26 July, 1998

Sunday 7.26.98

Leave Seward for Fairbanks via Anchorage

It was a day of mixed emotions. We were up and ready as usual to leave the house, but this time it was not to go to the SeaLife center to tend to the river otters to which we had become attached. We each verbalized our thoughts as we wondered what our favorite otter was doing, and what we would miss observing that day. Instead, our bags were packed and we were heading home. Our assignment in Seward had ended, but the knowledge we gained from this research experience was the dawn of enlightenment in many ways. It was certainly experiential education at its best - the behavior of river otters and the drastic effects of the oil spill on their habitat and the ecosystem, arctic ecology and geologic history, arctic wildlife, human impact, research procedures, Merav's instructional sessions, interacting with other scientists at the center, visiting other places of interest, and the list continues. In addition, a family was established for the month, and it became very difficult to sever that bond. I would like to express my sincere thanks to Merav for providing such an excellent opportunity for me to be involved in her research. She is a very knowledgeable scientist, who made every moment interesting through her explanations, explicit instructions, and demonstrations. What was also admirable was her pleasant personality and the ease with which she dealt with the most delicate situations. Her style was smooth. We were always approached with the greatest professional standards by her and her colleagues, making us feel respected and involved. These characteristics set the perfect stage for our excellent experiences at the Seward SeaLife Center. Being a 1998 TEA will always be one of the hallmarks of my life. Merav took us to the Seward airport, where we said our goodbyes, boarded a small aircraft and flew to Anchorage, changed planes and headed to Fairbanks.

It was a lovely sunny day, and that certainly raised our spirits. Everything around was pleasant and beautiful. We were met by Renee in Fairbanks, and she already had our day planned. After dropping off our belongings at the University of Alaska dorms, we were taken on a cruise along the Chena river on board the Riverboat Discovery.

This was most enjoyable. We were joined by Tim Conner (TEA 98) and his student Aaron. Both individuals were great company. There were several highlights associated with this cruise - history of the area and the riverboat Discovery, demonstration of a bush plane landing, a visit with Susan Butcher and a demonstration ride of her Iditarod champions, visit an Indian village to observe the traditional lifestyles of the past and present which includes garments made from fur ceremonial and daily wear, log cabins and tepees, wheel fishing, smoking and drying preservation methods of fish and meat, and the display of a variety of animal hides . What was also interesting was to observe was a demonstration of filleting a large (10-13 lb) fish in under four(4) minutes.

This cruise was a narrated one, and on that day our narrator and guide was a retired Armed Forces Officer from Bethesda, Maryland, my neighboring county and hoe state. Several native college-age Alaskans served as host/hostesses and guides. They did an excellent job in sharing information about their heritage, customs and traditions. They also modeled fur coats designed and made by a famous Alaskan Indian named Dixie Alexander who was on hand to answer more specific questions.

Along the way, an interesting phenomenon was observed. Where the Chena and the Tanaka rivers met, the waters churned under a powerful water current, yet the waters did not completely mix. It appeared like milk poured in coffee and left unstirred. This phenomenon is locally known as the ' marriage/wedding of the rivers'. By the way, the Tanana river is the world's greatest glacier river.

The trip was excellent, the day was picture perfect, and yes we took many pictures. Collectively, it was decided that we go to dinner at the Historical Pump House Restaurant which is a restaurant that operates in the original structure of the pump house of the gold rush years. It was relatively busy, therefore service was a little slow. Nevertheless, we entertained ourselves while we waited. Aaron was our comedian and riddle master that evening, and he generated much laughter from our table. After dinner we retired for the day, but not without first making plans for the next day. After that was finalized, we worked on our journals and called it a day/night/whatever! Great day Renee, thanks a million !!!!


Sunday, July 26, 1998

**Leaving Seward for two days in Fairbanks**

Today we woke up to a misty morningSyet, it wasn't as misty or rainy as days previous. Merav picked us up at 8:00 a.m. and drove us to the Seward airport. We said our goodbyesSMerav gave each of us big hugs. I will miss her. I guess I liked her so much because the atmosphere presented to us was no different from Gordon's lab. She gave us a lot of responsibilities (like he does), and she would check up on us all the time to make sure everything was O.K. (like he does). She also taught us about everything, and was a wealth of information (like he is) about Alaska and her field of study. Her hospitality and personability (?) were all to familiar. So, you can be sure I felt at home and was happy!! : )

We got on the plane, which was smaller than the plane we had been on before. I liked the fact that I could see the pilots flying because they kept the doors open. We flew lower than before and I was just taken aback by the beauty of "the interior". We saw Denali from the plane. It was nearly as high as the plane's cruising altitude. It's snow-covered peaks were so majestic and powerful!! When we arrived, we met up with Renee again. She gave me a much-needed hug. We drove on to the University of Alaska, Fairbanks campus, which is really spread out, and checked into our dorm rooms. There we met Tim Conner and Aaron Stupple. They were doing an archaeological dig in Deering. They are the funniest people I have ever met! You can tell that upon first meeting they just clicked.

We had to be at a riverboat at 2:00 p.m. that is on the Chena river. It was like the steamboat at Disneyland, and the ride was very Tom Sawyer-like. I was very quiet most of the time because I was so awed by the scenery. We were given a talk by Susan Butcher, who was the first woman to win numerous Iditarod sled-dog races. We saw the kennels she raises the dogs in and log cabin she lives in. All along the route we saw log cabins and deserted gold-mining camps. We even saw a beaver home made out of spruce branches and mud. We also came upon an Indian village, where we actually go off the boat to walk around. The tour guides would give us short talks at different stations. At the second talk, an old lady walked out from the bushes, and we thought she was part of the show! So, when we found out she wasn't, we were laughing hysterically! Tim got a picture of us on his digital camera. We saw different animal furs, live caribou, mining camp log cabins, smokehouses, outhouses, and an igloo. . .a Rubbermaid igloo!! With free water : )

We left the village and headed back for the dock. Aaron found out there were reindeer hot dogs on board and made us come with him to try them out. It was probably a lot better than hot dog product and tasted a lot better! After the boat ride was done we went to eat dinner at the Pumphouse Restaurant.

After dinner, we headed back to our dorms. Noa and I got Aaron to go on a walk with us around campus. When we got back we looked at the digital pictures Tim had taken. We went to bed about midnight. It was even lighter outside than it was in Seward at the same time! Tomorrow is our last day in Alaska altogether. Happy : ) or sad : ( ? I don't know.

From the Riverboat Discovery, we had a chance to see a native fish camp, complete with fish wheel, and to see a salmon cut for drying.

Susan Butcher (pink shirt) told stories as we idled near Trail Breaker Kennels. Notice the dog 'merry-go-round that they can use to exercise themselves.

At the mock Native village we saw a sled dog demonstration.

The Native Alaskan guides took us through several stops where we learned about native houses, crafts, and survival skills used throughout the centuries to survive in the north.

Renee, Myrtle, and Tim Conner on the Riverboat Discovery.

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