A Travellerspoint blog

North to Alaska - Crystal Symphony


overcast 60 °F

Our last stop in Alaska is the booming island and city of Ketchikan. Over the past 20 years, it has become quite commercial, but still maintains its charm. The streams are full of salmon - thousands of them -swimming upstream to their spawning grounds.

Ketchikan is named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town, emptying into the Tongass Narrows a short distance southeast of its downtown. "Ketchikan" comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin, the meaning of which is unclear. It may mean "the river belonging to Kitschk"; other accounts claim it means "Thundering Wings of an Eagle". In modern Tlingit this name is rendered as Kichx̱áan.

Our first stop was the Totem Heritage Center where 19th century totem poles have been preserved. This was a joint effort between the town and the Tlingit & Haida people and the poles still belong to the descendants of their makers. We then got back on the bus and headed out of town about 20 minutes to George Inlet Lodge for a crab feast of all the crab you could eat! They were wonderful. It was then back in to town to a recreation of a totem village.

Another wonderful day and the weather cooperated!


Posted by rpickett 18:07 Archived in USA Tagged ketchikan Comments (0)

North to Alaska - Crystal Symphony


semi-overcast 60 °F

Today we pulled into Sitka, one of the more important cities in Alaskan and US History.

Russian explorers settled Old Sitka in 1799, naming it Fort Saint Michael. The governor of Russian America, Alexander Baranov, arrived under the auspices of the Russian-American Company, a colonial trading company chartered by Tsar Paul I. In June 1802, Tlingit warriors destroyed the original settlement, killing many of the Russians, with only a few managing to escape. Baranov was forced to levy 10,000 rubles in ransom for the safe return of the surviving settlers. Baranov returned to Sitka in August 1804 with a large force, including Yuri Lisyansky's Neva. The ship bombarded the Tlingit fortification on the 20th, but was not able to cause significant damage. The Russians then launched an attack on the fort and were repelled. Following two days of bombardment, the Tlingit "hung out a white flag" on the 22nd, deserting the fort on the 26th. Following their victory at the Battle of Sitka, the Russians established the settlement "New Archangel", named after Arkhangelsk. As a permanent settlement, New Archangel became the largest city in the region. The Tlingit re-established their fort on the Chatham Strait side of Peril Strait to enforce a trade embargo with the Russian establishment. In 1808, with Baranov still governor, Sitka was designated the capital of Russian America. Bishop Innocent lived in Sitka after 1840. He was known for his interest in education, and his house, parts of which served as a schoolhouse, the Russian Bishop's House has since been restored by the National Park Service as part of the Sitka National Historical Park. The original Cathedral of Saint Michael was built in Sitka in 1848 and became the seat of the Russian Orthodox bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, and Alaska. The original church burned to the ground in 1966. Although the church was restored to its original appearance, one exception was its clock face which is black in photographs taken before 1966, but white in subsequent photos.

Sitka was the site of the transfer ceremony for the Alaska purchase on October 18, 1867. Russia was going through economic and political turmoil after it lost the Crimean War to Britain, France, and the Ottoman Empire in 1856 and decided it wanted to sell Alaska before it was taken over by Britain. Russia offered to sell it to the United States. Secretary of State William Seward had wanted to purchase Alaska for quite some time as he saw it as an integral part of Manifest Destiny and America's reach to the Pacific Ocean. While the agreement to purchase Alaska was made in April 1867, the actual purchase and transfer of control took place on October 18, 1867. The cost to purchase Alaska was $7.2 million, 2 cents per acre (US Currency in 1897). The block house where the transfer was made still stands.


Posted by rpickett 16:47 Archived in USA Tagged sitka Comments (0)

North to Alaska - Crystal Symphony


sunny 62 °F

Today, our stop was Icy Strait Point at Hoonah, Alaska. Hoonah (Xunaa in Tlingit) is a largely Tlingit community on Chichagof Island, located in Alaska's panhandle in the southeast region of the state. It is 30 miles west of Juneau, across the Alaskan Inside Passage. Hoonah is the only first-class city on Chichagof Island, the 109th largest island in the world and the 5th largest island in the United States. At the 2010 census the population was 760, down from 860 at the 2000 census. In the summer the population can swell to over 1,300 depending on fishing, boating, hiking and hunting conditions. "Hoonah" became the official spelling in 1901, with establishment of the Hoonah branch of the United States Post Office. Xunaa means "protected from the North Wind" in the Tlingit language.

The main tour here is bear watching as the area has the most dense population this part of Alaska. Some of the tours sighted bears, where others did not, as is probably quite common. We did not do any tours today, but just spent a few hours wandering around the few shops at the point, and took a walk on the nature trail through the rain forest.


Posted by rpickett 16:19 Archived in USA Tagged hoonah Comments (0)

North to Alaska - Crystal Symphony


overcast 60 °F

Our second stop of the Alaska adventure was Alaska's capital of Juneau.
The City and Borough of Juneau, commonly known as Juneau, is the capital city of Alaska. Located in the Gastineau Channel and the Alaskan panhandle, it is a unified municipality and the second largest city in the United States by area. Juneau was named the capital of Alaska in 1906, when the government of what was then the District of Alaska was moved from Sitka as dictated by the U.S. Congress in 1900. The municipality unified on July 1, 1970, when the city of Juneau merged with the city of Douglas and the surrounding Greater Juneau Borough to form the current municipality, which is larger by area than both Rhode Island and Delaware.

Another photography excursion today focusing on the Mendenhall Glacier and whale watching. The rain forest around the glacier is spectacular and lush. I was here 6 years ago and I have entered a picture of the glacier taken then, as well as the glacier today for comparison. The Forest Service estimates that the glacier will no longer touch the water in perhaps three years.


We then boarded a specially designed whale watching boat and headed to sea to watch the humpback whales which are feeding to prepare for their 3000 mile journey to Maui, where they will mate and give birth. Each whale's flukes are unique and we were able to identify whale number 1538 from a composite book of whale flukes put out by NOAA. This turned out to be one of the best tours I have ever done!


Posted by rpickett 11:20 Archived in USA Tagged juneau Comments (0)

North to Alaska - Crystal Symphony

Haines, Alaska

sunny 65 °F

Following our two days at sea, we tied up in our first port - Haines, Alaska.

The area around present-day Haines was called Dtehshuh or "end of the trail" by the Chilkat group of Tlingit. It received this name because they could portage (carry) their canoes from the trail they used to trade with the interior, which began at the outlet of the Chilkat River, to Dtehshuh and save 20 miles (32 km) of rowing around the Chilkat Peninsula. The first European, George Dickinson, an agent for the North West Trading Company, settled at Dtehshuh in 1879. In 1881, the Chilkat asked Sheldon Jackson to send missionaries to the area. Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian minister, was sent. Jackson built the Chilkat Mission and school at Dtehshuh in 1881, on land given to the church by the Chilkat. The Mission was renamed "Haines" in 1884 in honor of Francina E. Haines, the chairwoman of the committee that raised funds for its construction.

In the morning, we decided to wander around town and visit the two local attractions - the Hammer Museum and the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center. In the afternoon, I headed out on a tour with a professional photographer to capture some of the local scenery. As the weather was perfect, it was a great day in Alaska!


Posted by rpickett 18:07 Archived in USA Tagged haines Comments (0)

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