Alaska has been in the national news recently, thanks to several epic storms and snowfalls. The coastal towns of Cordova and Valdez are presently buried in snow while residents struggle to clear the streets and keep their roofs from collapsing. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard's only Arctic ice-breaker, the Healy, and the Russian-flagged tanker Renda are struggling through the Bering Sea ice pack in an attempt to deliver over one million gallons of heating oil to Nome. A hurricane-force storm in November prevented the usual autumn fuel delivery to Nome, hence this heroic effort. The ships' progress through shifting ice and towering pressure ridges has been difficult, to put it mildly.
|Photo courtesy of Candy Waugaman|
Alaska's current predicament has reminded me of the absurdity of the original route planned for the 1908 New York-Paris automobile race. Organizers were convinced that automobiles would be able to travel from Valdez in March over the winter sleigh trail to Fairbanks, and then down the frozen Tanana and Yukon Rivers to Nome. From here they would cross the Bering Strait, either by ship or by dismantling the cars and sledding them across the ice! Not only can people not even WALK across the strait's pack ice without swimming because of open leads, the difficulties faced by a modern-day ice-breaker cast doubt that a steamship could have made the crossing that time of year.
*Update* The Healy and Renda arrived at the port of Nome on January 14.