There are always surprises when the guest on Talk of Alaska is the Governor. You just never know what kind of questions are going to come in when the audience is spread all over the state. Way beyond politics as usual, it’s the resumption of the long tradition of Alaska’s Governor appearing on the next Talk of Alaska.
HOST: Steve Heimel, APRN
- Governor Sean Parnell
- Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
- Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
- Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast
LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.
An adult female humpback whale was found dead near the Southeast community of Kake earlier this month.
Kate Savage, a marine mammal specialist with the NOAA Fisheries protected resources division in Juneau, says the dead whale was first reported around Sept. 1 in Keku Strait near Kake. It was later floated to an island outside of Kake and Savage led a team performing a necropsy on the animal on Sept. 11.
“You know we did a fairly complete exam for example of the abdominal cavity,” Savage said. “And it was a large female, adult female. So we wanted to see if there was pregnancy and there wasn’t. So we kind of had to wade through some pretty gunky decomposed tissue but we did see that it wasn’t pregnant. And we also noted that there was some substantial bruising around the ventral grooves which are the sort of ventral part of the whale that expands when it takes in water prior to filtering out the prey matter.”
Savage notes it’s too early to determine a cause of the whale’s death but says it looks like injuries to other humpbacks from collisions with vessels.
“You know it’s really tough to come up with a definitive cause of death but it seemed like there’s probably, it’s very probable there’s traumatic injury involved,” she says. “It possibly was a ship strike but you know it’ll, we send samples off and we’ll kinda wait til everything comes back before we come up with a cause of death and even then it wouldn’t be definitive.”
Another dead humpback was found off Cape Edgecumbe near Sitka last month but a response team did not perform a necropsy on that carcass.
The waters around Kake are a popular feeding spot for the region’s humpbacks during the warmer months. Boaters, fishing vessel crews and visitors have reported an unusually high number of humpbacks in Southeast this summer and Savage says she heard that from Kake residents as well. “There were two community members in Kake that were just so incredibly helpful on the necropsy, it was Lloyd and Adam Davis,” Savage says. “They were just wonderful. And one thing Lloyd told me is he’d never seen, throughout his life in Kake he’d never seen as many whales in that area.”
Besides testing the whale near Kake for cause of death, the necropsy team photographed the tail fluke to identify the animal and collected other samples to learn about its genetic background and food sources.
Scientists estimate the numbers of humpbacks in Southeast are rising 6-7 percent a year, while reported collisions between the protected marine mammals and vessels are increasing at nearly the same rate.
A trip down the Yukon River this summer yielded big results for one University of Alaska paleontologist.
“We found a ton of dinosaurs, literally!,” Pat Druckenmiller, the Curator of Earth Science at the Museum of the North, said.
He and colleagues floated nearly 500 miles of the Yukon River, where they collected literally 1 ton – or 2,000 pounds – of fossilized dinosaur tracks. It was all shipped by barge from Kaltag back to Fairbanks, where it now awaits further investigation.
Druckenmiller leads the way past shelves of specimens in the basement of the Museum of the North. There are whale skulls, giant bones and at the end of one dimly lit row, huge chunks of sand and mudstone.
“So this is some of what we collected,” he said, balancing a giant, tan colored rock on his knee. “So, this is three toes of a medium sized meat eating dinosaur; and right here, you can see the claw impression at the tip of the toe.”
It looks exactly as one might expect a three-toed dinosaur footprint to look. This is one of thousands of preserved dinosaur tracks Druckenmiller and colleagues discovered this summer.
“This and all of the other material that we found was just a complete surprise, because no one expected anything like this was out there,” Druckenmiller said.
The team put their boats in on the Yukon River at the village of Ruby and floated all the way to Kaltag.
Druckenmiller says part of the surprise is that no one in any of the villages they passed along the way knew what was hidden in the river banks.
“I find it hard to believe that somebody didn’t see these before,” he said. ”Maybe they didn’t call them dinosaurs, but somebody must have found some very convincing footprints that made them wonder.”
Research into the area’s geology led some of Druckenmiller’s colleagues to believe they might find something.
