What's Up With That?

The Empire ponders Juneau's puzzles, unravels its mysteries and contemplates its conundrums.

Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2002

Q: I understand that coating the edges of the pages of books with gold helps to protect them from the depredations of dust. Is this true? Can I do it myself? What kind of paint would I use?

A: According to an experienced bookbinder who resides in Anchorage but doesn't want to be quoted directly, there is an older tradition of applying gold leaf not gold paint to the edges of pages of books. When books are gilded, the process takes place before the cover is applied. She does not believe that gold protects the edges, but is simply ornamental.

Most paper manufactured since 1860 contains acid in its fibers and would chomp through pages from the inside, so to speak, anyway.

If one wanted to paint edges solely for aesthetic reasons, one could use gold spray paint. She has done this herself with "books that aren't valuable" and artifacts created for use in a film. However, you may need to clamp the pages together tightly so the paint doesn't seep into the flat sides of the pages.

Q: What about Salmon Creek Dam and those Alaska Electric Light & Power operations and buildings by Bartlett Regional Hospital? How much of Juneau's power comes from that source?

A: Salmon Creek Dam creates an average of 10 percent a year - sometimes as much as 12 percent - of AEL&P's hydroelectric power for Juneau's grid, said David Stone, vice president of consumer affairs for the utility.

"The lower power plant began producing power in January 1913," Stone said. "It is now a warehouse next to the actual plant."

The dam was the first constant angle arch dam ever built in the world. The chief engineer, Harry Wollenberg, was only 25 years old at the time he accomplished this revolutionary design. The dam was completed in August 1914, Stone said.

Q: What's up with Juneau streetlights? They seem to pop off and on at random.

This phenomenon does not seem to be isolated to one location. I have observed lights going off on the Douglas Bridge and Egan Drive. It catches your eye when it happens. It is not a matter of dawn approaching, as nearby lights are not affected.

Maybe the lights in question are too bright from burning a long time and a safety sensor trips them off? Or it's an energy issue. Or the lights are petulant and just don't want to work.

A: Petulance, although widespread, is not the problem here. The lights you see go off are showing signs of old age, said Linda Keikkala, acting chief of maintenance for the state Division of Transportation.

"Street lights are high-pressure sodium, and when one is starting to fail, it will start to cycle on and off," Keikkala said. "That means it needs to be replaced. "This is different from an ordinary household light bulb which, when it goes out, it's gone."

If you want to help road crews in their appointed rounds, Keikkala suggests you pinpoint the locations of specific lights that appear to be failing and report them to maintenance operations at 465-1779.

Q: I've heard that a tourist destination near Juneau is called "the northern equivalent of the Grand Canyon." What is it?

A: That's Misty Fjords National Monument, carved out by retreating glaciers. The monument includes 2.3 million acres of cliffs, saw-tooth ridges, fjords, lakes, hanging valleys, waterfalls and glaciers. It's roadless, accessible only by floatplane or boat from Ketchikan.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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