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Colleen Mondor

DHC-2 Alaska Misty Fjords - this is the best!

As we stagger through the ice and snow of the shortest days of the year, it seems like an excellent time to remember just how great flying can be in Alaska. This video is a couple of years old, but so beautiful that we couldn't resist sharing it. Pilot Jeff Carlin, born and raised in Ketchikan, now owns the charter company Carlin Air there and operates a De Havilland Beaver throughout the area, including the Misty Fjords National Monument flight shown in the video. This sort of flying is exactly what brings so many visitors to Alaska annually and is the quintessential Alaska bush pilot experience. Misty Fjords is more than two million acres of wilderness that includes not only the famous saltwater fjords but all manner of animal life including black bears, mountain goats and moose. Consider this video an attempt to cure the winter blues and something to plan for when spring brings those long and hopefully sun-filled days back to us again. Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at) Follow her on Twitter @chasingray 
Alaska Dispatch

Lynx visits Anchorage home

Anchorage resident Joann Cunningham had the chance to capture a lynx on video Sunday morning while she was hanging out in her Hillside home.Cunningham was making some tea when she “saw something pass by the kitchen door, (and) wondered, hey, what was that?” she wrote on Tuesday.Peering outside, she saw that a lynx had appeared on her deck. Cunningham quickly grabbed for her phone, her hands shaking with excitement.Cunningham has been living in Alaska since 1965, and while she has seen lynx in the Hillside area before, those sightings have only occurred in the last couple of years. “I’m living in their habitat and it can be wondrous and scary. This animal is so illusive and silent, it was magical," she wrote.Lynx sightings in the Anchorage area are somewhat common, said Jesse Coltrane, Anchorage area wildlife biologist with the department of Fish and Game.“The thing with lynx is they’re really super curious,” Coltrane said. “They don’t run away.”Coltrane saw the video, and she said that while the lynx's age can’t be identified by the footage, “I would imagine it’s a young one; it seemed pretty curious.”Lynx populations cycle with the hare population, Coltrane said. And due to domesticated rabbits that have been let loose into the wild in Anchorage, lynx can now be found in areas where those bunnies might be running around in high numbers.“Domestic bunnies are easy to catch and just as tasty,” Coltrane said.Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at) Follow her on Twitter @Laurel_Andrews
Tara Young

The annual Athabascan Fiddle Festival in Fairbanks had its first show 31 years ago, in 1983. Since then the festival has grown, and seen changes in the music, but is still thriving. The event is inter-generational, and it is not uncommon to see elders dancing with young teenagers. The dance feels like a throwback to the Gold Rush days, when such gatherings really started going gangbusters.The popular dances back then were reels and jigs, but over the years other dances entered the mix: Jitterbug, swing, two-step, waltz and foxtrot. But the old days are not lost. Today's dances feature a jigging competition, in which dancers sport their best beaded mukluks and moosehide regalia, and dance an Irish-inspired jig that a someone from the 19th century would recognize.Old-time music has a rich history in subarctic Alaska, which may surprise most roots music fans who know of the old-time fiddle music from Appalachia. What most folks don't know is that the British Isles music made its way to rural Alaska at the same time as the American South. Trappers and miners working for Hudson's Bay Company in the 1840s, commonly traveled up and down the Yukon River. Contact brought new stringed instruments and dances from the Lower 48 and Canada, into Alaska Native villages of the Interior. It was the beginning of a long-held tradition of Athabascan fiddle music.Two types of Athabascan fiddle music have developed over time: “Upriver,” developed by the Gwich’in tribe, and “Downriver,” which evolved years later with other Yukon tribes. Since Native peoples learned and cultivated this tradition in such isolation, over the years the music has become its own unique thing. A blend of Irish, Scottish, English, and eventually Country-Western, but with a uniquely Native twist.The Athabascan Fiddle Festival carries on the tradition of fiddle music by bringing together bands from all over the state, many of whom save up all year just to participate in this jubilant event. The festival prides itself on being a sober event, where people can gather for family fun, in a safe environment. Many of the organizers grew up in rural villages and witnessed how alcohol and drugs at the dances made the occasions violent. When the festival was organized in the 1980s, the elders decided no drugs or alcohol would be allowed, so that the event could be a model for the next generation. Music, and dancing with clear minds and open hearts, was exactly what the Athabascan community needed, to continue the musical tradition that has enriched the lives of their people for over 150 years.Watch this video on Vimeo or Youtube, and be sure to follow us so you don't miss any of our upcoming videos.Contact Tara Young at tara(at)
Tara Young

