History Professors Gives Talk About Alaska

By Aaron Stiles

Staff Writer

New Mexico State University’s first Global Connections presentation took place on September 9, when Jon Hunner, professor of history, shared his experiences “Alaska from Kenai to Denali.”

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An Alaskan sunset. Photo by Mary Ellen Hunner.

In the beginning of July, Hunner and his wife, Mary Ellen, traveled on a path that took them from Anchorage to Seward, Talkeetna, and Denali.  During this trip, Hunner and Mary Ellen learned about the five main language groups of Alaska’s numerous Native tribes, and what their statuses are today.

He witnessed Natives performing a traditional dance, as well as wearing seal bladder and bird feather raincoats, which were worn by early Alaskan Natives.

The pair additionally saw Matanuska and Holgate Glaciers, and in Resurrection Bay witnessed a pod of humpback whales harvest a school of herring by grouping them together in a death-vortex, which pushes them toward the surface of the water, a process called bubblenetting.

The whales them emerge from the water and trap the hundreds of small fish in their mouths.  Hunner says he and his wife and son were delighted with this unexpected event, as all they had anticipated seeing during their excursion into the bay were glaciers.  He says he and his family were lucky to have seen such a rare event.

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Whales bubblenetting in Resurrection Bay. Photo by Mary Ellen Hunner.

After their time in the bay, the duo headed back north and rendezvoused with their son, who was working in a law office and was the impetus for Hunner and his wife traveling to Alaska.  The three traveled together then to Denali, formerly Mt. McKinley, the largest mountain in North America.

They flew around the mountain in a helicopter, learning about the mountain’s history and features from the pilot, before there came a call on the helicopter’s radio: some mountain climbers on Denali needed some extra gear that was left in the plane, spurring an unplanned landing at Denali’s base camp, which Hunner says was extremely exciting to witness firsthand.

After leaving base camp, the pilot flew them to Exit Glacier, a massive valley glacier, which the pilot flew over for a few miles before heading back to town.

Hunner’s presentation was informative and beautiful, and provided an intimate atmosphere, encouraging questions and discussion with the audience.

Hunner initiated the inaugural Global Connections in 2011, after spending some time in North Africa.  Since then, Global Connections has had numerous faculty members speak on the adventures and experiences they have had traveling outside of the U.S., including past presentations on Brazil, China, and Germany.

The series provides a comprehensive way for members of the community and NMSU to learn about other places around the world.

The series is sponsored by the Department of Arts and Sciences.  The next lecture in the series will be October 14, from five to 6:30 p.m. in the Health and Social Services Auditorium.

Author: nmsuroundup

The student voice of New Mexico State University since 1907.

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