“So, they’re Cretaceous age rocks, from the age of the dinosaurs about 90 to 100 million years old and the cool things is they had a lot of plant fossils, leaves from broad-leaved trees and different types of conifers,” he explains. ”In other places where we found tracks, this is a great combination of things to expect to find tracks, so sure enough we said let’s go give it a try.”
And the effort paid off.
Other evidence of dinosaurs has been discovered along the Colville River on the North Slope and at Denali National Park, but Druckenmiller says these Yukon River fossils are 25 to 30 million years older.
“That’s interesting because we know climatically that was a warmer period in earth history, Alaska was still farther north than it is today so we know these dinosaurs were living at or above the Arctic Circle when they were alive and because they are older than other tracks in the state we get a sense of how dinosaurs changed through geologic time,” he said.
The discovery includes both meat-eating and plant-eating dinosaurs.
“These are footprints of ankylosaurs,” Druckenmiller said, pulling out another specimen. “Which are plant eating dinosaurs that were armored dinosaurs?”
“They were covered in these little bony plates all over their back and shoulders and head; they have a very distinctive footprint – the hind foot like this one here has four toes and the tracks are generally wider than long and the front foot has five toes and they are about as broad as they are long.”
Druckenmiller can identify some of the footprints based on bones collected from elsewhere in the state.
“But in some cases we don’t know what the track maker was and in fact we have a couple of very strange footprints that we are still investigating and might be really exciting when we figure out what they are,” he said.
Druckenmiller wouldn’t elaborate. He says a new find like this is extremely rare in the 21st century.
“It’s really like doing paleontology as it might have been done a hundred years ago anywhere else in the world where you would be the first person to step and walk onto land and really look at it as a paleontologist and say ‘Wow! What kind of fossils are preserved in this?,’” he said. “So it’s really exciting to be able to do that in Alaska.”
The team has many years-worth of work ahead before they can fully tell the story of the dinosaurs that lived along the Yukon River.
Police have released the name of a young man who was found beaten unconscious in an abandoned building in Downtown Anchorage Monday night. The victim has been identified as James Clinton, 18, of Anchorage.
Besides releasing his name, police have also released a photo of James Clinton, the young man who was severely beaten and left for dead in an abandoned building in downtown Anchorage earlier this week.
Anita Shell is a spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department. She says investigators are calling on the public to help them figure out what happened to Clinton.
“We’re really trying to piece together any information that we can come up with that led to his assault and who assaulted him and why,” Shell said. ”So we’re asking folks to come forward.”
“If they fear retaliation and want to remain anonymous, they could always do that through our crime stoppers line. And that’s 561-STOP. Or they could submit a tip online, also anonymously at anchoragecrimestoppers.com.”
Police say Clinton may have ties to the Mat-su valley, went by several nicknames and he frequented the downtown area.
Around 8:30 Monday night someone slid an anonymous note under the door of the University of Alaska Police Department, tipping them off that Clinton was being held in a vacant building in downtown Anchorage. Campus police handed the case off the APD. Officers went to the building where they found Clinton severely beaten.
Clinton remains unconscious and in critical condition at a local hospital. The building where Clinton was found belongs to Covenant House, a non-profit that helps homeless teens. It was scheduled for demolition Thursday.
Police say Clinton’s family has been notified and they were able to confirm his identity. No arrests have been made.
An Alaska Airlines jet with 64 people onboard simulated what would happen if a plane crashed on approach to Juneau International Airport.
The event took place on Saturday. Everyone on the plane survived and many ate lunch with the emergency responders who came to rescue them.
The fake crash was part of a live drill, involving airport officials, first responders, and nearly 75 volunteer victims.
The walking wounded are everywhere inside the Civil Air Patrol hangar at Juneau International Airport. Injuries range from bruised foreheads, to bloody compound fractures of an arm or a leg, to completely severed limbs.
Fortunately, it’s only makeup, also known as “moulage.”
At about 8:30 a.m., Deputy Airport Manager Marc Cheatham calls for the victims to get ready.
“Everybody that’s moulaged, I need you out here,” Cheatham shouts. “We’re going to start loading up vans. We’re going to put you at the accident scene.”
