Category Archives: Featured Content

Alaskan Hunter Killed In Wisconsin

Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Photo by Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

 

Tragedy in Wisconsin: an Alaskan hunter was killed there during a hunting accident last weekend.

Here’s CBS Minnesota via the Associated Press with more:

An Alaska man died after his hunting companion apparently shot him during opening weekend of Wisconsin’s gun deer season — the first firearm-related fatality during the season in three years, state officials said Monday.

The 39-year-old Fairbanks man was hunting with a 35-year-old Wisconsin woman in Columbia County on Sunday morning, state Department of Natural Resources Warden Jon King said. The man apparently tried to hand a loaded rifle to the woman, who was in a tree stand. The woman had mittens on and grasped the gun near the trigger when the weapon discharged. The man was struck just below the armpit, King said.

Both hunters had valid licenses to hunt in Wisconsin, King said. He declined to release either hunter’s name, saying the incident was still under investigation. He didn’t know if the hunters were related.

“It’s a very unfortunate case,” King said. “We tell people to never carry a loaded firearm in and out of the tree stand.”

 

 

Spreading The Word With Salmon

 

Photo by LaDonna and Ole Gundersen

Photo by LaDonna and Ole Gundersen

Great story from Ketichikan’s KRBD radio news director Leila Kheiry on a Southeast Alaska couple, LaDonna and Ole Gunderson. Both in the commercial fishing industry, the Gundersons have authored cookbooks but will take a more diplomatic approach in their latest venture, which will bring them (and a lot of salmon fillets) to the Middle Eastern nation of Oman to spread their livelihood abroad:

Here’s some of KRBD’s report via Alaska Public Media:

LaDonna Gundersen has written several cookbooks, and salmon – always Alaskan, always wild – is heavily featured. The two also have participated in the Live in Ketchikan’s Celebrity Chef cooking program – produced by KPU-TV.

That show is how she and Ole Gundersen ended up getting invited for a visit by the U.S. Embassy in Muscat, Oman.

“We received an email asking if I’d be interested in coming over and sharing Alaska culture and fishing and cooking salmon and like that,” she said. “When we first saw the email, we were like, ‘Hmmm. This is curious.’”

LaDonna said she wasn’t sure the email was legitimate, but she wrote back and asked for more details. A month later, they got a reply, and KPU-TV Marketing Manager Michelle O’Brien was cc’d on the email.

So, the Gundersens knew it was legit, and they wrote back to give a resounding “yes!” to the invitation.Turns out, “her friend, Ann Mason at the U.S. Embassy, they went to college together, I think around 20 years ago, and they kept in contact,” LaDonna said. “And they were looking to promote wild salmon in Oman, so she reached out to Michelle, and Michelle suggested looking at my Celebrity Chef stuff I’ve done.”

They worked out some details, and learned that the embassy wanted the Gundersens to share not only the joys of wild Alaska salmon, but also the business end of running a small family-owned commercial fishing operation.

Best of luck to the couple on their goodwill tour of Oman.

 

 

 

Why I am Not a Doomsday Prepper

My first real exposure to the world of prepping came in 2008, when I became a new father and we moved to San Francisco, an earthquake zone. A lot of people in the Bay Area keep stockpiles of food and water on-hand for when The Big One hits, and since my wife was super nervous about earthquakes and I’m a former Boy Scout, we picked up a few cases of MREs and a water barrel.

Later, I added double-barreled coach gun for defensive purposes, making it my first time to live with a gun in the house since I left home for college at 17. But after that I called it a day. As far as I was concerned, we were ready for an earthquake, and that was that.

I didn’t take things much further for a few years. I didn’t even own anything that qualifies as a “survival knife” until 2012. I had dipped my toe in the waters of prepping, and I started to read more about it online. Prepping has two peculiar aspects that I found completely compelling: 1) it involves shopping for and acquiring Really Cool Gear, and 2) it has a community that longs for a world where we’re no longer compelled to work jobs we hate so that we can buy Really Cool Gear that we don’t need. In other words, prepping is hyper-consumerist in practice and anti-consumerist in outlook (sort of in the way that war is frequently justified by the desire for peace). Both aspects appealed to me, especially the gear part.

