Go West Old Man - Fall 2005 travel blog

morning mist

three whales

whale and scenic island

whale tail


intrepid explorers

Patterson Glacier

Patterson glacier

the vast vastness

melt hole

The captain jolted us out of a deep sleep early this morning to let us know that whales had surrounded the ship. They were feeding in our area and didn't seem to care whether we were there or not. Their movements were determined by the schools of fish that they were having for breakfast. Just when you thought that they had left the area, it was time to take another breath and spouts broke the surface of the water, giving us a hint of where to aim our camera lens. A chart hangs in the ship's office, with many photographs of humpback whale tails. No two are alike and scientists use this photos to track the whales - a bit like recording fingerprints. The show lasted over an hour, but our schedule demanded that we move on.

In the afternoon we stopped in Petersberg, a town untouched by tourists, hardy a T-shirt store in sight. The story goes that a Norwegian fisherman from Seattle came to this area at the turn of the century and was impressed by the quanity of available fish. He was even more impressed by the sheltered harbor and what clinched the deal was the nearby LeConte Glacier. Once he caught some fish, he chilled them with glacial ice and shipped them fresh to Seattle. His Norwegian fisherman friends were impressed with his find and brought their families to the area. Voila the town was born and the fisherman by the name of Peter has been honored here ever since. There was still some evidence of the Norwegian influence; many of the homes were decorated with rosmalling. As we strolled through the town it was easy to notice the fish canneries; this is a town that stayed true to its roots all these years.

A high point of our day was the opportunity to fly by helicopter to nearby Patterson Glacier. Six of us were wedged in like sardines as we moved up the ice face. Our pilot looked for a likely spot, landed, and turn us lose to wander around. Drizzle hung in the air and made the ice even icier. The only spots where we could get a firm footing where the gravelly bits that had been scraped off the mountain walls. We were surprised that we could see melted water deep in the blue cracks on the face of the glacier. On the way back we also landed in muskeg, what Alaskans call bog. A beaver dam had caught our pilot's eye. He did not turn olff the rotors. If he had, we would have started sinking into the muck.

Our bus driver told us that she had built her home in muskeg. To do so you are required to sink pylons into the bog into you hit bedrock. On one side she had to go down twelve feet; on the other side eighteen. Even though it rains 100 inches of rain here, she never has had a flood in her home. Maybe we could send some muskeg to New Orleans...

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