Epilogue and Appendix.

Epilogue - Energy Crisis and Global Weirding

(Bert) Here in Breckenridge, Colorado, I am watching TV news coverage of Hurricane Ike as I write this epilogue. Being a Texan and having property on Mustang Island near Corpus Christi as well as more secure inland Texas sites, the hurricane certainly has our attention. President Bush appeared on the news, warning gas station owners not to price gouge. Yet, undoubtedly, fuel prices will rise with the shutdown of refineries. Likely, the rest of the nation will see the type of prices we paid this summer. Our lowest price for diesel was $4.569 per gallon in Anchorage and the highest was $5.582 in Fort Nelson, BC, with an average of $5.144. Fortunately we have a 150-gal. fuel tank and were able to pass up the stations with prices hovering near $6 per gallon. Gasoline prices were typically lower, but reached their peak on the Dempster Highway where we paid $6.764 in Eagle Plains, YT. The high cost of fuel exaggerates the cost of other goods, most noticeably groceries where remote areas sell fresh fruits and vegetables at up to three times the price to which we are accustomed.

Having spent 111 days this summer in Alaska and northern territories has given me an excellent perspective to assess the enormous impact of the energy crises on the economy, the environment, the fabric of society, and even global unrest. I believe Americans are naďve in thinking fuel prices will come down or even stabilize at their current numbers. There simply is not enough crude oil reserves left in the world to handle the world’s increasing demand. With the U.S. Presidential campaign now waging, there is talk of more drilling, yet virgin oil fields in ANWR, the National Petroleum Reserve Alaska and the Arctic Ocean will not solve our energy needs because reserves are too few, too remote, require new pipe lines and pose enormous and likely disastrous effects on the pristine environment. Even if some of these areas were tapped, we would not see crude oil at refineries for 10 years or more. Clearly, we must be looking elsewhere from oil to other energy sources. And those energy sources must be renewable and not further compounding global warning.

In our travels we experienced firsthand the effects of global warming along the coast of the Arctic Ocean: the changes in ice coverage, the collapse of land, the shift and decline of Polar Bears, the decrease in whales and fish. A frightening fact I learned on this trip is that the Arctic tundra covers peat - the carbon-filled remnant of plant life that could not decay in the extreme cold climate – and with global warming the peat will start to decay forming methane that then is converted into carbon dioxide and water, further accelerating global warming.

We also experienced the worst weather in the five Alaskan trips we have made since 1996. As pointed out by Tom Friedman in his new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, global warming should really be named global weirding. Early in our trip we constantly heard spring was two weeks late, in July we waited for summer but it must have come one afternoon while I was napping because I didn’t see it, and in August local people said fall was two weeks early as we endured freezing nighttime temperatures. It was a cold 111 days without a summer. Prior visits to Alaska were mostly dry weather, but this year we endured rain on most days. Global Weirding aptly describes our experience, and seems also to fit this season’s hurricanes as I continue to watch Hurricane Ike pounding Texas.

Appendix – Mileage and Fuel Costs

Here are some statistics for this trip:

Trip length: 111 days from start on Alaska Highway to end at Hyder, AK
Miles driven by RV: 5255
Miles driven by car, including Dempster Highway: 2311
Diesel fuel (which includes running our generator for electricity): $4121
Gasoline, including Dempster Highway: $645

To get to our rendezvous point we started from Port Aransas, Texas, and traveled via Wisconsin for an additional 9589 mi. On our return from Hyder, AK, we reached Breckenridge, CO, in 8 days, traveling another 2314 mi. Our total RV mileage so far in 2008 is 17,580.

Appendix - Mammal and Bird Sightings

Animal species identified:
Birds in Canada: 150
Birds in Alaska: 204
Birds throughout: 242 --- full list as PDF file camera.GIF (1399 bytes)
Mammals in Canada: 24
Mammals in Alaska: 36
Mammals throughout: 43 --- detailed list as PDF file camera.GIF (1399 bytes)

Year to date, I have identified 860 bird species this year in my travels.

Of the 43 mammal species we saw on our trip, I was most impressed with the number of bears we encountered, seeing Grizzly Bears on 10 days and Black Bears on 16 days. Here is the list in order of increasing sightings:

Species (Days, Min, Max, Total)
Bearded Seal (1, 1, 1, 1)
Ringed Seal (1, 1, 1, 1)
Ribbon Seal (1, 1, 1, 1)
Canadian Lynx (1, 1, 1, 1)
American Mink (1, 1, 1, 1)
Collared Pika (1, 1, 1, 1)
Northern Red-backed Vole (1, 1, 1, 1)
Northern Bog Lemming (1, 1, 1, 1)
White-tailed Deer (1, 1, 1, 1)
Alaskan Hare (1, 6, 6, 6)
Meadow Vole (2, 1, 1, 2)
Harbor Porpoise (2, 1, 2, 3)
Northern River Otter (2, 1, 5, 6)
Elk (2, 5, 9, 14)
Fin Whale (2, 2, 13, 15)
Steller's Sea Lion (2, 20, 50, 70)
Dall's Porpoise (3, 1, 10, 21)
Bison (3, 1, 25, 27)
Brown Lemming (3, 1, 30, 36)
Muskox (3, 4, 43, 77)
Ermine (4, 1, 1, 4)
Coyote (4, 1, 1, 4)
Gray Wolf (4, 1, 3, 6)
Porcupine (4, 1, 5, 8)
Muskrat (5, 1, 1, 5)
Harbor Seal (5, 1, 2, 8)
Least Chipmunk (5, 1, 3, 8)
Gray Whale (5, 1, 10, 18)
Tundra Vole (5, 1, 10, 24)
Humpback Whale (5, 1, 20, 37)
Beaver (6, 1, 1, 6)
Hoary Marmot (6, 1, 5, 12)
Mule Deer (7, 1, 5, 12)
Sea Otter (7, 3, 250, 410)
Grizzly Bear (10, 1, 11, 35)
Dall's & Stone Sheep (10, 1, 80, 222)
Red Fox (12, 1, 2, 14)
Black Bear (16, 1, 3, 22)
Caribou (17, 1, 50, 132)
Arctic Ground Squirrel (23, 1, 14, 73)
Snowshoe Hare (23, 1, 32, 114)
Red Squirrel (32, 1, 5, 53)
Moose (32, 1, 7, 79)

Table of Contents