Last winter, up in Ottawa County, Michigan, John Dykstra saw dozens and dozens of wild turkeys--he estimates 50 or 60 on most days--flocking in a field at the back of his woods. He couldn't get close enough to them to take good pictures, so he moved an old metal shed building out there, cut a hole in the wall facing the field frequented by the birds, and sat and waited with his camera. The turkeys came back.
But Dykstra's wild turkeys don't look at all like the wild turkeys I've seen in Alabama and New England, which are much leaner-looking and not so fluffy. These have a thick body type similar to the huge-breasted domesticated birds. When I tried to do a little wild turkey research, however, I learned that there are several varieties, and that the ones I have seen before, even in Vermont and Maine, most closely resemble a variety said to be native to the Rio Grande region of west Texas and New Mexico. Go figure. Apparently, my understanding of all things wild turkey is all full of holes.
They say wild turkeys are making a comeback these days in many parts of the country, including Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they first pricked our cultural consciousness. Ben Franklin thought this bird ought to be recognized as our national animal, and he was onto something.
Jack Delano's 1940 photo of Pittsburgh has a cinematic feel to it, as the lady on the staircase descends into a dark and cold and spectacular kind of hell. That particular hell--with sulfurous fumes belching from roaring steel mills--went south a generation ago, abandoning western Pennsylvania to rust and poverty. Somewhat remarkably, the city has stirred from its decline and reinvented itself as a clean and shiny, almost high-tech sort of place. But all along, the sons and daughters of Pittsburgh have been growing up into American image-makers, people who have shown us what we look like, or would like to look like, or hope to God we never ever look like. Fred Rogers, with his sweater and sneakers and perfectly detailed little world of children's TV--wasn't Pittsburgh's first or last cultural chronicler.
Early on, there was Stephen Foster, of Swannee River and Camptown Races fame, and then the painter Mary Cassatt, the modernist Gertrude Stein, and the Tarzan, Johnny Weissmuller. Some of the Pittsburghers have worked right up to the cultural edge--Andy Warhol--and some have walked us up to the brink, where we could glimpse a frightening future--Rachel Carson.
Most notable, perhaps, were all the guys who played football, generation upon generation of Pittsburghers who were big and tough and fast and focused: Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Mike Ditka, Larry Brown, Nick Saban, and way too many others
Then there were those who worked the cultural currents of the times: e.g., Bobby Vinton, Lou Christie, Charles Bronson. And the ones who have risen above their times, soaring elegantly: Gene Kelly.
But who took the neighborhood in this picture and warped it into a dark corner of the American consciousness? Back in the early days of television, Fred Rogers hired an imaginative young assistant who moved on to Hollywood and directorial fame and fortune--guy by the name of George Romero--whose first big hit opened a seam of movie-dom that has been dug ever deeper to this day: Night of the Living Dead.
And for what it's worth, Pittsburgh still has more than 700 staircases officially registered as city streets.
To be more precise: at least one mitten came off late in the afternoon of Christmas day when Hank and Al had at it on the bluff above Kettle Cove, on the nearly snowless southern coast of Maine. It wasn't a real fight, just a little sibling rasslery.
Paris in the wintertime can be chilly, especially if, like Addie Coslett, you've spent the past year in the tropics. Big mittens can help a lot.
Addie has been working for a bank in Bangalore that finances microloans in impoverished Indian villages. She bought the mittens while hiking in Kashmir. They made a big hit in Paris, where she stopped off on her way to the states for a holiday visit; strangers stopped her and asked if they could take a picture.
In the usual iconography of the temple or the local Wok
you would never see him doing such a thing,
tossing the dry snow over the mountain
of his bare, round shoulder,
his hair tied in a knot,
a model of concentration.
Sitting is more his speed, if that is the word
for what he does, or does not do.
Even the season is wrong for him.
In all his manifestations, is it not warm and slightly humid?
Is this not implied by his serene expression,
that smile so wide it wraps itself around the waist of the universe?
But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.
This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling,
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.
He has thrown himself into shoveling snow
as if it were the purpose of existence,
as if the sign of a perfect life were a clear driveway
you could back the car down easily
and drive off into the vanities of the world
with a broken heater fan and a song on the radio.
