Author Archives: Shannon Cole

Fox Islands

The most hazardous place in Alaska would have to be the Fox Islands.

Located in the volcanic Aleutian Island chain, the Fox Islands are a seismically active area. Earthquakes are frequent in the area. The place where these islands are located is a subduction zone, and the Pacific Plate is being forced underneath the North American plate, resulting in earthquakes as the plates move against each other. The region is capable of producing strong temblors, already experiencing a 6.3 in 1952, a 7.3 in 2011 and a 6.9 in 2015

Volcanic activity is also prominent (obviously–these are volcanic islands!) in the area, with at least three active volcanoes located in the Fox Islands: Okmok, Akutan and Makushin.

Volcanic and seismic activity can cause another hazard to which the Fox Islands are very vulnerable: tsunamis. The Islands are already vulnerable to flooding, as shown on the Alaska Department of Natural Resources website. As in many coastal villages, erosion from rising sea levels is already a concern. There is also concern for future damage to natural shorelines in the event of an earthquake or from heavy storms.

All of these earthquakes, volcanoes, and possible damage from waves both large and small make the Aleutian Islands’ Fox Islands the most hazardous area in Alaska.

Map Perspectives

Map 3: This map was particularly interesting because it showed Alaska in relation to the rest of the circumpolar north. Sometimes I forget that Alaska is actually America, as it is so far away from the rest of the country and in many ways, very different. The first week I was up here, I kept looking for things in French too because it felt so much like Canada to me. I even thought ‘oh, I need to go exchange some money’ because I was about to run out of American cash. It was then that I realised that Alaska really is America, despite it looking to my brain like Canada.

Figure 2.6 Geographic Projection: This map doesn’t do good by Alaska, or the rest of the north. Vietnam looks great, and so does the Central American region. Poor Alaska looks bloated, stretched out, and distorted to appear much wider than it actually is. Scandinavia and northern Russia don’t seem to fare any better, as their coastlines are distorted as well.  

Figure 2.7 Mercator Projection: Mercator is the worst type of map and any Canadian will tell you that because of what it does to our poor country. This projection makes parts of the north, like Alaska and poor Canada, look obnoxiously, comically large. On some Mercator maps, Canada is larger than the whole of Africa or South America, but it’s really nowhere near that big. Alaska also looks huge in Mercator projection, so when I’m trying to impress my Lower 48 friends with how big Alaska is, I send them a Mercator map.

Figure 2.10 Orthographic Projection: I am rather fond of this type of map because I love seeing how close Alaska is to the North Pole compared to where I am from. It also most closely resembles the view if you’re looking at Alaska on a globe; it’s realistic, it makes sense to me, and it shows Alaska’s place in the circumpolar world. I like this map quite a bit.  


Hey folks!

My name is Shannon and I’m an Arctic and Northern Studies major. This is my second semester at UAF, and I moved up here from San Francisco in August. I took GEOG 101 last semester as a prerequisite to Polar Geography, a required course for my major, and I took this as a major elective because I really like geography. When I was a kid I auditioned for Where In The World Is Carmen SanDiego? but ended up being too young to shoot in the timeframe they wanted–I was devastated.

As far as Alaska goes, I’ve only ever lived in Fairbanks, but I’ve also lived in San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Campbell, California, and Lawrence, Kansas. I do know a fair amount about Alaska geography thanks to A) being a nerd and B) the Iditarod Historical Trail and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Last year I led a fundraiser during the Iditraod called the “Igivearod” to help send kids from the village of Nikolai on a field trip to Anchorage, build a reading nook in a school in Nome, and fully fund all the active campaigns in the state of Alaska. We try to focus on the needs of communities along the Iditarod Trail itself, and we’ve repeated it during the Kuskokwim 300 and coming soon, the Willow 300. through this work, I’ve come to know quite a bit about Alaska geography and the needs of rural communities. I also think of Nikolai as “my village” so whenever I see it on a map or hear someone talk about it, I say “That’s my village!!” and then have to explain that I’ve never been there, I just really like it and have a lot of little friends there.

Here’s a map showing the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race route, which alternates each year between the northern and southern routes:

Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race map