Alaska News Nightly: June 27, 2011

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State House Still Mulling Over Coastal Management Program

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

The House majority is waiting this evening to decide whether to begin its part of Monday’s special legislative session or to give up plans to try to extend the state’s coastal management program.

Hoonah Gets Federal Funds for Broadband Internet

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Hoonah has embraced a federal stimulus program designed to make broadband Internet more affordable in rural Alaska.

Residents of the Chichagof Island village about 40 air-miles from Juneau are flocking to connect with Spacenet – one of two satellite Internet service providers offering deals in Alaska.

Not only that, but a few local residents have jobs installing and maintaining the systems.

ACS Goes ‘4G’

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska is going “4G”. Alaska Communications Systems will be the first of the state’s big three wireless providers to upgrade to the service that will allow customers to move data  up to 10 times faster.

Crash Near Beluga Lake Kills Pilot

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

One man is dead after a light plane crashed near Beluga Lake on the west side of Cook Inlet.   Alaska State Troopers say the pilot of a Cessna 150, Timothy Hudok, age 45,  died and passenger Robert Goodwill,  age 44, of North Carolina, was seriously injured in the accident which occurred Sunday.

The Cessna left Anchorage’s Lake Hood, and was reported overdue later that day.  Troopers were guided to the wreck by a locator beacon, and found the plane three miles from the lake  around 11:30 on Sunday night.

Raw Milk May Be Source of Southcentral Infections

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Raw milk is thought to be the culprit behind an outbreak of illness in the state’s Southcentral region. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, chief epidemiologist with the state section of Epidemiology, is investigating four recent cases of campylobacter infection associated with drinking raw milk from an unnamed Matanuska Valley farm.

The sale of raw milk is not legal in Alaska but the law does allow a person to own a share of a cow. The state does not require testing or pasteurization of milk from a cow-share program.

Dr. McLaughlin says drinking raw milk is not a good idea, because of the pathogens that raw milk can contain.

Unpasteurized milk can be infected with a number of pathogens including Listeria, and Salmonella. Listeria can cause life threatening infections in newborns and adults, he says.  Four cases of the campylobacter infection were reported within a month. One case involved a child, the other three victims are adults. Dr. McLaughlin says campylobacter infection is not life threatening in itself, but it can lead to serious, lifelong health problems.

He says the four campylobacter cases, reported roughly a week apart between early May and early June, indicate more to come

Anyone who has consumed raw milk, and then experienced acute gastrointestinal illness characterized by diarrhea, cramps, vomiting and fever,  is asked to contact the state section of Epidemiology.

Reptilian Fossil Found Near Kake

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

Scientists have removed the fossilized remains of an ancient ocean-going reptile from the rocky shores of an island near Kake in Southeast Alaska.

Former Whaling Commission Director Scheduled for Arraignment

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A former director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission is scheduled for arraignment on fraud and theft charges. Teresa Judkins of Barrow, age 51, is accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the organization during a two-year period.

A federal grand jury indicted Judkins on charges of theft and misapplication of funds from an organization receiving federal grant money.

Judkins is accused of fraudulently using commission funds to buy herself a snowmobile, take payroll advances she never repaid and paying for travel for herself and relatives unrelated to her duties.

The Eskimo Whaling Commission, which gets much of its funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, is meant to protect Eskimo subsistence hunting of bowhead whales.

Civil War Artillery Shell Found Near Kake

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

An explosives team from Elmendorf Air Force Base traveled to the Southeast community of Kake last Thursday to examine an unexploded artillery shell.

The bomb is not of recent origin. In fact, experts believe it is a Civil War-era device fired at the village from a U.S. Navy warship in 1869.

Pioneering Climber to Recall Deadly Mt. McKinley Excursion

One of the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount McKinley from the South Buttress route is back in Alaska to tell his story. George Argus reached the peak with a team of men in 1954. He nearly didn’t make it back alive.

Sitting outside on a summer day in Anchorage, George Argus wears the same coat that got him through that six-week ordeal. And it’s in pretty good condition.

“That’s because I’m an economical fellow. I don’t throw away anything.”

Argus was wearing the coarse, woolen coat when he began his trip up Mount McKinley on April 17, 1954. He was with two other members of the University of Alaska Alpine Club, Elton Thayer and Les Viereck. Morton Wood was also part of their team.

“I had climbed, but pretty small things. I had never been on an expedition like this before.”

It took more than a month for the team to make it to the base of McKinley’s south buttress. Discovering hard ice instead of the soft snow that they had expected, the team worked to chip out steps in the ice, slowly making their way up the face of the peak, one hard-fought inch at a time. Reaching the top of that wall on May 9th, they were able to see the summit. Six days later, the four men stood at the highest point in North America.

“And from there on, it was downhill.”

And the descent did deteriorate quickly. Elton Thayer was last on the rope that held the four men together, and while descending below the crest of the area known as the Coxcomb, Thayer slipped, taking the rest of the team with him in a fall of nearly 1,000 feet. When the men finally came to a halt after Les Viereck was wedged into a crevasse, Elton Thayer was dead and George Argus had a dislocated hip.

After it was clear that Argus would not be able to make the descent, Viereck and Wood pulled him down to an area better protected from the snow storms. Argus was wrapped up in his sleeping bag and dragged behind the two men.

“But we got to a place where I was hanging upside-down and it was really hurting my hip. I called out “What are you guys doing?” Something like that. Of course, they didn’t reply, and they got me down.  It was only years later that Les said, ‘You know that time you were upside down? We weren’t sure if we could hold onto you.’ Gulp.”

Argus was left behind while Wood and Viereck trudged the rest of the way down the mountain to get help for him. Alone for a week and in great pain, Argus kept himself occupied by carefully rationing out his supplies. And his book, a collection of short stories by Mark Twain.

“At the end, when I was waiting to be found again, I would read this book again, but I’d read one page, and then I would close the book and lie back and close my eyes. And then I’d open it up again and read one more page, because to stretch it out the time, the only way you could do it was read slowly.”

By the time a crew made it to Argus a week later, he still had a few supplies left, offering to make tea for his rescuers. He says he heard later from Wood and Veireck how treacherous the rest of their trip down the mountain had been.

“Yeah, I have a lot of debt to these people. A lot of debt.”

It took three months for Argus’s hip to heal. In the half-century since that trip, he has been in the mountains, but never really been climbing again.

Argus will be giving a presentation about his climbing experience at the Anchorage Museum Auditorium Monday night at 7: 00 p.m.