But this isn’t a treatise on prepping. Rather, it’s about why I don’t prep for The End Of The World As We Know It, TSHTF, the apocalypse, the collapse, or whatever else you want to call it. Yes, I do keep an excessive amount of long term storage food on hand–my urban-dwelling family of five is prepared for roughly three months of loss of access to basic services, but I’m not even remotely interested in doing any more. Of course, by most people’s standards, having three months of dehydrated food on hand is just completely insane, but by prepper standards I’ve basically given up and will just die in the second wave rather than the first.

While I think that prepping for a few months loss of access to basic services is a little nutty but theoretically justifiable, I am convinced that prepping for a Hollywood-style apocalypse is totally pointless. Here’s my case against Doomsday Prepping.

Population, Population, Population
If an apocalypse of biblical proportions were to take place, and by “biblical” I mean literally out the book of Revelation, where one third of the globe’s population is wiped out, then the US would be home to as many people as it was in the early 1970’s. Now, the ’70’s were bad–so bad, in fact, that they gave this country its first full-blown survivalist wave, the predecessor to the one that we’re currently in. But that decade was by no means the Thunderdome.

Wiping out two thirds of the population would bring us back to the opening decades of the 1900’s, the era of the early seasons of Downton Abbey and Boardwalk Empire. Neither of these two shows look anything like The Walking Dead to me.

Killing off a whopping 90% of the population would take us back to 1860, the year that Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th president of the United States. I also saw the movie Lincoln, and it, too, did not look like The Walking Dead.

Losing 99% of our population would take us back to the post-Revolutionary War period of the 1780’s. At that point, Harvard University had already been operating for about 150 years. Again, Rick Grimes’ group of survivors would be out of place here.

My point is this: with only 1% of our present population, humanity had arts and letters, transatlantic trade, a thriving stock market (in London, at least, and a few years later in the US)–in short, we had civilization. It was not a Hobbesian “state of nature.”

Sure, the immediate aftermath of a sudden event that wiped out 99% of the population would look pretty much like a textbook “state of nature,” but before long we’d be back to doing our thing. And I’m pretty sure the stock market wouldn’t take more than a few days off, at most. Which brings me to my next point.

The Stock Exchange
People in the west have been trading securities in some form or fashion since the 1600’s. The NYSE got its formal start in 1790, and trading has continued more or less uninterrupted since then. In other words, the stock market kept going through the Civil War. Think about that. The country was split in half. We were shooting at each other. Armies marched on towns and burned them, right here on US soil. But corporations continued to operate, they continued to be worth money, and Wall Streeters continued to trade their shares.

The Civil War was about as bad as it gets, but yet again, it was not TWD. Students still went to school and university. Stores were still open. The trains still ran. And in general, the machinery of modern life and civilization chugged on. The coverage was spotty in places, but it was still there, and things sprung back pretty quickly once the shooting stopped.

Farming is Hard, Hunting is Impossible
Let’s say that we truly do end up in a TWD-style total apocalypse. If this happens, my only hope is that me and mine die very quickly. I buy groceries for my family periodically (my wife does most of the shopping), so I see first-hand how many calories it takes to feed all of us. It ain’t pretty, and the kids are all still little (the oldest is 6). Once they start eating like teenagers, then things will really get crazy.

I grew up hunting, so I know how hard it is to take game. There’s a reason why Native American tribes would routinely have winters where they lost half or more of their people to starvation. It’s insanely hard to get calories by killing animals, even for people who are taught to hunt and trap from the time they can walk.

Farming is a much better option, but it’s also really hard, takes experience and specialized knowledge, and is notoriously unreliable. Crops can and do fail, and people who do subsistence farming can and do go hungry.

Sure, there are survivalists who live off-grid and maintain fully functioning farms with livestock, produce, and the whole nine yards. These people will likely do okay (although even many of those guys are kidding themselves because they’re still dependent on gasoline), but that doesn’t matter to me because I am not one of them, nor am I ever going to be.

