Category: Sports

Summer in Alaska. It was somewhere around seventy degrees here today. A real scorcher! And the bears are surfing on that cold, cold water.

This is from the hottest t-shirt around.

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A black bear surfs the bore tide near Beluga Point, Alaska

Alaska Surfing

Knik Arm and Turnagain Arm. surrounding Anchorage, boast the second highest tides in North America after the Bay of Fundy. These tides, which can reach 40 feet, come in so quickly that they sometimes produce a wave known as a bore tide wave. Adventurous locals have taken to riding this wave out on a kayak or board – talk about extreme surfing!

The best place to see the Alaskan bore tide is along Turnagain Arm, just south of Anchorage. In particular, Beluga Point, Indian, and Bird Point are easily accessible by road and are within an hour drive of Anchorage. Bird Point offers a small interpretive panel dedicated to the tide.

Bore tides exist in other places around the globe such as the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, and the Tsientang River in China. The longest exists in the Amazon River in South America – there too, extreme surfers dare the wave on a 99-mile stretch of water.

CAUTION! Bore tides are dangerous. Due to the quicksand-like mudflats that make up the beaches along Turnagain Arm, hikers may get stuck in the mud and drown or die from hypothermia. Always stay off the mud flats and observe the bore tide from a safe distance.

The best times to see a good bore are when the low tide in Anchorage has a high negative value, particularly if the good low tide is followed by a large high tide; this maximizes the “sloshing” effect that causes bore tides to occur.

The bore tides are a must-see experience in Southcentral Alaska, as they occur in so few other places in the world. Be sure to enjoy this phenomenon from a safe distance, however, as they can be quite dangerous due to their height and speed of approach in addition to the mudflats mentioned above.

A tidal bore (or simply bore in context, or also aegir, eagre, or eygre) is a tidal phenomenon in which the leading edge of the incoming tide forms a wave (or waves) of water that travels up a river or narrow bay against the direction of the river or bay’s current. As such, it is a true tidal wave and not to be confused with a tsunami, which is a large ocean wave traveling primarily on the open ocean.

Bores occur in relatively few locations worldwide, usually in areas with a large tidal range 20 ft between high and low water and where incoming tides are funneled into a shallow, narrowing river or lake via a broad bay. The funnel-like shape not only increases the tidal range, but it can also decrease the duration of the flood tide, down to a point where the flood appears as a sudden increase in the water level. A tidal bore takes place during the flood tide and never during the ebb tide.

A tidal bore may take on various forms, ranging from a single breaking wavefront with a roller — somewhat like a hydraulic jump — to “undular bores”, comprising a smooth wavefront followed by a train of secondary waves (whelps). Large bores can be particularly unsafe for shipping but also present opportunities for river surfing.

Two key features of a tidal bore are the intense turbulence and turbulent mixing generated during the bore propagation, as well as its rumbling noise. The visual observations of tidal bores highlight the turbulent nature of the surging waters. The tidal bore induces a strong turbulent mixing in the estuarine zone, and the effects may be felt along considerable distances. The velocity observations indicate a rapid deceleration of the flow associated with the passage of the bore as well as large velocity fluctuations. A tidal bore creates a powerful roar that combines the sounds caused by the turbulence in the bore front and whelps, entrained air bubbles in the bore roller, sediment erosion beneath the bore front and of the banks, scouring of shoals and bars, and impacts on obstacles. The bore rumble is heard far away because its low frequencies can travel over long distances. The low-frequency sound is a characteristic feature of the advancing roller in which the air bubbles entrapped in the large-scale eddies are acoustically active and play the dominant role in the rumble-sound generation.

The word bore derives through Old English from the Old Norse word bára, meaning “wave” or “swell”.

Nitinat Lake on Vancouver Island has a sometimes dangerous tidal bore at Nitinat Narrows where the lake meets the Pacific Ocean. The lake is popular with windsurfers due to its consistent winds.

Most rivers draining into the upper Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have tidal bores. Notable ones include:

The Petitcodiac River. Formerly the highest bore in North America at over 6.6 ft; however, causeway construction and extensive silting reduced it to little more than a ripple, until the causeway gates were opened on April 14, 2010, as part of the Petitcodiac River Restoration project and the tidal bore began to grow again.

