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Former Alaska writer to read from new book on mapping wild Alaska

Posted: April 12, 2012 - 12:05am

Former Fairbanks resident Mary Albanese will read from her new book, “Midnight Sun, Arctic Moon: Mapping the Wild Heart of Alaska,” on Sunday, April 15, at Hearthside Books in the Nugget Mall. The presentation runs from 1-3 p.m.

“Midnight Sun, Arctic Moon” is an autobiographical account of Albanese’s Alaskan experiences from 1977 to 1987, beginning with her move to the state at age 22 to become a rural Alaska schoolteacher. But instead of teaching, Albanese ended up becoming interested in geology, eventually taking a job with the state to map uncharted areas of Alaska.

The book, published by Epicenter Press, was just released this month.

Here is an excerpt:

“The first night, we set up our camp next to a dry river bed. After the nylon tents went up, I took a walk and found remnants of wildlife -- eagle feathers and a perfectly spiraled mountain sheep’s horn. I learned that you could tell the age of the sheep by the degree of curl. This one had come from an old rutting ram. I felt like the north was opening up to me, whispering its secrets, allowing me a peer into its soul.

By the time we had a quick meal and cleaned up the campsite, the temperature had plummeted. We crawled into the tents, too cold to change our clothes. I wrapped myself in the blankets, like a mummy, but even so I went to sleep shivering. In the morning I woke up still trembling from the cold. I didn’t realize that I could shiver all night and sleep through it. I was learning that to become a geological explorer, I would have to push my body to its limits, and find out where those boundaries were.

By the second night, we’d moved north of the Brooks Range onto the North Slope, the vast plains that flattened down to the Arctic Ocean. We camped on the broad tundra flats near Toolik, where the tundra was made up of springy twigs and reindeer moss that erupted from the ground in vibrant shades of orange and red. Above us, the vast twilight sky turned a luminous pink and seemed to stretch forever, making us feel small. The rising pearlescent moon, fat and full, lit up the tundra like a sea of blood under a salmon-colored sky. Having studied earth science and our planet’s place in the solar system, we all were struck by the same thought -- that this landscape didn’t seem to belong on Earth; it looked like the surface of Mars.

Wordless and humbled, I drank in this sight for a long time, in absolute awe that the real Alaska was bigger than my dream.”

For more on this book, visit www.epicenterpress.com.

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