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Brown bear mating pair "kissing"
Alaska 2013
  • Territory: Washington State, British Columbia, Alaska
  • Time: May - August, 4300 miles traveled
  • Vessel: "Teacup", Nordic Tug 37
  • Primary Activity: Wait for the rain to let up.

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Introduction

I love visiting the land of the bears. When I travel in Alaska I have a number of fun activities — kayak paddles, hikes, even an occasional overnight camping trip. But one of the more rewarding experiences is a photo shoot on the Alaska peninsula, at one of a handful of locations where there are bears but no people, no roads, no towns — a place where the bears are in charge.

When I visit the land of the bears, I normally choose an anchorage in a sheltered bay near a beach that supports clam growth. That way I have a steady platform for photography from my boat, and because the beach has clams, when the tide goes out the bears appear in substantial numbers to dig clams. This makes them perfect photographic subjects.

This year a bear mating couple made an appearance, and I got a terrific set of pictures of bear mating behavior. It's often a mistake to assume that animal behavior is like human behavior — something called anthropomorphism, a fancy word meaning "attribution of human form or other characteristics to anything other than a human being." But on this occasion I saw a number of behaviors that closely resembled those of people, so the comparison was irresistible. It was fascinating.

When it rains in Alaska, as it frequently does, I plan activities to occupy the wet days on board my floating bachelor pad. This year I revisited a mathematical problem having to do with the dynamic behavior of tides in bays and inlets, and I have a better treatment of this problem than in the past. This new analysis produces some results that sailors may find useful.

In late June the temperature rose to an unseasonably high 80° Fahrenheit (27° Celsius), surprising everyone. Then I heard an Alaska weather service bulletin that was so funny I almost fell out of my kayak. I don't rememebr the exact wording, but it warned Alaskans that 80 degrees is a lethally high temperature and, in the name of public safety, they might want to take shelter from the heat.

While entering a bay south of Ketchikan in July, I crashed my boat into an uncharted rock and did substantial damage to my keel. I provide all the details in one of this year's articles, but I have to say I was shocked by how completely my boat's keel was shredded in this relatively low-speed collision. During my around-the-world solo sail I crashed into many reefs and rocks, especially during the first few years when I was acquiring essential sailing skills, but my strong sailboat only suffered superficial damage. It seems power boats are more fragile.

Mendenhall glacier near Juneau is shrinking at an astonishing rate. I visit this glacier every year, hoping to walk on the ice as I have in the past, but as the years pass that expectation is shrinking along with the glacier. The glacier is shrinking so fast that researchers have erected time-delay cameras to record what is an astonishingly rapid melting event.

This year saw an unbelievable amount of rain. In early July I anchored in a favorite bay in Prince William Sound, anticipating a number of hikes and paddles as soon as the rain let up. But instead it rained for twelve days straight, and I finally gave up and headed for southeast Alaska where sunlight was rumored to exist. As a result of the rain, there are fewer articles in this year's set.

Those are the highlights of this year's article set. Use the arrow keys and drop-down lists at the top and bottom of this page to navigate through the articles — I hope you enjoy them.

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