A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon; The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune; Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew, And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou. --Robert Service, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew"
July 24: Vancouver: Gastown, Chinatown, SkyTrain/SeaBus
July 25: Vancouver: English Bay, Museum of Anthropology
July 26: Vancouver: Stanley Park, Dawn Princess embarkation
July 27: sailing
July 28: Ketchikan
July 29: Juneau
July 30: Skagway
July 31: Glacier Bay
August 1: College Fjord
August 2: dock at Seward, Anchorage
August 3: Anchorage
This is a family trip and celebration, so let me introduce the players. There's Mark and I, celebrating our 25th anniversary August 27. There Mark's parents, celebrating their 55th anniversary September 7. There's Mark's sister and brother-in-law, Sherry and David. There's Mark's brother and sister-in-law, David and Susan, celebrating their 25th anniversary sometime next January. And there are David and Susan's children, Sara (age 11) and Jack (age 9). Yes, there are two Davids and they both go by David, so I'll use David G and David L.
Preparation for this trip-that is, reading up-was
much less than on most of our trips. I kept my eye on Usenet's
rec.travel.cruises and collected about 25,000 words on Vancouver
and cruising the Inside Passage area of Alaska. Since this was
our first cruise, most of my reading was about what cruises were
like. We did check out the Fodor's and AAA books on the area,
and brought along some appropriate reading: James Michener's Alaska
(not highly thought of as Alaska reading by people on Usenet),
Jack London's The Call of the Wild, Robert Service's The
Spell of the Yukon and Other Verses, and A Reader's Companion
to Alaska, I also brought some Russian literature: Tolstoy's
Resurrection and What Is Art? And Other Essays,
and a book of Russian short stories. And finally, George Eliot's
Daniel Deronda, which has nothing to do with Alaska, but
seemed like a fine book to reread while lounging on the ship.
Boy, was I am optimist! I never got to the Michener or any of
the Russian literature at all.
July 24: 5 AM pick-ups are no fun, but they beat driving ourselves, particularly in the rain.
The flight to Detroit was on time, but in spite of being 6:50 EDT to 8:35 CDT, no breakfast was served, just juice and coffee. Airlines are getting cheap-or is it just Northwest? (I will spare you the details of our airline ticket purchase, but suffice it to say we are now the proud(?) possessors of two vouchers worth $186.11 each on Northwest Airlines that expire in eight months. Apparently Northwest no longer refunds the difference if you have a ticket written when the price drops.)
We did get breakfast on the flight to Vancouver and arrived more or less on time. Immigration and customs were quick; "changing money" consisted of going to an ATM and making a withdrawal-much faster than the old way. The exchange rate is about US$1 to C$1.38, or C$1 to US$0.72. (Readers from other countries are on their own.) A quick rule-of-thumb, then, is to take three-quarters of the price in Canadian dollars to get the price in US dollars.
The Vancouver Airport is very new and modern, with a lot of Pacific Northwest design touches; because we're not flying out of there, we won't have to pay the stiff airport tax to pay for it.
We decided to spring for the C$9 each for the airport express bus rather than have to go to the other terminal and then change buses twice for the local C$1.50 bus. Somehow my backpack feels a lot heavier than usual; I didn't think I brought that many books. (This was a wise decision; when we went out later the buses were packed. Often there wasn't enough room at a stop for people to get on, let alone people with luggage.)
We were dropped off a block or so from our hotel, the Sylvia Hotel. This was recommended on the Net and is indeed a very nice old hotel right on the beach (well, there is a wide strip of park between the street and the beach, but that hardly counts). At the point where the park starts were about a dozen flags flying, equally divided among Canadian flags, British Columbia flags, and rainbow flags. As it turns out, this area of Vancouver seems to be the Greenwich Village of Vancouver-and this includes the widest variety of restaurants close together I've seen in a long time. So after we checked in, we had a choice of Chinese, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, Italian, Korean, Thai, Indian, or Vietnamese food for lunch. We opted for the last and had a hot and sour clam soup and a combo platter of steamed crepes and spring rolls at the Vina Restaurant, for a total of C$17. Mark also took a picture of a wall mural entitled "At the Movies" painted by Waclawik, so we can have everyone guessing who all the caricatures are.
After lunch we used the day passes we had bought for the buses (C$4.50 for unlimited use versus $C1.50 per ride) and took a bus to Gastown. (We got the transit map of downtown Vancouver off the Web.)
Gastown is the oldest area of Vancouver and was very run-down until someone decided in the 1970s to spruce it up. This seems to consist of filling it with tourist shops and restaurants; I suppose I have more sympathy with the latter. There were some shops with more expensive items of Inuit and Pacific Northwest art, but on the whole it was basically a large outdoor mall.
We did see the world's only steam-powered clock which "chimes" (actually whistles) every quarter-hour.
Walking south on Carrall Street down to Chinatown, we discovered where the "Skid Row" had moved to-the section of Carrall Street between Gastown and Chinatown. However, it didn't seem as dangerous as it would have in a United States city (though maybe that's just knowing I'm in Canada).
At the corner of Carroll and Pender is the Sam Kee Building, the narrowest commercial building in the world (at 1.5 meters, or a little under five feet). It came about when the city appropriated all but a five-foot strip of land from an existing plot. The neighbor thought he would get the five feet for basically nothing, but the owner decided to build to spite him. It has been renovated and is now occupied by the Jack Chow Insurance Agency.
Vancouver's Chinatown is the second-largest Chinatown in North America (San Francisco has the largest), but to my mind it's not anywhere as vibrant as that of New York. (But then what is?) I suppose it's quintessentially Canadian in that regard.
We walked through the Sun Yat-Sen Park at the Chinese Cultural Center, with its lotus pond with carp, and its Chinese-style gazebo. This, of course, is where Vancouver is perhaps better than New York, in that there are more little peaceful enclaves.
While I tend to compare cities to New York, visually Vancouver is more like San Francisco or Hong Kong because of the hills in the background. And culturally it seems much more like San Francisco also.
In any case, while there were some interesting stores, Chinatown in Vancouver seems a lot like the rest of Vancouver, since there is a large Chinese (and other Asian) population throughout the city. All along the road from the airport were businesses with signs in both English and Chinese, and this was not in Chinatown.
From Chinatown we took a bus to the Main Street Station of the SkyTrain, Vancouver's rapid transit system. SkyTrain trains run every five minutes between Waterfront Station and the eastern suburban area. Since it is elevated, it offers views of Vancouver and the surrounding area. Since it is included on the day pass, we decided it was worth doing-even though the outbound train we got on was very crowded. This, at least, we understood-it was rush hour. But it did empty out, and riding back we were able to get window seats since we got on at the very beginning of that run; in fact, never got off.
The round-trip took about an hour and a half, and we got off at the Stadium stop to try to find the Hotel Mark's parents were staying in. Unfortunately, we couldn't find it. (They said it was at "Pender and Hamby"; the closest we could come on the map was Pender and Cambie, but it wasn't there. It turned out to be at Pender and Hornby.) We had seen it from the airport bus, so we knew it was somewhere nearby, but that didn't help much. So we got back on the SkyTrain to Waterfront Station, where we caught the SeaBus across Burrard Inlet to Lonsdale Quay in North Vancouver. Not that there was anything in North Vancouver (that we knew of), but just to see the view from the water. We walked around the Quay for a bit and took some pictures of the Vancouver skyline, then took the next SeaBus back. (They run every thirty minutes.)
By now it was late and we were hungry, so we took the bus back to our hotel area and ate at the Ma Dang Cool Korean restaurant. It has a much smaller menu than the Korean restaurant back home used to, but the operative phrase here is "used to"; it's gone out of business and I haven't had Korean food in months. Mark had Bulgoki and I had Soon Doo Boo Ji Gae; the total was C$24.
When we got back to the hotel, there was a message waiting from Mark's parents. We had talked about getting together Friday but they weren't interested in what we had planned, and vice versa. So we decided we would see enough of each other on the boat and would do separate things tomorrow.
We had now been up for about twenty hours, so we
went to sleep.
July 25: We woke up early (no surprise!), so at 6 AM we went out for a walk along English Bay. It was very peaceful and empty at that hour, with a few joggers, walkers, and cyclists; later on it was much more crowded. (Despite being called "Rain City," Vancouver had beautiful weather while we were there.) We saw one woman standing facing the bay and reading, looking almost as if it were a religious exercise. There were lots of benches along the walkway for sitting and relaxing, and each had a little plaque written by the donor. Most were in memory of someone, making reading them a rather downbeat experience, but some were commemorating anniversaries and such.
We walked for about ninety minutes, then went back to the room. Around 8:30 AM we went to breakfast at the Bread Garden. I had a pan du chocolate and a latte; Mark had a shrimp wrap and an orange juice. Someone there saw Mark's palmtop and we talked to him for a while about palmtops and about Vancouver.
