SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Some Clouded Thinking On The Weather


April 22, 2009

Ketchikan, Alaska - I was driving an out of town guest along the Third Avenue Bypass recently and he made an interesting observation.

jpg Dave Kiffer

Dave Kiffer

"Why are they all saluting you?" he asked.

It took me a few seconds to realize what he was talking about.

The drivers of the cars passing in the opposite direction (southbound) all had their right hands above their eyes in proper "West Point" salutes.

That was not an easy position to be in since they also all had their left hands clasped to their ears in proper "AT&T" salutes leaving only their knees free to steer. But I digress.

Anyway, I wanted to point out that I didn't see anything wrong with other people saluting me, but I knew that the truth was a little more pedestrian.

It was a rare sunny day and the late morning sun was blaring directly into their eyes and they were desperately trying to visually distinguish the roadway from the windshield glare.

It happens a lot this time of year. Well, not the sun part. That never happens a lot around here any time of the year. If it did we would be living in a Sun Forest.

But what does happen is that occasionally the sun peaks out low in the sky in the morning and blinds the beejezus of out us. Naturally, it happens on the mornings that we have forgotten to bring along our sun glasses.

So as much I as I would love to believe that people were saluting me that morning, they were actually "saluting" the rising sun.

I suppose it could have been worse.

Often when the sun washes across the faces of Ketchikanites, they sneeze.

No, really, they do!

It happens to me quite frequently (well, not "frequently" because after the sun does not do anything "frequently" around here, see above).

Anyway, I'll get a blast of rays and suddenly I'll sneeze.

It also happens to other Ketchikanders sometimes, leading to the mistaken impression that locals are "allergic to the sun."

Nothing could be farther from the truth. You have to be exposed to something to be allergic to it.

But still we sneeze in those rare instances in which sunshine passes our faces.

It think it has something to do with wrinkling up our sinuses when we squint. But - as far as I know - there has never been a scientific study done to determine whether or not that is truly what happens.

I should get a grant and do it myself. I could even win one of the "Ig-Nobel Prizes" for it.

Speaking of the weather, did anyone else notice how dank and dismal Ketchikan looked on the recent "Mythbusters" episode?

Naturally, you are thinking, "well, duh, Ketchikan is a dank and dismal place."

If fact, Captain George Vancouver remarked in his journals that the weather in this area was about the most "dismal" that he had ever encountered. And that was back in 1793ish. Talk about "climate no-change."

But it seemed like the Discovery Channel film crew went out of its way to make Ketchikan look even darker that normal.

The "establishing shots" of the town from the bypass and the waterfront showed Ketchikan to be overcast, and windy, and rainy/snowy, and, well, just plain dark.

I suspect that was because the whole point of the episode was to portray Ketchikan as the quintessential Alaskan place. The sort of place that people elsewhere think of when they think of Alaska.

A place that is so cold and forbidding that a boat made of out sawdust (actually newsprint) and ice would really stand a chance of floating and, at least briefly, puttering about.

All that was missing was the polar bears and the igloos.

So much for the value of "exposure."

I can just see some couple in Milwaukee watching the episode.

"Gee, my sweet little sauerbraten, let's take a cruise to Ketchikan this year."

"I don't know, it looks kind of dark and dismal, my big manly honey-mustard bratwurst!"

"But I bet it has great ice fishing in the summer!"

You betcha!

Anyway, I guess I was just surprised by the visual representation.

I'm used to those glossy visitor industry films of Ketchikan in which the houses are newly painted, the fish are biting and there is never more than a dozen or so visitors wandering about at any given time.

And, yes, the sun is always shining.



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Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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