There are more than 100 people employed at Ketchikan’s Vigor Industrial Shipyard. Out of all of them, Cat Wong might have the most unusual story about how she got there. The 25-year-old is a pipe fitter and welder. She was born in the U.S., but grew up with her family in Singapore. When she was 21, Cat made an unusual choice, and moved to Ketchikan.
It has long been forbidden for men to weave in the Chilkat tradition, but Tlingit artist Ricky Tagaban is an exception. Using techniques practiced for thousands of years, Tagaban creates his trademark iPhone bags, hair clips, and head bands, putting a modern spin on an ancient tradition.
For naturalist Steve Merli, bear education isn’t just about staying alive. The way he sees it, knowing how to behave in bear country allows Alaskans to explore wilderness more deeply.
Merli works with Discovery Southeast, a Juneau organization that connects kids with nature programs.
Earlier this month, KTOO’s Lisa Phu joined campers for a lesson that had some questioning their assumptions about bear encounters.
Although the ancient form of dance called English Morris was born so long ago its origins are murky, it remains alive and well, even in frozen Alaska. Rant and Raven, Anchorage’s Morris dance group, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, with a tour on the Alaska Marine Highway.
Hot canola oil pangs off a stainless steel tub under the watch of a local fry bread master. Some people say it’s magic that turns a hand-stretched disc of dough into a puffy — but-not-too-puffy — piece of golden, delicious fry bread. Fry bread, that high calorie treat that can go savory or sweet, has generations of history in many Alaska Native families, where the untraditional food has become a cultural fixture.
Gold is in Clutch Lounsbury’s blood. His grandparents took the Valdez Trail up to Fairbanks during the Gold Rush, and Clutch was on a cat before he could walk. He’s searched in creeks, canyons, and underground. He’s sluice boxed, dredged,and hard rock mined all over the Interior and the Arctic. Today he lives in Ester above an 800-foot mine shaft in the hillside.
Dog owners know the challenges of dog training – first to get them housebroken, then to stop jumping on people or perhaps to pull on their harness on command. But police dogs have to meet a remarkable level of obedience. KNBA’s Joaqlin Estus recently met up with Aerie, a police dog with the Anchorage Police Department, and his handler in an Anchorage parking lot, and has this story.
Alaskans have had some big anniversaries this year: The ‘64 earthquake and the Exxon Valdez oil spill among them. Acoustic musicians celebrated their own anniversary last month in Juneau: the Alaska Folk Festival’s 40th. The week of concerts attracts hundreds of singers, pickers and strummers and thousands of fans from around the state.
Small towns like Unalaska can be pretty close-knit. Grown-ups take care of kids who aren’t their own, and teenagers have adults to turn to when they need them.
One local high schooler wanted to make those relationships stronger. So she planned something special: She put students and adults into teams, and sent them on a town-wide scavenger hunt.
Some say that after climate warming, plastic is the biggest environmental problem we face. And unlike climate warming, no one argues over who is responsible for the plastic in our oceans – we are. After researching and reporting on it, Johanna Eurich wanted to do her part to reduce plastic trash. The task is daunting. She started at home, in her tiny log cabin in Spenard.
The first Red Flag warnings have already been issued for parts of Southcentral and the Interior and wildland firefighters are gearing up for the season. Some of them will approach wildfires from the ground, but there’s one elite group that’s been training for more than two months to fight fire from the air.
Ten years ago, Wrangell was crawling with feral cats. They roamed the streets, getting into trash and nesting in condemned buildings. Now, it’s hard to even find a cat downtown. That dramatic turnaround is due to the hard work of one woman who noticed the problem and decided to fix it. Dolores Klinke runs the St. Frances Animal Rescue, a non-profit that has saved hundreds of strays.
At most major airports someone is paid to chase birds off the runway, but at Sitka’s airport that job is especially challenging. That’s because three-fourths of Sitka’s runway is surrounded by water. Fish spawn along its banks, attracting hungry birds. That problem was highlighted four years ago when two Alaska Airlines jets collided with eagles on takeoff. KCAW’s Emily Forman spoke with the expert who came in afterward to make sure the runway is safe.
Haines seems like a quintessential Southeast Alaska town. There are eagles, bears, salmon, big mountains and rough water. It’s a picture-book no stoplight, no movie theater, low crime type of community. But there’s a seedier and eclectic side of Haines that emerged late this winter: the underground puppet scene.
Several people at Juneau’s downtown shelter and soup kitchen The Glory Hole are part of a new club. Every Tuesday, they come together on the second floor of the facility to discuss a different topic. The club is helping to build a different kind of community within the homeless shelter, a community not based on need, but on the exchange of ideas.
The first responders in any disaster like the Good Friday Earthquake will likely be the firefighters and emergency medical technicians. But even the routine fire or medical call can be physically taxing and rely on months, perhaps even years of training. Capital City Fire and Rescue and the International Firefighters Association recently held a unique event in Juneau designed to demonstrate the rigors of the job to those unfamiliar with their routine.
You might not expect an ancient Aboriginal instrument from Australia to find its way to Alaska. But walk around downtown Ketchikan on a warm day and you may hear 15-year-old Kinani Halvorsen playing her didgeridoo. She’s played the unusual instrument for three years. And she hopes to bring the didgeridoo into the mainstream band practice.
Manufacturing – like everything else – is becoming more computerized, but instead of replacing craftsmanship, digital technology is opening up possibilities for students to create things in ways that simply weren’t practical five or ten years ago. Three kids at Sitka High School are building a tool – really just a customized piece of metal – to do an unsung, but important, job in the community. And their collaboration points toward a future where we’ll make stuff differently.