Archive for January, 2008

The Island is Calling

Well this morning I hopped on my 12th flight, this time from Nome, destination…. St. Lawrence Island.  My first stop was in Savoonga.  I hopped off the plane and got a ride into the school.  I went in and visited with Doug Finn, a friend and one of the teachers in Savoonga.  My bags came in a little while after me.  There wasn’t room on the machine I was riding on, and the guy that brought them to the school for me was the local Hageland Agent.  He needed to drop off the mail and the supplies for the store before getting my stuff to the school.  So that gave me time to check email.

Doug, his wife Michelle, and I had lunch at their house and when they went back to school I borrowed their snowmachine to go shoot around the village.  I drove out of town a ways and shot back over the village.  It was pretty white out, so we’ll see how things look when I get them into the computer.  I snapped this photo of me before I headed back towards town.  The sticks in a tepee shape in the background are markers for the trail.  They have these every 100 feet or so along the trail.  This helps you find your way when the weather is really bad.


So I shot around town some more and took a little video in the classrooms.  By then it was working on evening time and I was hopping on another plane to go to the other side of the island, this time to Gambell.  I made it just as the sun was going down.  The view flying in was amazing.  I tried to shoot it with the video camera, but my window was iced up and I couldn’t get a very good view through the crystals.  So as soon I got to the school I borrowed a 4-wheeler and drove it up the side of the mountain behind the school until I got stuck, and then hiked on from there.  I didn’t get as high as I would have liked,  but I was able to shoot the sunset, and down over the town some as well.


I’m off to Brevig tomorrow (weather permitting).  I’m looking forward to visiting with AnnMaire and C.O., and getting to meet Harold.

Pop the Boot

Looking out the window watching the snow fall down from the gray sky above wondering if a plane any plane would be landing to take me on to my next destination I opened up the National Weather Service search results for Nome, Alaska. Temperature 21 degrees, due point 21 degrees, relative humidity 100%… Great… that means freezing rain. On top of that they were giving Nome the LIFR tag (Limited Instrument Flight Rules) with less than a half a mile visibility. My hopes of leaving Elim today… Not very good.

About a half an hour later however Hutch the local Bering Air agent called and informed me that there was a caravan coming into Elim in the next 35 minutes. I quickly gathered up my bags that had been strewn across Steve’s apartment and around a room in the school. With about 10 minutes until the flights arrival I was given a ride up to the airport. Sure enough here comes a caravan buzzing through the freezing drops falling from the sky. He lands in the foot of snow on the runway and taxis over to us. As I’m putting my bags in the belly pod I notice the build up of ice on the leading edge of the wings and struts. No worries though.. It wasn’t very thick and the caravan has boots installed on the front of the wings, struts, and tail, not to mention the prop blades are heated. So with our bags loaded the pilot and the three passengers including myself climb aboard. The pilot is just about to close his door when Hutch’s wife shows up and tells the pilot that Nome called and wants us to fly to Unalakleet. The weather in Nome has gotten worse. The pilot says “the weather in Unalakleet isn’t much better. We’ll just stay here until the weather lifts in Nome.” So we hop off the plane and the pilot jams a sleeping bag type material into the intakes on the engine while the two other passengers are getting rides back to town.


I was talking with the pilot and asked him how the boots work to keep the ice from building up too much during flight. The way they work is after a substantial amount of ice builds up (about a half an inch or so) he activates the boots from inside the plane. They spontaneously fill with air expanding at a high rate of speed. This quick enlargement causes the build up of ice to break up and fall off the plane. He also mentioned that there is a newer technology which involves a titanium leading edge on the wings and struts that has very little holes poked all through it. If the pilot is flying in icing conditions he activates the system and ethanol is pushed out through all those little holes and covers the entire wing and parts of the plane. This ethanol melts what ice is there and prevents any more ice from building up. He said that using this system you can fly through the worst icing conditions without a problem. The reason they haven’t upgraded to this system yet is to outfit one caravan runs about 50,000 dollars.

The black liner is the boot…


About 45 minutes later I got to experience the boot in action first hand. We got a call from Nome and they told us we needed to go to Unalakleet. Their weather had improved and they had de-icing equipment there. So we hopped back into the plane and headed that direction. About 10 minutes before landing in Unalalkleet he popped to boot and looking out my window I could see it expand and chunks of ice fly off the wings and struts. Very impressive and nice to know we have that option when flying in not so savory weather.

