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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
August 01, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON

Red Skies At Night
As viewed from Doyon's Landing.
After a rainy July 2017, August is welcomed in on July 31st with blue skies and a magnificent red sunset. According to Weather Underground ( rainfall measured for Ketchikan for July 2017 was 6.63 inches with the average measured and recorded as 7.53 inches.
Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON ©2017

Photos of the Month

Alaska: Zinke: ‘Laughable’ to suggest he threatened Alaska senators - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it is “laughable” to suggest he threatened Alaska’s U.S. senators over a vote by one of them involving health care. - Read this Seattle Times article.

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Southeast Alaska:
Russel Merrill's excellent Southeast Alaska Adventure; Pioneer Aviator brought the second plane into Ketchikan in 1925 By DAVE KIFFER - Many people know that Roy Jones brought the first airplane to Ketchikan in 1922 and that he briefly operated Alaska's first commercial aviation company with his single plane, the "Northbird."

Russel Merrill's excellent Southeast Alaska Adventure

Russel Merrill and the Curtiss Flying Boat in Portland prepping for the flight to Alaska
Photo courtesy

After Jones wrecked his flying boat crash landing on Heckman Lake in 1923, it would be two years before another plane arrived in Ketchikan. This one would be piloted by Russel Merrill, a pioneering Anchorage bush pilot who would be credited with helping establish air transporation in Anchorage before disappearing on a flight to Bethel in 1929. Merrill Field in Anchorage would be named after him.

Russel Hyde Merrill was born in Iowa in 1894. His family was well to do and he eventually attended Cornell University. World War I interrupted his college studies and he enlisted in the Navy, eventually joining the new Naval Aviation Service. He became a Naval aviator in March of 1918, specializing in float planes and flying boats. He served as a training pilot and also flew survelliance missions off New York, unsuccessfully bombing a German U-Boat off Cape May at one point, according to "Flying Cold: The Adventures of Russel Merrill, Pioneer Alaskan Aviator," a book written by his son Robert Merrill MacLean in 1994.

Merrill didn't end up going to Europe before the end of the war. Retiring from active duty in December of 1918, he returned to Iowa, and eventually finished his studies at Cornell. Smitten with the flying life, he wanted to begin his own aviation business, but opportunities were few in those days so he took his chemical engineering degree and went to work for the Crown Williamette Paper Company in Camas, Washington. He would work in the region for the next several years, but continued to fly with the Naval Reserve in California.

In 1925, he saw an advertisement for a flying boat for sale in Portland. The plane was owned by pioneer Northwest flyer Roy Davis, who had a Ketchikan connection. Davis' father Arthur, was construction manager at the New England Fish Company facility in Ketchikan. Davis had been inspired by the exploits of Roy Jones and was interested in flying in Alaska. He had spent several years in Ketchikan when he was younger, according to Robert Stevens in Volume One of  his comprehensive "Alaska Aviation History."

After talking, Davis and Merrill decided to start a flying business in Alaska. Merrill's wife, Thyra, and their two young sons would eventually join them in Alaska.

Merrill, Davis and mechanic Cyril Kruger flew from Portland to Seattle on May 18, 1925. On the 19th, they left for Alaska, with stops in Nanaimo, Sayward and Alert Bay, where they had  to set down because the engine on the Curtiss F-boat was leaking oil. Next up were stops at Bella Bella and Prince Rupert. 

"From Prince Rupert flying in the dark, they crossed the Alaska line in fog and rain... at midnight they set down for a few hours rest in the little flying boat as it nestled in a cove like a storm petrel," Robert Merrill wrote in "Flying Cold.  "Miserably cramped in the cockpit they were happy to take off at sunrise. At 5:30 am, May 26, the motor began to cough again and they realized they were out of fuel again. They put down just south of Tongass Narrows and were towed behind a barge into Ketchikan. They had made it to Alaska."

Although they arrived in the First City without fanfare, word soon spread through town that the "airplane" had returned.

"When Ketchikan awoke May 26, 1925, to find a near duplicate of "Northbird" moored on the waterfront, it quickly became clear that the airplane's absence for almost two years only made Ketchikan's heart grow fonder," Robert Merrill wrote. "The townspeople thronged to welcome the fliers and offer their services. A float was assigned to them free of charge. Soon the aviators had more requests for flights than they could accommodate."

