Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why I Live Here - Fall Walk On Beach - Plus a Bear, a Dog, Swans, Mud, and Fiber Optic Cable

In 30 years, my definition of a beach has stretched beyond sand and palm trees.  There's a spot of rocky beach and mudflats that we like on days with sun and no wind.  Today qualified.

Looking South Down Turnagain Arm

Looking North
First we stopped where cars were parked along the side of the road.  Not unusual when the Dall Sheep are around.  But the sheep we saw was black and looked a lot more like a bear. 

He's up there top, left of the middle.  Ignoring all the people and stopped cars below.  We went years and years seeing less than a handful of bears in the Anchorage area.  This was my fifth bear this summer in Anchorage.  (Anchorage stretches a long way south along Turnagain Arm.)

I made a self-portrait out of Turnagain mud and rocks.

One train went by headed north and another south while we were on the beach.  We walked  back on the tracks, which was a lot easier than the rocky beach.  We kept a close lookout for trains, but we didn't see another one until we were 15 minutes down the road in the car.

I found a long description of this cable line on a 2006 post at Diesel Generator:

"Fiber optics involves the transmission of laser signals along glass fibers at the speed of light. In the case of the ANC/WCIC cables from Whittier, communications equipment connected to the fibers enables signals to be transmitted at 10 billion bits per second. These 10 billion bits per second will encompass voice, data, and Internet traffic, at a rate equivalent to 128,000 simultaneous telephone calls.
"In some respects, the companies putting up the facilities are competitors. On one side of the railroad tracks on the upper side of town, a facility is being installed by General Communications, Inc. (GCI). GCI will service submarine cables laid to Valdez, Juneau and Seattle. WCI Cable, Inc. (WCICI), will operate submarine cables laid to Valdez, Juneau and 2000 miles on the North Pacific sea bottom to Portland and Seattle via a "landing site" at Tillamook, Oregon. . .
"Worldnet Communications, Inc. Alaska Fiber Star (AFS), WCI Cable, Inc., and Alaska Northstar Communications (ANC) are companion units in a family of communications companies that are owned by an Australian insurance and investment company, AMP Ltd.
An existing AFS "backbone" - terminology for the routing of a fiber optics system - emanates from Anchorage and runs to Fairbanks with ADMs (add/drop multiplexers) at Wasilla, Talkeetna, Cantwell, Healey, Clear, Nenana and Fairbanks. At these sites, traffic can be added to or dropped from the backbone system to provide communications access to local carriers. The fiber optic signals are also regenerated and passed on to the next site. Presently these stations are sited about every 60 miles.

From the Anchorage NOCC, the backbone runs south along the Alaska Railroad route to Whittier. A 100-mile submarine cable runs to Valdez.
 The friend enjoying the sun and sea with us said that WCI no longer exists.  While trying to check that out online, I found a 2002 Bankruptcy Court opinion (pdf) regarding the fee they paid for this cable to the Alaska Railroad:
"The WCI Group has installed, maintains and uses its fiber 26 optic cable between Anchorage and Eielson Air Force Base (the “Northern Route”) and between Anchorage and Whittier (the “Southern Route”) in Alaska pursuant to two “Transportation Corridor Permits”  (the “Permits”) with the Alaska Railroad Corporation, which owns the rights of way. Under the Permits, the fee for the WCI Group’s use of the Northern Route right of way is $150,220 per month, or a total of $1,802,640 per year, and the fee for the WCI Group’s use of the Southern Route right of way is $297,320 per year, payable in quarterly installments of $74,330. The WCI Group’s payment obligations under the Permits represent a heavy financial burden that the WCI Group would like to lessen."

But we weren't thinking about any of this as we walked.  Rather we were absorbed in all the colors.  Like this fireweed.

At the parking lot, I found an answer to a question in yesterday's post.  Yes, there is a dog.

This calm reflection of sky and fall colors at Potter Marsh belies all the cars and highway noise as people returning to Anchorage slowed down and stopped to watch the seven trumpeter swans getting ready to head further south for the winter.

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