The Shubenacadie River, also off the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia. When the tidal bore approaches, completely drained riverbeds are filled. It has claimed the lives of several tourists who were in the riverbeds when the bore came in. Tour boat operators offer rafting excursions in the summer.

The bore is fastest and highest on some of the smaller rivers that connect to the bay including the River Hebert and Maccan River on the Cumberland Basin, the St. Croix, Herbert and Kennetcook Rivers in the Minas Basin, and the Salmon River in Truro.

Tidal-bore affected estuaries are the rich feeding zones and breeding grounds of several forms of wildlife. The estuarine zones are the spawning and breeding grounds of several native fish species, while the aeration induced by the tidal bore contribute to the abundant growth of many species of fish and shrimps (for example in the Rokan River).

Midnight Sun Polo

Every year the Goldpanners baseball team of Fairbanks, Alaska plays in the Midnight Sun Baseball Game. The game begins at midnight on the summer solstice, lit only by the sun. Fairbanks is only 160 miles south of the Arctic Circle, the sun is just beginning to set in the north as the game gets under way and, at its conclusion some three hours later, the sun begins to rise again – also in the north.

Baseball is not the only sport that could be played on the solstice. And, the idea of riding a moose is not new. See you at the polo grounds.

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Midnight Sun Polo Poster

Midnight Sun Polo

In northern Europe and Asia moose were used to carry riders and loads across inhospitable terrain. As a mount the moose has no equal in crossing bogs and windfalls, slipping through thickets, climbing over rocks, and swimming swiftly across broad, dangerous rivers. In the dense coniferous forests and bogs that cover much of northern Europe and Asia, a rider on horseback cannot outrun a rider on a moose-as Russian general Yermak Timofeyich found out when he began the conquest of Siberia on behalf of Czar Ivan the Terrible in the sixteenth century. To gain the upper hand over the Siberian moose riders, General Timofeitsch banned moose husbandry, killed off domesticated moose, and systematically hunted down moose riders to flay, impale, or mutilate them publicly as examples to others. It is likely that moose husbandry in the northern forests was just frequent enough to be a nuisance, since as we now know moose-for all their advantages as beasts of burden- are difficult to keep in captivity. Had trained moose been common and easy wards, the tough, adventuresome Cossacks would surely have changed mounts and pursued the moose riders on equal terms.

In Europe moose were also used to pull sleighs great distances across frozen wastes. One drawback to using moose in this way is that horses unacquainted with moose shy wildly and become uncontrollable when confronted by these strange-looking creatures. In the seventeenth century, the city council of the Estonian town of Dorpat (Tartu) forbade domesticated moose on its streets. One can only imagine what havoc horses out of control, hitched to a coach or wagon, could wreak in the town’s narrow streets after suddenly coming face to face with a moose innocently pulling a sleigh into town.

King Karl XI of Sweden considered mounting a cavalry regiment on moose, probably to take advantage of the terror they would strike into the hearts of enemy horses. No canon and musket fire, no lances and sabers would be needed to disperse the enemy’s cavalry charge. The mere appearance of moose on the battleground would put the enemy’s cavalry into heedless flight. Alas, the king’s grand plan came to naught, and experiments in domesticating moose in this century make it evident why. Moose could never prosper as cavalry mounts because of their catastrophic susceptibility to livestock diseases, and because of the great difficulties in feeding moose properly.

As early as 1869, the Russian zoologist and explorer Alexander von Middendorff wrote to the Tsar’s Government:“

“Even the civilized Europe these days has failed to domesticate the moose, the animal that doubtlessly can be of great utility. Our government ought to apply all possible efforts toward the domestication of this animal. This is doable. The reward would be great, and so would be the glory.”

After the seventeenth century, moose husbandry became a forgotten art for nearly four hundred years. In Sweden there was a debate in the late 18th century about the national value of using the moose as a domestic animal. Among other things, the moose was proposed to be used in postal distribution, and there was a suggestion to develop a moose-mounted cavalry. Such proposals remained unimplemented, mainly because the extensive hunting for moose nearly drove it to extinction and because of aggressiveness during the rutting period.

