Alaska Public Media’s 10 most read stories of 2021

three people and two dogs cross a frozen lagoon in front of some houses and mountains
A group of people and their dogs walk across Westchester Lagoon on Dec. 8, 2021. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

From spiking COVID-19 cases to political scandal to tangled supply chains, 2021 was a doozy. 

But there were bright spots too: Quannah Chasinghorse, a Han Gwich’in and Oglala Lakota fashion model and climate justice activist, launched onto the national stage. Plus, Seward’s Lydia Jacoby became an Olympic champion. And Emma Broyles, from Anchorage, was crowned Miss America.

Also, health care staff already working long hours volunteered to cuddle Alaska’s sickest newborns. And an Anchorage man raised tens of thousands of dollars to help a family get out of Afghanistan.

As we get ready to head into 2022 — and reflect on 2021 — here are some of the most-read stories of the year from Alaska Public Media and our partner stations.

1. Anchorage mayor turned off fluoride in city water for about 5 hours

a person speaks to the media
Mayor Dave Bronson. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

A day after declining it happened, the city revealed that Mayor Dave Bronson did decide to stop the fluoridation of the city’s water on Oct. 1. Bronson’s office ordered the fluoride be turned back on after learning he had violated city code. Read more.

2. Dallas Seavey returns to Iditarod after mysterious scandal rocked his mushing career

a dog lunges onto a person in a blue jacket
Dallas Seavey. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

Four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey returned to the Iditarod this year after a dog-doping whodunit turned his mushing career upside down four years ago. “In a way it’s coming home for me, right?” he said. “This is where I belong, racing the Iditarod.” He ended up winning the 2021 race. Read more.

3. Ammo shortage leaves Alaska businesses shooting blanks

a person talks with a customer inside a gun store
Granny’s Guns in Anchorage. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

There’s no doubt about it, Alaskans like their guns. But there’s only so much you can do with a gun without bullets. And this past year, those have been harder than ever to come by. Read more.

4. Realities diverge after Anchorage conservative activist dies from COVID

People stand around a light wooden coffin
Mourners including Dustin Darden and Michael Chambers gather around William Topel’s coffin. (Lex Treinen/Alaska Public Media)

William Topel’s friends saw his death from COVID-19 as a rallying cry for ivermectin. Others who observed him during Anchorage Assembly fights over masking said the tragedy was that he didn’t get vaccinated or wear a mask. Read more.

5. Alaska’s first electric-powered school bus is performing well – even at 40 below

A school bus pulls up at a school in the dark.
The electric school bus drops off students at Tok School. (Gerald Blackard)

Alaska’s first electric-powered school bus has, so far, proven to be reliable even if temperatures that dip far below zero. “It has not missed a single day of school,” says Tok Transportation co-owner Gerald Blackard. Read more.

6. Anchorage doctors sound alarm about ‘imminent’ hospital system collapse

Dr. Tom Quimby, an emergency room doctor in the Mat-Su, gave an emphatic six-minute speech in August about the “soul-crushing” workload that doctors in his community faced as COVID surged. He posted this photo on Facebook, describing it this way: “The picture here is the last conscious thing too many people have seen before their life ends as I stand over them, preparing to put them on a ventilator that they often never come off. We’ve been doing this everyday. Often many times a day. Recently, I’ve seen a rash of fathers in their 30s to 50s with no previous medical problems. The one common denominator was that they’ve all been unvaccinated.” (Tom Quimby)

Over the summer, emergency room doctors sounded dire warnings about the city’s hospital capacity as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations surged to their highest levels. Read more.

7. Former ‘Deadliest Catch’ captain admits to dealing heroin, court documents say

A large boat in a harbor in front of some treeless hills
Elliott Neese appeared in five seasons of “Deadliest Catch” as captain of the F/V Ramblin’ Rose and F/V Saga. (Maggie Nelson/KUCB)

Elliott Neese, an Alaska crab boat captain formerly on the reality TV show “Deadliest Catch,” admitted to dealing heroin on the Kenai Peninsula. Read more.

8. Alaska Permanent Fund Corp, with millions of dollars in GameStop shares, eyes stock surge warily

A GameStop store.
A GameStop store. (JeepersMedia/Creative Commons)

GameStop made headlines in January when individual investors sent the video game store’s stock soaring to the dismay of hedge fund investors. Read more.

9. Biden administration puts Arctic refuge leases on ice as it asks for new environmental reviews

a group of people standing with a sign that reads "sacred lands not for sale; stop arctic oil extraction"
Defend the Sacred AK, a group opposed to oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, stands in front of the Anchorage BLM office on Jan. 6, 2021, the day of the first-ever oil lease sale for the Refuge. (Jeff Chen/Alaska Public Media)

The oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were issued to Alaska’s state-owned economic development corporation and two smaller companies in the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency. Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, vowed to adopt permanent protections for the refuge. Read more.

10. Resigned hospital exec Andy Teuber missing after helicopter disappears near Kodiak

A portrait of a man with a half-zipped fleece
Former ANTHC president Andy Teuber (University of Alaska Photo)

Health care executive Andy Teuber went missing in March soon after the Anchorage Daily News reported that his 27-year-old former executive assistant accused him of abusive treatment and coerced sex. Read more.

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