Originally, Merrilll had planned to only spend a couple of days in the First City, but the visit would last several weeks. It quickly became clear that there was a plenty of work to keep them busy and replenish their coffers. Merrill and Davis had originally planned to spend some time in Wrangell, servicing the cross border Cassiar mining district up the Stikine, but they ran into problems getting the required work permits from the Canadian government before they left Portland, according to Stevens. - More....
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By TERRI JIRSCHELE

Red Skies At Night
As viewed from Pennock Island.
Front Page Feature Photo By

Fish Factor: Boosting Alaska Seafood Brand Awareness By LAINE WELCH - Seafood is Alaska’s top export by far, usually topping $3 billion in sales each year to 120 countries around the world, and comprising 55 percent of our nation’s total seafood exports.  

Credit for the state’s export sales goes mostly to the international program run by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (ASMI) which runs eight regional offices in Japan, China, Brazil, London, Spain, France, Germany and Eastern Europe. The Overseas Marketing Reps (OMRs) work under contract with ASMI to coordinate hundreds of seafood promotions each year to build the Alaska brand.

“We work closely with overseas trade groups, food service and HRIs (hotels, restaurants, institutions),” said Hannah Lindoff, ASMI international director. “We also do promotions with chefs, schools, and caterers, and some programs have advertising elements as well.”

China is Alaska’s largest seafood export market in terms of volume and value accounting for 35 percent and 27 percent, respectively in 2015. The fish isn’t ending up on Chinese dinner plates, however, as up to 90 percent of the seafood is sold to secondary processors which send finished products to other markets around the world.

Japan is Alaska’s largest and most established market, Lindoff said, and the bulk of ASMI’s shoestring budget goes to maintaining customers there. 

“Alaska is facing lots of competition and a declining consumer base in Japan,” she added. 

Europeans rank second as customers for Alaska seafood, especially in the U.K. 

“Alaska salmon has been going to the U.K. for over 100 years and canned salmon is a traditional product for them. It’s part of their culture, but it is a declining market,” Lindoff said.

Alaska’s newest marketing program is in Brazil where ASMI has been able to capitalize on its Japan connection. 

“Brazil has the largest population of expat Japanese in the world so we already have a population there that is familiar with Alaska seafood. We do several trade shows in Brazil, including a Japan Trade Show every year,” Lindoff said. 

Spain is another new and growing buyer for Alaska seafood.”

“This is a country where Alaska salmon is competing to be seen as better quality over farmed fish,” Lindoff said, adding that ASMI has taken advantage of a big downturn in farmed production from Chile due to a deadly fish virus. 

 “The growing trend for sushi and Asian cuisine also has really helped Alaska salmon gain a foothold in Spain,” she said, “and it is a traditional market for Alaska cod.”

ASMI also is trying to expand the brand in Eastern Europe to make up for losses from an ongoing Russian embargo on U.S. seafood, by building a presence in Latvia, Estonia, Romania and Ukraine. 

It’s a tough go, Lindoff admits, because many nations simply are not familiar with Alaska or its seafood. - More...
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017


Alaska: New images from under Alaska seafloor suggest high tsunami danger; Waves could travel far across Pacific - Scientists probing under the seafloor off Alaska have mapped a geologic structure that they say signals potential for a major tsunami in an area that normally would be considered benign. They say the feature closely resembles one that produced the 2011 Tohoku tsunami off Japan, killing some 20,000 people and melting down three nuclear reactors. Such structures may lurk unrecognized in other areas of the world, say the scientists. The findings appear today in the print edition of the journal Nature Geoscience

New images from under Alaska seafloor suggest high tsunami danger; Waves could travel far across Pacific

Seismic Sounding
Seafloor images were collected aboard the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth, the nation's main ship for academic seismic research, run by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Courtesy Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The discovery "suggests this part of Alaska is particularly prone to tsunami generation," said seismologist Anne Bécel of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who led the study. "The possibility that such features are widespread is of global significance." In addition to Alaska, she said, waves could hit more southerly North American coasts, Hawaii and other parts of the Pacific.

Tsunamis can occur as giant plates of ocean crust dive under adjoining continental crust, a process called subduction. Some plates get stuck for decades or centuries and tension builds, until they suddenly slip by each other. This produces a big earthquake, and the ocean floor may jump up or down like a released spring. That motion transfers to the overlying water, creating a surface wave.

