Alaska waters rich but filled with danger

Ocean waters in and around Alaska are filled with treasure. They are also treacherous, subject to high winds, shifting currents, icebergs and extreme cold. They have claimed many ships and many lives over the years. Historically, the month of October has seen the deadliest shipwreck, the most successful rescue and one of the most spectacular maritime disasters. The most tragic was the wreck of the steamship Princess Sophia on Oct. 24, 1918. It resulted in the greatest loss of life of any sinking off Alaska. Although several smaller vessels were standing by, severe weather conditions caused the captain of the ship to wait rather than risk transfer of his passengers. In the end, all 350 aboard were lost in the icy waters of Lynn Canal.

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The Secret to Freedom

A French dude with a long name – let’s just call him Max, for now – espoused a secret that got him killed during the French Revolution. It is ironic that it caused him so much difficulty since in America whose revolution preceded his we embraced his secret. We will talk about the difference between the two revolutions in a minute, but first his secret. Max spoke eloquently and often about this secret at every opportunity he could, which eventually forced him to place his head in a guillotine because the political leadership in his country thought it too dangerous. During the 1790’s in France, this secret exposed a radical idea to the French populous on how to ensure their nascent freedom.

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Alaska, the Setting for a Historic Meeting Between President Nixon and Emperor Hirohito

Nixon’s purpose for visiting Alaska was two-fold. He was invited to meet with Walter J. Hickel, the man he chose as Secretary of the Interior and then fired after the former Alaska governor publicly criticized the commander-in-chief. Hickel hoped for a reconciliation in order to foster support for oil drilling in the Arctic. He and wife Erma hosted Nixon and his wife Pat at a reception that night in their Turnagain home attended by 150 guests who were entertained by popular folk-singer Burl Ives. The trip coincided with a stopover on an over-the-pole flight to Europe by Japanese Emperor Hirohito. It was the first-ever trip by a Japanese monarch to United States soil. Hirohito, then 71, and Empress Nagako were visiting seven nations on the other side of the globe.

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The Veteran’s History Project

Saving Private Ryan inspired Brad Schmitz to plant a tree to honor veterans in 2001. However, after visiting a gravesite in Holland for 8000 U.S. servicemen who gave their lives in World War Two, he wanted to do more. One particular grave from his home state of Idaho, Private Herbert Ronk, stood out to Schmitz. Research and inquiries provided no further information about Ronk. “I’ve asked myself over the years of who I would call my hero,” Schmitz said. “One is Captain Miller [played by Tom Hanks, Saving Private Ryan]. Everyone loves Captain Miller. But it’s Herbert Ronk, it’s this private who died thirty years before I was born, who’s the real hero. He’s a man I never knew, but he’s this legend in my mind and in my heart because of what he stood for.”

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Our Nation: United on September 11, 2001

The events of September 11, 2001 both stunned and united this country, when terrorists hijacked four air planes, plowing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The fourth plane was brought down in a Pennsylvania field after heroic passengers rushed the cockpit, preventing further loss of life. Universal outrage followed the action by 19 Islamic al-Qaida extremists. While the disaster was perpetrated on the East Coast, its effect was felt in Alaska and around the world. In Chugiak-Eagle River, a heavy silence was noticeable after all air traffic was grounded.

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Threat of War Brings Memories of Alaska’s Past

A few days before this column was written, news broke that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead that could be attached to its long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles. Those missiles could reach Alaska. That was followed by angry exchanges from both President Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, who threatened to use the deadly weapon. Worry over a potential nuclear conflict is reflected around the world. Most likely before this appears in print, there will be a peaceful outcome.

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Alaska State Fair Opens Today!

The Alaska State Fair in Palmer opens Today and continues through September 4th, Labor Day. Gates open at noon Monday-Friday and 10 a.m. over the weekend. They close at 10 p.m. each night until the final day when the celebration comes to an end at 8 p.m. The Fairgrounds are located on the Glenn Highway just south of Palmer. Except for a four-year period during World War II, Palmer has hosted an annual Fair since 1936. That first one featured crops raised in the fertile soil of the Matanuska Valley by pioneers new to Alaska. A year earlier, 200 families drew lots for tracts of land offered through the Matanuska Colony project. The colonists had been relocated from Depression-ravaged locations in the Midwest in a New Deal program intended to both improve their lives and develop the Valley. The area’s agricultural potential had long been recognized by government officials.

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Alaska Names Unique, Have Interesting Meanings

A big percentage of Alaska’s place names are Russian. Another huge part are renditions of names applied by the Aleut, Eskimo and Indian inhabitants.

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UAA History Instructor Takes History Every Where She Goes

With a bachelor’s degree in history and foreign language and a master’s degree in Middle East and Far East studies, Wallace is more than well-informed.

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