The vans roll up to the Mendenhall Wetlands, just off the Airport Dike Trail near the float pond. The trail doubles as the airport’s Emergency Vehicle Access Road. In a real life event, first responders would use the narrow strip of gravel to access the scene.
A shipping container sits in the middle of the wetlands, simulating the airplane fuselage. The volunteers scatter around it, lying on the ground like victims of the crash.
Over at the airport terminal, it doesn’t take long for victims’ families to show up looking for information about their loved ones. They’re met by Red Cross volunteers, who assign them roles to play as part of the drill.
“You’re a victim’s family member from another country, and you have limited resources and you need help,” says one Red Cross volunteer.
A family assistance center is established at the Extended Stay Hotel across the street from the airport.
“They came in and we registered them,” says Ernie Mueller, a Red Cross disaster response specialist. “We had people from the Salvation Army to provide spiritual counseling. We had somebody from the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health to provide mental health services if they needed them. If they were hungry we had food. We had teddy bears for the kids. Whatever their needs are we’ll try to make it work.”
Mueller says the Red Cross has agreements with airlines and the National Transportation Safety Board to provide emergency assistance in the event of a plane crash anywhere in the country. He says it typically takes the group’s volunteers a couple hours to mobilize to a real disaster.
This is Mueller’s second time participating in a live drill at the airport, and he says it went much smoother than the previous run.
“There was a lot more information flow,” he says. “We knew what was going on. We had a passenger manifest. We had people who were designated as family and friends. It worked out really well.”
As the drill winds down the emergency crews, airport officials and volunteers gather back at the Civil Air Patrol hangar. Evaluators, who have been watching every aspect of the scenario, mingle with participants and discuss how to improve the response.
Fire Chief Rich Etheridge is an evaluator for Capital City Fire and Rescue paramedics and firefighters. While he sees a lot to like during the drill, Etheridge says there are always areas for improvement.
“You actually talk about these things in training,” says Etheridge. “But to put it hands on, you find out some of the communication links that we need to practice. Like, one of them was one of the medical officers reporting to the triage officer, and they could have been reporting to the incident commander. So, just trying to straighten out some of that chain of command stuff.”
The Federal Aviation Administration requires airports the size of Juneau’s to do a live emergency drill every three years. This is the first one for Deputy Airport Manager Cheatham, who says one area he’d like to improve is relaying information to the press.
“I’d like to be better at being a public relations person, especially with the media,” Cheatham says. “In the future we’re going to have some training for this. So, that’s one area that I can improve myself on.”
Cheatham says a full debrief of the drill won’t be done for about a week. In addition to a tri-annual live drill, the airport does annual table top exercises to practice emergency response.
In the summer of 1937 A Russian plane en route from Moscow to Fairbanks crashed in the Arctic. A headline that day in the Anchorage Daily Times blared- Soviet Fliers Stranded in Arctic; Distress Call Heard in Anchorage. The aircraft, and the 6 Russians on board have never been found. Efforts through the years to locate the plane have taken Alaskan pilot Ron Sheardown and Russian filmmakers and relatives of the crew to the Canadian Arctic and Alaska. Sheardown has been flying in the arctic for 60 years. He says they have reason to believe three Inupiaq hunters at Oliktok Point, northwest of Prudhoe bay, may have seen the plane go down on August 13th, 1937 in between Spy and Thesis Island.
The oldest operating hotel in Alaska will get makeover – on TV.
The Travel Channel’s reality show Hotel Impossible will be in the capital city next week to film an episode on the Alaskan Hotel.
According to the show’s website, each episode features a hotel that is having problems or is not living up to its potential. Hotel Impossible host Anthony Melchiorri identifies problem areas and works with staff to transform the hotel.
The Alaskan Hotel recently celebrated its centennial anniversary. It opened September of 1913. The hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Current owners are Michael and Bettye Adams.
Hotel Impossible is employing two local general contractors while in Juneau – Alan Wilson with Alaska Renovators and Greg Stopher of Stopher Construction. Stopher says he is getting paid to work on the show. He wouldn’t specify the amount but says it isn’t very much.
