brass caps and bandanas

a survey of anaktuvuk pass, Alaska

The Inupiaq are Eskimo people that live along the Arctic Ocean coast of Alaska’s North Slope. In the last few hundred years a nomadic splinter group of the Inupiaq known as the Nunamiut moved inland away from the coast to follow the Caribou migrations and settled at Chandler Lake and the Killik River in the Brooks Mountain Range. In 1949 as air travel expanded services throughout Alaska, 13 families of the Nunamiut moved to the Plateau Area known as Anaktuvuk Pass because it better accommodated aircraft, and they could trade their furs for guns, ammunition, and other supplies. Soon thereafter the area developed into the Village of Anaktuvuk Pass.

Anaktuvuk Pass today is a remote village outpost of about 250 people, serviced only by air and sometimes cat trains in the winter from the North Slope Haul Road. ("Cat trains" is a Canadian term for trains hauled by Caterpillar tractors.) The village lies completely inside the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. The park, established in 1980, encompasses the 700-mile Brooks Mountain Range that extends east-west across the Arctic Circle. It’s the second largest park in the United States after Wrangell St. Elias. In 1996 a three-way land exchange proposal was passed between the National Park Service, the Nunamiut Corporation, and the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, giving the Nunamiut Eskimos a sizeable chunk of land to harvest traditional subsistence foods.   READ MORE ..... 


3 weeks across the Atlantic

Two Land Surveyors Head to Sea for a Trans Atlantic Crossing on a Challenger 72.

I just happenstanced on a you tube video showing some amateurs involved in a round the world sailboat race in the southern oceans…..Now there are many sailboat excursions in the world and across its oceans but the thing that impressed on me with this small video clip is that the people involved had zero experience for such an undertaking.

Now I have always wanted to sail across an Ocean having read many adventurous accounts from Dougal Robertson’s Survive the Savage Sea to Steve Callahan’s Adrift, to Jonathan Neale’s Lost at Sea., but because of the time and expense involved in acquiring the necessary skills to get myself lost at sea, I pretty much figured my relationship with sailing would be confined to books and occasional walks along the piers of various marinas. But this small video has now busted open this world of blue water sailing …in a matter of 5 minutes I have realized it is not only possible for me to sail across an ocean, but that it is possible for me to sail across an ocean now with absolutely no experience what so ever.

I just have to overcome 3 small problems… 1.) I had never been on a sailboat before. 2.) I have to convince my wife who has told me she would never sail out of sight of land and who will probably think I am having a padded room moment and 3.) Overcome the seasickness I expect to endure from my experience upchucking in the heads of Washington State Ferries. READ MORE ...

1971-CANNIKIN-2 (2)
Surveying Americas largest underground nuclear explosion

IN 1964 The Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission determined that planned nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site were to large to be conducted in such close proximity to the metropolitan area of Las Vegas. they decided that a more remote site was deemed necessary for the huge explosions that were to be carried out. Amchitka Island, Alaska fit the bill.

Amchitka is a small island 44 miles long by 5 miles wide that is part of The Rat Island Group, the most southernly islands of the Aleutian chain. It lies about 1340 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska and 870 milked East of Petropavlosk, Kamchatka in the Russian Far East. During World War II Amchitka provided a strategic fighter bomber airbase defense against Japanese Invasion. At one point it hosted 15,000 troops and was instrumental in reclaiming the U.S. territory of Kiska and Attu Islands that had been captured and occupied by Japan.

The first nuclear test conducted on Amchitka was Project Long Shot in which an atomic bomb was detonated 2,300 feet underground on October 29, 1965. The purpose of the project was to investigate Americas ability to detect nuclear explosions from the Far East of Russia and distinguish them from naturally occurring earthquakes. It's yield was approximately 80 kilotons or 5.3 times that of Hiroshima. READ MORE ...

The Stick wigglers

The one person on the survey crew that is completely indispensable is the helicopter pilot. The job could not be accomplished without them. Their expertise or lack of can make or break the job. It is also a thankless position. They see no official recognition of what they do. They are not noted or recorded in the survey records as pilots, field assistants, or any other title. Only as a small statement in the official field note record that the survey was accessible by helicopter. So here is this article I write to recognize these heroes of our industry. The names mentioned here have not been changed to protect anybody’s identity so I’m probably going to catch flak sooner or later.

When I first started surveying for the BLM back in 1980 all the pilots on our cadastral jobs were out of the military. Vietnam Vets. Many with Combat experience and it showed. Not only in their piloting expertise but also their character. One of our pilots, Gene Schnell was a Chinook pilot during the war. Totally laid back, quiet ladies man type guy. He flew that Bell 206 like it was a Chinook…very very slow with meticulous wide turns…If you wanted to get on point fast, forget it…it wasn’t going to happen, but you weren’t going to die either…an extremely safe flyer. Then there was Steve Culver, he piloted a Hughes 500. A caricature of himself. Overweight version of a GI Joe and just as plastic. All nomexed out with his survival knife strapped to his calf and his Colt M1911 strapped to his hip. He would come in for dinner in the evening and order a large steak, Raw, not cooked in anyway, just right out of the packet, raw. He had humor and he was humor. Damn good pilot though. He flew the Hughes 500, that model was built for him. An extension of himself. There were some memorable jobs on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.


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