BAIKAL ICE live sound

The Russian percussion group Etnobit discovered, almost by accident, that the world's deepest lake was also the perfect place to reverberate beats. While visiting Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, the wife of one of the drummers fell on the ice, and it made a remarkable melody. After recording some improvisation, and bringing it back to the group, it was decided to record a performance in this most unusual concert location. Their ice session, as they refer to it, became the source for this playful video produced by The Siberian Times.
Tara Young
Joel Isaak’s latest medium might surprise you. The Athabascan artist and fashion designer’s most recent work is a collection of pieces made with fish skin leather. The designs debuted at the "Wear Art, Thou?" fashion show last week, an event put on by the Alaska Native Arts Foundation to help showcase work by Alaska Native artists, and to "bridge the gap between the art world, the Native art world, and people in general," according to Isaak. "Wear Art, Thou?" was held in tandem with the Alaska Native Visionary Awards, and Isaak, with his innovative spin on traditional native techniques, was among those honored. The awards recognize “people who pass along knowledge, or document traditional ways of learning and process, to a current audience.” Isaak, whose recent pieces draw inspiration from the stylings of the European Renaissance while utilizing traditional Athabascan fish leather techniques, fits that bill.  The acidity of Interior Alaska soils speeds decay of the garments, and few, if any, examples of them still exist. The Anchorage Museum and Arctic Studies Center have several examples utilizing other materials. Isaak's education in making fish skin leather in traditional Dena’ina methods was through books and experimentation. At one point an elder, who made fish skin leather when she was a young girl, confirmed that Isaak was doing it the correct way. After three years of practice making the material, Isaak is somewhat of a master, and one of the leaders -- along with Helen Dick and Audrey Armstrong -- in sparking a renewed interest in fish leather items, which are a real trend at the moment. “Fish skin techniques are universal throughout the world,” Isaak says. “Anywhere there is salmon there's a salmon clothing tradition. So you go to Russia, Finland, Denmark, the UK, Chili, Argentina, China they all have a tradition of salmon skin clothing that was worn.” And Isaak's experience means he has a message for younger generations: “Elders do want to share their knowledge with you, but they want to be asked... As long as you’re being respectful, most people are open to talking to you.” Watch this video on Vimeo or Youtube, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don't miss our next video. Contact Alaska Dispatch videographer Tara Young at tara(at)
Tara Young,Megan Edge
For the people of the Northern Light Collective (NLC), Dead Disko, a monthly "undead dance party," is more than just a good time -- it's a meeting of artistic minds. The collaborative events combine light and video projections, dancing, body paint, and DJs mixing house and electronic tunes they've created or dug up on the Internet. "Dead Disko is a good night to go out, and a beautiful place for the community to come together and kind of shake it down," said Colin Bonfield, better known by his DJ name, Clint Samples. On the day of a show, Bonfield never stops moving, first bringing in equipment, then creating the set and finally playing music that seems to give the audience an uncontrollable urge to dance. For the October show, Derek Herre, also known as DJ Ryan Derek, joined him. The two build a set that will eventually come to life with bright lights and obscure videos. While the DJs work to set up the venue, the dancers are busy creating works of art on their bodies and faces. Savanah Sease and fellow dancer Renee Tracy kneel down in front of full body mirrors, dressed in black and white clothing and transform themselves into zombies. Sease's zombie look is classic, Tracy's is much more elaborate. During a show, the women dance through LED hula hoops, twirling them, tossing them and moving with the beat. And although they both hula hoop and dance during Dead Disko, small things set them apart in front of the crowd. Tracy sports thick, black boots with a black-and-white-striped dress that looks like it belongs in a Tim Burton movie, and her dance moves are sharp and quick. Sease wears tiny ballet shoes so she can move more gracefully around her hoop. She's wearing black yoga pants, and a black and white sports bra. Her moves are exaggerated and swift. Both girls lose their hoops occasionally, but they smile and jump back into their groove when the music allows. "It is like running a marathon," said Sease. "On some nights we might be up there for six hours, but it's a lot of fun." When Dead Disko begins, the crew members from the Northern Light Collective start working together, mixing music with video and dance. The DJs even get into the act as they entertain, talking to the crowd and dancing to the music they mix. "Dead Disko is a group of people acting toward one goal," said Herre. "Other events are just one person acting toward their own goal." Bonfield, Herre and Sease all agree that the undead dance party has changed in its five years of existence. Formerly a staple of the Anchor Pub, Dead Disko was forced to find a new home at Chilkoot Charlie's, in Anchorage, after the Anchor closed its doors. The dancers and musicians have changed, and incorporating music videos in the projection mapping is a new addition. "Everybody needs something to do," said Herre, after an October show. "This is our something to do. We are facilitators. We don't want to sit at home and play music. We want to share our music with the world." To watch this video on Vimeo, click here. For the YouTube version, click here, and be sure not to miss a video by subscribing to Alaska Dispatch's YouTube channel. Contact videographer Tara Young at tara(at) and reporter Megan Edge at megan(at) or contact her on Twitter @megtedge.
Alaska Dispatch