All morning long we work side by side,
me with my commentary
and he inside the generous pocket of his silence,
until the hour is nearly noon
and the snow is piled high all around us;
then, I hear him speak.
After this, he asks,
can we go inside and play cards?
Certainly, I reply, and I will heat some milk
and bring cups of hot chocolate to the table
while you shuffle the deck,
and our boots stand dripping by the door.
Aaah, says the Buddha, lifting his eyes
and leaning for a moment on his shovel
before he drives the thin blade again
deep into the glittering white snow.
Carol and Sandy Fuchs spent a week in northern Sweden recently, including New Year's at the Ice Hotel near Kiruna, about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The sun never rose above the horizon the whole time they were up there, though the dark of night faded into a sort of twilight for a few hours in the middle of each day.
They tried dogsledding and snowmobiling and visited with reindeer herders. The town of Kiruna is a thriving iron-mining center, where the hundred-year-old mine is nowhere near played out; it is currently expanding closer and closer to the town, which is gradually being relocated to escape the blasting and other mine activity.
The basic structure of the Ice Hotel is made of snow; in November each year, snowguns spray artifical snow over arched metal forms, which are removed after a couple of days, leaving igloo-like tunnels. Interior walls are made of two-ton ice blocks cut from the Torne River and returned to the river when the place starts to melt in April or May. The ice is cut in March and stored for the next winter's construction.
Beds are platforms of ice and snow covered with reindeer hides. Guests sleep in sleeping bags. There are ice sculptures and specially carved ice chairs and tables in the rooms, but according to Carol guests don't usually spend much time lolling about in chairs made of ice. Although she slept well, she reports that Sandy hardly slept at all; he was worried that if he relaxed and closed his eyes, he'd freeze to death and never wake up. The room temperature was about minus 5 Celsius, or 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
The hotel has an ice bar, where drinks are served in glasses made of ice. There's also a restaurant, which serves hot food on regular dishes, in front of a blazing fire.
I'm thinking that part of the rationale for a winter vacation in Arctic Sweden is that it must feel pretty good when you leave; wherever you spend the rest of your winter, even if it's in what you normally consider a fairly wintry sort of place, must seem bright and sunny and maybe even toasty by comparison.
This has been an El Nino winter in California, meaning that the Pacific breezes have functioned as a conveyor belt bringing storm after storm into the state. Sheets of cold rain blow through the coastal cities and into the Central Valley, where the storms bump up against the Sierra Nevada mountains, try to crawl up over them, and get stuck. A single storm can last four or five days in the Sierras and dump 50 or 60 inches of snow or more at higher elevations. This year, the Sierras are by far the snowiest part of the country.
The cabin in these pictures is near Mammoth, California, a ski area where all the snow is properly appreciated. The snow in the doorway represents one night's accumulation.
Here in Maine, we've had our share of snow, followed by a January thaw last week--tons of rain that left things looking almost springlike till the cold came back. And in Maryland, it's snowing even as I type. But I hear tell that soon it will be February.
Only in Washington, D.C., in the year 2010, does a snowball fight feature lawyerly liability disclaimers, new-media marketing, and streaming traffic reports.
A heavily promoted snowball fight at Dupont Circle on Saturday attracted about two thousand participants, most of them adults, even though the snow was said to be too fluffy for decent snowballs. For every actual snowball thrower there appear to have been several would-be cell phone videographers, whose work may be assessed on YouTube. Six police cars waited nearby, but nothing happened. Some people attacked the fountain in the center of the circle by throwing snow at the people defending the fountain; the fountain is still there, so perhaps the defenders "won."
Facebook pages and Twitterings promoted the event. Lawyers were involved; a disclaimer on Facebook warned: "You are coming to Dupont Circle Park on Saturday, Feb 6, 2010, to play snowballs voluntarily. The people spreading the word about the happening are not preparing any special equipment or conditions and may not be held responsible for your decisions and/or actions."
Radio station WTOP broadcast warnings to motorists, urging them to avoid Dupont Circle and other snowball-fight locales. Although the Dupont Circle "fight" attracted the most attention, Washingtonians apparently were out pelting one another with snow all over town. This picture came from some allegedly voluntary snow play in Meridian Hill Park, where an artist was using an old piece of artwork as a shield.