If things don’t snap back after our freeze dried food runs out, then we’re goners. But I’m not going to uproot my entire life to prepare for the (essentially zero probability) scenario that Hollywood is right about what the End of the World looks like.

Real Prepping is No Fun
So, there you have it: I am not interested in prepping for doomsday because I think it’s totally pointless. Doomsday is just not coming, at least not in the Hollywood sense.

And if a Hollywood doomsday were to arrive–an asteroid strike or some other cosmic catastrophe-then we will all just die. But we will also die if we catch a deadly disease, get hit by a drunk driver, get cancer, or any one of a million other things that are vastly more likely to befall us than an asteroid strike. Which is why for me, “prepping” looks like this: I wear my seatbelt, I don’t smoke, I eat my vegetables, I try to get some exercise, I have a stand-up desk, and other lame and un-fun things.

Like the doomsday prepper crowd, I still dream of a world where we’re not defined by where we work or what we buy, and where the Internet doesn’t suck up 110% of our time and attention with pointless trivialities. But if that world comes about, it’s going to happen because we all got fed up enough with the status quo to make major changes. No diabolus ex machina is going to smash Weber’s iron cage and magically transport us back to a simpler, less hectic time where we all sat on the porch in the evenings playing guitar and having real, face-to-face relationships with our neighbors. No, we’re going to have to do that stuff all by ourselves.

Story by Alex Aylar

American Sniper Screenwriter On Movies And Veterans

Photo by Warner Brothers/TNS

Photos by Warner Brothers/TNS

 

Happy Veteran’s Day to all who have served our country (and a heartfelt thank you). Check out this Men’s Journal interview with American Sniper screenwriter Jason Hall on how movies can provide veterans with some perspective.

Here are some interesting points Hall made in the piece:

I hear that Warner Bros. is donating a portion of the profits from sales of the American Sniper DVD to the Wounded Warrior Project.
There is going to be a pretty decent donation heading that way. That’s a huge deal. That means a lot to these guys and their welfare. Movies like ours shine a light on some of the issues, but there has to be follow-through there with the public. People still don’t know how to participate or how to help. We’ve been talking about trying to push through a Veterans Bill Of Rights. I’m hoping the film i’m directing, Thank You For Your Service, will open that conversation again and address in a really true way what happens when these guys get home and how long that wait is for these families.

Are soldiers still reaching out to you?
I have a lot of families that are coming up there with stories they want to tell. What I’m realizing from all of this is that Chris’s story was his story. It may have been representative of the sacrifice of every soldier, but within that sacrifice is thousands of different stories that are just as important to tell or to document. Just a few weeks ago, I was participating on a stage reading of “The Sky Was Paper” at the Kennedy Center in D.C. You hear these letters from veterans. Not just U.S. soldiers, but soldiers from Germany, Russia, and Japan. What you realize is that war is this plague of destruction on mankind that reaps a toll on families over time.

War movies have been made for decades, but you seem to really be searching for a connection with the soldiers. What drives that?
There’s this incredible way that some of these guys are able to speak about what they’ve seen. They’re able to articulate it in a way we never could, they saw something and were able to bring back this understanding of the destruction of war. Some of the guys find hope in the experience. What they saw in war makes them want to live more, live better, because they’ve been so close to death — they understand the value of life more clearly.

Great insight frim Hall on what too many Americans forget about: when these brave men and women return home from the front, many are still involved in a fight, and say what you want about the role snipers have on both sides, American Sniper among the most influential films of this era that depicts what veterans must endure and how difficult it is for them to get back to a normal life.

Remember these brave Americans today!

 

 

Ice Fishing Tragedy

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

Photo by Dennis Musgraves

 

Apologies for getting this out a little late, but tragedy for two men who died during an ice fishing trip last week.

The Fairbanks News-Miner with more:

Troopers were alerted by a search and rescue team just after noon Friday that two men were overdue from a snowmachine trip to go fishing outside of Noorvik. The men, Richard R. Patterson, 34, and Fred Melton, 44, left just after midnight for the trip up the Kobuk River.

They had not returned by noon and search team was sent out. They discovered a hole in the river ice about 1.5 miles upstream from Noorvik. The men’s bodies were recovered about two hours later. The men were transported to the State Medical Examiner for autopsy. Alcohol was not a factor.