Cliff Diving Alaska Style - Pilot's View

These videos were taken by the folks at The DoubleEnder Project, aircraft developers seeking to redefine the "modern bush plane." Although not yet available for sale, this experimental-kit plane is based on experiences flying in Africa and Alaska and uses a "push-pull design" to maximize single-engine performance. It was also designed to combat one of the most common causes of Alaska aircraft accidents: stalls. From the website: Safety comes in many shapes and forms, and single-engine performance is just one cog in a larger picture. How and when an airplane stalls is just as important a factor. This is why leading-edge slats were incorporated in the design from the onset. The slats redefine what critical angle of attack means. They allow you to fly the airplane at a much higher angle of attack before stalling out and give the airplane a “solid” feel when landing and taking off at slow speeds. If you do push the limit into the stall, the break is gentle and the airplane mushes down. This low speed maneuverability factor is crucial and provides a margin of safety that is not commonly found in fixed-wing airplanes. The aircraft was flight tested in Alaska in 2010 when, presumably, these videos were made. It is unclear what the load capability is, although the website does refer to carrying passengers -- so getting a full-size moose carcass in there along with the pilot is a possibility, although highly unlikely. It's basically a twin-engine Super Cub with a ton of modifications and a stripped-down instrument panel. Mostly, it looks like a fun plane to fly -- or cliff dive in. Get all the R&D information here. Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at) Follow her on Twitter @chasingray
Suzanna Caldwell,Loren Holmes
SEWARD -- He's only 4 months old, doesn't have a name, and mostly does what all babies do -- sleep, eat, play. But this little guy -- with his wormy little body, big flippers and tiny little ears -- is a big deal at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. He's a northern fur seal rescued from Sand Point, a Aleutian Island community of just under 1,000 people about 570 miles southwest of Anchorage, and he's been a surprise in more ways than one. He's the first northern fur seal the center has ever rehabilitated, according to Stranding Supervisor Halley Werner. Werner has been charge of caring for the little guy -- who now tips the scales at 18 pounds -- since he arrived a little under four months ago. When found July 24, the seal was a tiny newborn -- only 9.5 pounds -- underweight and dehydrated when he arrived in a box at the doorstep of Alaska Fish and Game offices in Sand Point with only a note saying the mother must have died during birth. READ MORE: Far from home, Alaska SeaLife Center looks to rehabilitate rare northern fur seal Watch this video on YouTube, or if you prefer, Vimeo. And don't forget to subscribe to our youtube channel for more great videos!
Colleen Mondor

