Alaska Digest

Posted: Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Police blow up suspicious cannonball

ANCHORAGE - Yale Metzger wants the Anchorage Police Department to replace his cannonball. Police officers say they blew it up to protect the public.

Metzger said he called police last week to have them examine the cannonball he found in Cordova. Instead, he said, the bomb squad showed up at his Anchorage home last week with a remote-controlled robot, hauled away the cast iron ball and blew it up.

The police are calling Metzger "an idiot" for carrying the incendiary device around in his truck, then bringing it into downtown Anchorage, where they say it could have sent shrapnel flying for blocks had it exploded.

Metzger, 45, an Anchorage attorney, found the 4-inch, 8-pound, cast iron ball in downtown Cordova last summer while excavating property he had purchased. It was unearthed in what most recently was a snow dump.

Metzger put the ball in the back of his pickup, where it rolled around for a year, he said. Over time he began to investigate how a cannonball, a projectile that stopped being used more than a century ago, could have ended up in Cordova.

One possibility was a ship of Russian or European commercial traders in the 18th century looking for sea otter pelts. State archaeologist Dave McMahan said cannonballs have been found in Anchorage, Valdez and Sitka.

Linda Yarborough, a Chugach National Forest archaeologist, said round iron balls were used to crush ore in gold mine machines. She did not see Metzger's ball but said her hunch is that it could have come from a mill at the historic McKinley Lake Mine east of Cordova that dates to the early 1900s.

Anchorage police say a fuse hole in the device convinced them it was a cannonball and the explosion when they destroyed it backs that position.

The experts say whichever possibility may be true, the ball was of historic value.

Alaska gasoline price increase is moderate

ANCHORAGE - Gas prices across the nation have soared in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina but not as sharply in Anchorage.

The hurricane knocked out refineries and pipelines along the Gulf of Mexico, an area that supplies about a third of the country's gasoline.

The majority of Alaska's gasoline is made from North Slope and Cook Inlet crude at two in-state refineries, one in Kenai and the other in North Pole.

Prices at the local pumps spiked after Katrina but not as high as areas near the hurricane, where many stations are charging more than $3 a gallon for regular unleaded.

In Anchorage, there was a wide disparity in regular unleaded gas prices Sunday, ranging from $2.59 a gallon at a Midtown Chevron station to $2.74 a gallon at a Carrs store in South Anchorage.

As of Friday, the average price for a gallon of regular unleaded in Anchorage was $2.58, according to a survey conducted by the AAA travel association.

Traffic resumes on Million Dollar Bridge

ANCHORAGE - A bridge across the Copper River that leads to a thicket of alders will be a tourist attraction itself, according to Cordova Mayor Tim Joyce.

The rebuilt Million Dollar Bridge was dedicated last week in a ceremony attended by Gov. Frank Murkowski, who cut the ribbon on the $19 million bridge project.

The historic bridge resumed carrying traffic this summer after a yearlong rebuilding job.

Traffic is expected to be light though it may increase when a Cordova man completes a small lodge north of the bridge.

Despite the lack of traffic, state and local officials say there were important reasons for rebuilding the picturesque steel bridge, which was completed in 1910 for a now-defunct railroad. The bridge was badly damaged by the 1964 earthquake and a 1995 flood. Engineers said its steel girders were in danger of collapsing into the river.

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