So many progressive blogs in Alaska helped get the message out on Ross. The list is long.
This weekend, though, PA will review a few outstanding articles or sets of articles written from within our community.
Bretwood Higman, PhD, along with his wife, Erin McKittrick, run the blog Journey on the Wild Coast. Since finishing their muscle-powered trek from Seattle to Unalaska Island, they have settled down in Seldovia, built a house, and had a child. Since the start of the ongoing Mt. Redoubt eruptions, Hig has been writing about aspects of the mountain's impact on Cook Inlet. He's also taken some of the most amazing photographs and videos of the mountain, including time lapses and composites.
Here's his composite of a set of eruptive lightning pictures:
Yesterday, APRN's Lori Townsend interviewed Alaska Volcano Observatory scientist Steve McNutt on what eruptive lightning is.
On April 15, Hig published one of the most brilliant essays I've read at any Alaska blog. It is called Oil Under Fire. It is a thorough article on the history, function and vulnerability of Chevron's Drift River oil terminal and storage facility.
Hig has a PhD in geology from the University of Washington, studying tsunamis and the geologic records they leave behind. He puts that knowledge to excellent use in the essay. Here are some excerpts:
During the winters between eruptions, snow accumulates on the north slope of Redoubt, forming a glacier that flows five miles down into the Drift River valley. During eruptions, hot ash dumps onto this glacier. The glacier melts and mixes with the ash to form a great flood of mud that carries boulders and anything else in its path. Even as the Drift River facility was being built, the volcano erupted, leaving workers stranded by volcanic mud. In addition to worker safety, lahars could unleash a large oil spill, if any of the tanks were ruptured or torn from their foundations.
The first eruption at Redoubt happened on March 22, sending a lahar down the Drift River and around the terminal. Several eruptions followed including a violent explosion on April 4 that sent another large lahar down the Drift River. Mudflows have overtopped the dikes and surrounded the tank farm, swamped the airport, and caused damage to some equipment. But so far, major flows have not breached the dikes, and no oil tanks have been damaged.
Volcanoes don’t follow any rule that says every eruption must be the same. Stratovolcanoes like Redoubt build massive mountains over thousands of years, and can destroy the whole edifice in an eruption thousands of times larger than we have seen in Redoubt’s current episode of unrest. These giant eruptions can leave a hole where before there was a mountain. During such a caldera forming eruption, it is possible that an avalanche of hot ash, pumice, and rock (called a pyroclastic flow) would reach all the way to Cook Inlet, and in the process overrun and destroy the Drift River Terminal.
For an example of an eruption of this sort, we can look southwest of Mt. Redoubt to Aniakchak Caldera on the Alaska Peninsula. This volcano exploded catastrophically 3500 years ago, sending a pyroclastic flow 20 miles to the Bering Sea, where it then continued into the water, generating a tsunami that was likely over 30 feet high even after crossing over 75 miles of the shallow Bristol Bay. Along the Bering Sea coast the deposits of the pyroclastic flow are tens of feet thick.
The natural resource extraction industry often finds itself in a conflict of interest with the public. The Drift River terminal faces what is for Chevron likely a financially acceptable risk of destruction by volcanic catastrophe. In cases like this, the industrial operator of a facility need only multiply the probability of destruction by the cost of the facility and cleanup. If that is less than the profits from having the facility, then the risk is financially acceptable.
From a public perspective the calculation is very different. The potential costs are many and difficult to quantify: destruction of subsistence, recreational, and commercial fisheries; damage to a regional reputation for pristine wilderness that draws visitors; and moral concerns over destruction of ecosystems. And the benefits are smaller and less direct. Some stakeholders receive almost no benefit from Chevron’s success, and many only gain tertiary benefits through increased economic activity.
If everything goes well, Chevron profits. If things go badly, everyone loses.
I'll let you read Hig's conclusions yourself.
Writing Raven, at Alaska Real, is celebrating National Poetry Month with sets of Native American and Alaska Native poems. This week, she posted Part #3. Here's one poem:
I was telling my grandfather
The earlier poetry installments are here and here.
Fascinating developments in defending anonymous bloggers and discussing aspects of internet anonymity continue. Back in late March, Alaska Rep. Mike Doogan (D - Spenard) used his government-paid newsletter communications channel to reveal the name of Alaska's most prestigious anonymous blogger, AK Muckraker. Recently, the blog Conservatives4Palin.com has come under fire from Alaska Rep. (R. - Fairbanks) in a somewhat similar manner. Ramras said of his critics at C4P, "I would encourage whoever is behind Conservatives for Palin to step out of the shadows."
Now The Mudflats and Conservatives4Palin have strangely complementary essays up on this issue, both called Should Anonymous Free Speech Apply to .... THEM??
I reprinted the essay from C4P, by Videmus Omnia. VO has commented occasionally at PA.
Steve at whatdoIknow? writes of his continuing quest to understand aspects of anonymity, as he deals further with an anoymous commenter at his blog.
One last thing: A google search of the Alaska Dispatch - Wayne Anthony Ross only yields one article - from 24 days ago.