Sunday, 18 December 2011

Final Day

Final Day
The Inside Passage through SE Alaska is a maze of islands, channels, straits, sounds and narrows. We had left Ketchikan at 7.34pm the previous day and spent the whole of this day cruising southwards towards Vancouver. We were blessed with a gentle breeze, clear skies, slight seas and a noon temperature of 15 degrees C. Relaxing on deck, occasionally moving to sample food and drink in plenty, we lazed the day away watching the scenery pass by.
There was little evidence of work being done anywhere but I expect that this purse seiner had had a busy morning.
Later we stood at the stern rail watching the sun go down, not only on the day but on another wonderful experience in the American west.
At about 7.00am next morning we docked in Vancouver. We made the most of our final breakfast and left the ship at 9.00am for the trip to the airport and home. We had sailed nearly 2,000 miles from Seward which has to be added to our 400 miles overland trip from Fairbanks via Nenana, Denali and Anchorage.

Day 12 Ketchikan, Alaska

Day 12
We were safely docked at Ketchikan, port side at 12.31pm. 

Ketchikan is the 4th wettest place in the world. It can rain for a whole month, 31 days straight. We had arrived on a good day - it was not raining hard.
The city guards the Tongass Narrows and is neatly laid out as a strip along the coast, at the base of Deer Mountain 3,100ft on Revillagigedo Island. The first inhabitants were Tlingit tribes who set up a fishing camp at Ketchikan Creek. It grew to become the 'Salmon Capital of the World'. The shortage of land for building encouraged the creation of artficial flat surfaces by using stilts on the sloping hillside or piers and pilings out into the water.
We had opted to use our afternoon here to explore one of Alaska's least known but a most spectacular creations - Misty Fjords. Using a jet boat to reach this distant landscape we powered through the rain and cloud in relative comfort, firstly SE along the Revillagigedo Channel and then NE into the Behm Canal. We paused to view a bald eagle's nest and an indian pictograph, neither of which were readily distinguishable but one thing you could not miss was New Eddystone Rock.
Named by Cpt George Vancouver in 1793 this rock loomed up out of the fog. It consists of basalt that rose from a volcanic vent in the floor of the Behm Canal about 5m years ago. Glaciers have since scoured away most of the flow leaving behind this rock. Almost as if using the rock as a marker we turned right into Rudyerd Bay.

To our amazement we entered a fascinating and ethereal series of inlets and fjords.

The rain stopped and the wind became calm as we quietly glided across the water.

Whispy clouds draped the precipitous mountain sides providing an almost fairyland atmosphere.
The bay once belonged to the Nex'adi who would hike 5 days up the river flowing into the bay to set traps and deadfalls. The mountain called "Gweka'h" is one site where survivors of the Tlingit flood legend were saved.

Punchbowl wall in Punchbowl Cove between rain showers - above.
We paused for a while to await the arrival of a float plane joining us to exchange passengers.
But from this place where you experienced a halting feeling that could have persuaded one to linger longer for an inevitable Sirens embrace, we had to return to windy and rainswept Ketchikan.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Day 11 Juneau, Alaska

Day 11
Cosmopolitan Juneau straddles the Gastineau Channel with the main part of the city along a narrow strip on the eastern shore and the western suburbs on Douglas Island. It is the capital of Alaska but is only reached by sea or plane. There are roads but they do not connect to any other settlement. Joe Juneau and Dick Harris' 1880 discovery of gold in Gold Creek established its importance on the route to the Klondike and it took over the role of capital from Sitka in 1900. We arrived at Juneau at 7.00am and were due to leave at 5.30pm.

In the morning we headed out to a Musher's Camp deep in the beautiful temperate rain forest of Douglas Island. Spruce and hemlock trees drapped in thick layers of moss dripping in the mists of the sunrise greeted us.

We learned about the life of sled dogs and their musher, getting very close up and personal.

At least one dog had different coloured eyes.
We enjoyed a trip along a wooded trail being whisked through the trees on a wheeled sled pulled by very enthusiastic huskies.

When the ride was over we had a presentation by an Iditarod veteran followed by a cuddle with some adorable puppies.

In the afternoon we embarked upon what promised to be an exciting trip but in the event turned out to be somewhat disappointing. The Whale Watching and Wildlife Quest took us out into the Favorite Channel a branch of the Lynn Canal. We did see whales but only at considerable distance like this humpback caught just after surfacing and before diving again.
 Then, of course there was the occsional Stellar Sea Lion draped rock but not much else.