Winter Bush Plane flying - Lake Hood - Anchorage Alaska

Easily the most famous airport in Alaska, Lake Hood averages about 170 operations a day, making it the busiest seaplane base in the world. (Over 1,100 aircraft are based there.) The uniqueness of its location, in the state's largest city, and the ease with which aircraft, cars and wildlife interact there on a daily basis, makes Lake Hood one of the more quintessential Alaskan destinations. Simply put, flying here is exactly as folks expect flying in Alaska to look like. Captured by Alaskan producer Paul Hemann, this short clip filmed over one day in December 2012 manages to squeeze in plenty of small aircraft activity as well as some moose, dogs and a few hardy souls sweeping a lot of snow off the wings. (All of us who have been there feel your pain!) As a bonus, one of the greatest songs Glen Campbell ever recorded accompanies the film. (Let's not diss Campbell, shall we? "Galveston" is absolute musical perfection.) While the float pond freezes over this winter, this short piece reminds us that activity at Lake Hood continues year-round. In some ways it is even more beautiful now, and certainly still worth a visit as Hemann makes all too clear. Contact Colleen Mondor at colleen(at)
Tara Young,Suzanna Caldwell

Yup'ik storyteller John Active shares a scary story

When John Active was a little boy growing up in Bethel, he used to listen to stories around his grandmother's table. Growing up with no TV or radio, Active, now 65, would sit and listen as his grandmother Maggie Lind and other elders would entertain each other for hours with stories of the supernatural. Little people. Spirits. Bigfoot and yeti-like creatures. Ghouls. “All kinds of creatures,” Active said. He said as a youth he would tell scary stories with his friends, then run back home spooked. “That was our entertainment,” he said. Phyllis Morrow, anthropologist professor and dean emerita at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who studies myths, said it's complicated to figure out why exactly so many cultures tell scary stories. They can be entertaining or educational or they can be cautionary or metaphoric. Often though, it comes down to lessons learned. “People respond to a creepy story because there's a certain kind of thrill and awe to them about the things that are unknown in life,” Morrow said. “And they tell you something about being part of your people and being part of your group.” Active agreed. He now goes around the state, to schools around Alaska, to share the stories he knows -- both spooky, and not -- in an effort to share the culture. “It's about trying to pass on the information -- if they'll listen,” he said, “so we can continue to live the Yup'ik ways.” To watch this video on Vimeo, click here. Be sure to subscribe to Alaska Dispatch's YouTube channel. Contact reporter Suzanna Caldwell at suzanna(at) Contact videographer Tara Young at tara(at)
Alaska Dispatch

APD Press Conference - Mother Charged with Leaving Newborn in Eagle River park

The Anchorage Police Department held a press conference on Oct. 26 to discuss the charges against a specialist in the U.S. Army who detectives believe gave birth to a newborn child, then left her for dead at a park just north of Alaska's largest city. A dogwalker found the newborn in a towel at Turner Park in Eagle River, Alaska, on Oct. 15. Ten days later, a grand jury indicted Army Spc. Ashley Ard, 24, on second-degree murder charges. Sgt. Detective Cindi Stanton of the APD Crimes Against Children Unit debriefed the public on the charges against Ard Saturday morning. MORE: Newborn found in towel at Eagle River park | Army specialist charged with murder
Tara Young
Perhaps you've never heard of throat singing.If you have, more than likely it was Tuvan throat singing, which is traditionally done by men, usually by themselves, in Tuva.But Karin and Kathy Kettler, the Canadian throat-singing sisters who together are known as Nukariik, carry on the traditions of the elders from their mothers' village in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik, which is located in northern Quebec.The practice started as a way for women to pass the time while men were out hunting. It's a friendly competition in which two women face each other and layer the same beat a second apart. As Kathy says, "It's easy to tell who wins at throat singing because the other person is usually laughing at you because you've lost."It's also a way to sooth babies. Most women wore the babies on their backs in large hoods, allowing babies to feel throat-singing vibrations reverberating through the chest. Karin enjoys throat singing, not only because it's a way to participate in her cultural but also as "a stress reliever, because I have to focus on my breathing."Nukariik, which means sisters, played as part of Alaska Native Heritage Center's recent Circumpolar Music and Dance Festival, where numerous groups from the circumpolar region came together to share cultural practices.Tara Young is a video journalist for Alaska Dispatch. Email her at tara(at) and follow Alaska Dispatch on Instagram.