At 9:30 AM we got on the bus for the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. It's a ways out and we had to change buses, so we didn't get to UBC until 10:30 AM, and walking to the museum took another twenty minutes or so.
After we paid our C$6 each admission, we only had to wait a couple of minutes for the free gallery tour. The tour guide was okay, but seemed a bit confused by some of the questions.
The museum was designed by Arthur Ericson (sp?), who also designed the Canadian embassy in Washington DC. It is quite striking, with a large glassed-walled gallery for most of the totem poles, and a skylighted rotunda for the major Arthur Reid sculpture (more on that later). But the "Masterpiece Gallery" (where the smaller items were kept) did not seem very well lit. I can understand low lighting for some of the wooden objects, but the metal and stone objects don't need that. Then again, maybe it was just the contrast with the extremely brightly lit (by the sunshine) totem pole gallery. We didn't even get to the Koerner Ceramics Gallery, which has European ceramics.
The Canadian equivalent to the American (USian?) term "Native Americans" is "the First Nations." This actually makes more sense, since the Navajo (to pick a tribe/people/nation at random) are no more native than we: their ancestors also came from somewhere else, albeit earlier. Okay, much earlier. And people feel the term "Indian" is confusing and inaccurate, although a survey in the United States showed that more "Native Americans" actually preferred to be called Indians than Native Americans, though most had as their first choice their particular tribe's name. But "First Nations" avoids a lot of that. It says that their ancestors were here first, but does not imply that they are completely native to here. And "First Nations" implies a group of nations, each of which is a group of individuals. So the doubly plural term reminds us that they are many groups, not just one.
In any case, there are about forty distinct nations along the Canadian Pacific coastline. The museum itself is built on Coast Salish (Musqueam) land traditionally used as a lookout site rather than a village. (I assume the guide meant land that had once been occupied by that group; I won't get into whether they currently claim the land or not, since I don't know.) According to the guide, one reason that these people had time for carving totem poles and doing other art is that they were not nomadic and were well-provided with food by the surrounding forest and ocean.
The guide showed us poles from several groups, noting some of the differences among them. The Musqueam had shorter poles and carved in very high-relief (using wood so thick that the animals look as if they were separate and were attached, and only on close examination do you realize that it's all one piece). They also use a very realistic style. The Kwakwaka'wakw have a very stylized and dramatic style. The Haida (Xaadas) retain the curve of tree, carving shallow figures, with everything "held in" (arms flat against the body, etc.), and oversized heads. Haida and Kwakwaka'wakw poles have interlocking figures, but Tsimshian poles have completely separate figures. Nishga poles have deep, smooth carving.
In addition to tribal differences, there are also individual differences, at least among modern First Nations artists. For example, adze marks are considered practically a signature of artist, and there were examples of the differences in those.
Totem poles are not gods or idols, we were told. They are also not art, and they don't tell a story per se. A pole does tell the lineage and status of the chief who commissioned it (only a chief could commission a pole) and the images that could be used were very "regulated" (in the sense of having to follow certain rules). It seems to me to be in a sense like heraldry. The guide seemed reticent to try to explain what a particular totem pole meant or was saying, but did say that perhaps the bottom image would be from the chief's background, the next one up from his wife's, then the next one from his, etc. She did say that the top tells us the chief's status, with rings around it or the figures on it indicate how many potlatches the chief has given. The totem poles were mostly painted, although in the Pacific Northwest climate the paint doesn't last long. There are also songs and dances to go with them. A flat back on a pole indicates it was an exterior poles designed to go against a house. Interior poles have indentations at top for the beams. There are also welcome, memorial, and mortuary poles.
The figures represented are animal, human, and supernatural. One often sees figures in transformation-for example, a bird, but near the beak is a human hand and arm, then feathers, then a human leg.
Some people think that the poles were not made until after European metal tools arrived. This might be when the Spaniards started trading offshore 1774, or when other Europeans arrived in the early 1800s. The Russians seem not to have gotten this far south. In answer to someone's question, the guide said that the museum tries to determine the provenance of the pieces, and does have a policy of repatriation (which goes slowly), although sometimes people want the pieces to stay in the protected environment of the museum.
We also heard about potlatches. Potlatches given to celebrate specific event that has just happened and are used to re-affirm the family's history. They are also used to pass down traditional songs, dances, and names. The idea was for the chief to amass a lot of wealth over a period of two or three years, then throw a party for several hundred people, lasting two or three weeks, and giving it all away as gifts, though these days it's usually from about noon Saturday until early morning Sunday. It sounds a bit like a Long Island bar mitzvah.
Missionaries tried to encourage the men of the area to carve for the tourist market, but everyone still worked for the potlatch. So eventually the potlatch was banned for almost seventy years in order to prevent the spread of diseases. The reasoning was that with such a large gathering, one person with smallpox could infect two or three villages. Of course, it wasn't large gatherings that were banned, just potlatches, and I'm sure if the same people decided to get together for a huge church meeting, no one would have objected. Another, less stated, goal was the idea that the people should be doing something more productive than making things to give away; they should make them to sell instead.
The Masterpiece Gallery contained smaller items made from gold, silver, stone, or wood. The silver came from European and later American coins, as there is none in the area. The guide pointed out an argilite carving with what she said were European images, a house, a woman in European dress, and even a camera. Since the piece was dated circa 1840 and there were no camera until around 1860, and even then they didn't look like the "camera" in this piece, I think she may have been confused.
There was a large collection of Hamatsa dance masks (part of Kwakwaka'wakw culture), though the guide noted that only three or four would be used at any one time. These were red, black, and white, and represented supernatural birds. This was the beginning of the "visible storage," like the museum of pottery we visited in Lima. While it's great if you have a specific area of interest and want to see those pieces, for the casual browser or even the average museum-goer the effect is a bit overwhelming.
The guide also explained how bentwood boxes are made and then finished up at Bill Reid's sculpture "The Raven and the First Men." This is the depiction of the following Haida legend: "The great flood, which had covered the earth for so long, had at last receded and the sand of Rose Spit (Haida Gwaii) lay dry. Raven walked along the sand, eyes and ears alert for any unusual sight or sound to break the monotony. A flash of white caught his eye, and there, right at his feet, half buried in the sand, was a gigantic clamshell. He looked more closely and saw that the shell was full of little creatures cowering in terror in his enormous shadow. He leaned his great head close and, with his smooth trickster's tongue, coaxed and cajoled and coerced them to come and play in his wonderful new shiny world. These little dwellers were the original Haidas, the first humans."
There are a couple of things to note about this. What is most obvious is the use of the "trickster," who seems common to almost all mythologies. But something else not obvious is that Reid needed permission to create this sculpture and tell the story explaining it. The First Nations do not want other people to tell their stories and perhaps mis-tell them, so they own the copyright to them, or at least there is some such concept. The extended quote above is Reid's version of the origin, authorized by Haida elders.
The sculpture itself is made of over a hundred pieces of yellow cedar laminated together, and the figures have a range of ages and expressions, which is innovative for First Nation work. It is a larger version of his earlier "Raven Discovering Mankind in the Clam Shell." The latter is a few inches across; the former is at least ten feet.
There was also an exhibit produced by students at the university on the use of First Nation art and images in commercial work and especially in souvenirs. Mark thought this a little too political to be in a museum; I'm not so sure. There was a video of First Nations people talking about this and though one said, "It's not art, it's not trinkets, it's not a souvenir; it's my culture," they all called it "art" anyway. And where does culture end and art begin?
Being an anthropology museum rather than just a museum of British Columbia, there were some unrelated exhibits: one on the position of the cow in India, one on South Asian women in Canada, and several aisles in the visible storage devoted to items from the rest of the world. There was a small section talking about Sikhs, both their background and their current cultural clashes regarding wearing the kirpan and the turban. The former conflicts with airline security regulations; the latter with motorcycle helmet laws.
We had lunch at a stand outside run by a restaurant that specializes in native food and shared a buffalo burger and a smoked salmon (not lox!) sandwich. Oh, and two Cokes, which I don't think count as native food.
After this we saw the outside portion of the museum: two houses build in the traditional style and several totem poles, then walked over to the M. Y .Williams Geological Museum. This is a rather small (one large room) but does have a lambeosaurus skeleton and a set of giant elk antlers.
By now it was 3 PM, so rather than try to do the Maritime Museum (which would close at 5 PM), we decided to go back to Robson Street and do some shopping. We stopped in Eaton's (the major Canadian department store) and picked up a tchatchka. (We have the custom of picking up a small souvenir for each country or region that we visit. It needs to be small, cheap, typical of the area, and something a local would buy.) It's difficult to think of something Canadian that fits that description, but we settled on a small tin of maple syrup. (In Slovenia we ended up getting a bag of paprika, so this wasn't the first time we were this desperate.)