Condolences to the mens’ loved ones.

Ariel’s Still Flying High

Ariel Tweto 5

 

 

The following story appears in the November issue of Alaska Sporting Journal, on sale now. 

 

 

-By Chris Cocoles

Photos by Ariel Tweto

Ariel Tweto can’t stay on the ground for very long. Neither can she stop smiling, laughing and making her friends and family giggle.

It’s no wonder this tiny sparkplug from tiny Unakleet, Alaska, is part of one of the state’s first family of flight. Her parents, Jim and Ferno Tweto, co-own and operate Ravn Alaska airlines, an important carrier throughout the Last Frontier. The family business has been featured on the TV series Flying Wild Alaska, which returned to the airwaves this year on the Outdoor Channel after originally appearing on the Discovery Channel.

Ariel’s become quite the success story, having been one of the driving forces behind her family’s show getting on the air in the first place.

“I’m so happy with all the decisions I’ve made so far,” she says. “You might regret some of the stuff you do. But I’m going to hold onto these moments.”

Ariel Tweto.

Ariel Tweto.

THE FRIENDLY SKIES

Flying Wild Alaska focused on the Tweto family’s role in their aviation company, then known as Era Alaska.

“We tried to make it as honest as possible and actually show the real Alaska, including the bad things about it,” says Tweto, who turns 28 this year. “And then I hope we were able to get people excited about aviation. That was another one of our goals. So many people are so scared (of flying), and we wanted to highlight and show the honest aspect of flying. We hoped we would get a younger generation excited about flying.”

The airplane was certainly inspiring to the Tweto patriarch. Jim Tweto came to Alaska on a hockey scholarship to the University of Alaska Anchorage. His career as a goalie wasn’t going to take him to the NHL so he took up work as a welder in the Nome-area village of Unakleet, currently populated by 712.

“When he went to the village and first met my mom, he built boats. And my grandpa (Ferno’s father) was one of the first native pilots who lived up there,” Ariel Tweto says. “All of my uncles flew and my dad just fell in love with it.”

Jim started his own company, a one-plane operation that took off (literally) around the time Ariel and her sister, Ayla, were toddlers. In 1990 he partnered up to form another successful venture, Hageland Aviation, and eventually Jim Tweto and partners Mike Hageland and John Hajdukovich eventually molded Era Alaska into a regional powerhouse of the skies. Today, the company is called Ravn Alaska and has a fleet of over 70 planes.

“My parents are still working every day. And they never take breaks,” she says. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned from my parents: They don’t stop working. They wake up at 6 and sometimes in summer they stay up until like 11 or 12 at night. Last year was the first time in like 20 years they went on a vacation (to Hawaii). I asked them why they don’t take more vacations and they say, ‘We just like working.’”

Ariel’s mom jokes that she likes to work as much as her daughter likes to travel. But the work-hard, play-hard mantra also rubbed off in a good way.

“They made us work hard as kids,” Tweto said of herself and two sisters. “They set rules for us, disciplined us. A lot of families don’t have parents who are supportive like ours. I’m just really fortunate that they were supportive, but they made us work hard. I definitely think we’re a family of overachievers.”

 

Ariel Tweto 4 Ariel Tweto 2

LOVING LIFE

Tweto can boast two hometowns now: Unakleet – “I go there at least once a month” – and Los Angeles, which she fell for like so many others seeking the Southern California lifestyle after she attended Chapman University in Orange County. Furthermore, Tweto stays busy enough with multiple projects in the works.

“I haven’t been to my house in L.A. in a couple months because I was (out and about so much),” she said during an interview in late spring. “I go to L.A. and usually can last maybe 10 days or two weeks and then I have to get out.”

“I met some amazing friends there (in Southern California) and I love the weather and being warm. But I love Alaska; there’s no place quite like it. It’s where my best friends live and my family lives.”

Some of the friends Tweto met in Los Angeles visited her in Alaska and plan to go back north, perhaps even staying permanently. That’s the magnetic appeal the Last Frontier can have on ambitious Lower 48ers looking for a challenge or new start.