It's been a while since a puppy picture, so: this dog was caught on camera somewhere in one of those mid-Atlantic states.
The Washington Post today pointed out that now that the city had broken the old season-total snowfall record, this winter's snowfall was approaching the average for . . . Anchorage, Alaska, and Portland, Maine. I don't know about Anchorage, but in Portland our snowfall this year is way below average. And even when it's average, we don't get the whole winter's worth all in a couple of blizzards; I'm sure that would slow things down even up here.
Those of you outside the usual snowbelt have been asked, I'm sure, to find the fire hydrants in your neighborhood and dig them out. The fire fighters need the help, and I'm sure the dogs will be grateful also.
School's out this week for February break, but there's basically no snow hereabouts for the kids to play in. For Joshua, Emily, and Andrew, a trip to the artificial snow at Seacoast Park in Windham, Maine, solved the problem neatly. The kids went tubing all day Monday, and came home to . . . a forecast for plenty of snow on Tuesday. Winter's coming back to northern New England; the rest of the country can relax now.
The capital city of Iran sprawls up against the Alborz Mountains, which separate the Iranian plateau from the Caspian basin. Tehran has grown so huge--population 13 million--that smog usually hides the city from the mountains and vice versa. But every now and then, a snowstorm comes along and cleans the air.
According to the photographer, Michael Dauzvardis, this little weed in Channohon, Illinois, near Chicago, was hit hard by gusty winds blowing from all directions on January 19, 2010. The weed was bent almost double and scraped round and round, leaving perfect circular tracks in the snow.
The first step in making sense of this image is distinguishing the two kinds of white stuff, clouds and snow. There's a big area of clouds over the Atlantic Ocean at the right edge of the picture, especially in the lower right, and another batch of clouds near the top of the image, streaming southeastward from Lake Ontario. The two cloud regions are connected in the upper right corner by a puffy little cloud bridge over . . . Portland, Maine. But that's irrelevant to the main point.
The edge of the snow line is obvious, running almost straight westward from Long Island and New York City, and it's completely upside down and backwards. North of the snow line, bare ground and leafless brown trees are clearly visible to the sensors of a satellite hundreds of miles out in space. South of the line, the satellite registers bright white ground, buried deep in snow.
This is not how winter is supposed to be in the eastern United States, but in 2010, this is the pattern that held steady through most of January and February. It is just now breaking up, though there's still something of an upside-down snow line in northern New England.
What went wrong? Part of the blame lies with Greenland. Normally, a dome of dry, cold, heavy air sits over Greenland all winter long, known as the Greenland High. Storms in the Atlantic can't punch through this high pressure, so they steer around it, generally tracking up the coast alongside New England and into the Canadian Maritime provinces. This year, the Greenland High was diffuse and deformed and further south than usual, with a well-developed ridge near the North American mainland, far from its usual core. Storms crawling up the mid-Atlantic coast slammed into the high-pressure ridge and couldn't go any further; they wore themselves out dumping snow on Virginia and Maryland and New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
To compound the trouble, this was an El Nino year, meaning there were lots of storms with lots of moisture.
Does this have anything to do with global warming? Of course it does, but it will be years or maybe decades before the details of the relationship become clear. When a winter is snowier than average, or less snowy than average, or a high pressure feature is shifted out of its typical position--that's weather, not necessarily climate. There's always weather, blips and static that obscure the deeper patterns arising from long-term trends in climate. Only over time can the climatic signal be recognized amidst the weather-related noise.
Meanwhile, the snow in this picture highlights a completely unrelated geological phenomenon. Notice the snowy folds of the Appalachian Mountains, ridge upon ridge, all trending northeast-southwest. The Appalachians are hundreds of millions of years old, dating back to the tectonic processes that created Pangaea and then ripped it apart. If you click on the picture to get a larger version, you should be able to see three black snakey lines, rivers that cut right across all the mountains--the Potomac, the Susquehanna, and the Delaware. Does that make sense? Wouldn't it be more logical for big rivers to follow the valleys instead of ignoring the valleys and flowing across the mountains?
This unusual river behavior has been talked about for centuries; Thomas Jefferson wrote that the place where the Potomac cuts through mountains near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, was worth crossing the ocean to see. The place where the Delaware River splits a mountain range--the Delaware Water Gap--has been declared a national park.