My main stop on Robson was Duthie's, the big independent bookstore in Vancouver. They now have ten stores, and their main store on Robson isn't even their largest. Their selection is good, and the staff helpful, but I had hoped for a better selection than is available back home, or at least different. But for whatever reason, they seem to have almost entirely American (USian) books and very few British ones. It seems to me that when we were in Detroit in the 1970s that Canadian bookstores had a fair selection of British books, so I'm not sure what has changed.
We went into a few other stores, included one called "The Tacki Shop." It was.
After going back to the hotel and resting for about
an hour, we went out again to dinner at the Saigon Restaurant.
We had Chicken Gran-Mere and Seafood Curry Hotpot-very good.
We then rode the bus the long way back (to see more of the city,
though it was mostly streets we had been on already).
July 26: We finished packing, then had breakfast at the Bread Garden before checking out and checking our bags.
We walked down to the beach and headed west toward Stanley Park, which began only a few blocks from the hotel. There is a five-and-a-half mile walk around the park along the seawall, and while we didn't go all the way to the end, what with getting there and back we probably walked six miles.
It wasn't very crowded at this hour, even though it was Saturday. We saw a couple of Great Blue Herons, and a lot of seagulls and ravens. At the tip of the peninsula is Siwash Rock, a fifty-foot pinnacle of rock which legend says is Skalsh the Unselfish, who was turned into stone by Q'uas the Transformer as a reward for his unselfishness. (It doesn't sound like a great reward to me, unless maybe it was after he died.)
We walked from English Bay to the totem pole area. This has about ten totem poles in a small clearing and a mess of tourists. (Mark says that "mess" is the right collective term for tourists.) The books say this a great photo stop and apparently every tourist in Vancouver thought so, or at least all the tourist bus drivers.
Crossing over to the eastern side of the park we could see the Vancouver skyline and off in the distance our ship, the Dawn Princess. That was a relief, although I'm sure it's not like worrying if the plane will arrive for your flight.
However, it was only 10:30 AM and we didn't board until 2:30 PM, so we went to the Vancouver Aquarium instead. The admission seems a bit steep (at C$12 each) and we spent some time counting money to make sure we'd have enough for the taxi to the pier if we paid cash rather than charging it. (It's always a challenge to not run short of foreign currency, but at the same time not have lots left over to change back.)
The main attractions at the Vancouver Aquarium seem to be the killer whales and the beluga whales, along with the sea lions and the otters. The sharks and the octopus are the next tier, and the fish come in pretty much last (possibly even behind the sea anemones, though ahead of the kelp). Given this, it's easy to see why a place like the New Jersey State Aquarium in Camden is having problems. When they started they had only New Jersey fish, but no one wanted to see a bunch of brown fish, so they finally decided to have some tropical fish as well. But they clearly lack the aquatic mammals that make museums like this popular. (The best aquarium I can recall was the one in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but that may have been for the open pavilion-style architecture as well as the gorgeous fish. It was only US$0.50, or C$0.37.)
There was also an Amazon rain forest exhibit, similar to the one we saw in the aquarium in Stockholm. This makes little sense, since they don't show you much in the water at all. I guess they figure the "rain" part implies water, so it is appropriate for an aquarium.
We finished at the aquarium about 1 PM, walked back to our hotel, and took a taxi to the Ballantyne Pier. Unlike the downtown Canada Pier, the Ballantyne Pier is way out of the downtown area, though the seediest section of Vancouver. We had thought of taking a bus, but we would have had to change buses and walk a few blocks, and given the combination of luggage and neighborhood I'm glad we didn't.
We handed over our luggage to the luggage handlers and went into a huge hanger-like building. We spent our last three Canadian dollars on Coffee Crisp candy bars, than checked in (right next to David L and Susan!), a fairly quick procedure. We got our boarding pass/ship charge card/room key and proceeded on to the ship.
Our room was on the Emerald Deck (Deck 6). This is two decks above the water line, and has a window. However, the window doesn't open and there is no balcony. We met our cabin steward, Rudy, familiarized ourselves with the room and safety regulations, and freshened up a bit. Our luggage hadn't arrived yet (no big problem, though I would have liked to be able to change my shirt).
The Dawn Princess has 24-hour dining. It's not for dieters but it did mean we could eat lunch at 3 PM in the Horizon Court (buffet restaurant). This is on Deck 14. There are 14 decks, with Deck 15, the Sun Deck, being the highest. There is no Deck 13, and there is a small area above Deck 15, but I don't think it's officially a deck.
After lunch we walked around the ship and changed clothes before emergency muster. This is what used to be lifeboat drill, but now everyone gathers at "muster stations" (one of the large rooms) from which we will be directed to lifeboats if necessary. Even though everyone was told repeatedly just to bring their lifejackets and not put them on until told to, a fair percentage put them on anyway. These are the same people who think the announcement to remain in their seats until the airplane comes to a full stop is the signal to jump up and start opening compartments and shifting luggage.
The ship itself is new, and very fancy (so far as I can tell, having nothing to compare it with). Lots of gleaming wood and chrome, and stained glass and glitz. Not perfect, though: the six co-located elevators are split into two sets and work independently (you push one button and it won't call the other bank). And the standard creamer for coffee in the Horizon Court is non-dairy. (To get milk you need to take a pint of milk and use that; there is no half-and-half.) More annoying was the fact the there was no rubber door stop for the closet door nearest the cabin door. So when you opened it, it would eventually swing against the cabin door, and sound exactly like someone knocking. The library's selection was okay, but heavily slanted toward best-sellers and show-business biographies. Strangely, they didn't have any copies of Michener's Alaska; perhaps they think it's too long to stock for a one-week cruise. The reading lights in the library had a most annoying flicker.
David L and Susan were bothered by the fact that neither Teen Center nor the children's area was open when the ship was in port, meaning if you didn't schedule a port excursion for your children, you had to find some way to entertain them when all the children's entertainment was closed.
I admit most of these are minor complaints, but I'm hardly going to list everything that works perfectly. There were also many positive touches: a hair dryer, bathrobes, pool towels (though only one bath towel per person), and a room safe only slightly less complex than a Lithuanian luggage locker. (See my Baltics log for details on how those work. The safes on the Dawn Princess do not require tokens.)
At dinner, we met our waiter Guido and our assistant waiter Daniel. I also overheard one passenger talking about his "Cabin Yahoo," which sort of crystallized my discomfort with the very classist structure here. This may seem somewhat strange, because there is a definite effort for the staff to joke with the passengers. But that's only some of the staff (waiters in the main dining rooms and entertainment staff such as tour specialists, but not the staff in the Horizon Court). And I'm sure Guido gets tired of all the Italian jokes he gets to hear.
The staff is apparently grouped by country: Italians in the main dining rooms, Jamaicans and Romanians in the Horizon Court and other eating areas, Nepalese and Filipino security staff, and so on. I found this peculiar, and unexplained.
We were scheduled to sail at 5:30 PM, but had to wait for some late-arriving passengers (I wonder how often this happens?), so didn't sail until 6:30 PM, right about when dinner started. We were all at the same table in the first seating, which is normally 6 PM but was a half hour later the first night. On the whole, I would recommend the second seating, not so much because you have to rush back early from shore excursions (which is less of a problem on this cruise than the Caribbean ones, I suspect), but because you're probably not going to be hungry by 6 PM, especially if you have gone to afternoon tea. (We took the early seating because of the children.)
There were several choices for each course at dinner. I had Tiger Prawn and Rock Shrimp Cocktail with Mango-Tomatillo Salsa, Iced Piña Colada with a Splash of Rum (this was theoretically a soup), Sautéed Flounder with Asparagus Tips, Profitiroles (Cream Puffs with Berries Soaked in Liqueur), and coffee. You can get grilled salmon, steak, or chicken at every dinner, and there was a salad and a pasta course that I skipped.
We didn't sail very far, but anchored in English
Bay so that we could watch the fireworks. Spain, the United States,
and China were competing in the areas of music synchronization,
overall design, music, color, architecture, and something else
(I know there were six categories). I think this was connected
with the international competition we saw in Schveningen in the
Netherlands, though now these competitions are more "Pyro-Musicals"
as the Captain called them, than just fireworks competitions.
There is more emphasis on the whole show, complete with rhythm,
structure, etc., which is partly why not having the sound for
the first number was a trifle annoying. They did broadcast the
rest of the music, though. This night's entry was from the Ricardo
Caballe firm from Spain (which has been in business for over a
hundred years) and was titled "Lights of Valencia."
Unfortunately, any breeze that there had been had completely
died down and the smoke failed to dissipate at all, meaning that
after about ten minutes all the fireworks were going off within
a black cloud. Only the finale was really visible after that.
