Emily Schwing, KUAC - Fairbanks
Emily Schwing is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.
In a release today, the National Park Service states the wolf population in the Yukon-Charley National Preserve has decreased by 50 percent since last fall. The Park Service says the decline “coincides with predator control efforts by Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducted near the preserve.”
The Air Force has grounded the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base due to federal budget restrictions. The Squadron of F-16s is the same one the Air Force has considered relocating to Joint Base Elemendorf Richardson near Anchorage.
In the early 1960’s, engineers dug a tunnel into permafrost roughly 16 miles north of Fairbanks. They were testing underground excavation methods. The US Bureau of Mines also used part of the original tunnel to test mining techniques in permafrost. On March 15th, personnel with the Army Corps of Engineer’s Cold Climate Research and Engineering laboratory, or CRREL, wrapped up a months’ worth of digging as part of a project to build a new tunnel that will eventually join the older one.
The National Snow and Ice Data center based in Colorado report Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for the winter on March 15.
The Iditarod Race Marshall is calling the death of a dropped dog in Unalakleet this year one of the worst tragedies in the race’s history. The Iditarod Trail committee has since launched an investigation into what happened. They’re working with the dog’s owner to develop better dog care standards for the future.
On March 15, volunteers with the Iditarod Trail Committee discovered a five-year-old husky had been buried and asphyxiated by drifting snow in Unalakleet. Wednesday, ITC released the results of an investigation into the death.
Competition in this year’s Iditarod was nothing less than fierce, and the racing didn’t quite until the finish line. The race for first and second place was close in this year’s Iditarod, but there were three other races among top twenty finishers that were even closer.
Seventeen Iditarod teams have crossed under Nome’s burled arch so far, with more closing in quickly. This year’s was one of the most competitive and closest races in Iditarod history.
Mitch Seavey left the Iditarod checkpoint of White Mountain at 1:11 this afternoon. Aliy Zirkle followed 13 minutes later. According to GPS, she is currently running about one mile behind Seavey. Seavey is a former Iditarod champion. Zirkle’s best finish in the race was second, last year.
Thirteen minutes is all that stands between Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle, the top two teams in this year’s Iditarod. Seavey’s team took just over 90 minutes longer than Zirkle’s to reach the checkpoint. But Jeff King’s team is still within striking distance after arriving third. Teams are resting for a mandatory eight hours. It’s an unusual year when the Iditarod comes down to the last long run from White Mountain.
The top teams in this year’s Iditarod likely won’t be decided until they cross under the burled arch in Nome. That’s because teams have spent the last quarter of the race, if not the last 900 miles leap frogging each other as they travel down the trail.
Mitch Seavey is back in the Iditarod lead. He passed Jeff King halfway through the run from Koyuk to Elim along the Bering Sea Coast. King surprised everyone by speeding through the Koyuk checkpoint at 8:20 this morning, stopping less than six minutes. That put him out front for most of the day. Mitch Seavey left the checkpoint three hours after King. Aliy Zirkle, Ray Redding Jr and Aaron Burmeister followed a few hours later. APRN trail reporter Emily Schwing is in Koyuk. She says King’s dogs looked good when they passed through the checkpoint.
Dog teams face the last 250 miles of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The trail runs along the windy coastline of the Bering Sea from Unalakleet to Nome. It’s getting close to the time when mushers will make some of their last moves. It’s only a matter of time before decisions on the trail turn into race results.
With a climb through the Alaska Range and a run down the Yukon River now behind them, Iditarod mushers have only to tackle the Bering Sea coast before they cross the finish line in Nome. But there’s still a third of the race to go. Overnight, the front-runners left Kaltag for Unalakleet. It’s the longest run of the race. KUAC’s Emily Schwing caught up before they set off.
Iditarod mushers running outside of this year’s top-20 are just as competitive as the front of the pack, but they have different reasons for travelling the trail.
Iditarod mushers start the race with up to 16 dogs. The can drop dogs along the trail, but they have to finish with six. Many mushers will drop dogs in Iditarod after completing the longest single run along the trail. It’s 80 miles from Ophir, but most teams remain large halfway through the race.
As Iditarod teams spread out on the trail, lead dogs will start to prove themselves. It’s up to mushers to make sure their leaders remain healthy at the front of the team. As KUAC’s Emily Schwing reports, that’s no small feat.
Three days into the Iditarod, the race is still anyone’s game. And the mushers are keeping it interesting this year. Martin Buser completed his 24 hour layover early in the race. Lance Mackey and Sonny Linder appear to be embracing the opposite strategy… making their way down the trail to the Iditarod Checkpoint, which is also the official half way marker in the race. But many of the veteran mushers decided to stick to a plan they know, resting in the popular 24 layover village of Takotna.
As dog teams get further down the trail, mushers are trying to decide where to take their 24-hour mandatory layover. Out of McGrath there are still roughly 700 miles to go before Nome. Some mushers make decisions based on timing and weather, while others have various ideas about how to use down time to their advantage.
This year’s Iditarod field includes 13 rookies. Many of them are very experienced, while just a few are new to the sport. At least two may have to race all the way to the finish for the Rookie of the Year award.