girls also have a new robot. This is the newest LEGO model called the EV3, and it has some fancy features.

“You can use the motors for moving arms. It also comes with a light sensor that can sense any lines that are on the ground. And there’s a sound sensor that bounces off a sound so it can sense what something really is,” Sexauer says.

The girls weren’t able to bring home a trophy from Carlsbad, but they haven’t let that faze them.

“We didn’t win any awards but we did gain a lot of experience, and we’re going to take that experience and apply it to all these new tournaments. And then our goal is to go back to Carlsbad and win a trophy, which would be really cool,” Sexauer says.

The Survivors have completed their first obstacle in getting back to Carlsbad, winning their divisional tournament of 15 teams. Next up will be state finals, where if they do well will lead them right back to Nationals early next year. But even if the Survivors aren’t able survive their grueling schedule, Sabrina says we could see a new Girl Scout robotics team representing Alaska in 2014.

“What we’ve been observing as we’ve been going to tournaments is that the Girl Scouts have really been implementing the STEM program, which is science, technology, engineering and math, into the other Girl Scouts teams. So we’ve been seeing more Girl Scouts teams, and we’ve also been seeing them winning awards so it’s been really exciting to see other Girl Scout teams out in the robotics competition.”

Our next listener-voted story from this year featured Todd Salat, or as many know him The Aurora Hunter. Salat makes his living photographing and filming the auroras, and is currently in the midst of his holiday sales.

Todd Salat’s “Epic Flight”

“Well we’re at the Dimond Center Holiday gallery. This is our 15th annual show here. We’ve been here since Thanksgiving and we’ll be here until January 5th, 2014,” Salat says. He says this time of year is a little bit quieter for sales, but business is still good. And he’s able to finally breathe.

“Mostly people are a little calmer, and we’ve always enjoyed that post-Christmas-over-the-New-Year phase,” Salat says.

This has been a busy year for The Aurora Hunter, and for the auroras. He’s featuring some of his favorite work from 2013 tonight.

“I have four new releases this year. Some of the best stuff of the year was back in March during that Saint Patrick’s Day display. I got some red auroras there, and then back in April I got some purples over Denali and then a good old Sleeping Lady shot because you can’t go wrong with a little Susitna.”

Salat mentioned in our previous story that 2013 was a peak year for solar activity; the cause for auroras. But don’t worry if you’ve missed out on those northern lights. Salat says 2014 should be equally impressive.

“We have a few more years to go before everything starts to go to the solar minimum phase, but there’s always a chance for auroras in my mind.”

And our final favorite story of the year involves a now-famous rainbow trout, and the likely record-breaking 19 shrews that were found inside its belly. When I last spoke with Mark Lisac, a biologist at the Togiak Refuge, he was right in between interviews with the BBC and the Huffington Post. He still couldn’t believe this tiny Refuge in rural Alaska was getting all this attention for a single fish.

The infamous shrew filled trout.

“It looks like there was somewhere around 95,000 views of that photo, which is pretty amazing.”

The photo, which showed the fish on a cutting board with the 19 shrews laid out in front of it, got hundreds of comments from all over the world. “Everything from ‘yuck’ or ‘I’m swearing off trout forever’ to folks just loving it and talking about different flies they’re going to try,” Lisac says.

And in what couldn’t be better timing, two months after this story aired the Seattle-based School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences posted a report of stomach analysis on grayling and rainbow trout in the Wood River basin; a location not far from the refuge. The school also documented how many shrews were found inside each fish they caught. The study spanned over 13 years and there were many shrews to be found, but none came even close to Lisac’s trout. The highest number listed was just eight.

PHOTOS: Ice-climbing along Alaska's Turnagain Arm

Mon, 2013-12-30 13:18
PHOTOS: Ice-climbing along Alaska's Turnagain Arm

You may have seen the ice climbers who scale the ribbons of frozen water along Alaska's Seward highway from Anchorage to Girdwood. Though their sport is extreme, the climbers themselves are down to earth, even when hanging from the side of a cliff.

December 30, 2013

No simple solutions to Alaska aviation's deadly year

Mon, 2013-12-30 11:51
No simple solutions to Alaska aviation's deadly year While there are no easy answers for why 2013 saw so many aircraft fatalities in Alaska, more emphasis on good decision-making could be key to preventing such future tragedies.December 30, 2013

I am a Ski Builder

Mon, 2013-12-30 11:14

Will Spears is a dedicated ski bum. After growing up on the slopes of North Carolina, Spears decided to look for something a little steeper and shortly found himself in Alaska.

When Spears is not on the mountain, chances are you’ll find him in his shop building skis. With his girlfriend Jeannine Armour, Spears founded Chugach Snow Tools in Girdwood, AK.

Video and Editing:
John Norris

“The Gold Lining” – Broke for Free

INDIE ALASKA is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios.

The weekly videos capture the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.

AK Beat: Kwethluk man survives frigid night outside

Mon, 2013-12-30 11:02
AK Beat: Kwethluk man survives frigid night outside An experienced outdoorsman survived a night in temperatures that dipped to 15 below after his snowmachine got stuck between the Southwest Alaska communities of Kwethluk and Russian Mission, Alaska State Troopers said.December 30, 2013

Woman Dies From Cold Exposure In Anchorage

Mon, 2013-12-30 11:00

Anchorage Police say a 57-year-old woman was found dead after spending the night in a tent in Anchorage.

She was found just before 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

An initial investigation has found no foul play was involved.

Police have identified the woman as Phyllis Ayaprun.

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