Thursday, October 16, 2014

Really Random Thursday: Alaska and Arctic Edition 2!

Hi Folks!
It's time for another edition of Really Random Thursday, Arctic Areas. Oh my goodness! It is so much fun finding odd and unusual news from around the Arctic to share with you! 

Windfall Mountain... smoking...for no reason!
First up is Windfall Mountain. Windfall Mountain is NOT a volcano, even though it sure is smoking like one. And noone knows why!! 
The acrid smoke was first noticed in September of 2012. At first, scientists thought the most likely cause of the smoke was that oily rock or coal deposits had caught fire. Coal deposits can catch fire just from sunlight shining on them. Did you know that? I sure didn't!! 
But, NO! Linda Stromquist, a geologist for the National Park Service has been studying the mountain, and has discovered that the rock there has 'unremarkable' amounts of flammable components. Stromquist has shared information on the mountain with a half dozen geologists, including two who wrote their doctoral dissertations on rocks of the area. The meeting of minds might solve the mystery of Windfall Mountain. Or it might not, she said. "Science is like that — you can't tie it up with a bow most of the time."
Which is exactly the opposite of what most folks think Science does. I love it that mystery in so many forms still remains in our world!

And Second up are radioactive reindeer!!

The Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986.  That explosion sent radioactive Cesium-137 particles into the atmosphere, eventually drifting into Norway where they landed and absorbed into the soil.

Traces of the radioactive isotopes pop up every summer in the plant life -- particularly the gypsy mushroom, a delicacy for both humans and reindeer. The mushroom acts as a sponge for leaching Cesium-137 out of the soil and scientists are certain it’s the cause of the spike this year.

The jump this year was significant: This September the reading was 8,200 becquerel of Cesium-137 per kilogram, versus September 2012 when the reindeer were averaging 1,500 becquerel of Cesium-137 per kilogram.

“You have some peak years, in ’88 and in the ‘90s, where there were summers with lots of mushrooms,” says Eikelmann. “It’s different year to year -- the amount of mushrooms is very weather dependent. When you have humidity and long summers you get more mushrooms than if it’s dry and cold.”

“We have two different ways of getting rid of the Cesium from the food system. One is that you are unable to slaughter [the reindeer] now -- you have to wait until November because the Cesium has a half-life in the animal. In 30 days they will get rid of the Cesium they have eaten,” says Eikelmann. “And the second way is [to give] them ‘clean food’ so they are eating food with less radioactivity for one or two months so their reading goes down below the limit and then we can slaughter them.”

So far, studies have shown the reindeer are not suffering any health effects from the higher-than-normal radioactivity readings. However there hasn’t been much research done on the effects of eating radioactive reindeer meat -- an issue that, if there are any dangers, would likely affect the Sami communities first because of their reindeer-rich diets.

The Cesium-137 particles are set to reach their half-life expectancy in 2016 -- a milestone that renders them half as radioactive as when they first landed in 1986 -- but “it will take a very long time before the last part of it goes,” says Eikelmann. “It will never be zero.”

Fortunately, in Alaska, Reindeer sausage only needs to contain 10% Reindeer meat in order to be labelled as such. So munch on, intrepid snackers!!

And, finally, I leave you with an Alaskan's point of view on travel to Adak, a remote Aleutian island. This is an excerpt. Please check out the article and come on back and tell me what you think!!


Captain Pat Kelly Air Terminal, 5 p.m.: Walk off your Alaska Airlines jet onto a rusty ramp and into the dimly lit terminal. Inside is the police chief, who pitches in with bag inspection, plus the guy who rents cars, the city manager and former state legislator and Adak booster Clem Tillion, who is waiting to fly out on the jet you flew in on. Give 89-year-old Tillion a few minutes to warm up and he'll tell you the story about that time he cut off a Japanese soldier's...

Sweeper Cove, 7 p.m.: Take a walk down the street through one of Adak's largely abandoned clusters of homes to one of the island's pristine sand beaches. Take a dip in the chilly Bering Sea and enjoy some of the Pendleton whiskey, a favored beverage of Adak residents, that you brought with you.
Amchitka Circle, 9 p.m.: Fire up the diesel heater in the vacation home that belongs to a couple from Texas, who are friends with one of your friends, then cook your dinner of pasta and sausage on a fully functioning electric stove. Forgot that the water was already shut off for the winter? That's fine: Walk a few doors down to the rental unit where the guy who exports crab to Dubai is staying. His water works.

Bay Five, 10 a.m.: Just 100 people live in Adak, year-round, but that's still enough to keep a Mexican restaurant afloat. Thank God, especially if you're still feeling the Pendleton from the night before. Bay Five may not have Taco King's salsa bar, but it does have large portions and a great hot sauce selection. Buy a breakfast burrito or the enchiladas and top off with the Unexploded Ordnance, which is a Snickers bar fried in something like an egg roll wrapper..."

And on it goes. A highly entertaining, and occasionally appalling, look at a remote Alaskan island through the eyes of a whiskey drinkin' ex-New Yorker.  Find the full article here. Enjoy!


Linking up with Scraptastic Tuesday at She Can Quilt

And Really Random Thursdays at Liveacolorfullife.


  1. Windfall Mountain sounds really intriguing! I really like it when there is not an immediate explanation and it requires new ideas and thoughts to be created. Fun! :)

  2. I agree! And I think it's fun for kids and us adults, too, to stretch our imaginations and wonderment and brainstorm ideas as to why this mountain it 'going up in smoke.' XX!!!!

  3. Some very interesting randoms from a very different part of the world to where I live. I like you conclusion about science and facts. Sometimes the more we know the more we don't know.

  4. Love that extreme close up of the reindeer!

  5. I dunno, I think someone needs to tell that mountain that smoking is bad for its health ;o)

    PS, do the reindeer glow in the dark? :oD

  6. Reindeer + glowing = Rudolph!! Lots of randomness with which to entertain my friends. Love it!!