‘Low Sealing:’ 200-Kilogram Marine Mammal Blocks Alaska Runway

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

In Alaska, it's not uncommon for wildlife to wander onto an airport's runway. Over the years, workers have seen birds, caribou, polar bears and musk ox stray onto landing paths.

That said, a lounging seal – a 200-kilogram (450-pound) seal -- is far more unusual.

But that's what workers found at the airport in the nation's northernmost city on Monday. A seal estimated to weigh 450 pounds (204 kilograms) was removed from the runway at the airport at Utqiagvik (pronounced (oot-GHAR'-vik) by way of sled, KTVA reported.

A photo and video of the bearded seal lounging on the runway at BRW in the town formerly known as Barrow was shared by Scott Babcock on Facebook.

The state Department of Transportation got in on the fun by warning pilots of "low sealings" at the airport -- a pun on the "low ceiling" warning used to warn of low clouds and poor visibility. 

Meadow Bailey, the department's communications director, said Utqiagvik, an Arctic Ocean coastal community on Alaska's North Slope, experienced heavy storms Monday. Staff found the seal while clearing the runway.

The department's staff members are not allowed to handle marine mammals, so the seal was removed by North Slope Animal Control.

"Wildlife strikes to aircraft pose a significant safety hazard and cost the aviation industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year," Bailey said. "Birds make up over 90% of strikes in the US, while mammal strikes are rare."

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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