August 6, 1990 -- Day 8

Fairbanks AK

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House destroyed by permafrost We took a tour of Fairbanks this morning. The company had overbooked the tour by five people, so a second bus was brought up for us. Five souls in a 40-seat bus. The museum at the university and the pipeline were particularly interesting. I had already noticed how small the trees were, and the guide explained their stunted size is due to the root system being constricted by the permafrost. The Russians referred to this as taiga forest, which means "little sticks". Very appropriate. Throughout the city the flowers are truly breathtaking. Apparently it is due to the extremely long hours of sunlight.

Construction in Fairbanks must be done so that the permafrost is insulated from the heat of the structure on top of it. If this is not done, the permafrost will melt and a quagmire will develop. If sufficient melting takes place, these quagmires are perfectly capable of swallowing a bulldozer. More than one piece of earth-moving equipment was lost in this manner during the building of the Alaska Highway. Even a small amount of melting will cause severe damage to the structure. On the tour we saw a house that was collapsing due to melting of the permafrost.

This evening we went out to Cripple Creek at Ester, Alaska -- a few miles north of Fairbanks. We saw a lovely slide production on the aurora borealis. The show is called "The Crown of Light" and is well worth seeing. We also took in the show at the Malemute Saloon, complete with sawdust and peanut shells on the floor. It is really a fun show to see.

Tomorrow we leave for Talkeetna.

Flowers in Fairbanks

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Linda Dowdy
Bethel, Minnesota
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