Emily Schwing, KUAC - Fairbanks
Emily Schwing is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this year’s extent averaged 5.7 million square miles – that’s more than a quarter-of-a-million miles less than the average extent measured between 1981 and 2010, but it is also slightly above the record low measured in 2006
Year-to-year forecasts of summer Arctic Sea Ice extent aren’t reliable. That’s according to a report out from the National Snow and Ice Data Center. But A two-day workshop that starts Tuesday in Colorado will focus on ways to improve sea ice extent predictions.
This year’s Iditarod is not only record-breaking, it may have broken some mushers as well. The 42 annual race will not soon be forgotten. It’s being called on of the toughest in the race’s history.
The 42nd annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race proved to be one of the most dramatic from start to finish. Dog teams were lost, ganglines were broken, mushers were injured – some severely. The trail from Anchorage to Nome threw everything possible at mushers from rocks to tree stumps to hurricane force winds.
Iditarod mushers Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle are on the final stretch into Nome. King left the White Mountain checkpoint after eight hours of mandatory rest at 3:02 this afternoon. Zirkle followed just under an hour later. Dallas Seavey will leave about two hours behind Zirkle and his father Mitch will leave about two hours after that.
Mushers were met with an unforgiving trail as they pushed up the coast from Unalakleet to Koyuk, Sunday. They battled wind, miles of glare ice and more snow free trail. They’re also battling extreme fatigue and grappling with how best to cut rest and maintain speed as they close in on Nome.
Teams running at the front of the pack have reached the Bering Sea Coast at Unalakleet. Despite a rough trail, teams are still on record pace as they continue to make their way for Nome.
Iditarod mushers kept volunteers in the Nulato checkpoint busy overnight. Some teams that weren’t expected to stay grabbed a few hours rest in the sleepy Yukon River village, while others who could have used the rest decided to blow through.
Big Lake musher Martin Buser is leading the Iditarod. After choosing an unconventional checkpoint for his 24 hour layover early in the race, he charged to the front of the race today. He’s now nearing the Nulato checkpoint with Sonny Lindner, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King in pursuit. Iditarod Mushers and their dog teams passed in and out of the Yukon River community of Galena on various schedules throughout the afternoon.
Some mushers are still trying to hold dog teams back despite the fast Yukon River miles ahead. The most experienced mushers know the river miles can be fast, but there’s still a tough run up the Bering Sea Coast ahead.
As dogs teams drop onto the Yukon River, Iditarod mushers will find out how their race plans are playing out. The next 140 miles of long, flat river will shine some light on who has the most speed and who needs a little more rest. No one is quite sure exactly what’s going on with race strategies this year. In fact even the most experienced mushers are scratching their heads.
Jeff King is resting at the Yukon river checkpoint of Ruby. The four time Iditarod champion is technically in the lead at this point, but Martin Buser, Aliy Zirkle and Robert Sorlie are closing in, and they’ve already completed their 24 hour layovers. Once teams leave Ruby, they’ll have a chance to take advantage of any remaining speed they have on the flat river miles ahead.
As teams come off their mandatory 24-hour rest and head for the Yukon River, they’ll be thinking of how best to pick up the pace in what is turning out to be one of the most dramatic, but also the most competitive races in Iditarod history.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s rough run through the Dalzell Gorge and into Nikolai, many Iditarod mushers have had to act fast to change their race plans.
The Iditarod trail continued to claim victims through Tuesday. Reports of everything from broken ankles to broken hands came filtering back from Rohn and Nikolai. It will take a combination of resilience and persistence for mushers to keep moving down the trail.
The Iditarod race leaders left the checkpoint of Nikolai around mid day today. Sonny Lindner, Hugh Neff, Aliy Zirkle and Nicolas Petit pulled out of Nikolai within an hour of each other. But five mushers, including DeeDee Jonrowe and Jake Berkowitz scratched today, because of broken equipment that was damaged on the extremely rough trail out of Rainy Pass.
Iditarod mushers are working hard to hold back teams on what has been an icy, hard packed trail. A snowless, rocky stretch of trail through a burn will slow them down, but most mushers are riding their brakes.
Teams are making their way into Rainy Pass as they head trough the Alaska Range. It’s arguably the toughest stretch of trail. Many say they’re ready for the challenge, including a contingent of Norwegians who are in Alaska to find out how their dog teams fare on this side of the world.