How does it happen? It's a complicated story. The Appalachians are basically several mountain chains jammed together side by side. The westernmost chain is among the oldest, now quite eroded, but it was once high and steep, like the Alps. Big rivers formed to drain the high country. Later, as tectonic rifting opened the Atlantic basin, new mountains gradually emerged east of the original range. The big, powerful rivers draining the old mountains were strong enough to cut through the rising land, and so they held onto their river beds even as the mountains rose around them.
With this picture and tomorrow's, Good Morning is turning the page on winter. The groundhog and the calendar and even the weather may say differently, but the groundhog and the calendar and even the weather do not control this here Good Morning thing, so . . . Goodbye, winter.
Last month, when the depth of the snow in Reading, Pennsylvania, could be measure in cubits or furlongs or some such, many people dug their cars out and then tried to reserve the parking spots they'd dug by setting chairs in them. This is probably an inherited cultural practice; if you are born into a family that believes in claiming parking spaces with chairs, then that's what you will grow up to do. It makes good sense to you, practical sense and also moral sense. You did the work of digging the spot clear; why should somebody else who didn't shovel a single flake get to take advantage of your hard work and park their car there?
But there are also people who believe that parking spaces on a public street are public and can't be claimed by any one person. No matter what the weather, it's first come, first served at the curbside. These people may be in the minority, but they also believe their approach is rational and morally superior--and often, as in this picture, they have the city government on their side. In Reading and many other places, the city came along and took all the chairs away. This practice has the effect of inspiring people, grudgingly, to shovel out additional parking spaces as needed.
In Portland, we don't have this kind of problem. The city bans parking the night after a big snowfall, and the plows quickly scrape almost all the streets clean, curb to curb. This solution would never work in places like Reading, where there may not be enough driveways to hold cars during a street parking ban and where there surely aren't enough plows to clear the streets promptly.
So next winter, a lot of people will feel strongly that they need to do that chair thing again. But meanwhile, I'm calling it spring. Goodbye, chairs.
Sculptor Gerry Lynas prefers working in sand, but last February in New York he had no choice but to make do with snow. His "Two Feet of Snow" on W. 83rd Street in Manhattan was actually five and a half feet tall. It lasted only a day and a night; the next morning, one of the legs was in the gutter, perhaps from non-natural causes.
Lynas liked the consistency of that February 10 snowfall; he said he hadn't seen such nice, sticky sculpting snow in New York since 1977, when he built a thirty-foot wooly mammoth in Central Park.
Here's to a Memorial Day weekend of seasonably lousy snow.
There is a webcam at the North Pole. It's a security camera, basically, keeping an eye on all the scientific instruments that monitor weather, snow, and ice conditions at the Pole. The camera is solar powered, sensibly enough, so the picture-taking begins each year in April and continues into October. Today, polar weather is dry and sunny, perfect for snapshots, but I chose to post this image instead, from July 5, because of the hint of a rainbow in the sky.
The puddles are meltwater ponded on top of the sea ice; the Arctic Ocean itself is still completely ice-covered in this photo. Since 2002, when the first webcam recorded this phenomenon throughout the Arctic summer, meltponds have first appeared as early as mid-June and as late as August. Most years, the ponds have spread to cover most of the sea ice by mid-August, before freeze-up begins again in late August. But in 2008, for reasons unknown, only a few small ponds appeared, and they'd barely begun to spread at all when freeze-up started.
So far, melting in 2010 has followed a pattern typical of the average North Pole summer--at least average for recorded North Pole meltpond history, which dates back only to 2002.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which operates the webcam, has assembled the snapshots into videos, which are posted on Youtube. You can see the snapshots and access the videos from NOAA's Arctic Gallery website.
This being Philadelphia and all, we might have a winter this year, but then again we might not. So far, we've had about half an inch of snow and half a week or so of ridiculously cold weather. This is the evening rush hour Thursday on 21st Street.
You don't see all that many pictures featuring slush. The slush featured here is in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, but I think the takeaway is that Slovenian slush and American slush are kinda hard to tell apart.
The way I see it, there's not much point in digging out my car before the plow comes around, and it hasn't shown up yet. So the work Margaret White took care of today is still ahead of me, waiting for another day. I'm okay with that.
