Grant and Chris A. have provided deeply poetic accounts of our recent trip to rural Alaska. In documenting the creative-writing workshops we held, the stories we heard, and all the inspiring people we met, they sadly left out one very important thing: random Alaska trivia.
I’m here to fill that gap with seven cool facts we learned in southeastern Alaska:
- Anyone who lives in Alaska for two years gets an annual payment of about $1000 from the state. It comes from something called the Permanent Fund, and for those born in our great northern state, the money begins accruing when you’re a toddler.
- The phrase “low man on the totem pole” is based on a misunderstanding of totem pole power dynamics. Some totem poles feature the mightiest tribal families on the bottom. And ultimately, if you’re on the totem pole at all, you’re doing something right.
- Not all of Alaska has the tundra-tastic winters we associate with the state. Prince of Wales Island, for instance, is a rain forest and only gets two weeks of snow per year. (Instead of snow, the residents are blessed with 50 mph gales of stinging rain.)
- Prince of Wales Island is the fourth largest island in the United States, and it only has two stoplights. Both will be removed shortly.
- Even experienced fishermen get seasick from time to time. Dramamine is viewed skeptically, and those in the know swear by a product called Bonine when they’re feeling queasy. (On our one fishing trip, Grant, Chris and I had a chance to acquaint ourselves with the delights of Bonine, and it worked like a charm.)
- During the summer, fishing crews stay out at sea for days at a time. It’s intense work, but several of the fisherfolk we met also see it as a great opportunity to get caught up on their reading. One gillnetter we ran into at a bar was spending the summer on his boat plowing through all of the Russian classics. He introduced himself to Chris A. by asking about Chris’ favorite character from The Brothers Karamozov.
- As Grant mentioned, Alaskan fishermen are tough as nails and stare down death on a daily basis. The only thing they fear? Bananas. Which, according to angling lore, drive the fish away.
Aerial photo of Craig, Alaska by Chris Baty. Who got to ride in the cockpit.