Super Solstice

It was last in 1638 that a winter solstice coincided with a lunar eclipse. Last night, 372 years later, we are treated again to such a spectacle and with clear skies no less–also a rare event in these parts. Martina and I set up camera tripods on our dock and began taking one minute sequences of the moonrise over Devils Thumb beginning about 3:15pm. The above photo is with her camera–nothing more than the size of a deck of cards. Below is my D70 Nikon–a hurking 3 lb. monolith of glass but now thoroughly obsolete:

I bought this camera in 2005 for Antarctica and I have to say, it has performed very well. OK, back to Martina’s Canon for the rest of the show:

We’ve photoshopped these a bit by bumping up the contrast/brightness.

It was another six hours before the earth began moving between the sun and moon.

The atmosphere of the earth casts a beautiful orange tint over the moon’s surface during the one hour long totality; probably pollution. And speaking of pollution, I heat up a hot mug of eggnog laced with some Christmas Spirit and pull up a lounge chair at 10F–global warming of sorts–and spend the next hour watching this event….

So, it’s the shortest day of the year today and last night was the longest night. Our woods fill up with snow, birds are everywhere searching for food–we help out in this department. This is the view from our gazebo in the slough looking at our 35′ high water tower. Harry built this and the well under the tower entirely by hand so he could gravity feed water to the house–an elegant system. We’ve located our generator there to heat the building to keep pipes from freezing. Just behind this building is a 100′ high tree which will bear our new solar panels. They’ll sit nearly upright at 57 degrees, our latitude.

Martina has been elected to the City Council of Kupreanof, Alaska’s smallest city. Here, she and two other council members commute to our City Hall at 6 degrees F. She’s sitting in the middle with the day-glow survival suit. Fog lies over the narrows but it’s clear in Frederick Sound and the Coast Range to the NE.

Here I’m inspecting inspectors–guarding my coast as the Coast Guard fixes the alignment of the two southbound range markers. These markers (the other is out in the narrows and lower in perspective), also solar powered, align when a ship enters the center of the Narrows. This upper marker is about 100′ north of our property line.

All the birds have a tough time in winter–this eagle hangs around waiting for anything that drifts by, including our table scraps we put out on the beach every day. We find one dead eagle a year on our property–a statistic probably multiplied by the miles of coastline here in Alaska. The winter wrens flit around under our boardwalk and the juncos and sparrows feed at our window feeders (along with the deer). We’ve Niger seed out for the finches but no show yet. Robins still sift through the beach kelp–I’m surprised they’re still here. And ducks abound–millions of them–down from the Arctic Slope. We walk every day along our beach taking note of these small changes….

Four days ago, we find tracks of a wolf on our point but we heard one of our neighbors shot it–Palinesque game management…. Hopefully there are others in the area–they’re incredible to watch. See our earlier posts on wolves here, here and here. We do not allow hunting here in the City of Kupreanof however each property owner can shoot anything in season–a private hunting club of sorts. We don’t support this.

The above photo was taken December 27th after 16 inches of snow. What are these New Yorkers whining about? It’s about 10 in the morning and just getting light enough to shovel it–all 300 feet of boardwalk, dock, beach access and then there’s my neighbor’s walks while they’re out of town.

I’ve propped up the eaves–the fellow who built this house (and it’s very well built) provided 4′ eaves but they are cantilevered and red cedar–which is not very strong when the snow piles up. I’ll shovel the roof when it exceeds 2 feet and then it rains. As of today (December 27) our days are getting longer–by six minutes since the solstice. We’ve insulated the sauna with red cedar creating more steam–so you know where we’ll spend the winter…. Happy Holidays!

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3 Responses to “Super Solstice”

  1. Eric Says:

    Dear Doug,
    A very interesting entry, and fantastic pictures. Helen and I are exploring the beauty of Vietnam and are excited about the friendlyness of the people. You may have sad memories related to your time in Nam, and if it were so, I am sorry for it.
    I wish you a great 2011, in good health and filled with a lot of joy and happiness.

  2. Doug Says:

    We got lucky with the weather on our solstice–a magical night. Enjoy Vietnam–it is an incredible country with very resourceful people. Although I didn’t entirely enjoy my two years there during the war, I did return with a group of doctors and hitched a ride from Hanoi to Saigon. I loved Hanoi with it’s wide streets and old French influences. This was in 1990 so I imagine times have changed. I visited the old “Hanoi Hilton” and it wasn’t a five star hotel then, either. Enjoy your travels.

  3. Eric Says:

    I love the Vietnamese people. For me, they and the people of Burma/Myanmar are the friendliest people I know, with an open heart, I believe, and if they just pretend it, they play it very well. Having lived in Asia for 11 years, I feel like being half Asian, and I wish I could stay here forever.

    Did you see the movie ‘Into the Wild’? It’s about going to Alaska, about getting away from the present life. For me it became a verb, ‘to alaska’. I wish I could alaska, but to a warm Asian country 🙂 Will I have the courage, ans/or the determination?