Tweto encourages anyone making a trip to Alaska to be around during the Iditarod sled dog race every March.

“It’s so much fun. Everyone is so excited because the (day)light is back; the sun is coming back out and the weather is warming up. You sit and talk to the mushers and hear their stories. You’re out there and the (sleds) are finishing, you run into a bar and have a beer and then you run back outside and cheer for the next one,” she says. “It’s so much fun and it’s just gorgeous at that time of year.”

Tweto, no stranger to the outdoors, also loves to come back in June and July to fish. Heading to the Kenai Peninsula or joining at a friend’s fish camp for a week is a favorite Tweto summer pastime. Last year around this time, a Kenai salmon trip netted some big fish, including one that the diminutive but feisty woman temporarily lost the battle to while winning the war.

“I fell out of the boat,” Tweto says with her classic shrugging-her-shoulders-and-laughing-it-off candor.

“The fish was so heavy and I just got super excited, so I took one step back and flipped over. Oh, well.”

Last year she went to Scotland with her friend, former CBS talk-show host Craig Ferguson (see sidebar) and his family. In the spring Tweto traveled to Rio de Janeiro as part of a TV commercial for a Brazilian beer company. The Tweto sisters, including Flying Wild Alaska regular Ayla, visited their father’s homeland of Norway in the summer. The Philippines beckon in the coming months.

“It’s fun living out of a suitcase,” Tweto says. “If someone told me I had to stay in one location, I couldn’t do it.”

 

Ariel Tweto 3 Ariel Tweto 7

A GREATER CAUSE

But it’s not just about frequent-flier miles, fishing and fun in the sun. There’s a method to Tweto’s madness.

“For me it’s about meeting random people and hearing their stories,” she says. “I feel if you see someone walking down the street and start talking to (him or her), you’ll learn something.”

She has also become a licensed and accomplished pilot and hopes to get her commercial license soon. She has the same passion for aviation as her parents did dating back to their humbling start in the industry in Alaska.

“They are more proud of the fact when we (successfully) follow through with a plan,” Tweto says. “I knew I was going to do it, because when we have a goal we’re going to accomplish it, even if it’s something like learning how to bake a pie.”

At some point, Tweto would love to have her own television empire. She has aspirations to someday be the “Eskimo Oprah.”

“Everyone in the villages really never sees Eskimos on TV,” Tweto says. “I’d love to have an adventure show and a talk show. I love that (Oprah Winfrey) does so much and she’s such an inspiration for me. One thing about Oprah is she connects with people, and I like that. She built an empire and I just want to build my own brand and inspire people.”

She also wants to help others like her. Tweto started a nonprofit, Popping Bubbles (facebook.com/arieltwetopoppingbubbles).

“I go to rural communities around Canada and Alaska and talk to (the kids). It started out as more of a suicide prevention thing, but now it’s just as much about kids setting goals and dreaming big,” Tweto says. “I’m from a small community and now I get to travel the world. I try to get them to get excited about traveling and adventure – setting goals.”

Some stories she’s heard from the kids in isolated Native Alaskan and Canadian villages can be heartbreaking to stomach. She talked to one group about the effects and tragic consequences bullying can have on victims. Afterwards she was asked to give the speech in neighboring communities. “It’s very emotional,” Tweto says. “I definitely didn’t think it would turn into an actual organization. I’m really happy about it. It can be draining because you’re talking about suicide and issues like that.”

Clearly, Tweto is taking the fight (and the experience) to the world rather than sitting back. Sitting still and settling down can wait for later.

“I can’t be in one place for more than two weeks, which is horrible for my personal life, since I’m 27 and still single,” she deadpans. “I haven’t met anyone yet who understands that I like moving around and don’t like having to text anyone and say where I’m at. I don’t like anyone telling me what to do – so sorry.” ASJ

Editor’s note: Follow Ariel Tweto on Instagram and Twitter (both @arieltweto)

 

Ariel Tweto sidebar

LATE NIGHT STAR 

Ariel Tweto is no stranger to the couches and comfy chairs of late-night television. She’s been a guest on the Late Show With David Letterman, but Tweto was something of a folk heroine during Craig Ferguson’s run on CBS’Late Late Show.