The 2011 Japan tsunami was a surprise, because it came partly on a "creeping" segment of seafloor, where the plates move steadily, releasing tension in frequent small quakes that should prevent a big one from building. But researchers are now recognizing it may not always work that way. Off Japan, part of the leading edge of the overriding continental plate had become somewhat detached from the main mass. When a relatively modest quake dislodged this detached wedge, it jumped, unleashing a wave that topped 130 feet in places. The telltale sign of danger, in retrospect: a fault in the seafloor that demarcated the detached section's boundary landward of the "trench," the zone where the two plates initially meet. The fault had been known to exist, but no one had understood what it meant.

The researchers in the new study have now mapped a similar system in the Shumagin Gap, a creeping subduction zone near the end of the Alaska Peninsula some 600 miles from Anchorage. - More...
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017

Alaska: Revenue Commissioner Hoffbeck Resigns to Resume Ministry Service - Governor Bill Walker announced today he reluctantly accepted Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck’s notice of resignation.

“It is with mixed emotions that I have reluctantly accepted Randy’s resignation as revenue commissioner,” Governor Walker said. “For three years, Randy has been an integral member of this administration, spearheading the state’s efforts to create a plan that steers Alaska toward a sustainable future. I first met Randy more than 25 years ago, and my respect for him has only deepened over the years. He retired from government service to enter the ministry. In fact, he was volunteering for a medical mission in Kenya when I asked him in late 2014 to come out of retirement to join the Walker-Mallott team. Alaskans have benefitted tremendously from Randy’s faithful service. While we in the administration will certainly miss Randy, I know that his wife, Cindy, his sons and two grandchildren will greatly appreciate that he can finally prioritize time with family.”

Hoffbeck will serve as Revenue Commissioner until August 17, 2017. Deputy Commissioner Jerry Burnett will serve as Interim Commissioner until Governor Walker announces a new appointment. - More...
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017

Columns - Commentary



DAVE KIFFER: The sun has perished and an evil mist shall hover over all - Yeah, that missive from Homer - about an eclipse and not necessarily the Ketchikan weather -  is a little doomy gloomy.

But it seems relevant to Ktown this summer. As does the following.

"The longest eclipse in the Saros Series 145 will occur on June 25, 2522 and last for 7 minutes and 12 seconds."


That is 500 freaking years in the future. How the heck do we know that? And for how long? Seriously?

We don't really know whether or not it will be even be sunny next week, for Al Roker's sake!!!

Yeah, I get that astrophysicists are really smart dudes and dudettes. Sitting in their dark little rooms in Pasadena and Boston, mainlining Mountain Dew, staring at pictures of the cosmos that look like Jackson Pollock went crazy with only his black and white "action" drips.

I watch Neil Degrasse Tyson on TV and I think "wow, that is one smart guy" and suave and handsome too! - More...
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017


JEFF LUND: My favorite mountain - My favorite mountain is where I shot my first buck but that’s not the only reason. 

It’s a great bargain mountain, in that an old logging road takes you within striking distance of alpine so hikes to its upper reaches do not necessitate substantial chunks of time. 

My buddy Jesse and I started up it in a light, dry-ish rain. You know, that type of precipitation that Lower 48ers would call rain, but we’d call it no big deal.

Anyway, we made camp then the weather broke and allowed us to amble around on the alpine for a few hours before the sliver of open sky on the horizon turned orange, then deep red. 

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

“So the ocean will be calm, but what about up here?”

Jesse laughed. 

The wind was angry most of the night. I rolled over in my sleeping bag, hoping I had slept most of the night but it was only 11 p.m. then 1 a.m. I felt most of those minutes so I was sure that I had in fact been awake. 

I watched the dark shadows of the tent move. There was obviously no moon but there was enough to see the difference in shapes. I thought about my dry bag that had food in it. It was just outside my tent. On a night like that, anything willing to be out was more than welcome to my Milky Ways.  - More...
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: General Kelly Chief of Staff

Editorial Cartoon: General Kelly Chief of Staff
By Dave Granlund ©2017,
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Opinion - Letter

Health Care Vote By A.M. Johnson - Senator Murkowski, you are in a word, a Fraud. Pure and simple. You and your two RINO cohorts, Collins and McCain own Obamacare Senator, with the projected increases of cost to Alaska and the resulting decline of healthcare access. - More...
Tuesday PM - August 01, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Capital Budget By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Later this week, the Legislature will convene for its third (and hopefully very brief) special session to pass a capital budget. Negotiations with the Senate have been completed and I’m confident that a compromised version of the capital budget will pass out of both bodies. It will meet the minimum needs of the state and it’s residents in terms of infrastructure investment. - More...
Thursday PM - July 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