Our street, Kater Street, is what they call a "small street" in Philadelphia. It's plenty long--almost river-to-river, the entire length of Center City--but it's narrow, narrow, narrow. Regular-sized garbage trucks and snowplows can't fit through. The city operates special skinny garbage trucks for us small-street folks, and I once saw what looked like a lawn tractor from the parks department, chugging down the block with a plow fitted to its front. However, that was back in December.
Today, the kids on the block built a snowman in the middle of the street, with a carrot for a nose and almonds for eyes. He's not blocking any traffic. It's quiet here, with the cars all shrouded and still. If spring comes before the snowplow does, if the snowman has a chance to just shrivel up in the afternoon sun . . . well, it could save me a lot of shoveling.
I always thought they were called sycamores, but no, the people who know these things tell me that city trees that look like sycamores are actually hybrid variants called London planes. Real sycamores, we are told, are too crooked to serve well as street trees, so things are what they are, and now that the old elm trees are no longer among us, we are left with London planes as kings of the sidewalks, with their fine white bark and annoying seed balls. This one is on South 21st Street in Philadelphia, near the corner of Kater Street.
The picture was taken about a year ago, when December was decidedly more wintry than has been the case thus far in 2011. But last year's decorations are up again, and the dusk is just as dark and just as early as I remember from 2010. Season's greetings are probably in order.
Some people, sometimes including some of my sons, bring in the new year this way. Maybe after a start like this, the rest of the year doesn't seem quite so rough.
But I say that's much too low a standard for 2012. Next year should be way, way, way better than an icy plunge, and way, way, way better than 2011, and just plain awesome. I lift my glass to good times all through 2012: love, warmth, health, wit, serendipity, hope against hope, and great kindness. Cheers.
This past Friday, the temperature in Madison, Wisconsin, at high noon was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It snowed all day. But just as on every other weekday since last March 11, a crowd gathered on the steps of the state capitol building for a boisterous Solidarity Sing-Along. These folks are among the same volunteers who recently collected more than a million signatures of voters around the state to ensure a recall election that they hope will depose their anti-labor "Governor Lazy" Scott Walker.
Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Three Monkeys, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) is also a noted still photographer. His recent works, such as this one, are panoramas of everyday scenes in cities and villages across Turkey. This street is in Istanbul.
As the vegetation suggests, winter weather is usually a good bit milder than this along the beachfront promenades of the town of Split, on Croatia's Dalmatian Coast. This winter has been particularly cold and snowy throughout much of Europe and even as far south as North Africa; temperatures have bounced back now, however, and this week Split enjoyed sunny afternoons with highs in the upper 50s.
Sunbeams break through gaps in dark clouds after an intense snow squall in Port Maitland, Nova Scotia. This is the sort of astronomical phenomenon that used to be used in ads for gospel albums by singers who are no longer with us, but it can occur any time that thick clouds blocking the sun get a little raggedy, most notably when the sun is low in the sky. This photo was taken 45 minutes before sunset last January 30.
They say we could hit 100 today, or if not today then tomorrow. Which of course brings to mind the proverbial cold day in . . . Alabama, back in approximately 1989, when Forest Lake froze over solid and young Ted put on a scarf and a red hat and went out for an adventure on ice. You may be able to make out a dark blob just behind his left shoulder; that was a log we put out to set a limit on the adventure; beyond that point, we weren't sure how thin the ice might be, and Alabama kids didn't know from thin ice.
The thing about a cold day in Alabama is: if it's cold enough to freeze a lake, it's certainly cold enough to freeze everybody's plumbing, which is not insulated well enough to function in serious winter. We had an ax that we used to chop holes in that ice so we could get buckets of water to keep the toilet flushing.
In the winter of 1957, my little sister Carol and I posed for a picture on the hood of my grandfather's Chevy, in the driveway next to our house in Silver Spring, Maryland. The house in the background across the street was identical to ours and to all the others in the neighborhood.
Neighborhoods like ours were called GI tracts back then, new subdivisions built for the baby-booming families of World War II veterans, who bought the houses with no down payment and bargain-rate VA mortgages. Every house was soon overflowing with kids; seven children grew up in that house across the street, and the houses on either side of ours both held six children. We never ran out of kids to play with.