July 27 (49N, 123W, sunrise 5:36 PDT, sunset 21:45 PDT): We got up early to sign up for the tours. Various places said this would start at 6:30, 6:45, or 7 AM, but when we arrived at 6:25 AM they had already started. The room had comfortable chairs and they handed out numbers as people arrived, so we didn't have to stand in line. We had decided to take the Mendenhall Glacier Helicopter Tour in Juneau and the Horseback Riding Adventure in Skagway. We didn't have any problem getting the times we wanted, though I heard people complaining that the tours sold out very quickly. David G and Sherry signed up for kayaking in Ketchikan and Mom, Dad, and David L for a city tour in Ketchikan, but we decided to just do a self-guided walking tour of Ketchikan with the tourist bureau map. (Partly this was because we were scheduled to leave Ketchikan at 2 PM, which didn't leave much time for walking around if we took a tour, and partly this was because none of the tours sounded that good.)
After finishing this we had breakfast at the Horizon Court, then sat on the deck (deck 7 port side, our favorite location) reading and writing. I was still reading Daniel Deronda, which I had started on the plane but had no time to read in Vancouver.
At 9 AM we went into the library to see what their "Brain-Waves Quiz" was. It was a word search, with all the words to be found listed-not exactly mind-stretching material. I did check out a copy of Lonely Planet's Alaska guide, so it wasn't a wasted trip. I figured it would come in handy during the port stops.
At 10:15 AM we went to a presentation on "Wild Alaska" given by the ship's naturalist, Dean De Phillipo. He began by talking a little about how the wilderness nature of Alaska affected the people living there. For example, of our three ports in Alaska, only Skagway is connected by road to anywhere else. The result is that one person in fifty-eight in Alaska has a pilot's license. Boats are also heavily used; as he said, "Water is really the story here." (Alaska has three million lakes, and I forget how many miles of rivers.)
Twenty thousand years ago, the whole southeastern part of Alaska was covered a sheet of ice by four to five thousand feet thick. The glaciers are just a small remnant of this. There are two kinds of glacier. There is a hanging glacier and a tidewater glacier, the latter being the more spectacular. They are formed not by rivers freezing, but by ice forming in a bowl, building up, and finally overflowing. At the lower end we may see calving, "the birth of the icebergs."
There are also blue moulons created by rocks which melt their way through the glacier. Don't drop your camera down one of these.
Icebergs can be white ice and or blue ice; the latter is much more compacted and has far fewer air bubbles. The pressure equalization of the ice in the icebergs after having been under tons of ice causes a lot of noise. And while icebergs may look stable because of their mass, they are not. The underside is constantly being melted and an iceberg may turn over at any time. (Toyota lost two cars to the bottom of Glacier Bay trying to film a commercial on an iceberg.)
De Phillipo then talked about some of the animals. For example, between 1917 and 1952 there was actually a bounty on bald eagles because they were thought to be eating the salmon, but eventually someone figured out that they're really scavengers, and now they are very strongly protected. It's illegal to possess even a bald eagle feather.
As far as mammals go, there are forty-nine species in Alaska. Many are fur-bearing and De Phillipo noted that there is a different attitude toward wearing fur here than there is in the Lower Forty-Eight.
The moose is not prized for its fur, but can occasionally be seen along the roads in meadows which have been cleared for plowing snow into. There are also elk and Sitka black-tailed deer to be seen.
More "exotic" are the whales (about which he would have a separate lecture) and the bears. The latter may be polar, black, or brown (of which the grizzly is one). The brown bear can be ten feet high and weigh 1500 pounds. The names "black bear" and "brown bear" are not accurate; either can be any color. The black bears are smaller, lack shoulder humps, and have curved claws for climbing trees. The brown bears are larger, do have shoulder humps, and have straight claws. They do not climb trees. So if you're being chased by a bear, climb a tree. If it follows you, it's a black bear.
Afterwards, we ran into David L, who was getting the position of the ship from his GPS (Global Positioning System). About noon we were at 50.62 degrees north, 127.14 degrees west.
We had lunch in the Horizon Court-it hardly seems worthwhile to spend the time to have a sit-down lunch in the regular dining room.
After lunch was more "deck time": reading, writing, and watching the scenery.
At 2:30 PM was "The Mysterious World of Whales," with Dean De Phillipo. He started by saying there were seventy-nine different species of cetaceans. The word comes from "cetus," meaning large sea animal, and "katos, " meaning large sea monster. Sometimes this is accurate, sometimes it is not. The smallest porpoises are about thirty-nine inches long; the blue whale gets up to 110 feet, and can weigh 190 tons. But they all traded their fur for blubber (albeit as a species rather than as an individual). Their front legs became pectoral fins, and their nostrils migrated from the front of their heads to the back.
When watching for whales, look for blows first, then look for their backs. The best times are the hour or so before arriving in a port or bay, and the hour after leaving. Stay forward so you can see them earlier and go to whichever side of the ship they go to, and look shoreward since whales prefer the shallower areas.
There are two kinds of whales, the baleen whales (mystocetes) and the toothed whales (odontocetes). The former include gray whales, fin whales, right whales, and humpback whales. Right whales are almost extinct in the Northern Hemisphere, though not in the Southern Hemisphere. And humpbacks can be identified by the fact that they show a lot more tail when they surface than other species. Besides the difference in mouths (baleens have baleen plates, while toothed whales have teeth, obviously), baleen whales also have two blowholes to the odontocetes' one. Part of the mouth difference is also that mystocetes have a large lower jaw and a somewhat flat upper jaw, while odontocetes have a large upper jaw.
The odontocetes include sperm whales, beluga whales, and killer whales (orcas). The killer whale has a large dorsal fin and a smaller blow than other whales. While they are quite popular in SeaWorlds, aquaria, and such, their life expectancy in captivity is five and a half years, as opposed to sixty to ninety years in the wild. They live in matriarchal pods.
De Phillipo told us about a beluga whale that would follow their small boat and dart up to it when it stopped, then back off. When they went into the water to see what was happening, they saw that the whale was watching the propeller. When it stopped, she would dart up and nudge it to start it spinning again.
During this talk we could definitely feel the motion of the ship, and we could see the screen swinging back and forth. Mark thinks it was because the captain was trying to make up the time lost waiting for the fireworks.
We went to the "Classical Concert," which had a Baroque piece ( Baroque string quartets are mostly re-arrangements of pieces for larger groups) and a Classical piece (when things were actually be written for string quartet). The latter was by Franz Joseph Hayden, the "Father of the String Quartet." They then played the last presto from "Divertimento #1" by Mozart, and the first movement from Dvorak's "American String Quartet," Opus 96. One of the musicians noted that although Dvorak was Czech, his two best-known pieces were both inspired by his time in the United States: the "New World Symphony" and the "American String Quartet." When they switched to the less-than-classical "It Had to Be You," we left.
This was our first formal night (preceded by the Captain's cocktail party, which we skipped). Mark wore a dark blue jacket and tie; I wore a tuxedo. David G also wore a tuxedo, but Dad and David L did not. Nor did most of the other men; I would guess that maybe ten percent of the men had tuxedos.
I'm not going to type in every night's menu, but just to give you an idea, here's what the choices were this night:
I had the caviar (golden, salmon, and Sevruga), the
chilled yogurt soup, the crayfish, birthday cake, and coffee.
The birthday cake was for David L's fiftieth birthday (which
was actually July 1).
Afterwards we went back to the room to work on a
puzzle Dad had given everyone, and ended up arriving at the show
("Odyssea") after it had started. It looked like all
the seats were full, and it was too dark to try to seek out seats,
so we went back to the room, changed, and went out on deck. When
the show got over, Mom and Sherry said it was really good and
we should see it, so we went back to the room, changed back into
our formal wear, and went to the 10:15 PM show with them. The
Chinese acrobats were reasonably good, and the dances okay, but
the songs were mediocre. Mom said it was much better than the
shows on her previous cruise (on Royal Caribbean).
Before going to bed we set our watches and computers
back an hour because we were sailing from Pacific Time to Alaska
July 28 (56N, 132W, sunrise 4:45 ADT, sunset 8:58 ADT): We docked at 6:45 AM in Ketchikan, "The Salmon Capital of the World." Well, it was at one time, though I don't think it is anymore. The sign proclaiming this remains over the main street, however.
We were on deck to watch the docking, then went back to the cabin to write until 7:30 AM when we met Mom and Dad for breakfast. David G and Sherry had to eat earlier because their kayaking trip left at 8 AM. And it's difficult to sync up with David L and Susan because of the children.
Ketchikan is also the Rain Capital of the World, or close to it. It gets 112 inches of rain a year, and has only 40 days of sunshine. It was sprinkling a bit while we were docking, and raining during breakfast. When we left the ship, it wasn't raining but we went prepared anyway.
We picked up a walking tour map at the visitors information bureau on the dock. This described a three-hour walking tour of Ketchikan, which pretty much covered everything. (Ketchikan is described as "five miles long, four blocks wide, and two miles up the mountain.") There is a native village that can be visited two and a half miles south of town, and Totem Bight State Park ten miles north, but we were in port for such a short time it didn't seem worthwhile to try to get there.