This is not the show’s first time in the 49th state. Hotel Impossible filmed an episode at Yakutat’s Glacier Bear Lodge September 2012, which aired this past January.
“They come in and they beat you up pretty hard and then give you some ideas of what to do,” says Pete Eads, general manager of the fishing lodge
Eades says Hotel Impossible updated Glacier Bear’s website, bought the lodge space at travel expos on the East Coast, offered ideas on how to save on shipping costs, and renovated a room. Glacier Bear Lodge spent $100,000 to renovate an additional ten rooms.
Eades says up to 85 percent of the lodge’s business is from returning clients every year. The occupancy rate of the lodge has only increased one-and-a-half percent since Hotel Impossible.
“I know for a fact we’ve got maybe two or three reservations of people who saw the show and wanted to come to Alaska, but they were talking about how it’s going to just make the lodge go off the hook and it did not do that,” Eades says.
Hotel Impossible is revisiting the Glacier Bear Lodge this weekend before traveling to the capital city. The television crew arrives in Juneau on Monday and will be here for a week.
Alaska’s visitors spent $3.7 billion here during 2011 and 12, according to a state report.
Although the financial benefits of tourism are undeniable, there can be a downside; commercialization of scenic areas and overcrowding are two drawbacks. But one man wants to change how communities are affected by tourism. The concept of Geotourism focuses on enhancing the character of a unique place.
Buccaneer Energy’s jack-up rig Endeavour has moved from the Cosmopolitan Unit in Cook Inlet to the Southern Cross Unit, but has yet to spud a well. Onshore, the company is planning to move the Glacier drilling rig from Kenai to the West Eagle Unit east of Homer.
Christina Anderson is Buccaneer’s stakeholder relations manager for Alaska. Anderson gave a 30-minute presentation in Homer Friday as part of a board meeting held by the Cook Inlet Regional Citizens Advisory Council.
Anderson says the company has six offshore wells in the Cook Inlet region and three onshore wells. The company is using the Glacier drilling rig for its onshore activities, which right now are focused in Kenai.
“If you’ve been to Kenai and you’ve been to Wal-Mart, then you’ve been near our wells,” said Anderson. “It’s a beautiful, quiet facility.”
There are three wells in the area near the Kenai Wal-Mart, although Anderson says more are planned for the future.
The company is now working toward mobilizing the Glacier drilling rig to move from Kenai to the West Eagle Unit east of Homer. Anderson says Buccaneer has secured the water and fuel contracts it needs to get started and is working with the state department of transportation on a plan to transport the large rig down East End Road.
She says the company expects to work a tight timeline, getting the Glacier rig in and out of West Eagle before the first snow flies.
“It doesn’t take much time to do what we need to do … because of the (shallow) depth of the well,” she said.
The company’s Endeavor jack-up rig has been drilling offshore at the Cosmopolitan Unit near Anchor Point since March, where it successfully drilled one well before being moved last month to the Southern Cross Unit further up the inlet.
Anderson says Buccaneer drilled one well at Cosmo and found both oil and natural gas. She says official records of what the company found at Cosmo likely won’t be released until next month.
During an inspection of the Endeavor in July, Anderson says three compliance issues were found. She says a copy of the company’s blowout control plan was not where it was supposed to be, a piece of equipment was not the right size and a high-level alarm was not installed. Anderson says the issues have since been resolved.
The Endeavor rig has not yet spudded a well at Southern Cross. Anderson says the rig will likely stay there until the end of the drilling season. She says she does not know where Endeavor will spend the winter.
Buccaneer has two offices open on the Kenai Peninsula, one in Kenai and a newly opened office in downtown Homer.
Anchorage Police have arrested and charged 25-year-old Tony Earl Bullock Jr. for 2 sexual assaults and 1 attempted sexual assault and assault with a weapon. Police allege he is a serial rapist who abducted and women at gunpoint.
John Vandervalk is a detective with the Anchorage Police Department Special Victims Unit. He says Tony Earl Bullock Jr. allegedly targeted brunette women with similar features.
“It appears generally what he targeted was thin-build, brunette females in the 18- to 35-year-old group,” Vandervalk said. “Two were Native; one was a white female, but they all have similar features.”
