Sunday, September 21, 2008

The "Little Norway" of Alaska

Our ship today is the 354 foot long M/V Taku and she will take us south to the northern tip of Mitkof Island and the town of Petersburg, the "Little Norway of Alaska". This is a 200 mile, 11 hour trip through some truly beautiful waterways.

                                   We settle in for the long and leisurely journey.

                             The ship is comfortable and has a theater,

                                         a nice cafeteria with great food,

                                               and the usual decor.

                                         There are 44 sleeping cabins.

A enclosed, heated solarium where overnight campers often pitch their tents-

                                  -or use the lounge chairs with their sleeping bags-

                                        -and enjoy the view over this rear deck.

                     Others just use the ship's pillows and blankets to sleep on the floor.

                            We travel today through the Peril Straights--

                                   -and the Sergius Narrows.

We are in the Inside Passage heading south in the Nation's largest National Forest, the Tongass. With 17 million acres, it includes over 2,000 islands and 14,000 miles of coastline. It is the largest contiguous temperate rain forest in the world.

We meet the Fairweather that we were on last week on our trip to Sitka-

-and have a quick stop at the village of Kake to unload freight and passengers.

We see 20-30 Humpback whales on the trip, sea lions, several pods of Dall porpoises and many different kinds of birds. Look closely here and you will see two whale tails in this picture.

Rain comes often to these moss-covered wetlands, rugged mountains, countless islands and fjords amidst an intricate waterway and the sky takes on many changing patterns.

            It's a long day and we leave the ship in darkness to find our campsite.

                    Petersburg is home to one of the top fishing fleets in the world.

The first cannery was built here in 1897 and is known today as Peterson Fisheries, part of Icicle Seafoods of Seattle, Washington.

The main industry here is fishing, with several fish processing and cold storage plants along the waterfront.

These are stacks of semi trailers waiting to be loaded with fish products and shipped out by barge to larger ports on the coast.

There is a very large fish hatchery here. Chinook and coho salmon are raised here.

Coho will return here in about two weeks and their eggs will be taken for new hatchery stock.

This is the first Sitka Black-tail deer that we were able to get a picture of. It's smaller than Midwestern deer and has the distinctive black marking on it's tail.

Petersburg is off-the-beaten-path of large cruise ships, which cannot navigate the Wrangell Narrows, a winding, scenic waterway between Mitkof and Kupreanof Islands. We will be taking this exciting passage tomorrow afternoon on our way to Wrangell.

Located on an island over 100 miles from the nearest large city, Petersburg is necessarily a self-contained and self-reliant kind of place.

Here's a gal testing our her new all-electric car. It uses no fuel at all. It's a practical idea in a small town like this on an island where you really can't go very far or very fast.

The town's Norwegian heritage is well noticed with hand-painted floral designs, known as Rosemaling, on many buildings.

         The memorial to those lost at sea touches many in this small close-nit village.

Unlike many Alaskan towns, Petersburg was never a tent-and-log-cabin boomtown.

                                  It started with a cannery and sawmill-

                      -and still is marked by weathered boathouses on the waterfront.

                                                The view from our campsite.

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