We started walking past tourist shops, with the occasional real store (e.g., drugstore, grocery) thrown in. There are several totem poles throughout the town, including the Chief Kyan pole (a 1993 replica of a 1885 pole), "Raven Stealing the Sun," and "Thundering Wings" by Nathan Jackson. (The name Ketchikan comes from "Keech Ka Xa haan" or "wings spread over.")
We walked along the Thomas Basin. It is now dredged and serves as a harbor for all the small boats, but it was originally tidal flats and served as the town's baseball field. Many is the game that had to be called when the tide came in!
It was about at this point that we realized that the "cash-free" environment on the ship had taken us over to such an extent that we had forgotten to bring any money! Luckily we realized this early on, and made a quick trip back to the ship to get our money out of the room safe.
By the time we started again, so did the rain. It wasn't heavy, just annoying. We walked up to the Totem Heritage Center, which is a relatively small exhibit of totem poles. There is someone explaining them, though. There are five types: mortuary poles (where the ashes of the deceased are placed in hole in back), memorial poles (these replaced mortuary poles after the missionaries pressured the Indians to stop cremating their dead), heraldic poles, potlatch poles, and heritage poles (showing a chief's lineage).
The woman explaining the poles was saying that she would be going to a potlatch soon, for the moving of her uncle's headstone. In answer to someone's question, she said that Tlingit potlatches have pretty much constant eating (like cruise ships?), but that Haida potlatches have distinct meals.
After this we went to the Deer Mountain Tribal Fish Hatchery (on a joint ticket with the Heritage Center for US$5 each). We learned about how the fish leaving the hatchery are tagged with a 1mm tag containing coded information. The adipose fin is also removed, and if someone catches a fish missing the adipose fin, they must return the head with information about where and when it was caught, so that the hatchery can track its success.
As far as the hatchery itself, salmon are caught coming upstream by means of a barricade across the river that shunts them to the hatchery. The salmon are killed to get the eggs and sperm, but they would die anyway after they spawn, and the salmon are eaten by local people. The steelhead trout have the eggs or sperm squeezed out of then, then are released, since they can breed for several seasons. The eggs and sperm are then mixed by hand, keeping the batches separate to guarantee genetic diversity.
The resulting fertilized eggs are put in holding tanks until they are old enough to release into the creek. They have a ninety percent survival rate of eggs to smolts, versus four to ten percent in wild. After they are released, however, there are still dangers, and only five to seven percent of the salmon return to spawn.
Odd note: The Tribal Fish Hatchery Cafe sells bagels.
We left the hatchery and the rain let up, giving way to glorious sunshine-amazing for Ketchikan. We walked down to Creek Street: "the only place where both fish and fishermen go upstream to spawn." In other words, it was the old red light district, but although all the buildings (or their restorations) remain, they are now all tourist shops except for Dolly's House, which is maintained as a brothel museum (US$4, but we skipped it). When it was finally closed down by the government during World War II, they held a "Close-Out Sale," advertising "a variety of sizes in two colors." We skipped the museum, but did stop for a Squirt (grapefruit soda) along the street, which is actually a long wharf along the side of the creek.
We went into the Tongass Historical Museum (US$2 each) in the library building. It was a small museum (two rooms), but had a good set of displays on salmon fishing, lumbering, mining, etc. The most interesting piece to me was the Truman Pole, carved by Casper Mather. His description is as follows: "This totem I carve to show how the world is now. At the bottom of the pole is the world. The long zigzag crack shows how it is divided into two parts. The Russian bear crouches on top of the world and growls. He think it belong to him. Big Chief Stalin is in top of the world. He is fierce, warlike chief. He want whole world to do as he say. The British Lion is above Stalin. he roars and show teeth. He always ready to fight enemies. Big Chief Winston Churchill is on top of British Lion. He lead people in big fight. He all time smoke big cigar. American Eagle above Churchill. Eagle very powerful and swift on wing. He come to help England win big war. Big American Chief, Harry Truman, look very stern. He hate war; wants peace. He says all peoples must be free. I hope some day there will be no cracks in the world."
There was also a display on felt button blankets, which became very popular as ceremonial wear by the Tlingits (the local Indian tribe) after the 1850s when the Hudson Bay Company brought in blankets and buttons.
This is as good a time as any to note that R. D. "Chuck" Jensen and E. L. "Wally Christiansen started the world's first cable television station here in 1949, mostly because they couldn't get a broadcast license.
Ketchikan also boasts the "only tunnel you can drive through, around, and over!"
We did a little bit of shopping, buying the obligatory T-shirts and some postcards. Then we returned to the ship just in time for lunch. Well, let's face it-any time on the ship is just in time for some meal.
The ship sailed at 2 PM and we went to a talk at 2:15 PM, "The Intriguing World of Dolphins, Seals and Sea Otters," which covered all the non-whale marine mammals. De Phillipo started with the manatee, supposedly the origin of the legends of mermaids, though looking at them, one has no idea why.
The walrus can grow up to ten feet long (the females are about half the size of the males). They keep warm with temperature regulation via blood. When they dive into cold water, the blood all moves inward to keep their internal organs warm. So when they come out, they are almost white, but they become pink as their blood flows outward again.
Otters are the cousins of weasels, and are unusual in that they use tools-they break open shells on rocks placed on their chests as they float on their backs.
Do you know the difference between sea lions and seals? Sea lions are autarids (or eared seals) and can also rotate their hind flippers under their bodies and stand up. What you see in the circus are sea lions. Seals have no external ear flaps and can't stand up. Also, sea lions propel themselves with their front flippers and steer with the hind flipper, while with seals it is the reverse-they propel themselves with their hind flipper and steer with the front ones. And seals also have a different shape (more "sausage-like").
As far as the genuine seals go, there are harp seals, harbor seals (which he said we would see here), and Northern elephant seals (an ugly son of a gun).
De Phillipo said that some environmentalists had been trying to save baby harp seals by spray painting a stripe down their back with indelible paint. As the seals mature they shed their coat of white fur and the paint with it. However, they had to stop when a naturalist pointed out that this also made them much more visible to polar bears searching for food.
And of course there are dolphins. In fact, there are seventy-nine species of cetaceans throughout the world, with fourteen species of whales and five of dolphins in Alaska. He mentioned Amazon river dolphins, or botu, who supposedly come out of the water and seduce women. He claimed that some birth certificates in Brazil actually list "Botu" as the father.
At 3:45 PM John Lawrence gave a lecture on "The Trail of '98" which we watched on the television in our room. Mark will undoubtedly write a lot about this subject, so I will refer you to his log if you want more detail. In any case, I'm moving the information down to the Skagway section, since that's really where the Klondike Gold Rush came through.
Dinner was Shrimp, Scallops, Crawfish, and Mussels Appetizer, Spinach Salad, Grilled Salmon, Pistachio Gelato, and coffee. There was always an appetizer, a soup, a salad, a pasta dish, the main course, and a dessert, but I usually skipped a couple of these courses. While we were sitting there, we looked out the window and saw a couple of whales (in the distance, but still they count). These are the first whales we had seen on this trip (not counting the aquarium), but we hoped not the last. [They were.] David G and Sherry said they really enjoyed their kayaking (well, Sherry said so anyway).. Mom and Dad had taken a city tour.
After dinner we watched a re-run of the lecture on
July 29 (58N, 134W, sunrise 4:43 ADT, sunset 21:23 ADT): We were awake at 6:01 when the power went out. It stayed out for five minutes, but since it was light outside and we had an outside cabin, we weren't really inconvenienced. Inside cabins, on the other hand, ....
We docked at Juneau fairly early. We had a 10:30 AM tour, so we went out about 8:45 AM to walk around a bit beforehand. We saw the statue of Patsy Ann, a dog who used to meet all the ships coming in. We went into the bookstore (Hearthside Books), which had a good selection of Alaskana (or whatever the term is), but not much for the people who lived there the whole year. The science fiction section was about twelve shelf feet with a minimal distribution of authors, with another nine feet of media tie-ins and other franchise books. I suppose their other branch, further away from the tourist streets, might have a better selection.
We decided not to take the Mt. Roberts tram for a panoramic view, since at US$16.90 it seemed a bit pricey.
At 10:15 AM we got on the bus and were driven out to the airport for the helicopter flight to the Mendenhall Glacier. On the way out we crossed over Salmon Creek, which was living up to its name and was full of leaping salmon. The weather conditions on the glacier were 41 degrees Fahrenheit with no wind. We were flying with Temsco Helicopters, which seems to be the major purveyor of helicopter trips to the glacier.
After arriving at the airport we were given glacier boots and a short safety video on both the helicopter flight and the glacier hike. (Things like "avoid the rotor" and "don't walk around on the glacier with your camera in front of your face"). The helicopters sat six plus the pilot, and there was semi-assigned seating. We wore headsets to keep out the noise and also to allow us to head what the pilot was saying through them. We flew up to the glacier, about a twenty-minute flight at about 150 miles per hour at an altitude of about five thousand feet. The flight was very smooth, with none of the bumpiness one gets in a small plane.
