August 17, 2007 – Musk-Ox, Tsunamis, and Independence Mine

We are still in the Matanuska River Park – wonderful little place run by the city of Palmer. They have a wonderful garden here – both flower and vegetables.

The colors of some of these flowers are beautiful:

We finished our reset (charge batteries, laundry, cleaning, etc.) so today was sightseeing day.

The first item on our agenda was the musk-ox farm. The musk-oxen really fascinate me. These animals are left over from the last ice age – they walked with the wooly mammoth. Many of them died off as the earth warmed but remained in the Artic areas of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. They became almost extinct due to hunting – their fur is prized for its softness, length, and insulation properties.

So there are a few farms in the north that are trying to reintroduce them to more areas (in the cold north) and today we visited one of them.

We learned so much more about these animals and how the native peoples interact with them. This farm is run by a co-op with the native Alaskans. They comb the animals for their fur, spin it into yarn, and weave clothing. Some clothing is sold; other clothing is for their use. (Their fur is really soft!).

Some pictures:

Aren’t they cute!! Our guide told us they love to play – with a 500 lb rubber ball!

Our next stop was the local farmer’s market. Interesting but not like the ones back home. Vegetables were more expensive than the local Safeway or Fred Meyers.

Our next stop was the best. We went to the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center. They run 3 tours every Friday and Andy and I were the only ones on the 1 PM tour. Our tour guide was Cindy who is a geologist for the center. The first part of the tour was a lot of information on the center (they are also doing the east coast and are tied in to the worldwide warning centers); a slide show and movie clips on earthquakes and tsunami’s, and more information on the world’s warning systems. In the middle of this, her beeper went off and she took us to the main area because Peru was having another aftershock...

Picture this: Two main workstations – each one had 9 monitors with worldwide (real-time) information on tides and on earthquakes. In between, other workstations monitoring the same. We could see the aftershock happening in Peru – this was amazing. Folks, this is the place that gives the tsunami warnings. This is also the place that works with other countries in getting the warnings out.

Andy and I could have spent the whole day there just looking at all the things that are happening in the world and asking more and more questions. This is definitely one of the highlights of this journey. We were told that some of this real time information is available on the net thru the NOAA web site. When I find it, I will add the link.

One bit of information: Did you every see the show that stated that the east coast of the US would get a huge tsunami if land fell in the Canary Islands? Well, guess what – it is only hype (fiction). The land could fall and they could get a local tsunami but the east coast would not get a huge tsunami. It sure made me feel a whole lot better...

Our last trip was to Hatcher Pass and the Independence Mine. This was a gold mining area up to 1943 and the state is now trying to restore the buildings and parts of the mine for tourism.

The road to the mine is about 30 miles from Palmer – up into the mountains.

A picture of the road and some scenery along the way:

The mining community:

The mine exit – notice the running water:

We wanted to go up to Hatcher Pass (it was 2 miles from the mine on a dirt road) but while we were at the mine, the clouds set in. In fact, we were in the clouds for a couple miles going back down the mountain.

This is our last night here – tomorrow we move east on the Glenn Highway into the mountains.

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