“I think I was on like 15 times or something like that,” says the star of the Discovery Channel/Outdoor Channel series Flying Wild Alaska. “He’s the best.”

On Tweto’s last visit, she talked about spending Thanksgiving with Ferguson and his wife, Megan Wallace-Cunningham. She was also part of a group of family and friends who visited Ferguson’s native Scotland together.

“Can we just sit here for a while longer? It’s sort of sad,” Tweto told Ferguson as her last appearance on the show was imminent. “Thank you for everything. You did change my life.”

“Did I?” Ferguson asked.

“You did. You opened so many doors that I wouldn’t have gotten to walk through. I didn’t even try to memorize that line, but that was pretty good.”

“He’s such a great guy,” she told the audience in Los Angeles about the affable Ferguson. “He’s amazing.” –CC 

State Of Alaska Cuts Could Affect Fishing Industry

boatsunset

 

As someone who spent about 15 post-college years working at newspapers, I can relate to budget cuts. Through runs at two once top 50-circulation publications, those papers are now shells of their former selves. Good, talented people were given “severance packages” – the modern-day way to give someone the heave-ho (laid off), and page counts are now absurdly small and overpriced.  I was just in a Dallas Walmart with a friend who wanted to buy a Saturday Dallas Morning News, which has traditionally been one of the best papers around. I knew the days of feeding a rack with a quarter were over; still, I sheepishly asked, ‘What’s that going to cost? 75 cents?” Try $1.50!

But I digress. Newspapers are not the only industry that’s suffered cuts during our long stretches of recession. A report on KFSK in Petersburg had some disheartening news for Alaska’s fishing industry:

Because of Alaska’s budget crisis, state agencies cut spending this year and are planning additional reductions in the next few years. For the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, those cuts have meant less monitoring of fish runs, a change that will lead to more conservative management and less fishing opportunity. That was the message from Fish and Game officials to a commercial fishing industry organization that met in Petersburg in late October.

ADFG commissioner Sam Cotten told the board members of the United Fishermen of Alaska at its fall meeting in Petersburg that the department is looking at several years of budget reductions.

“Last year I think we took an 18 percent cut and the governor’s asking for another 10,” Cotten said. “And the legislature’s not going to be satisfied with that. So it isn’t a matter of whether our budget’s going to get cut it’s a matter of how much. But we would like your help on the where part.”

The story also talked about the state “consolidating administrative staff,” so that’s not exactly a good sign for everyone involved. But it’s hardly a shocking development.

 

 

 

 

Alaska Ports Lead The Way In Seafood Landings

Dutch Habor led the way with 761.8 million pounds of fish landings last year. (US GOVERNMENT WORK)

Dutch Habor led the way with 761.8 million pounds of fish landings last year. (US GOVERNMENT WORK)

This just in: Alaska has a huge presence in the commercial fishing industry. So it shouldn’t be a major shocker that the three Alaska ports ranked 1-3 in the U.S. in terms of seafood landings last year.

Here’s the Alaska Dispatch’s Laine Welch with more:

“The Alaska port of Dutch Harbor continued to lead the nation with the most seafood landings – 761.8 million pounds, 87 percent of which was walleye pollock,” said Dr. Richard Merrick in announcing the national rankings in the annual Fisheries of the U.S. report for 2014.

It’s the 18th year in a row that Dutch Harbor has claimed the top spot for fish landings. Kodiak ranked second and the Aleutian Islands were third, thanks to Trident’s plant at Akutan, the nation’s largest seafood processing facility. In all, 13 Alaska communities made the top 50 list for landings: Alaska Peninsula (8), Naknek (10), Sitka (14), Ketchikan (15), Cordova (16), Petersburg (20), Bristol Bay (23), Seward (27), Kenai (34) and Juneau (45).

In terms of the value of all that seafood, Dutch Harbor was second at $191 million, coming in behind New Bedford, Massachusetts, for the 15th consecutive year. The relatively small 140 million pound catch at that New England port was worth nearly $330 million at the docks, due to the pricey Atlantic scallop fishery, with prices ranging from $12.50 to $14 a pound, according to the Portland (Maine) Press Herald.