A brand new school was built for us; it opened the year before I started kindergarten and was overcrowded from day one. But it was only a few short years, maybe fifteen or twenty, before the demographic bulge had moved on and MacDonald Knolls Elementary School actually closed down for lack of kids. The school building is now privately owned, used for office space with a small daycare center in one former classroom.
The neighborhood in general has morphed from GI tract to what I guess would be designated an ethnic community; most of the families living there now are Vietnamese, as are the businesses in nearby shopping centers.
I took the picture below of our old house about five years ago. It's a leafy, tree-shaded kind of place now, which was definitely not the case back in the day, though neighbors had put out small trees, supported by guy wires that we used to trip over. The house itself looks well-kept and largely unchanged, except for new windows and siding and a fancy new storm door.
Perhaps the most significant change is in the driveway: there are two cars there now, which is perfectly normal in 21st-century America, but back in the 1950s each family had only a single car. On Monday mornings, after the fathers drove off to work, the neighborhood was pretty much empty of cars and we kids had the streets to ourselves.
The second car is necessary because middle-class life now requires a second wage-earner. I read recently that since the Great Recession more and more households are needing a third wage-earner to make ends meet; new household formation in this country is almost at a standstill.
In the wintertime around the French ski resort of Les Arcs, the sun sets early; to get his tromping done, Simon Beck has to wear a headlamp along with his snowshoes. He'll stomp the snow, guided by his orienteering compass, for days on end, from can to can't, filling pristine snowfields with enormous works of art as big around as six football fields and impossible to fully apprehend except from high above.
Beck is an engineer by training and a longtime orienteer by profession. He roughs out the geometry of his designs using what he calls "a kind of reverse orienteering." Then he fires up the music on his MP3 player and slowly, painstakingly, stomps in the details.
He made his first snow designs in 2004. "The main reason for making them," he said, "was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise.
"Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera."
They've been getting a lot of snow this winter in Maine–a foot last weekend and a record 29.3 inches early in February from the storm they called Nemo, and more before and since and in between. This photo was taken after Nemo, in Portland's Old Port.
If this is the first week of March in Philadelphia, then it must be time for the Flower Show. Here in the Urban Gardens exhibition, we see a green wall of collards and kale, growing in dirt packed into a latticework on the wall.
Both kale and collards are tough enough to last well into the wintertime in Pennsylvania, so something like this could theoretically eke a little green wonderfulness out of a tiny little yard like mine during the season after the tomatoes are all tuckered out. I'm sure that a green wall is way too demanding, both green-thumb-wise and carpentry-wise, for a wishful sort of lazy gardener like me, but I can already taste that pot liquor.
Meanwhile, needless to say, they're finally predicting a little snow for our city.
On a cold night in January, more than two hundred firefighters from all over Chicago battled a huge blaze in the Harris Marcus warehouse in the city's Bridgeport district. The job was complicated by extreme cold, as hydrants froze and ladders iced up; the water department was called in to de-ice the ladders with steamers.
The next day, embers in the smouldering ruin reignited, and firetrucks had to go back there and spray even more water.
Japanese macaques, native to much of the country, are the world's northernmost species of non-human primates. They can tolerate below-zero temperatures (F) and spend months at a time living in the snow.
Some but not all of the snow monkeys congregate in and around hot springs during the wintertime.
The cold and the storms both showed up in Philadelphia this week, but somehow the effect we see here in a high mountain valley in the Tyrolean Alps is a little more dramatic and astonishing than it is out on the streets and sidewalks of Brotherly Love. Pretty much all we've got in town right now are slashing rains and chill.
The Dreamlifter, world's largest cargo plane, stops off regularly in Anchorage, Alaska, en route from parts suppliers in Japan to a Boeing aircraft assembly plant in Everett, Washington.
Some of the parts that travel by Dreamlifter are large modular sections of Boeing 787 jetliners, known as Dreamliners. The sub-assemblies, much too large for other cargo planes, used to be transported by ship, which could take thirty days or more and sometimes led to delays in final assembly.
In 2005, four 747 passenger planes were remodeled to fly as cargo planes carrying the sub-assemblies, which are loaded through a wide hatch at the stern. Other cargo planes can carry more weight, but none can match the four puffed-up Dreamlifters for sheer volume of storage space.