A to Z Alaska Style: C is for Computer (of the Evil Ilk), D is for Delivery, E is for Earthquake

If only my computer had shot this message at me first, I wouldn’t be so annoyed… While “Computer” isn’t EXACTLY an Alaskan type of thing (I’d actually toyed with “Chinook” the fish and “Chinook” the wind), it’s weighed heavily on my mind. I’m hoping the computer remains among the living while I post this… but, what the heck, even though Fed Ex doesn’t come to my island, HP claims that Fed Ex’s “Expedited Service” will work for me. *sigh* It’s at that point I just give up and say, “Yeah, well, whatever honey, and the last part took two weeks to get here, not the two days you promised…” Enough whining … in Alaska, C is for CHINOOK!

No, no … not THAT kind of Chinook….





There’s THIS kind of Chinook that we all love and adore –Oncorhynchus–The Chinook Salmon (better known as King Salmon). They’re tasty and you can eat ’em. That’s the first thing an Alaskan would want to know–being all subsistence-minded as we are. They are Anadromous Fish, which sounds kind of kinky until you realize that that only means that they’re sea-going fish that migrate up the freshwater rivers to breed (from the Greek word meaning “running up”). These fish can grow up to 58″ in length and can weigh up to 130 pounds. Once they spawn, fry and smolts usually stay in freshwater from 1 to 18 months before travelling downstream to estuaries, where they remain up to 189 days. Chinook salmon spend 1 to 8 years at sea before returning to natal streams to spawn. All science aside, they’re fun to hook, fun to catch, and great smoked or grilled on a cedar plank.

But… Chinook can also mean this: a Chinook wind. We don’t have them so much in Craig as far as I can tell, but we would get them in Copper Center and even up in Fairbanks. It’s a deceptively warm wind, usually in the middle of winter, breaking the seemingly endless days of

-40°F and sending the mercury rocketing up to the teens above …. at which point, Alaskans will decide it’s shirt-sleeve and shorts weather. The Chinook winds are fun while they last, but they never last as long as we’d like. We all know too well that soon, the wind will shift and the cold temperatures will descend … again. It’s not Breakup yet…

D is for DELIVERY. Well, it WOULD be, but I should stop whining about the whole computer and shipping thing, and concentrate on something more Alaskan … like…

Daylight …. Some people think, Wow! 24 hours of daylight! How cool would THAT be?? Well, then they think of the reverse, a world of darkness and how uncool that would be… I’m here to tell you, you’ve got it backwards. Really.

When we came to Alaska back in 2002, my son was 5 and we arrived in the warmth and light of July. We learned a lot about room-darkening shades, and I remember my boy saying, “I’ll go to bed when the sun goes down!” “Well, honey,” I replied, “That’ll be October…”

Well, not October, but we quickly learned how oppressive 24 hours of “visible light” actually is. Even with room-darkening shades, there’s really no escape–the light oozes around the edges. It’s there when you go to bed, it’s there when you get up in the morning, and while I loved the effect all the light had on parts of my garden, I could tell it was having a different effect on us. Darkness, though. Dark is different. People think that it would be the dark that would make a soul depressed. Our dark was a blue-cast dark and it washed away the colors. I describe Copper Center and Fairbanks as a “black and white existence” in winter. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It was also beautiful in the starkness. If you’re inclined, in the darkest times, you can sit in front of a SAD light, you can turn on every light in the house. You can always find some kind of light. In the full of an Alaskan summer, it’s hard to find the dark. The hardest month on kids is February into early March. That’s when the sun returns, and it’s as if kids are solar-powered. They become antsy, irritable. It has everything to do with shifts in light.

E is for March 27, 1964 at 5:36pm. Good Friday. The 9.2 magnitude Alaska Earthquake that shattered the state with a force equal to 10,000,000 (yes, million) Hiroshima bombs. 143 people died. Valdez was obliterated by a tsunami. If you visit Valdez now, you’re not visiting the original townsite. That’s further up the road and on the right. The ground shook for four full minutes. I was nearly 8 months away from being born far south of Alaska when this happened, but I’m embedding a film taken aboard a ship that rode out the tsunami in Valdez. It’s worth a watch. My daughter was saddened to realize the dogs didn’t make it…


We still have earthquakes. We were in Alaska for the November ’02 (November 3, 2002, a 7.9 magnitude that rocked the Denali fault north of Glennallen). It took out major hunks of the Tok Cutoff (that’s a road), and ponds that had frozen over by that point were shocked–their surfaces looking like shattered glass–like a giant fist had punched down from above. My office was in a  basement. The aftershocks were unnerving, to say the least, and they went on for days.

I’ve caught up now, and my computer hasn’t blue-screened out on me! Of course I’ll say that and then —




One Reply to “A to Z Alaska Style: C is for Computer (of the Evil Ilk), D is for Delivery, E is for Earthquake”

  1. I love your catch up entry for the A to Z. Red sent me over to wave hello. I like it around here. You are blogging about someplace I would like to visit more soonly than later.


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