We landed on the glacier at something that looked like a base camp: a tent with an American flag in front of it. About four or five guides stay up there all day, so they use the tent between flights, though this day wasn't very cold and there was no wind. (That is, once the helicopters left-with the rotors going it was very windy.)
The area that we actually walked around was fairly limited, though we could see a long distance in all directions. The dangerous spots (deep crevasses and such) had yellow rope laid on the ice around them to warn us. The glacier was not slick the way one might expect, but uneven from the dark dirt absorbing heat and melting down in a sort of sponge pattern (though it certainly wasn't spongy). It was very quiet, and we could appreciate all the features with a minimum of disturbance. (You can never get thirty tourists completely quiet.) There was a waterfall down one of the mountains, and crevasses and moulons. Moulons are deep holes filled with water and are usually deep blue from the color of the ice underneath. They are caused by rocks which absorb heat and sink through the ice, often to a depth of a hundred feet or more.
(I wish I could convey the experience better. Let me just say that I would certainly recommend this trip, especially if you've never flown in a helicopter before.)
After twenty minutes on the glacier, we had a fifteen-minute flight back and a bus ride back to the ship. We had lunch at La Pizzeria on the ship. Mark had a pepperoni pizza; I had a California pizza (sundried tomatoes and avocado). It was okay, but I prefer the Horizon Court. For some reasons, beverages that are free in the Horizon Court (e.g., iced tea) are charged for here, even though the pizza is not. And they suggest tipping the waiters, although most people aren't carrying money around ship, because there's nowhere else it's needed.
After lunch we went out for more of the Juneau Walking Tour. After a quick stop in the Red Dog Saloon (full of sawdust and Alaskan artifacts), we started with the Alaska State Museum to be sure we had as much time as we wanted there, and a good thing it was too. We arrived there at 2:15 PM and didn't leave until 4 PM. As in Vancouver, we took a tour of the museum with a volunteer guide, a woman who came up from Los Angeles many years ago. (None of our guides seems actually to have been born here.)
She started with some geographical facts. Alaska has eighteen of the twenty highest mountains in North America. At its closest point, it is two miles from Russia. (During the Cold War, relatives living on the two islands-one in Alaska, one in Russia-couldn't even visit each other. When the Cold War ended, Alaska Airlines flew everybody from one island to the other for a giant family reunion.) Alaska would reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific if it were super-imposed on the "South 48." It has twenty per cent the area of the entire South 48. It is on top of a layer of permafrost, making well drilling difficult.
The Native Americans (now that we're back in the United States I guess this is the right term) fall into five main language groups: Tlingit, Athapascan, Eskimo, Aleuts, and Yupik. ("Eskimo" was the term the guide used, and I saw it throughout the museum, but I thought the accepted term was now "Inuit.")
Note: The Alaskan Inuit do not build igloos, but Canadian Inuit do.
We saw the "Lincoln Totem." This may actually be one of several. When a chief decided to have a white man carved onto a totem pole, the only picture the carver had to work from was that of Abraham Lincoln.
A chart describes the Pacific Northwest Indian line drawings. They have primary formlines in black, secondary in red, and tertiary in blue-green, and knowing this makes it a bit easier to decipher the patterns.
The Native Americans used only female walrus hide for boats because the male hides are full of scars and holes from fighting.
The Alaskan territorial (later state) flag (gold stars formed a Big Dipper on a dark blue background) was designed in a 1927 competition by then thirteen-year-old Benny Benson.
We did a little shopping. I bought a pin at the Wm Spear Designs. Their pins are different-they have a whole line of medical pins, for example, that look like brains, lungs, kidneys, spines, etc. I got a typewriter/computer keyboard with the motto "Write hard, die free" on it. Well, it is an Alaskan design, or at least a design by an Alaskan! Many of the souvenirs we saw were made elsewhere: all the caps were made in China, Taiwan, or the Philippines (in increasing order of cost), the T-shirts are almost all Chinese, and even the ulu knives often had parts made in China. (Wm Spear's web site is http://www.carmelnet.com/spearpins. Web sites are ubiquitous. We saw a street artist in Vancouver who had his web site URL posted.)
Dinner was Smoked Wild Salmon, Caesar Salad, Sautéed Orange Roughy with Lime-Caper Sauce, Granny Smith Sorbet with Apples Soaked in Calvados, and coffee. Most of our group had the Bananas Flambé, but they were not flambéd at the table. The food is good, but not (to me) outstanding. The potions are on the small side, probably because there are six courses. Not that anyone leaves hungry, of course.
After dinner we re-watched the lecture on the Trail
July 30 (59N, 135W, sunrise 4:41 ADT, sunset 21:32 ADT): "When Skookum Jim found gold, that's the time everything changed." (Native elder Annie Ned, 1975)
Lawrence said that the 1890s weren't the "Gay 90s" for everyone; there was a worldwide depression, and this contributed to the last of the great international gold rushes. When Secretary of State William Seward paid $7,200,000 for a million square miles of Alaska in 1867, people called it "Seward's Folly." But the Russians had been more interested in fur than in gold, and sold it only because the fur (and the trappers) were giving out. Then gold was discovered gold in Rabbit Creek (now Bonanza Creek) in 1896. Word couldn't get out until the next year, and most prospectors couldn't get there until the next year because of the preparation time. A million people talked about going to the Klondike; 100,000 actually went.
Lawrence talked about all the dishonesty that occurred: bartenders with moist hands to which extra gold dust would stick when they measured out the price of a drink, or long fingernails under which it would lodge, or panning the sawdust in bars for gold dust that fell there. The biggest con artists was Jefferson Randall "Soapy" Smith, about whom Mark will undoubtedly write a lot. Suffice it to say that at the height of his power he had three hundred men working a variety of scams, cheats, frauds, and robberies. For example, he set up a telegraph office and charged five dollars to send a telegram. Within a few hours a reply would arrive, collect. No one noticed, apparently, that there were no telegraph wires into the town or the office.
"I looked up at the pass. I can see it yet-that upward trail, outlined on an almost perpendicular wall of ice-covered rock, alive with clinging human beings and animals, slowly mounting, single file, to the summit." (Martha Black)
There was much dispute over the benefits of the White Pass versus the shorter but higher Chilkoot Trail. The major advantage of the White Pass was that one could bring pack animals over it, while the Chilkoot Trail was strictly people only. When the railroad was built over the White Pass, that was the end of the Chilkoot Trail. But the Chilkoot Trail is what people remember, mostly because of the photograph of the line of people, shoulder to shoulder, up the entire length of the trail to the top.
"It was like climbing an icy stairway to hell!" (Ed Lung)
Because starvation faced the first arrivals into the Yukon, Canada soon required a years' worth of supplies (about a ton) be brought before anyone was allowed in. This meant that people had to make twenty or thirty trips to carry all that over the pass, and often walked six hundred miles without actually making any real progress. Jack London was one of these, and while he didn't strike it rich in the gold fields, his experiences, transcribed into stories and novels, did eventually make him a fortune.
"I cannot say too much in favor of this wonderful body of men.... I am a good American, but I take my hat off to the Canadian North-West Mounted Police as I knew them." (Arthur Walden, 1898)
During this time, the White Pass had a real traffic backup, and the horses used there were enormously mistreated. Over three thousand horses died by falling (or, some say, committed suicide by jumping over the edge) into Dead Horse Gulch.
On Palm Sunday, April 3, 1898, the prospectors were warned by locals not to attempt to climb White Pass, as there was fresh snow and the temperature was warming up, and they feared a snow slide. Sixty people ignored this advice. There was a snow slide and all sixty were killed.
In 1899 gold was discovered on the beach at Nome, and this caused all the new prospectors (and many of the old ones who couldn't find any unclaimed land in the Yukon) to head there, leaving Skagway a shadow of its former self.
We docked in Skagway early. Mark and I decided to try breakfast in the dining room today. I think I'll stick to the Horizon Court. It's faster, there's a bigger selection, and I can sequence the food my way. (I want the cereal last, not first. Yes, I probably could ask for that, though our other requests have not been successful.) I asked for three pieces of sausage. I got four. (Another failed request.) And they were very greasy, not just internally, but also from the oil they were fried in. I will skip them from now on.
We went out about 8:45 AM. Unlike Ketchikan (where the dock is right downtown) or Juneau (where the dock is a couple of blocks away from downtown), in Skagway the dock, at least our dock, is almost a mile from town. On the rock outcropping opposite the ship were painted various ships' names and arrival dates; this is no longer allowed. It's like the rock in Arizona where all the explorers used to carve their names, but can't any more. We're really glad that people did it years ago, and call it history, but forbid people from doing it now and leaving any history to the future.