Vandervalk says Bullock has been in the Army for about two and half years and is stationed at Fort Richardson.
The first alleged sexual assault occurred at approximately 4:20 a.m. on July 16. The very next day police say Bullock abducted another young woman around 6:30 p.m. on Bragaw Street.
The victims in these two events completed composite drawings that were extremely similar. They were released to the public and multiple tips were received. July 20 was a turning point in the case, Vandervalk says. That’s when a patrol officer noticed a person matching the description in the cases following a lone female on foot, at around 3:00 a.m. in the Mountain View neighborhood. The officer identified him as Bullock.
“That one was probably a sexual assault that was narrowly averted by a sharp patrol officer who noticed him following a female in a suspicious manner in the middle of the night and took action and interrupted the event before it occurred,” Vandervalk said.
That’s when Bullock became a person of interest in the case. Then on Aug. 11 at approximately 4:30 a.m. a Native female called 911 and reported that a black male had just attempted to rape her.
“In the last event that was only an attempt the victim was able to retain her cell phone and immediately report to APD,” Vandervalk said.
She provided a vehicle license plate number for the vehicle the suspect drove away in, and vehicle was Bullock’s. She was also able to positively ID him. He denied assaulting the woman but admitted to meeting her on the streets of Mountain View.
On Tuesday APD served multiple search warrants on locations that Bullock used as residences, including his Barracks room on Fort Richardson, and recovered more evidence. The APD partnered with the U.S. Army in their investigation. The suspect was apprehended, investigators emphasize, because of the bravery of the victims.
“All three of those women immediately reported the events right after the event,” Vandervalk said. ”This enabled the police to secure the crime scene and recover the critical evidence that is there.”
Vandervalk says investigators believe there may be additional victims.
“Four events that APD can be certain that he was involved with over about a three and half week period leads me to believe, as an investigator, that he may be involved in other events,” he said.
According to a spokesman for U.S. Army Alaska, Bullock had been a specialist assigned to the second engineer brigade at Fort Richardson since March of 2012. His specialty is repairing small fire arms. That was his first main duty assignment.
He joined the Army in February 2011.
The APD is asking anyone who may have been assaulted by Bullock to report it to police. Bullock was scheduled to be arraigned at the Anchorage Jail Wednesday afternoon.
A young man is in critical condition after being beaten in an abandoned building in downtown Anchorage.
Around 8:30 on Monday night someone slid a handwritten note under the door of the University of Alaska Police Department in Eugene Short Hall. The unsigned note tipped police off that someone was being held, against their will, in an abandoned building in downtown Anchorage.
Campus police handed the case off the Anchorage Police Department.
They went to the building on Barrow Street in the Fairview neighborhood and found a badly beaten young man.
Police say he was carrying an ID, but is still unconscious. They hope to verify his identity soon.
No arrests have been made, but police are asking for help from the public to solve the case.
The mass shooting at a Navy installation in Washington, D.C. Monday is reigniting the debate over guns and background checks. The Alaska Congressional delegation is not predicting any movement.
This year’s permanent fund dividend is $900.
While expectations were low, but this year’s dividend check is slightly higher than the $878 amount paid out last year. Acting Revenue Commissioner Angela Roddell says next year’s check will be even bigger.
“The permanent fund balance has continued to grow. It was $40 billion a year ago; it’s $45 billion this year,” Roddell said at a press conference on Wednesday. “They continue to do a really good job at the corporation. So, I would expect next year’s number to be even higher.”
The dividend is calculated using the average income earned by the Permanent Fund Corporation over the past five years. Because the past few checks included 2009 earnings, when the global economy bottomed out, they’ve been a lot lower than the amounts paid out in the previous decade.
This year, 640,436 Alaskans are eligible for a PFD. That’s nearly a 7,000-person drop over last year, even though Alaska’s population is growing.
“We’ve looked into a number of different reasons as to why that might be the case, whether it’s because a smaller dividend amount maybe incentivizes people to not apply,” said Rodell. “But the PFD and the Department of Revenue had worked really hard on pursuing the fraud tips that have come in on PFD. So, I think people are on notice that we are going to take the application very seriously and confirm information that is presented. And so people might be thinking twice before they put in a fraudulent application.”