We were only in Unalakleet for about 5 minutes when we were notified that the weather in Nome had improved considerably. So the pilot loaded up about 3,000 pounds of freight put in three hours of fuel and we were back in the air. This time headed for St. Michael, Stebbins, and then on to Nome.

In St. Michael we dropped off a little mail. Not much. In Stebbins however thats where the majority of the 3,000 pounds went. I helped the pilot empty the plane. It took the two of us about 5 minutes to get all of the supplies out. There was everything from snowmachine (snowmobile for those of you down south) parts to bags of rice, reems of paper, canned food, mail, a few boxes labeled “Burger King”, and an assortment of other boxes with unknown contents.


I will be staying in Nome tonight and flying out to the Island in the morning. My first stop should be Savoonga, then Gambell the next day. I hope the weather decides to play nice.

At this moment I’m in the middle of my 12th flight and approximately 56.2 nautical miles from Nome flying at 6,560 ft. over the partially frozen ocean below.


“Freezing Rain”

I’m stuck in Elim right now. I was originally scheduled to fly out with Hageland, but they called and told me they were overbooked and wouldn’t be able to pick me up. So Teresa set me up on a Bering Air flight out at 5:15 P.M. Well as the time drew near we got a call and were told that they had canceled the flight. Another BSSD employee was scheduled to take the same flight from Unalakleet to Elim to work on the phone system. They told him in Unalakleet that the reason the flight was canceled was freezing rain. Well, I’ve been out side all day and we had very nice dry snow falling. Nothing close to freezing rain. Even walking home from the school 10 minutes after the flight was canceled there wasn’t any freezing rain to be found. I believe I was struck yet again by Bering Air’s continual canceling of flights with the old “the weather is bad over there” excuse, when they basically just don’t feel like flying. I’m guessing they didn’t have enough freight or passengers to make the flight “worth while”

(Photo from


Well the blizzard hit Golovin and most of the region. Hageland was on weather hold, and it didnt’ look like they were going to come and get me. Not wanting to get stuck there and get behind on the trip I skyped Teresa (the person in charge of travel for the district) and she tracked down Doug (the district pilot) he was in Brevig and was on his way to Elim. She had him stop by Golovin and pick me up on his way.


After a quick flight to Elim I was picked up by Steve the site principal.  We quickly found Mark and John and hopped on snowmachines to go out for a ride.  We were hoping to get out to the hot springs, but with the resent dump of snow the trail was not only unbroken, but also laden with deep snow.


We ended up getting a bit stuck and had to turn around pretty quickly.  It was a lot of work getting all 4 machines turned around.  You couldn’t really go off the trail at all without really getting stuck.  So we had to turn them around by hand.  Lifting up the back end and and moving it around and likewise with the front of the machine.  It was a lot of work.  The whole time we were punching through down to the river below.  Good thing I was wearing bunny boots.  They are stellar in just such an occasion.  You can literally step in a river and have your boots fill with water.  All you need to do is dump the water out and put them back on.  Your feet will not only not freeze, but stay warm.  So we got back out of there and went down a different trail that had been used more recently.


It was a good day to be out on the machines.  I really like getting out in the woods.

I’m off to White Mountain tomorrow if the weather is kind to me.

Snow Shoeing

 Today was a really nice day. The sun was out the wind was pretty much non existent, and it was only about 20 below. So a couple of the teachers were going to head out for a little snowshoe in the woods. I asked if I could tag along to shoot some video. They graciously welcomed me on the little adventure. I borrowed some very nice snowshoes from Kevin. I think a nice pair of snowshoes are a good idea if you plan on running around the outdoors in the winter.

Snow Shoe

It was very nice to get out and get some exercise.  I also able to get some very nice video.  I hope that it looks good when  I get it back on the computer at home.

I’m off to Golovin here in a bit.  They are forecasted to get a blizzard tomorrow morning.  I hope it doesn’t hinder my flight from there to Elim.  I’ll keep you posed.

Cold and Sunny

I left Shaktoolik this afternoon around 3:00.  I had a nice time there with the staff. I was able to shoot some nice video over there.  Here is a photo of me about to get on the plane.

Me Sun

It has been pretty chilly out.   Roughly 30 below with the wind chill.  My fingers have been pretty cold trying to run the video camera.  I can’t wait for the replacement bag to come in.