The idea of the moose domestication did not get much traction in Czarist Russia. However, it reappeared in the 1930s’ Soviet Union; it was suggested at the time that moose cavalry could be efficiently used even in the deep snow. In 1934, the Soviet Government’s Nature Reserve Committee ordered creation of moose reserves (zapovedniks) and moose breeding centers. Experimental work, initiated by Petr Alexandrovich Manteufel, took place at a number of locations: in Yakutia, at the Serpukhov Experimental Game Farm, and in the Buzuluksy Bor Nature Reserve in the Orenburg Region.

Russian scientists tackled the issue of moose husbandry systematically-and were successful. They discovered that moose could be trained to give milk, carry loads or riders, pull sleds and logs, go to pasture, and return willingly to stables. However, the work was not finished in time for the World War II, and when the war came, the entire idea of cavalry as a combat force was swept away.

After the war, the idea of domesticating the moose was pursued again, with the focus on agricultural use. It was thought that the moose, whose very name means twig eater in an Algonquian language, could provide an ideal way of improving the utilization of the biomass production potential of the taiga of northern and eastern Russia, which are not particularly suitable for either food crop planting or conventional animal husbandry. If the moose could be farmed, they could be provided with feed practically for free, utilizing the by-products of timber harvesting: tree branches and bark.

To study the behavior of the moose, each animal at Kostroma Moose Farm is equipped with a radio transmitter.

The first experimental moose farm, led by Yevgeny Knorre, was launched in 1949 by the staff of the Pechora-Ilych Nature Reserve, outside of the settlement of Yaksha in the Komi Republic. Rare photos from that period, one of a moose being ridden and one of a moose pulling a sledge, reproduced from Ye. P. Knorre’s 1969 paper, “Behavioral changes in elk in the process of its domestication”, can be seen at one of the Kostroma Moose Farm web site’s pages.

Since 1963, moose breeding has continued at Kostroma Moose Farm, which had a herd of 33 tame moose as of 2003. Although at this stage the farm is not expected to be a profit-making enterprise, it obtains some income from the sale of moose milk and from visiting tourist groups. Its main value, however, is seen in the opportunities it offers for the research in the physiology and behavior of the moose, as well as in the insights it provides into the general principles of animal domestication.

A fully grown moose can carry about 275 pounds (125 kg) and work with a sleigh laden with 600 to 800 pounds (3 00-400 kg); it can pull a heavier sleigh, but not all day. Its walking speed is 1.8 to 2.5 miles per hour (3-4 km/h), and the comfortable working range in a four- to six-hour working day is about 12.5 miles (20 km). Greater performances are possible. Moose can carry packs through the roughest of terrain without doing the slightest damage to the pack. They crawl under windfalls, slither across swamps, jump obstacles, negotiate thickets, and swim torrents. Yet at the end of the day, the packs remain securely in place. Hand-reared moose have utter faith in their trainers. They will, for instance, calmly walk up to an aircraft whose engines are howling. Cow moose trained for milking shower their keepers with affection-a “problem” that, in one form or another, has been reported by all keepers of moose. The most useful working moose, not surprisingly, are castrated bulls, which grow large and strong and are easy to handle. Those who have kept tame moose report that the experience is more like keeping a friendly, loyal dog (one six feet high at the shoulder) than like hosting a member of the deer family.

Although moose are useful and have some endearing characteristics, one reason they were never domesticated is that they are notoriously difficult to feed and keep healthy in captivity. Attempts by Russian scientists to subsidize the natural forage of moose with oats, barley, and wheatgerm failed as the moose became ill. What work the moose did perform was sustained by natural forages. Today, we know that the natural diet of moose can be supplemented with oat mash, beets, and potatoes; however, disease remains a problem. Moose are not only susceptible to livestock diseases, but also to the diseases of other deer species. American moose have an especially dismal record in captivity.

A problem hindering the domestication of moose is that they cannot be worked year round. In late winter, spring, and early summer, they are thin and weak and cannot be used as beasts of burden on natural forage alone.