Of the Alaskans getting checks, about 26,000 recipients donated part or all of their dividend to non-profit groups through “Pick.Click.Give.” It was a record year for the program, with 471 organizations splitting $2.5 million in donations.
Alaskans who have been collecting dividends since the program began will now have received $36,343 from the state.
Dividends will be paid out on October 3.
The Alaska Board of Fish has a work session planned for October 9-11 in Girdwood. And although it’s not on the agenda to talk about Kuskokwim Chinook salmon, that’s just what several local groups want the board to do.
The Bering Sea Fisherman’s Association and local tribes want the Board of Fish to take up the Kuskokwim King salmon run out of cycle.
The fisherman’s association submitted an agenda change request out of a conservation concern for the run. In it, the association questions the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the new model they used for this year’s escapement goals.
The new model lowered those goals.
Karen Gillis is the Executive Director of the association.
“It’s really kind of a cart before the horse decision as far as we were concerned,” Gillis says.
Even with the lower escapement goals, the numbers were not met. In fact, escapements were the lowest in history. Biologists were taken by surprise having thought they’d have enough fish for both subsistence and escapement needs.
Gillis says the fisherman’s association wants the Board of Fish to re-evaluate the change.
“And the model that they used hasn’t really been reviewed by anyone outside of the department,” Gillis says. “And we really had worked pretty hard along with the Association of Village Council Presidents to at least have a chance at reviewing the data and the model development itself and that still hasn’t been done.”
The Association of Village Council Presidents represents 56 villages in the region and most villages along the Kuskokwim River.
Some tribes have come forward supporting an agenda change for the Board to take up the issue. Lisa Feyereisen is the Tribal Administrator in Chuathbaluk located on the middle Kuskokwim River.
“There’s no fish,” Feyereisen says. “There’s no fish escaping.”
She says the tribal administration conducted several surveys of residents this summer to check how their subsistence fishing season was going. They found out that it wasn’t going well. Residents were sometimes drifting dozens of times for just a few Kings.
“And so as a voluntary conservation effort, we in Chuathbaluk, we realized there was no Chinook escaping,” Feyereisen says. “We all asked them to voluntarily not fish for Chinook and just put up Reds and Dogs because there just wasn’t any Chinook coming up here.”
Feyereisen and Gillis say this year was not the first poor King run on the Kuskokwim. The 2012 year saw so many restrictions on the lower river that subsistence fishermen harvested salmon out of protest to feed their families. They both stress that the problem isn’t an upriver-downriver one and they don’t want that kind of conflict to come out of this.
Feyereisen says conservation measures need to be implemented before the start of next year’s fishing season so that residents can get used to them. She hopes that the Board of Fish, when it meets next month, will take one step closer to making that happen.
The comment deadline for the board’s work session is Sept. 25. Comments can be submitted at the BOF website.
The fossil of a Thalattosaur discovered near Kake two years ago is a complete specimen, the first to be found in the western hemisphere. Scientists speculate it could be a new species of the prehistoric marine reptile.
The fossil was found along the shores of Keku Island near Kake the summer of 2011. It was excavated in two rock slabs from an outcrop with the hope they would reveal a complete Thalattosaur, a marine reptile that inhabited the seas 210 million years ago. The rocks were stored at the University of Alaska Museum of the North in Fairbanks.
It wasn’t until earlier this year that earth sciences curator Pat Druckenmiller got a fossil preparator to work on them.
“We knew that we had sort of the tail end of the animal and it was going into the rock but we didn’t know how far in it went or if we had all of it. When he came up, we said, ‘Well, let’s just start cleaning in this area where we think roughly the skull might be,’ and bingo, it was right on top of the skull,” Druckenmiller says.
In the next week, fossil preparator J.P. Cavigelli from Wyoming worked to uncover about half of the skull from the tip of the nose to the eye socket.
All under a microscope, Cavigelli used handheld jackhammers and a small hand blaster to do his work.
“It’s fairly tricky because the rock and the bone are almost the same colors. It’s a very subtle change which is why you have to do it all under the microscope. By the time you get the last layer of rock off with the sandblasting outfit, it’s hard to see unless you know what to look for,” explains Cavigelli.
