STORIES OF COURAGE & BRAVERY IN ALASKA'S RUGGED COPPER RIVER VALLEY

The Copper Valley Is Like A Space Station. And Local People Are Like Russian Cosmonauts

Fixing Your World With Duct Tape 

  Northcountry Communications. All Rights Reserved


There's a big difference between American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts. On the Russian space station, Mir, controversy erupted over how the astronauts from the two different countries approached practical problems in outer space. 

When something happened on the delicate and far-away space station, the Russians would rush to fix it. They'd look around, scramble up some available spare parts and improvise -- using ordinary hand tools and duct tape. They pounded nails into jammed oxygen canisters. They used wrenches and screwdrivers to prod delicate instruments back into shape. Again and again, the Russians pieced together improvised solutions, using only the limited palette of materials they had on hand.

A crashed ultralight or other homemade plane at the end of the Gulkana runway, held together by duct tape.  (2011)

This drove visiting American astronauts crazy. The protocol for Americans in space has always been to call Mission Control for advice when there was a problem -- with the idea that "experts" back on Earth could figure it out far better than some crazed Russian wielding a screw driver and some duct tape.

Yet, you had to hand it to the Russians. It worked. And, you've got to hand it to the people of the Copper Valley. Compared to the rest of America, the people of the Copper Valley were the Russian cosmonauts of America. They operated in a pragmatic get-it-done manner that was very similar to the way Russians on the space station did their work.

There were so many parallels. The space station had no supply lines.  The physical environment of Siberia itself, and Russia in general, is very much like the typical rural Alaskan's environment. Empty. Cold. At the ends of the earth.

The vast tundra and taiga that crosses so much of Russia spills over into the Copper River region. And, the typical rural Alaskan, in many ways, had much more in common with a typical rural Russian. And very little in common with people in places like Sacramento, or Detroit, or Florida -- or New York City.


Duct tape holds onto a crashed Copper River plane long after the plane is gone.

If you wanted something in the Copper Valley, you did it yourself, too.  You did it the "Russian way." Though, of course, in the era during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a patriotic  Copper Valley resident would never allow himself to be compared to a Russian. 


  Northcountry Communications. All Rights Reserved.

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Write us at ncountry@gci.net! Bearfoot Travel Magazines/Copper River Country Journal, Gakona, Alaska

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