January 30 - February 6, 2016: Issue 249


 A float plane - the Alaskan workhorse.


By George Repin

James Michener’s book Alaska, published in 1988, based on extensive historical and cultural research, provides a comprehensive overview of this fascinating area of the North American continent. It is a valuable, although somewhat overwhelming resource for anyone wishing to visit and to understand how and why Alaska is so different from the rest of the United States of America.

Few remember that Russia in the eighteenth century had a significant presence on the West Coast of North America not only in Alaska but as far south as what is today California.  The Russians vied for influence with England in the north and with Spain in the south.  It was the wealth provided by the valuable trade in fur pelts which attracted the Russians.

By the 1860s however the Russians were overextended.  The Napoleonic Wars, declining fur trade and the distance between the heartland of Russia and the settlement at Sitka in Alaska proved a financial drain. They approached the United States to sell Alaska several times but it was not until 1867 that William H Seward, the Secretary of State – with great foresight - signed a treaty to buy Alaska for $US7.2 million (less than 2 cents an acre). Seward was seriously criticised for his “folly” and the battle in the Senate to ratify the treaty lasted six months. The formal transfer of Alaska to the Americans took place at Sitka on 18 October, 1867 and Alaska formally became a U.S Territory in 1912.

In the light of today’s geopolitical realities it is interesting to speculate on the implications had a substantial Russian presence remained on the North American Continent.

Although Juneau is the capital of Alaska, Anchorage really is the heart of the state and the centre of the state’s commerce and financial communities. It is the hub of Alaska’s road system and home to almost half of the state’s residents.  There are more than twice as many state employees in Anchorage than in Juneau and it is to a large extent the centre of State and Federal government activity in Alaska.

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is a refuelling stop for many international passenger airline services using great circle routes. It is within 9.5 hours by air from nearly 90% of the industrialised world and is the third busiest in the world for cargo traffic It is slightly further north than Oslo, Stockholm, Helsinki and St. Petersburg.

Adjoining the International Airport is the Lake Hood Seaplane Base – the largest such base in the world – servicing the Alaskan rural areas - “the bush” - for whom aviation has been the lifeline over the years.

Lake Hood is also the centre for Flightseeing, a major Anchorage tourist attraction.  Flights in small aircraft carry visitors over nearby snow covered mountains, snowfields, rivers, and glaciers. Wildlife seen from the air may include sea otters and seals. If weather conditions are favourable landings are made on lakes and passengers have the opportunity to get out on to pebble beaches. 

Happy tourists and their float plane

Float planes at the Lake Hood Seaplane Base

Photographs accompanying this article were taken in 1998 during a flight in a single-engine Cessna float-plane out of Anchorage.

 Float plane beached on a pebble beach

Glacier valley with surrounding peaks

Glacier valley

Leading edge of the glacier

The "calving " edge of the glacier

 Icebergs "calved off" from the glacier

 Snow- capped islands offshore

 Panoramic view across a lake

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants  Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre  Around Angkor - 1963  Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross The Oceaographic  Museum in Monaco  The Island of Elba Russian Fairy Tale Plates Meteora Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska Cloisonné Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories Not A Chagall! Did You Listen? Did You Ask? Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells Murano  University of Padua Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi  Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park  Aphrodisias  The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre  Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island  ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997 Hotere Garden Oputae Children of the Trobriand Islands Page Park Market - Rabaul Rabual  Kotor, Montenegro  Galleries of Photographs I  Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II  The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor  Delphi  Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  

Copyright George Repin 2016. All Rights Reserved.