Alaska is our 51st or 52nd state. I’m not sure which. It was taken from the Russians when they weren’t looking in 1492. Anyway, you can’t get there from here. Well, that’s not quite true.

My friend Joe wanted to drive there. He looked at the map and saw Canada inbetween. He called this Canada place and asked if he could go through it. They said yes. Now he should have got this in writing because when he tried to go through this Canada place, the border guard said no. It turns out Canada has given these guys the last word on this. Joe complained that he was told something different when he called Canada on the phone. Tough tomatoes said the guard in his splendid uniform. You and Canada are not to be.


It was sad but true. Joe had this master plan to drive through Canada with a SUV he bought and sell it in Alaska. Now he was stuck in Seattle Wash with this large, black machine. Did he give up? No.


He checked and found that a barge could take the vehicle but not him to Alaska. He paid a steep price for this and flew to Alaska to await his machine. It arrived and off he went to explore The Land Up Under as Alaska is called by the natives. He went to Homer. He went to Fairbanks. He drove up and down the state. The sun stayed up all night as it was summer. The night lasts just two hours in June. That is not enough time to see the Northern Lights or the Aroarra Boringalice, as the natives call them. He did not see them.


His friend, me, heard of his adventures in the Canada Wilderbeast. He was inspired and aghast. Rather, he was aghast and then inspired. If Joe can’t do it, so can’t I, he said. So, he avoided Canada, The Land Inbetween, and flew to Alaska. He also traversed the Lost Continent of Alaska. From Fairbanks to Anchorage on dogsled and kayak. Filled with both vim and vigor, he returned to his native state of Inertia or Michigan as the natives call it.


Several things were learned by he. If an Alaskan does not like a sign, he will shoot that sign with a gun. The population is low so it seems like most everybody left town for the weekend or something. The Northern Lights are closed in the summer and only open in the Winter! The nerve, I say.


There are several types of bears in Alaska. There are the ones that may eat you and the other ones. I was unable to distinguish between the two myself and learned the best thing to do is to play dead. If the bear is a light brown color and slobbering a lot, it really doesn’t matter what you do. You can call it names, slap it on the nose, spray a spray that should drive it away. It really doesn’t matter. I did not encounter one of these so you are reading this account now.


One more thing, sometimes the bear also plays dead next to you and waits a few hours to see if you return to life. This can ruin your nerves. Some visitors to Alaska have been reported to have a continued look of surprise and fear etched in their visage, forever marking them as one who faced a grizzly bear and lived to tattle the tale.


My friend Joe did not sell his car as hoped. He left it there. But a friend brought it back to him in the land of Michigan. He is talking of going to Canada as soon as they agree to let him in.


Minot Stave Church

This is a replica of a Gol Stave Church that is located in Bygdoy Park in Oslo, Norway. The original was built around 1250 and was moved to Olso about 100 years ago. The project began in October, 1999 and the church was opened on October, 2001.

This building is 60-feet tall and 45-feet wide is a memorial to the immigrants who came from Scandinavia to make new homes in North America. Inside the church, the corner posts are accentuated, and heavier and more richly decorated than the other structural elements.

The posts “represent the four gospels whose teachings are the supporting foundation of all Christianity” The beams upon which the columns rest “signify God’s apostles, the foundation of all Christianity.” The floor boards represent “the humble men who bow in honour; and the more they are exposed to the trampling feet of the congregation, the more support they provide.” The roof surface which protects the church from snow and inclement weather “represents the men whose prayers protect us from temptation.

All quoted from a sermon given in the thirteenth century.

The church was put together without nails like a puzzle. It is a place where weddings and funerals are often held. A yearly festival called Norsk Høstfest is held annually in the fall in North Dakota in Minot. This festival has been held for over 40 years and has become North America’s largest Scandinavian festival with tens of thousands attending.

The Meaning

When I was little, I was told a bible story. TheTower of Bable was built to reach heaven. The people thought they could reach heaven by building a tower very high.

I read this story as an adult and found that their real reason had nothing to do with heaven. Nothing at all. The people were not even interested in heaven.

The enormous tower was a celebration of themselves. They built this tower to focus the people on their goal to have a central point. A city would surround the tower. A great city. They knew people would naturally drift apart and spread out. This tower would show that this group was going to do great things. They would work together and rule all the others.

They said, “We will make a name for ourselves!” Look there. We built that tower. It shows our power. We are the greatest people on this planet. Stay with us and feel our greatness.

