Alaska Digest

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2006

Gray whale frequents Funter Bay area

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JUNEAU - A young gray whale has been spotted frequently between Funter Bay and Point Retreat near Juneau in the past week.

The spotters - including air pilots - reported the gray whale to federal biologists because they were worried that the whale might be sick. The whale was alone, moving slowly and close to shore.

The National Marine Fisheries Service located the 20-foot-long whale on Tuesday and announced Thursday that the whale has no visible signs of injury or illness, and it is behaving normally: diving, swimming, rolling and surfacing.

Gray whales - which have a lighter coloring than the area's more common humpbacks - often travel alone and become independent at 7 to 9 months of age. They are now migrating along the outer coast of Alaska to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas, biologists said Thursday.

National Marine Fisheries Service law enforcement agents and biologists observed this whale Tuesday afternoon near Cordwood Cove. The whale is probably less than two years old, said Fisheries Service marine mammal biologist Aleria Jensen.

The eastern population of gray whales in the North Pacific was removed from the federal endangered species list in 1994. It is now estimated at 26,000. The western North Pacific gray whale is one of the most critically endangered stocks in the world, with fewer than 100 animals thought to exist.

A dead gray whale washed up on Douglas Island in 2003.

Hudson takes top honor in art show

JUNEAU - Clarissa Hudson's "Copper Man" was selected Best of Show on Wednesday at the third Sealaska Juried Art Competition for best contemporary and traditional Native art.

The top three in the Traditional Art category were: "Fooled You Again Raven Transformation Mask," by David A. Boxley; "Frog Canoe Tackle Box," by David A. Boxley; and "Diagonal Weave Basket," by Deborah Head

The top three in Contemporary Art were: "Tlingit, Portrait, Raven, & The Good Book," by Nicholas Galanin; "Tsirku River Robe," by Lani Hotch; and "Smokey MountainMemories," by Corey Stein.

Native glass artist Preston Singletary and Northwest Coast art scholar Aldona Jonaitis juried the show.

Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI) received applications from 18 Native artists who submitted 59 pieces for consideration. Jurors chose 34 pieces by 14 artists for the show.

The pieces will be exhibited in the lobby of Sealaska Plaza from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. today and Saturday, and then Monday-Friday until July 9.

State ends ferry service to Pelican

JUNEAU - The state ferry LeConte ended its service to Pelican on Thursday as part of the state's reorganization of routes in Southeast Alaska.

The community of about 100 permanent residents is 70 miles west of Juneau on Chichagof Island.

The decision is part of a state plan to streamline ferry service in Southeast Alaska and meet Coast Guard guidelines limiting crew to 12-hour workdays, state officials said.

Chamber of Commerce President Norm Carson said Pelican residents will have trouble getting freight to the community. Without an airstrip or barge service, residents depend on the LeConte's twice-monthly visits to haul lumber and groceries, he said.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Mary Siroky said the state will not leave Pelican hanging. The state is seeking bids for a smaller, privately owned barge that's a better fit for the relatively small amount of freight going to Pelican, she said. The barge will stop at Gustavus, which has not had ferry service, she said.

"Unfortunately, Pelican is getting a lot less service ... but they are not a big community and the demand is not there," she said.

The ferry service ends as Pelican's seafood processing plant, shuttered for two years, is set to reopen.

Army soldier dies in Iraq on military base

FORT RICHARDSON - A soldier based at Fort Wainwright died this week in Iraq, Army officials said Thursday.

The soldier, assigned to the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team based at Fort Wainwright, died on Wednesday while working out in a gym at his base in Mosul, Army spokesman Kirk Gohlke said.

Medics attempted to resuscitate the soldier before evacuating him to the 47th Combat Support Hospital.

The cause of death is under investigation, Gohlke said.

Alaskans fall in National Spelling Bee

FAIRBANKS - Fairbanks' entrant in the 79th annual National Spelling Bee was tripped up by the third word in the oral competition.

Alaska's two competitors in the bee always are among the first spellers to stand up on stage in the Washington, D.C. competition because of the alphabetical ranking of the states. Only Alabama students precede Alaska's.

Grace Bovold, an eighth grader at Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks, was asked to spell "echinulate," meaning "set with small spines or prickles."

Grace offered "acconulate," eliminating her from the competition.

Her fellow Alaska competitor, Danielle Tacey from Anchorage, properly spelled her word, "serictery." It refers to the gland on an insect or spider that produces silk.

Tacey also did not advance to the next round because her score on the earlier, written test of 25 words was not high enough.

The E.W. Scripps Co., the newspaper company that sponsors the competition, describes the event as "the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion." A record 275 students started the competition. The group was almost evenly split between girls and boys.

Competitors in the bee must be less than 16 years old and in eighth grade or below.

The winner was to be awarded more than $42,000 in cash and prizes.

Capital budget aids tissue donor nonprofit

ANCHORAGE - The organization that processes donor body tissue in Alaska will be in line for $750,000 to help buy one-third of a building when Gov. Frank Murkowski signs the capital projects bill.

Life Alaska Donor Services will use the money help buy one floor of a building in downtown Anchorage.

The nonprofit organization handles tissues such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons mostly for orthopedic surgery. It also handles corneas, heart valves and other parts and maintains a registry of donors for both organs and tissues.

It will share the Ann Stevens Building with the building's owner, the American Red Cross.

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