“That was one of the best Alaska experiences so far! That and waking up early to see Denali.” So exclaimed my oldest son as we climbed back into our RV.
And what, exactly, was comparable to watching the sun rise over America’s highest peak?
Talking to a bald man missing half his teeth! After more than a quarter of a century living mostly on his own in the remote Alaskan bush, he had plenty of stories to tell.
And tell them he did, regaling us with spellbinding tales of his encounters with moose, bears and wolverines. He’s survived temperatures below minus 75F, falling through ice, eating toxic mushrooms and too many other brushes with death to count.
But what fascinated me most wasn’t what he told us. It was what he showed us: The ancient ivory woolly mammoth tusks he’d excavated from melting ice in Alaska’s interior!
His biggest find, now on display in a small local museum just down the street from his house, measures an incredible 12 feet long and weighs 300 pounds. Imagine the size of the mammoth it belonged to!
After living in more wild than civilized places over the past 50 years, he has an extraordinary understanding of Alaska’s ecosystems. In answering my question about how he keeps finding mammoth ivory, he explained that warming temperatures and melting ice have unearthed tusks buried thousands of years ago.
When I asked why he thought the ice was melting, he described in detail the changes he’s seen – both in the landscape and the types of animals coming into the area as their natural habitats have changed.
His opinion on what’s causing climate change?
“I’m not a scientist, so I can’t tell you if this caused by humans or some other factors. But what I can tell you is that the temperature is changing.”
More on this subject tomorrow.