Prepping for the Alaska Big One

KETCHIKAN FAMILY READY IF MAJOR QUAKE HITS

alaskatank

Rodney Dial lives in Ketchikan. The former U.S. Army Ranger appeared on National Geographic Channel’s Doomsday Preppers last season and has spent most of the profits from his tattoo parlor to protect his wife, Lisa, and daughter, Megan, from a potentially massive earthquake and tsunami (most of Southeast Alaska sits on the Ring of Fire). Dial, an experienced diver, has a tankless, solarpowered scuba system and has hidden many of his emergency supplies underwater, in part to prevent possible looting.

Rodney surveys the ocean to find his cache, which has been watertight-sealed and dropped to the floor of the sea.

Rodney surveys the ocean to find his cache, which has been watertight-sealed and dropped to the floor of the sea.


He also has a customized but street-legal tank he calls the “WarMachine.” We caught up with Dial and got a detailed look at his operation:

Chris Cocoles Was there an event in your life that prompted you to decide to do this?

Rodney Dial I am a life long Alaskan and remember being told at a young age of how my family was involved in the (Anchorage) Good Friday Earthquake in 1964. My grandmother was working in the downtown JC Penney Building that collapsed. It was a memorable moment for my family that stressed the importance of being self-sufficient in an emergency situation. Growing up,my family learned how to harvest local resources, prepare for disasters and become familiar with the Alaskan environment.

CC Would you call prepping a passion or obsession?

RD Some would probably see our level of prepping an obsession, but for us it is just good family planning.We are concerned that too many Americans and even some Alaskans are becoming too“soft.”(They’re) relying on someone to save them in an emergency, expecting water to always flow out of the tap or electricity to always be on. Many people have never experienced any real hardships in life and, for some reason, believe they never will. We find that method of thinking dangerous and potentially a life endangering gamble. In essence we see prepping as the duty of every good American/Alaskan.

CC Has your Army Ranger career and diving background been a big aid in your prepping ability?

RD My Ranger training and subsequent Jungle Expert Certification pushed my boundaries as a young man and made me realize that with proper planning and the right mindset, I could survive in any environment. Tobe certified as a U.S.Army Jungle Expert I received training in the jungles of Panama and had to survive for three weeks with the supplies I carried on my back. My 24 years of diving experience have given me a unique ability to obtain significant resources in an area most people are unable to access. This allows a constant ability to provide food and other resources for my family.

CC You spent a lot of time in Central American jungles. Can you share some of that experience?

RD In 1985 I joined the U.S Army and became an Army Ranger. I did several deployments in Central America, including Honduras and Panama. As a Ranger, we were expected to jump in (parachute) into remote locations with only the supplies on our back,be able to complete missions, survive and return. In Honduras and Panama the focus was preparation for a guerilla style war in a jungle environment.

CC Does it take a creative mind to figure out the best ways to protect your family from a major catastrophe?

RD To some degree a creative mind is important to identify risks that a family may face in an emergency and unique ways to prepare. Of more importance however, is knowledge; the knowledge of how to prepare and provide the basics to support life. For example, the woods and ocean around Ketchikan are filled with plants and animals that can be harvested to provide food. Without that knowledge a person could starve in an emergency or eat something poisonous.

CC Your “WarMachine” is insane. Do you take pride in that vehicle like an owner of a classic car would?

RD War Machine is like a member of our family – we take care of it and know that someday it may take care of us. We look at it this way: in any protracted emergency, no matter how well a person has prepared, there will ultimately be a need to obtain some critical item or resupply; perhaps it’s something as simple as antibiotics. In that moment, you can expect that many other individuals will also have resupply needs, some far more desperate than you. People in a life-or-death survival situation can become dangerous and unpredictable. War Machine will help assure that when we have the need to resupply we will not be an easy target for those who would contemplate violence towards us as a means of their own survival. War Machine is a constant work in progress. In the near future we will be repainting the vehicle in an urban camouflage pattern, adding communication devices and other protective upgrades.

