Week 07 Waves of Gold!?

Date Posted: 4.4.2011
Location: 64º5'N 165º4'W Nome, Alaska, United States
Weather Conditions: Windy, 12°F (-11°C)
"Finally, a polar bear!" exclaimed Mille with a jubilant skip. A slightly different reaction than when we meet them for real - breathing and moving across the ice coming at us, but Mille was so thrilled by the sight of the stuffed polar bears in Anchorage International Airport. Finally! It was off to Duncan’s place—our kind host in Willow for days—and less than 12 hours later we were back at the airport to load the Polar Huskies into the Northern Air Cargo plane for Nome! Sunday afternoon our planes are to lift off to go across the Bering Strait to Provideniya in Chukotka…

Loading the Polar Huskies for one more ride
Loading the Polar Huskies for one more ride  

  Watch Kodiak get set-up to fly

  Watch Polar Huskies arrival in Nome

  Watch the Polar Husky ride to the local
  community dog yard!


Nome sits right on the shore of the Bering Strait—licked by waves of gold; literally! Ken McPherson, a ranger with the National Park Service, came to Nome with his family some 60 years ago and has been digging for gold ever since. It is well-known that strolling along the beach looking for gold is really all one has to do to find gold in Nome (!!) but turns out it even pays off to be mindful of the wave action!

How you 'suck' for gold in the sea floor!
       How you ‘suck’ for gold in the sea floor!
The greatest Alaskan gold rush was right here in Nome and began with three Swedes (really two Swedes and a Norwegian) claiming land for gold mines, soon followed by striking gold. Imagine 40,000 men, camped out in tents up and down the shore that summer of 1900 sitting by the campfires at night hoping that the dawn would bring more than one kind of glimmer!

  Listen to National Park Ranger Ken McPherson on
  the story of biggest gold nugget ever!
  Listen to how its because of gold mining that
  there are so many moose in Nome!

Gold is far from the only treasure of the sea around here. Besides from fabulous walrus and seal hunting, fishing is great, in particular crab fishing.

Joar brings home the catch of the day
Joar brings home the catch of the day  
When you look out onto the ice you can see signs sticking out of the ice... They are crabbing holes! The red crab which are caught right there in the Norton Sound, are considered some of the most delicious crabs in the world! Chisels in hand a hole is made in the ice, the 'pot' (that's the crab trap net) is set, the bait is cut-up pieces of fish, like salmon, put into a jar with holes in it. The crab smell the bait and wanders into the trap. "I had no idea crabs have a sense of smell" adds Mille. The crabs are put into a cooler immediately to keep them warm! If the crab freezes, the meat sticks like glue to the shell! Many people here catch them for their own use, but also sells them to the local processing plant, where they are paid something like $3-5/lb. When looking it up online, we can buy "the worlds most delicious Red Crab from Norton Sound" for $125 for five pounds.

  Watch our dinner while its still moving! Crab is only kept when above a certain size to not 'over fish'
  keeping the crab population healthy and in balance.

Downtown Nome
       Downtown Nome
Now when it comes to the ‘black gold,’ the oil, around here, it’s the other way. Just up the coast from Nome is where the US drills for its own oil, yet gas is sure expensive around here: almost $5 per gallon (some 4 liters).

A rather big place for a community in the high North has a population of more than 3500 people and is the only town we have been in around or above the Arctic Circle that does not have all the pipes running in corridors above ground, because of the permafrost. Turns out all the pipes were dug down with a complex heating system a few years back. The heat is needed to keep the pipes from freezing in the ground as they are surrounded by permafrost. Given that there are no roads leading to Nome, most everything - goods, resources, building materials, food and fuels - is brought in by way of the sea, on barges (a flat bottomed vessel that travels along the coast line with supplies to Arctic communities when the ice opens up on the Sea to allow for travel).

Polar Husky Superstar Yoik       
Polar Husky Superstar Yoik  

  Watch the curator of the local museum: Nome
  was founded on dogsledding and gold!

On the note of power and gold, the most golden power we know of is of course some raw Polar Husky happiness. This week's Polar Husky Superstar, Yoik, is one really really happy guy. Yoik is very sweet with people and extremely playful. He loves to chase around and have a blast with anyone up for it at the end of the work day when the harness comes off. But, when the harness is on, Yoik is a bit of a pulling machine with a golden touch moving those loaded sleds forward. Hopefully we are moving them forward very soon being pulled by precious Polar Huskies worth their weight in gold!