Another day, another new view – though not immediately as we didn’t pull into Ketchikan until around 11AM. We were the 4th ship there – so it must be a popular stop for cruise ships visiting Alaska. At least this left plenty of time to pop upstairs for breakfast. I think the whole ship was of the same opinion – for the first time, the place felt crowded. It was a bit of a challenge finding somewhere to sit for breakfast but all good, I achieved this difficult task eventually 🙂 As an aside, I do like the way the lifts in the ship reminds you which day it is…
Since this was a later than usual off-boarding time, practically the whole ship wanted to get in to town at the same time, so there was a big queue snaking down probably half the length of the ship. Happily though, it did move nice and fast and before long we were in Ketchikan proper. You couldn’t get much closer to town if you tried – the dock kinda runs parallel to the main street.
We had a quick wander around town, which consists mainly of alternating jewellery shops and souvenir shops. Buying jewllery whilst on a cruise must really be a big thing. They sell it on the boat, they sell it in every port. I wonder if it’s just some rich people’s competition to see who can acquire the most diamonds (and tanzanite, whatever that is) at each port stop.
We’d booked a tour and before long it was time to go. Off the ship, into a boat. This was the ‘Misty Fjords and Wilderness Explorer’ tour, travelling to (can you guess?) the Misty Fjords National Monument. Misty Fjords – sounds a bit like a film star, but no. We saw plenty of evidence of places where glaciers had once carved out the mountains – these are the U-shaped the valleys. The V-shaped valleys are ones carved out by water. There was, as seems to be everywhere in Alaska, an over-abundance of awe-inspiring scenery everywhere you look. And as luck would have it – we also saw a bear, in the wild, down near the water.
One of the unusual standouts was New Eddystone Rock, all thats left of a volcanic plug from millions of years ago, standing proud on its own.
Rudyerd Bay offered some crazy-steep sheer cliff faces, so steep that for once there were patches where the trees could not grow. This part of the world gets 156 aches of rain so it’s unsurprising the trees grow absolutely everywhere. And this makes it all the more remarkable that today so so incredibly clear, free from fog, just heavy on the sunshine – yes, you can get sunburnt in Alaska so we remembered to Slip Slop Slap.
On the way back we learnt a little more about Tlingit culture from a member of the Tlingit tribe who was on board. Important note for my brother – they use Red Adler for making their spoons, as it doesn’t transfer much flavour. Having said that, this is also the wood that is used in Alaska for making smoked salmon. We learnt a bit more about totem poles. There are a few kinds, the main one basically acts like a house number, so you know which house is yours. Each of the Eagle and Raven clans also have sub clans – so these main and sub clans are carved into a totem pole to say “The Eagle / Frog / …” family lives here. There are also story poles – which do not actually tell a whole story, but server as a visual reminder for the storyteller, as the Tlingit maintain an oral rather than written history. There are also the shaming poles which I’d written about earlier.
On the way back, suddenly there was a bit of a commotion and the boat sowed right down. Somebody had spotted a whale. Pretty cool! Of course, everyone on the boat dashed over to the side, and I managed to get some great photographs of some guy’s arm and the back of his head. Ah well, I did eventually manage to capture a bit of the humped-back of the humpback, but Perry wins a prize for managing to get a picture of the tail. It wasn’t very big as far as humpbacks go – even at their largest they’re only about 14 metres long, and this one I’m sure was a lot smaller than that.
Something useless that I also learned … polarising sunglasses and plexiglass windows make for pretty colours 🙂
Also while on the way back we were taught, again, about the five types of salmon. You can learn too – got your salmon fingers ready? Let’s go!
Thumb: Rhymes with Chum so this is for Chum Salmon (also known as Dog Salmon). Not the favoured kind, its flesh is quite squishy and not firm.
Second Finger: Have you ever socked someone in the eye with your pointer finger? (yes, it’s an Americanism, deal with it…) – well second finger is for Sockeye Salmon.
Third Finger: The longest finger. It could be considered the king of fingers, right? So third finger is for King Salmon – also known as Chinook Salmon
Fourth Finger: The ring finger – and isn’t it nice to have a silver ring on that fingers. So, fourth fingers is for Silver Salmon.
Fifth Finger: The pinky. So fifth finger is for Pink Salmon.
There you go – an easy way to remember the five types of salmon. I didn’t have to look any of this up as I typed it, so it must have worked! 🙂 I think today’s tour is about the fourth time somebody has taught us, so it had to stick in my brain eventually. They sure take their salmon seriously up here. Some of the old John West ads are starting to make a bit more sense now, too 🙂
That was about it for this tour – a great opportunity to see some of the more unusual aspects of Alaskas scenery (that weren’t glaciers). We then made sure we were back on the ship in plenty of time, now we’ve seen what happened if you’re not.
Tomorrow is our last full day of cruising, it was a bit sad to see this in our ‘letterbox’ outside the room.
Even though there is no port stop tomorrow, at some time tonight, officially, we will be in Canada. Hi Canada!