If the beginning was stupid people doing something stupid then the rest made no sense at all. God wants to stop the project. What would he care about a tower that would never reach heaven?

God does something only God could do. He changes their one language into many unlike languages. He rewires their brains to a new vocabulary, new grammar, new structure of thought. This forces them to divide into groups by language for convenience. It would be too hard to overcome these language differences.

The people leave off the tower. Construction stops. They disassociate from each other and eventually move apart to various areas of the world. They become the beginning of nations. God wanted people to spread out on the planet.

Now the story has meaning. And many people want to be part of a big thing even now. They join groups to increase their power. They train armies. They make weapons. They conquer others. They form alliances. They make big groups of people who speak different languages. They still want to make a world governed by a small group with great power.

The story has meaning for today. The language thing worked. It prevented people from organizing into a one world order. But look! They are doing just that right now. They are overcoming the language problem with translators that work in real time. Just a short time ago, it was hard to translate a book and really get all the meaning to come through. Now you can translate something written two minutes ago in a country many miles away into your language with a push of a button. You read it and can respond in your language and they translate it to theirs.

Usaga Jima

It’s really called Okunoshima but Usaga Jima describes it much better: Rabbit Island. It’s near Japan, as you might have guessed.

It is home to hundreds of wild rabbits but that doesn’t really describe it. The Japanese who go there get a great deal of satisfaction from the rabbits.

Compare the Japanese to other visitors.

Not quite the same, huh?

You know, Japan isn’t full of small animals like some other places. So this is a zoo you can enter and the rabbits are surprisingly tame.

Some think they are descendants of test rabbits used in during WWII when the Japanese army was secretly producing poison gas there. Okunoshima was super secret and they even took the island off their maps. Rabbits were brought to the island in order to test the effects of the poison.

Now rabbits have the run of the place. And tourists get involved.

But are they the relatives of the test rabbits? Maybe, maybe not. Some prefer the story of schoolchildren bringing some rabbits to the island in 1971. Anyway, there are thousands now. And predators are not allowed.

The island is reached by ferry and is quite popular with tourists who can play golf, camp and spend time on the beaches.

The more serious minded can tour the former poison gas facilities or see the ruins of military buildings on the island.

Most apartments in Japan do not allow pets so this might be a way to hang out with small animals. You can buy food for the rabbits on the island.

Do you think this is better than a Museum of Poison Gas? I know I do.


Russian Volcanoes

Volcanoes! Lots of volcanoes! You can ski down some. You can climb down into a crater and examine a green acid lake. You can warm your toes on a toasty beach on a chilly day or swim in a warm clear lake on an icy day. These are the volcanoes of the Russia Far East in Kamchatka.


This mile high volcano was really active in 1991. But now you can ski down it.



The beautiful waterfall is well worth seeing but is a giant icicle in the winter.



Maybe it’s the biggest in the world at 16,000 ft. It is fantastic with cracked sides and lava streams and the top is covered with ice. The eruption of 1978 filled the crater with lava. Strong eruptions shook it again in 1993 but it’s much tamer now.



This was really going nuts all through 1975 raising ash columns up to 9 miles high. 3 billion tons of lava spread for 3 miles. Observers dodged volcano bombs, large hunks of flying hot rock that explode on impact, as they tried to keep their notebooks from catching fire. It finally quieted down leaving an amazing turquoise lake.



Since this one is only 40 miles from the city, you can go and look down into the caldera and see this green lake.



One part has a hot, sulfurous lake. But below you can see Lake Dalnee, full of fresh, pure water.



Look down 650 feet to it’s green, warm, opaque lake full of sulfuric and hydrochloric acids. Some brave the descent to stand on its flaky black beach and watch the emerald, poisonous waves. Stay too long and you may start coughing.



This one ended the last millennium with two years of explosions, kicking up ash and tossing exploding rocks. Karymskoe lake, 4 miles away from the volcano, had giant waves of boiling water. It turned Lake Karymskoe from an ultrafresh water body in to the world’s biggest natural tank of acid water.



The thermal springs of Lake Shtubelya form its “Hot beach” with it’s warmed sand. The river Talaya, flowing out of caldera, forms a waterfall.



These “steamy lands” crack, smack, whistle, puff and pant as though they are alive. Lake Bannoyeis stays hot all winter with a bottom of molten sulfur.

