White Alice and the Musk-Ox
Nome Travel Blog› entry 25 of 38 › view all entries
On Anvil Mountain just a few miles north of Nome, four 'ear-like' towers are known as the 'White Alice' site. They are visible from town on a clear day and dominate the relatively flat hilltop's skyline. The massive, bulky towers were once receivers/transmitters for the Distant Early Warning System used during the Korean War to detect enemy aircraft that may wander too close to American airspace. They are no longer in operation and have been long-replaced by satellites. I decided to drive up there to check out the view of Nome and surrounding areas.
I followed the Nome-Teller Highway for a few miles to a turn-off with a sign indicating 'scenic view'.
The towers looked rather old - huge boxy structures of corrugated tin. One wall of each was concave to serve as the antenna. Two of them faced north and two east. I could only imagine the dismal duty of anyone assigned to man the site.
The dirt track wound around to several rocky overlooks. Near one of those I spotted the small group of musk-ox. At about a two hundred-foot distance it was difficult to tell if they were male or female since both sexes bear horns. Males stand about five feet high at the shoulder and weigh from 600-800 pounds. Females stand about four feet. Also, the horns of males appear larger and thicker across the forehead - almost like the Cape Buffalo that I had seen in Africa years ago. With its long coarse hair hanging nearly to the ground, the Musk-Ox is perfectly adapted for survival in the harsh arctic environment and has changed little since the Ice Age.
I was surprised to learn that the Musk-Ox is actually related to the sheep and goat family. About 2,200 the animals roam Alaska with about 700 on the Seward Peninsula. I'm certain these on Anvil Mountain grazing on grass were males. They paused to watch me, staying alert to my intentions, then moseyed away. Around the hill, I spotted two females munching on green willows. They seemed content and paid me no mind. The Musk-Ox are certainly not the most attractive of Alaska's wildlife but I was thrilled to finally catch up with some of it.