Read correspondent Connie McCabe's first Chile dispatch here, and her second dispatch here.
Just over one week ago the earthquake—and we all know what earthquake I'm talking about—woke me up in the middle of the night. As reported, everything rattled, but nothing broke. A few picture frames toppled over and all seven perfume bottles fell, but they landed not on the marble floor but atop cushy piles of socks and stacks of t-shirts in the bureau drawers that were opening and closing with the lurching of the house. Some of us are lucky. Ridiculously lucky.
Five days later, on Thursday, it was my alarm clock chiming me awake at 3:30. Not because I had to get to work, but because my husband and stepson were setting off for Lebu, a small coastal town that straddles the Lebu River in the region of Bio Bio, about 90 miles south of Concepcion. Here, the earth jerked and cracked at its most violent 8.8, and most houses, made of wood panels and corrugated tin roofs, writhed and creaked along with it.
Twenty minutes later, the Pacific, which had been displaced 30 miles below its surface, rose, filled the bay and overpowered the river, forcing it—for the first time in history—to flow in reverse. Bunches of fishing boats that had been tied together on either side of the mouth of the river were dislodged, and more than half of them propelled upriver. Inexplicably they ended up beyond the bridge that most of the 20-meter long painted wood vessels are too big to clear. In the darkness, the Pacific retreated with a vengeance, sucking the river and one elder fisherman and his wife into the sea. The river had been reduced to a fraction of its original size. Now it was a creek, and stuck in its muddy remains, some 50 traumatized fishing boats, scattered and skewed helter-skelter.
Obama plans to nominate Robert A. Harding, a retired major general with 33 years in the Army, to become the TSA administrator, sources said. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will announce the nomination Monday with Harding by her side, according to one administration official.
"The TSA administrator is the most important unfilled post in the Obama administration," one administration official said. "Mr. Harding has the experience and perspective to make a real difference in carrying out the mission of the agency."
Utah and its frontiers for skiing and snowboarding have long been on my list for exploration, and my recent trip there did not disappoint. In fact, I was amazed at how easy it was to get there (a non-stop from JFK to SLC on Delta plus 35 minutes in my Enterprise rental car from the airport to Park City—with no harrowing mountain pass requiring tire chains). And it was so much fun (9,026 acres of skiing; hundreds of hotels to choose from, sunny skies, and, since 2009, no more “membership” necessary to enter a bar and buy a drink). One local told me he always felt like Park City was the redheaded stepchild of the U.S. ski areas, but I think it is soon to be (if not already) one of the favorites.
Favorite Runs: Apex and Spider Monkey, The Canyons (lift ticket $85 a day)—trails here are generally fairly narrow, which made me feel immersed in nature, much like when I hike. Apex varies intermediate and advanced tilt down a thrilling ridge, and Spider Monkey bops beneath a cathedral of tall pines.
Obscura Day, “an international celebration of wondrous, curious, and esoteric places,” is March 20. Find offbeat treasures in your own hometown, or wherever you plan to be that day.
There’s something for everyone:
Tours for the science nerd
+ In Palo Alto, CA, visit one of the world’s largest working pneumatic tube systems, a 4-mile network through Stanford University Hospital that works to “shuttle specimens and paperwork around at 18 miles per hour”
+ Head to Dunedin, New Zealand to see the Beverly Clock, a 146-year old science experiment, powered solely by atmospheric changes
+ Tour Reed College’s nuclear reactor in Portland, OR (controlled by undergraduates, God help us)
+ Take a tram ride 65 stories below street level through the Kansas Underground Salt Museum built on an actively mined vein of salt that stretches from Kansas to New Mexico. (The world’s oldest organism was found here!)
+ Stroll the poison garden at Northumberland, England’s Alnwick Castle
Read correspondent Connie McCabe's first Chile dispatch here.
Monster earthquake notwithstanding, this is a big year for Chile, nothing less than her 200th birthday. But no one is talking much about that anymore.
Michele Bachelet’s Bicentennial Advisory Committee had been mapping out a host of celebrations, initiatives and projects to benchmark the big year. New cultural centers were rising up. A satellite was to be ejected into space. Plazas were to be renovated; parks improved; poetry contests held.
Yesterday, thanks to catastrophe-hungry media, the only things the world saw being held were rifles and iron bars as angry Chileans cleaned out a mini-market just outside Santiago. And the world saw this again and again. That and images of tanks rumbling through debris-strewn streets of Concepcion and smoke billowing ominously out of supermarkets. There’s also the scene of the weary fishermen and their families—what is left of them—combing through the shattered remains of what was, just days before, a coastline of idyllic beach destinations. And people fighting tear gas and each other for a few canisters of powdered milk and scooping up water from blown-up baby swimming pools.
The FAA says a controller brought the child to work on February 17th and allowed him to talk to pilots.
"Pending the outcome of our investigation, the employees involved in this incident are not controlling air traffic," the FAA said in a statement. "This behavior is not acceptable and does not demonstrate the kind of professionalism expected from all FAA employees." The agency declined to comment beyond the statement.
In Alaska it’s about surviving winter—a long, long winter. Fortunately, people in Anchorage have not only a frontier spirit but a sense of humor. And so there is Fur Rendezvous, affectionately called the "Fur Rondy" by locals, now in its 75th year and serving up 10 days of crazy winter fun from Feb. 26 - Mar. 6.
The festival leads up to the start of the more serious Iditarod dog sled race, which kicks off March 7 (and runs a 1,200-mile course to Nome).
Racing is part of the action during Fur Rondy too, in the form of the World Championship Sled Dog Races, with 30 mushers and their teams competing for an $80,000 purse, on a 25-mile course. But that’s about as competitive as Fur Rondy gets.
Other festival events, as I witnessed for the first few days, range from the sublime to the ridiculous, including whacky snowshoe softball (competitors fall a lot), a Frostbite Footrace (costumes optional) and the World’s Largest Outhouse Race (yup, teams competing pushing outhouses).