CC Do you and your family travel much or do you stay mostly around Ketchikan, just in case?

RD We do not travel much and use nearly all available discretionary funds to improve our self-sufficiency.

CC Iwould guess a nAlaska earthquake similar to the 1964 Anchorage quake your family lived through, would be more worried about an ensuing tsunami than the actual quake given what those waves have done in other parts of the world?

RD We agree.Our current home is located over 200 feet above sea level and the home foundation is anchored to bedrock. Since Ketchikanis a coastal community, the concern is that a tsunami could damage our ports and ability to receive supplies from the outside world. For the show we proved a “proof of concept” that we could store and recover supplies cached underwater. We have refined that process and now store supplies in bays and protected waterways largely protected from the areas a tsunami would likely affect. We use GPS coordinates to mark the supply cashes in case a tsunami were to obliterate terrain features used to identify drop locations. We also assure that our supplies are deep enough to be protected from the surge of a tsunami.

CC Inwatching the show, is your daughter, Megan, who seemed a little unimpressed with your planning, coming around to what you are trying to accomplish?

RD Megan, like most children, has lived a comfortable life and it is difficult to convince her of the need to prepare. She has however, been exposed to far more survival information than the average child her age. We feel confident that she has the knowledge necessary to identify local resources she could obtain in an emergency situation. As she grows older we hope to involve her more in the prepping process.

CC Talk about the four P’s you have targeted in terms of prepping:plan,prepare,position and provide. What are the challenges each of those variables throw at you when trying to prep for something catastrophic?

RD The greatest challenge for most people who are new to prepping is knowledge and money. Knowledge is the most important and only takes effort. We were able to obtain significant knowledge on the natural food sources by just asking local native elders. Our current efforts harvesting and processing devils club are a prime example. Knowledge is free in most cases and just takes effort to seek it out. Knowledge will allow you to plan and prepare. “Position and providing” requires money inmost cases and can present difficulties for some in reaching an acceptable level of security in a short amount of time. When money is tight, I recommend that people take small,but constant steps to improve their survival abilities, such as saving one can of food per week or one other action item as funds allow.

CC What was your experience like on Doomsday Preppers?

RD Our experience on Doomsday Preppers was challenging, but very rewarding. In a way it was a full-scale drill for our family, putting to use the skills we have learned and, at the same time, identifying areas we needed to improve. After the filming we reevaluated our family disaster plan and identified several areas for improvement. We have worked on improving our family skills and supplies ever since.

CC Do you hope the show has opened people’s eyes about the idea that you should be prepared for whatever curve balls are thrown your way?

RD One of the great things about Doomsday Preppers is that it is forcing people to think about thewhat if’s and realizing that some level of family preparedness is a good thing. Not all of the potential disasters prepared
for on the show will apply to all people; however, something positive can be learned from every episode.

CC Is it important for anyone, even if they don’t go the measures you’ve taken to be prepared, to just have some kind of plan in place, even if it’s a simple plan?

RD We really feel that it is the duty of every American to have at least a minimum capacity to survive some unknown(incident), for at least 72 hours. A person’s failure to plan will likely endanger others who may be tasked with risking their lives to save them.

CC You’ve mentioned Alaskans are always preppers of some degree. Is that a case of you have to be hearty and resourceful to make it in your state? And you can’t afford to not be prepared for the unexpected?

RD The Alaskan mindset seems more independent than our fellow Americans in the Lower 48. The high cost of living has also helped spur Alaskans to become more self-sufficient, from something as simple as knowing how to hunt/fish or even harvest wood to heat their home. Most of my friends and neighbors have enough supplies to survive for several weeks and the ability to defend their homes if needed.

CC You seem like a level-headed guy. Do your friends and neighbors think you’re a little eccentric?

RD Probably, although we have always felt that most Alaskans are preppers by Lower 48 standards. Most Alaskans I know have enough food and water to survive for at least a month or two and have some knowledge of the local environment. War Machine probably is seen as a little intense by some; however, you know you live in a great state when your community doesn’t have a problem with you owning and driving a tank down Main Street. Only in Alaska!

Story by Chris Cocoles – ASJ Photos from National Geographic