I got to Koyuk and helped the Bering Air agent unload and load the plane.  After helping him finish that up I asked the agent if he’d mind giving me a ride down to the school.  So we loaded up the sled and I hopped on the back of the 4-wheeler and off we went.  After getting to the school I borrowed the truck to go shoot some video of the sunset around town.  Here is a photo I shot of the sun going down.


So it was nice to be out and about, but also nice to head back into the warm school.  Elim’s boys basketball team was there for a game at night.  I hung around the school and shot some video of the game and talked with some of the teachers.

Kevin (the principal in Koyuk) was nice enough to have me crash at his place.  Steve the Elim principal is also over staying here.  We all watched October Sky on a projector which was nice.  It has gotten awfully late and I’m a tired kid.  I hope that I can get some nice sleep tonight.  For some reason I’m already tired out on this trip.  Its only the beginning and for some reason I’m really dragging.  Hope it picks up for me.  🙂

Filming in the cold

Well, I’ve got 6 flights under my belt. I am sitting in Shaktoolik after a very busy day. I started out this morning in St. Michael. Dan Edie was nice enough to put me up for the night. I shot some video around the school and the town before catching a ride on the 13 mile road to Stebbins. I only had about an hour and a half there to shoot a little around the school. I think I will need to go back out there for some more video.

I was supposed to have a fancy bag that zips around the camera that is basically a sleeping bag to keep it warm while shooting outside. It even had a place for your had to slip inside so it stays warm while your shooting. Well the company that BSSD bought it from sent the wrong model, and it turned out to be way too big. So I had to send it back to Unalakleet to get it changed out, meanwhile I am out shooting with some very cold hands. I am told that the replacement should be showing up in the next few days. They say Saturday, but shipping never really seems to work out like its supposed to.

Cold Out

As you can imagine its not the best time to be out running around. You can’t see it very well in this picture, but the snow is blowing around like crazy.

I flew out of Stebbins on Bering Air. With the wind around 30 – 40 miles an hour the plane coming in for a landing came to a stop pretty much as soon as it touched the ground. I got some pretty decent video of it landing. There was a building in the way right at the end, but It was still pretty impressive.

So I hopped on there and was the only passenger with a direct flight from Stebbins to Shaktoolik.

Comp Fly

So I’ll do a little more shooting tomorrow, and then be on my way to Koyuk.

Stay tuned for more updates on the 14 sites in 13 days.

Finally on my way

Well, I made it into Unalakleet just fine on Pen Air.  I totally lucked out and got to fly on the BIG plane.


As I walked into the terminal though I was informed by the Bering Air agent that they didn’t have any room for me.  So I called up Hageland and they said they weren’t going to St. Michael this evening.  So then I called Teresa over at the district office and told her about my perdicament and she said hold on I’ll call you right back.  She called back about three minutes later and informed me that I was going to be on a Hageland flight.  So Ted and Damon drove me over to the Hageland terminal and I got my bags checked in.  They told me the pilot was going to fly up to Koyuk and Shaktoolik before taking me to St. Michael.  So I went over to the district office for about an hour and visited with the folks over there.

At 5:00 I got a ride back over to the Hageland terminal and hopped on this sweet ride a Cesna 207.


We flew right over the frozen ocean on our 30 min flight with what little light left in the day disapearing quickly.  The pilot did remark how nice it was that at a quarter to 6 in the evening that it was still light out.

I will start shooting video tomorrow morning and then get a ride the 13 miles over to Stebbins.  More to come on how that all goes tomorrow.

Back at the airport

Well, I’m back at the Anchorage airport again.  Winds today in Unalakleet are a manageable 14 miles an hour.   I head off to St. Michael pretty much as soon as I land in Unalakleet.  I’ll try to snap a couple of photos for a post later tonight.

The Joys of Weather

So I didn’t make it out to the Bering strait.  The winds were up around 60 mph at times, and well that isn’t exactly the best for flying.  So I’m still sitting in Anchorage.  I went out to dinner at the Glacier Brew House and had a delicious steak and a couple beers.  Since I’m still kinda on Minnesota time.  Im back at the hotel and thinking about going to sleep.  We’ll see if I can pull that off.

I try tomorrow at 1:30 for another go.  We’ll see if the planes feel like making their way to the far north.

More to come….