Cavigelli has prepared various fossils but this one is unlike any he’s encountered before.
“I’ve never done anything Triassic. I’ve never done such a complete small animal like that. I should say I’ve done some fishes but fishes – bah – a fish is a fish. This is a reptile, much more exciting,” Cavigelli says.
“It was like an iguana. It basically had the ability more than likely to come in and out of the surf and feed. And it was about three feet in length,” says Tongass National Forest geologist Jim Baichtal, who was part of a group that discovered the Thalattosaur fossil more than two years ago.
“From anything outside of China, this is the only full specimen that exists, which is really exciting for us. It’s a key thing in the evolution of this branch of marine reptile,” Baichtal says.
Baichtal says pieces of fossilized Thalattosaur bones had been discovered in Southeast Alaska before, but never a complete specimen. “The Thalattosaur that we just recently discovered must have floated down quietly to the bottom of the ocean and laid there. It didn’t come tumbling down and disarticulated and break apart.”
Museum of the North curator Druckenmiller says having a complete skeleton this well preserved allows more to be discovered about the Thalattosaur.
“First impressions from what can we see of the parts that we have cleaned suggest that this is unlike any other Thalattosaur that’s known from, say, Europe or China. It’s very likely we may have a new species.”
Baichtal describes further, “All of the thalattosaurs that have been discovered have teeth all the way out to the end of their rostrum or their nose or their jaws, and the one that we have actually has no teeth out to the end at all.”
Druckenmiller says Cavigelli will be back this winter to uncover the rest of the fossil. He hopes there’s evidence of where the skin or body outline used to be.
“The other thing that would be entirely possible on a skeleton this well preserved is actually to preserve stomach contents and to get direct evidence of diet, and for an animal like this that we know really very little about and that has such strange skull and teeth, that would be really, really important information,” says Druckenmiller.
Once the specimen is cleaned up, Druckenmiller will start comparing it to other Thalattosaurs.
If it is indeed a new species, Druckenmiller, Baichtal, and others involved will get to come up with a new name for it. Druckenmiller says the fossil will be displayed at the Museum of the North.
Baichtal hopes a cast of the Thalattosaur will make its way back to Southeast Alaska where residents can enjoy a fossil that came out of rocks from their own backyard.
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has paid a $21,000 fine to the EPA for a series of hazardous waste management violations in 2010 and 2011.
According to EPA enforcement and compliance officer Xiangyu Chu, the violations included: failure to conduct weekly inspections of hazardous waste facilities and containers for leakage or deterioration; failure to ensure staff participated in annual hazardous waste management training; and failure to submit a hazardous waste tracking report.
She says JBER’s settlement with the EPA addresses each of those issues:.
“They have agreed to ensure that the weekly inspections are performed and they also provided documentation which certified that their staff are up-to-date on their hazardous waste training, as well as they submitted the hazardous waste tracking report that was missing from the inspection,” Chu said.
The facility cited in the violations generates and stores hazardous waste from vehicles, aircraft and other facility maintenance.
This year’s University of Alaska Anchorage Journalism department’s Atwood chair is a man who has covered Alaska stories in the past. A member of the Shoshone Bannock tribe of Idaho, Mark Trahant is the first Native journalist to hold the position. Trahant has been covering federal budget cuts, the Affordable Care Act and the impact of both on tribes. He says he wants to encourage more native people to become reporters.
Fort Wainwright’s garrison commander is retiring from the Army, after 28 years in uniform. A base spokesperson says Col. Ron Johnson’s decision is not related to a statement he made in July that Army training sparked this summer’s Stuart Creek 2 wild fire near Fairbanks.
Another fishing tender vessel got in trouble in Alaska waters Tuesday, but was towed to safety by the Coast Guard.
The Chignik-based Express reported it had lost power and was adrift 70 miles west of Hoonah.
The 110-foot cutter Anacapa was dispatched to help, and was able to bring the 125-foot vessel in to the Hoonah port.
The 2013 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend will be $900, according to acting Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell.
Checks will be distributed Oct. 3.