See several Kamchatka volcanoes erupting in news video

Evenks ride reindeer to work

Evenks live in the evergreen forest of the mountains of Siberia.


They had light conical tents, excellent skis, and light clothing. They were very mobile. And reindeer need to move around a lot to find their food.


The Evenks tamed reindeer and rode them using special saddles.They did not eat their domesticated reindeer but they did hunt and eat wild reindeer.


Evenks kept warm with a loincloth of soft reindeer skin around their hips, along with leggings and long supple thigh-high boots. They covered all this with a deerskin coat.


Evenki had some facial tattooing.


Evenki, when hunting wild deer, attracted them by making sounds with an instrument, sounding like a deer.


Evenks relied on shamans to protect thems. The shaman looked mysterious with his long uncombed hair in his ceremonial coat. His face concealed with a painted mask, he beat his reindeer-skin covered charmed tambourine.


An Evenk mother would ask Mother Earth for permission to put up her tent. She would make a fire and brew some tea. She would then turn to her baby hanging up in its wooden baby seat. The child is dressed in a suit made from soft rabbit fur. She unties a flap to change the disposable diaper made from moss. She then gives the baby some reindeer milk and mash.


The tent living space was tiny and was very neatly and carefully arranged. They all bedded down in sleeping bags heads to outside and feet nearest the fire.


Wooden store houses were built on stilts and anyone passing by could take something out of someone else’s store house, but they were expected to leave something in return.


More about the reindeer


Sami – Reindeer People of Europe

The Sami people live where the sun never sets in summer and stays below the horizon in winter.


They covered the northern two-thirds of Scandinavia. Their life was herding reindeer.


The Sami are the only people to be split by four different countries, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.


The Sámi are also known as Lapps.


Though many Sami are Christian, in the past, the shaman connected them to the spirit world with his drum and magic.



Reindeer herding demands a nomadic lifestyle because the reindeer graze the snow-covered lichen fields quickly and must move on to find more food. Sami lived in tents or turf huts as they migrated with their herds.

Now, the remaining herders travel with their reindeer while their families live in permanent modern housing.


The Sami sing to the reindeer.


Pregnant women have learned not to have their babies in the middle of the hunting season because the only local midwife is away hunting.


Never ask a reindeer owner about how many reindeer he’s got.




Norilsk Siberia – You can’t go there!

Norilsk meant Hell for many. It is the most polluted place in Russia. Step outside the city and don’t step in the toxic puddles edging the road.


Norilsk was not on any maps for many years.


Why Norilsk?

Nickel. Lots of nickel. Maybe the largest deposits on Earth. But who would get it out? Stalin put criminals and political prisoners to work mining it beginning in 1939.

The best way to look at the mines are from a safe distance, as the photo below shows.


Things are much better now with willing, highly paid workers.

How Can People Live Here?

Because of the permafrost ground problems, a lot of Norilsk buildings are on stilts with an airway between the floor and earth below. You might think this is to protect the people from the cold below. The opposite is true. It’s to protect the ground from the warmth above. The heat makes the permafrost unstable and the buildings would collapse in a short time without this clever method of construction.


Can I Go There?

Stay where you are. It is very unlikely that you could get permission to visit. Only workers are welcome. There are perks for the workers like exercise classes and free daycare. You can even spend time in a luxury Spa. But I doubt that this will convince you to apply for a job there.


How Much?

The mines of Norilsk produce 35% of palladium, 25% of platinum, 20% of nickel, and 10% of cobalt in the world. It remains the greatest source of pollution, as well.



Chukchi People of Siberia

Reindeer Man

Chukchi live in the extreme northeastern part of Siberia.


This is permafrost-ville! You got some mountain taiga, flat tundra and some frozen desert. That’s ‘frozen desert’ not ‘frozen dessert’ which is yummy when you thaw it out. But there are about 15,000 Chukchis up there.


Talking Chukchi

In the Chukchi language, men and women pronounce some words differently.


Shaman You

The Chukchi Shamanism teaches that every living thing such as animals, plants, trees, flowers, rivers and nature have a spirit of their own. Chukchi shamans eat hallucinogenic mushrooms.



The Chukchi have many legends about ancient battles between them and the Eskimos.



Life in Chukotka is very tough. That’s why the Chukchi take special care of their guests If anyone asks for food or to stay over, the Chukchi never refuse.


Chukchi eat reindeer.



Together the Chukchi people and the Siberian Husky dog developed a special relationship.



Chukchi Jokes