PFD's Future in Supreme Court's Hands By Dr. Jack Hickel - Governor Jay Hammond, Permanent Fund founder, knew this time would come – the time when politicians would move to spend the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) without public consent. Hammond believed in the PFD as Alaskans’ right to share equally in the resource wealth saved in the Alaska Permanent Fund and as a way to protect the Fund. Ever since the start of the PFD in 1983 the dividend has been the politicians’ target for spending. Today, politicians are working to grab a large percentage of the people’s PFD. That is exactly what Hammond and other Alaskans warned against and opposed during past failed attempts. - More...
Thursday PM - July 27, 2017

Opinion - Letter

37th anniversary of the Legislative coup By Ray Metcalfe -June 12, 2017 was the 37th anniversary of the Legislative coup toppling Juneau's State House Representative Jim Duncan's Democratic Majority Caucus. The Legislature had been at a standstill for about three weeks. The Bush Caucus, all Democrats, was unhappy with the share of the legislative pie the Majority was offering. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 25, 2017

Opinion - Letter

The Republican Healthcare Bill is Horrible for Alaska, Regardless of its Name By Ghert Abbott - The first version of the Republican healthcare plan, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) raised premiums, increased deductibles, reduced coverage quality, lowered the subsidies that help people buy insurance, financially penalized senior citizens, and drastically cut Medicaid for rural states, all in order to pay for tax cuts to the top 1%. As a result, 24 million Americans were to lose their health insurance, 45,000 of them Alaskans, of which approximately 1,000 would have been Ketchikan residents. When Don Young provided one of the essential votes in the ACHA’s passage out of the House, he claimed there was no cause for concern as the Senate would substantially improve the legislation. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 25, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Tansy Ragwort By Farrel Lewis - I spent the last two days pulling tansy ragwort in the Cambria area.  I just dropped off five garbage bags full of the stuff at the landfill to be burned.  This is the perfect time to pull it up, after it bolts the roots release far easier from the soil. Unfortunately, you cannot just pull the blooming plants and leave them on the ground to die, doing research on this subject I found out that the seeds will still mature.  These plants need to be disposed of properly. - More..
Tuesday PM - July 25, 2017

Opinion - Letter

RE: Fact versus fiction By Rodney Dial - Summer is a busy time for most of us in Ketchikan. Personally, I have better things to do than respond to Rep. Ortiz’s latest letter, however it presents a great opportunity to show how politicians like Ortiz play the word game to deceive and mislead. For example: - More...
Wednesday PM - July 19, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Re: NRA Propaganda By D Jay O'Brien - The violent images in the NRA video Mr. Chaudhary references are indeed disturbing. The video is a compilation of segments from actual events that have occurred in our cities and on our college campuses since the last election. Is this video clip propaganda or just depictions of the new reality of violence that may be brought upon someone for their beliefs and political leanings? - More...
Wednesday PM - July 19, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Giving Alaska's oil away By Ray Metcalfe - Alaska doesn't have a budget problem; Alaska has bribery problems, and gullible legislator problems. Alaska allows oil companies to extract fair payment for their services from net oil production revenues. Additionally, they keep 90% of our ownership equity; equity other owner states keep. At today's prices, the big three are making over $17 per barrel plus cost of production and delivery from our oil. (See ConocoPhillips' quarterly reports) That's about $9 Million per day, or $3.2 billion per year. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Opinion - Letter

NRA Propaganda By Norbert Chaudhary - The politically partisan, hate filled NRA recruiting video posted a few days ago is shocking but sadly not so surprising. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Budget cuts By Liz Bruce - All this reduction in spending is good but the problem is there are so many promised benefits and retirement we can't afford. You sit in a position where you can vote to keep state employee and teacher benefits intact when we can't afford those benefits as a state. New taxes are regressive and too easy to rely on. Our household has not seen an increase in income since 2011 but we have to live within our budget. It is time for the state to quit promising benefits we can't afford. You can't expect taxpayers to always come up with more. - More...
Tuesday PM - July 11, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Fact versus fiction By Rep. Dan Ortiz - As an elected official, it’s my responsibility to keep Alaskans informed with factual and relevant information about the issues that affect them. As I write I’m busy working for you up in Juneau, so here’s a quick rundown of fact versus fiction. - More...
Sunday AM - July 09, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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