The White Pass and Yukon narrow-gauge railway was all ready to leave and we saw David L on it. (Susan, Sara, Jack, David G, and Sherry were also there, though we didn't see them.) This is probably the most popular excursion in Skagway.
At the end of the dock were people selling tours (similar to those bookable on the ship) at somewhat lower prices. We booked a tour that included the Gold Rush Cemetery and White Pass, but not the downtown area. This was closer to what we wanted, as we could do the downtown ourselves. That's because Skagway is twenty-two blocks long and five blocks wide, but the historic/touristy downtown is about six blocks on one street. It has a Starbucks. (But the nearest McDonalds is in White Horse, two hours' drive away.) We weren't able to see the film "Days of Adventure, Dreams of Gold" at the National Park Service building (the old train depot) because of our tour, but suspect it would just repeat much of the information we already had.
We did get to the Arctic Brotherhood Hall, covered with 20,000 pieces of driftwood and housing the Trail of '98 Museum (US$2 each). We looked into the Mascot Saloon (a recreation of a famous saloon, though lacking the sawdust and general grungy atmosphere that would probably be more authentic). We bought a few post cards, went into Kirmse's Jewelry Store to see Soapy Smith's revolver.
One thing we see a lot of in Alaska is lines at pay phones. Because calling from shipboard is so expensive (about US$10 a minute), all the passengers (2000 on the Dawn Princess alone) and the crew (880 on the Dawn Princess alone) rush to the phones during dockings to call home.
At 10:20 AM we were waiting in front of the Golden North Hotel, waiting for Dr. Fun Tours. After a bit, a woman from Skaguay Tours came over asking if we were waiting for the 10:30 tour. It seems Dr. Fun Tours is now Skaguay Tours.
Our tour guide Susan drove us around town first, pointing out some of the sights we had seen, as well as Jeff Smith's Saloon, shops patterned after old prostitute's "cribs" (one called the "House of Negotiable Affection"), the Post Office (where everyone gathers for news and gossip), and the City Hall (which was originally the McCabe College for Girls, but closed for lack of students).
Susan also reminded us that Attu and Kiska Islands in Alaska were attacked in World War II. (Most people think Pearl Harbor was the only place on American soil attacked by the Japanese.)
Skagway is so small (700 people in the summer, and about 300 in the winter) that they have no doctor. People who need a doctor have to be medivacked to Juneau by air or sea, or to White Horse (two hours by car). Homes are not cheap (about $175,000 for an existing home). The school has 130 students in kindergarten through high school; the average class size is ten, and the graduating class is four to eight. In the winter the only businesses that stay open are the Sourdough Restaurant, the hardware store, the grocery store, and the bars. The rest is not only closed, but boarded up.
At the Gold Rush Cemetery, Susan showed us a few graves outside the cemetery. There was Martin Itjen, the first tour guide in Skagway, along with his "Largest Nugget in the World"-a rock painted gold and chained to a tree. Itjen's wife Lucy loved ships and wanted a house with portholes instead of windows, so there is such a house downtown. There was the grave of William John "Mull" Mulvihill, a train dispatcher of White Pass Railroad. He is buried near the track and trains toot each time they go by.
And there is Soapy Smith, for whom the local ministers wouldn't even say a funeral service. Finally a passing Baptist minister was prevailed upon. He opened the Bible, said the verse "The wages of sin are death" and closed the Bible; that was the entire service.
Inside the cemetery is Frank Reid, who shot Smith and "who gave his life for the honor of Skagway." There is also Ella Wilson, a notorious prostitute "who gave her honor for the life of Skagway."
We saw the White Pass train on the way up by bus, as well as Pitchfork Falls (with its hydroelectric project), Bridal Veil Falls, and the falls which form the boundary between the United States and Canada. We went into Canada; the signs indicated the Yukon Territory, though the map seemed to indicate it was British Columbia.
Susan said that for the Gold Rush, 1,000,000 people prepared to come, 100,000 actually came to Alaska, 40,000 made it to White Horse (where 2000 died of frostbite), 20,000 actually searched for gold, 400 struck it rich-and 50 stayed rich. Those fifty included Nordstrom (who founded the department store) and Mack (of Mack Truck, whose symbol is his dog who save his life in the Klondike).
You think of fjords as Norwegian (in fact, in Norway they claimed they didn't exist anywhere else), but the longest fjord in the world is from Bellingham, Washington, to Skagway, Alaska.
Based on our experience, it's probably best to book special tours or very popular ones (such as the helicopter tours) on board, but book city-type tours locally. They are bound to be available, are probably cheaper, and can be scheduled based on how you feel that day, what the weather is, etc.
We got back to the ship at 1:20 PM and had to be at the end of the dock by 1:50 PM for our "Horseback Riding Adventure," so we made quick sandwiches in the Horizon Court and rushed back out. We rode out in a van to the horses, in a forest and meadow area. They gave us helmets and a quick talk on mounting, riding, etc.; assigned us horses (Mark's was Gypsy; mine was Crystal); and we mounted up. Unfortunately, the stirrups on mine were adjusted too low. This meant that every time Crystal trotted and I tried to stand in the stirrups to cushion the ride, I was standing too low and got slammed into the saddle with each step. The solution was not to allow Crystal to trot, although she definitely had a mind of her own on when she wanted to go, stop, walk, or trot. In spite of all this, I enjoyed the hour-and-a-half ride: it was beautiful country and very peaceful.
My dinner was Escargot, Pasta in Garlic Cream Tomato Sauce, Sautéed Salmon Fillet in Pernod and Fennel Sauce, Raspberry Creme Brulée, and coffee. Everyone else had the Cherries Jubilee. Sherry and Sara reported that they snuck on to the Regal Princess (actually the Regal Princess allows visitors, even though the Dawn Princess doesn't). They say the Dawn Princess is much better; the Regal has much less wood and brass, and was mostly steel (?).
We did some laundry-the washer and dryer are free, but the detergent costs US$0.50. Not a big deal to me, but I did see a crew member squeezing shampoo containers into the machine for his laundry. This makes me wonder how well the staff is paid.
The shows this night were not very appealing ("New York, New York"-a production number show-and a cabaret artist). What was appealing was the Robert Service Poetry Reading, given by John Lawrence in the Wheelhouse Bar. First he gave a biography of Robert Service. Service was in England in 1874, and during gold rush he was in Los Angeles and Mexico. In 1904 his bank transferred him to White Horse, then to Dawson City, where he met stampeders who told him tales of the Gold Rush days. Service had been doing recitations of other people's poetry, and was best known for his performance of "The Face on the Barroom Floor" written in 1887 by Hugh Antoine D'Arcy. He had been writing poetry for a while, but never did anything about getting them published. In 1908 he got a bonus and his aunt suggested that he publish his poetry for his relatives as a Xmas gift. He took the poems to a publisher, who called him a few days later, asking, "Do I understand that you want to pay us to publish this?" "Well, yes." "Well, we would like to publish this commercially. You would get 90% of the proceeds; we would keep 10%." "Are you crazy? Who would buy this?" "Well, we've been showing the poems around the office and already have 1800 orders." So The Spell of the Yukon was published and within a year, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" and "The Cremation of Sam McGee" were the most recited poems in the English language around the world. Service went on to write more poetry, served in the ambulance corps in World War I (from which came Rhymes of a Red Cross Man), lived in the South Seas and France, fled France at the beginning of World War II, then returned to live out his life there. He died in 1958, saying that although he was considered an expert on the Gold Rush, he had forgotten everything the stampeders had told him.
Lawrence then read "The Face on the Barroom
Floor," "The Shooting of Dan McGrew," and "The
Cremation of Sam McGee" (see Appendix). He did not read
any of Service's non-Yukon poetry, but I've read some of his World
War I poetry and there is no way they would read anything that
depressing on a cruise ship.
July 31 (58N, 136W, sunrise 4:52 ADT, sunset 21:26 ADT): We arrived in Glacier Bay very early and boarded the rangers (John Jameson, John Baston, and Alex Andrews) about 6 AM. However, they didn't start narrating until about 9 AM.
We sailed past Reed, Lamplugh, and Muir Glaciers, then stopped in front of Margerie and Grand Pacific Glaciers for quite a while.
We saw some wildlife during the way, but nothing like the ads lead you to believe. We saw three brown bears on the shore quite a ways away, and a lot of birds (black-tipped kitty wakes (?) mostly, and some puffins). Binoculars are an absolute necessity if you want to see anything. We also saw some calving of the glaciers (that's when pieces fall off), but nothing very big.
Throughout all this it was intermittently raining, sleeting, and (possibly) snowing. I was wearing a wool shirt, a blouse, a wool vest, a photographer's vest, a scarf, a jacket, and gloves, and was still cold.
We dropped off the rangers about 3:15 PM and Mark and I went inside for hot soup and coffee so we could warm up. So naturally that's when the pod of four or five whales showed up, which Mom and Sherry saw but we didn't. Well, we had seen a couple of whales earlier, briefly.
The waiters in the Horizon Court were fascinated by Mark's palmtop. Every time we were up there and he was writing on it, they would stop and look at it. (I was even typing on mine outside, with gloves on!)
For dinner I had Caviar, Roasted Garlic Bisque, Alaskan King Crab Legs, anniversary cake, Raspberry and Coconut Semifreddo, and coffee. There were actually two cakes, one for our twentieth-fifth anniversary and one for Susan and David L's twentieth-fifth anniversary, so we ate one and asked the waiter to save the other until lunch tomorrow.
At 11:15 PM there was a "Champagne Waterfall"
and crepes suzettes in the atrium. Now, the whole attraction
of a champagne waterfall is the precision of it all: the glasses
are stacked in a pyramid and champagne is poured continuously
into the top one, cascading down into all the others without spilling
onto the surface below. It's like watching a domino fall. But
what Princess does is have passengers come up and pour a bit into
glasses on the side for a photo opportunity. Whether they ever
filled all the glasses I don't know, but the uneven filling of
the lower levels would have destroyed the effect in any case.
I guess I'm a mathematician, not a photographer.
August 1 (61N, 146W, sunrise 5:29 ADT, sunset 22:27 ADT): Today we cruised to College Fjord, so the morning was rather low-key.
Arriving about 3 PM, we cruised up the fjord, so named because the glaciers are named after colleges: women's colleges on the left, men's colleges on the right. (Although as Mark points out, the men's colleges are co-ed now, and the women's colleges are not.) Actually, the fjord was probably named at the same time as the glaciers in it were.
The two largest glaciers in the fjord are Harvard and Yale. (I wonder if this was mere coincidence.) We saw some sea otters as we sailed up the fjord, but as we approached Harvard Glacier, we starting seeing fewer otters and more harbor seals. Binoculars are an absolute necessity; the otters were invisible without them, and the seals pretty much so, as they would slip off the ice floes into the water as the ship approached.
We saw a lot of calving off Harvard Glacier. First we would hear a loud "crack!" like a thunderclap. Then we would quickly scan across the width of the glacier (several hundred feet), looking for chunks of ice sliding off and falling into the sea. Sometimes we would see this, but often we saw nothing, and the cracking had been further back on the glacier. People kept hoping that the whole front of the glacier would break off, but this didn't happen, nor is it likely.
We stayed in College Fjord until dinner time (another reason why the second seating would have been better). Luckily, since this was the last night on board, it was casual rather than formal.
For dinner, I had Avocado Boat with Seafood in a Lime-Cilantro Dressing, Steamed Maine Lobster, Baked Alaska, and coffee. As far as food went on this cruise, the food on the Princess was plentiful and interestingly prepared and presented, but not great-tasting. The Maine lobster, for example, was very small and covered with some sort of crumb mixture which no self-respecting New Englander would put up with. (Or if you prefer, some sort of crumb mixture up with which no self-respecting New Englander would put.) (I lived in Maine for five years and Massachusetts for eight; I know something about lobster.) They had salmon available every night, but Mark says he thinks the salmon we get at home (from CostCo, no less) is better than the salmon we got on the Princess. I personally think that my Moroccan Salmon is better than what they served. (Mix 5 minced cloves garlic, 2 tablespoons cumin, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon pepper flakes, 2 teaspoons dried cilantro, and 4 tablespoons lemon juice. Spread over one pound of fish fillets. Cover and bake at 350 degrees until done [about 25 min]. More lemon juice can be added if you want more liquid.) My main objection to the salmon served here was that it seemed dried out. When we were filling out the questionnaire at the end, Mark asked if the food was "the best of any of your trips." I said just two words: "Southeast Asia." "Okay," Mark said, "I'll mark it 'better than most of your trips.'"
At 10 PM Sherry called and suggested we all meet in the Horizon Court for a farewell snack. No one was really hungry but we did get beverages. On the top deck you could definitely feel the ship's movement, and although it was still light out you couldn't see very far as we were in a fog bank.
Dad naturally brought his camera and took yet more pictures of us sitting and eating. Certainly based on pictures that people took, you would think we were eating all the time. Every meal seemed to involved three or four people taking pictures of the table, and that doesn't count when the cruise photographer came over.
We found out that David G and Sherry got a "Log
of the Cruise" delivered to their cabin, a four-page summary
of what our schedule had been and the vital statistics of the
ship. No one in our hallway got one (and we didn't get our turn-down
chocolates either, indicating that after the tipping is over,
some of the service may drop off a bit).
August 2 (61N, 159.6W, sunrise 5:35 ADT, sunset 10:33 ADT): We got up early to say goodbye to David L, Susan, Sara, and Jack, but by the time we got to breakfast (6:15 AM), only David L was still there. They had a 6:45 AM debarkation. We had an 8 AM debarkation; Mom, Dad, Sherry, and David G had a 8:15 AM one. We had a small breakfast (they didn't have any real elaborate dishes, because they were busy getting ready for the next cruise starting in the afternoon). Friday night and Saturday are the hardest times for the staff. The boutiques have to get all their stock straightened up and their sale prices removed. The food staff has to serve breakfast earlier than usual and dinner later. The one break they get is that there's no formal lunch, just the buffet. The cabin stewards are busy getting the cabins ready, meaning putting in new bathrobes while making sure the old ones are still available until you leave, and so on.
We said our farewells and boarded the bus for Anchorage. The scenery between Seward and Anchorage is beautiful, except for the construction zones where the earth-moving equipment detracts a bit from the natural surroundings. (Well, I suppose the highway and cars on it do also.)
After making a stop at the airport for two people who had missed their bus group (we debarked based on departure times or destinations in Anchorage), Princess dropped us at the Egan Hospitality Center where we picked up our luggage and walked the six blocks to the Days Inn where we had reservations. The final announcement heard from Princess was that there were no courtesy vans, but they could help you get a taxi. This is not a big deal to us, but I can't help but feel that it may leave a bad final impression with some people.
The bus driver had pointed out the Saturday Market to us, so we walked over there (nothing is very far away in downtown Anchorage). It had a lot of tourist souvenirs, but also produce and used books, so it had a mix of tourists and locals. They also had a karaoke stage with some very good singers, and some very bad ones. We had lunch there. I had a combination plate of Philippine noodles and adobo chicken; Mark had a barbecued turkey leg.
We left the market and started walking around and who should we meet but Sherry and David G? Their flight wasn't until 8:40 PM, so they had taken a Princess courtesy van back into town from the airport to spend some time in Anchorage.
We went back to the market with them. Sherry got a sweatshirt, and David G got a cap. I looked at a CD by the Alaska Klezmer Band, but they didn't have it on cassette and I didn't want to pay CD prices. (Anchorage has two synagogues, or at least two congregations, one Reform and one Lubavitch.) I had previously bought a T-shirt for my brother from the "Far from Fenway Fan Club," a Red Sox fan club that meets in a bar here.
We went into the old Federal Building, now housing the United States Forestry Service, and saw a couple of films, one on the Spruce Bark Beetle, and a longer one on the Tongass National Forest, which runs along most of the Inside Passage.
We also went into the "Wolf Song of Alaska" exhibit, a sort of combination museum and gallery devoted to educating the public about wolves. There were a lot of informational signs and a lot of wildlife photographs of wolves.
We said goodbye to David G and Sherry (again) and decided to go back to the hotel and rest a bit and hope for an appetite for dinner. The hotel had cable television with about twenty channels, so we ended up watching Conan the Destroyer and dozing a bit.
About 8 PM we went out and had dinner at the Alaskan Salmon Chowder House. Mark had their red salmon chowder and Halibut Olympia (halibut with three different cheeses); I had white halibut chowder and a steamed halibut fillet. They had salmon, of course, but we have that a lot at home, as I noted before.
We went back to the room about 10 PM; the sun was
August 3 (61N, 159.6W, sunrise 5:35 ADT, sunset 22:33 ADT): Anchorage, like all the other Alaskan towns we visited, has flower beds and pots all over the streets. I guess the short summer season makes Alaskans want to enjoy it as much as possible.
We had breakfast at the Downtown Deli & Cafe, recommended by the Lonely Planet. I had blueberry pancakes and a latte; Mark had eggs, sourdough pancakes, reindeer sausage, and a Ghiradelli hot chocolate. The whole espresso/cappuccino/latte scene has gotten to Alaska.
We walked around a bit, following one of the walking tours. Inside the 4th Avenue Theatre they still had the bronze murals and art deco environment, though the seats have been removed and it seems to be a banquet hall now.
About 10 AM we went to the Anchorage Historical & Fine Arts Museum (US$5 each). Because this is the Centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush, their temporary exhibit was all about the Gold Rush, which worked out well for us. We spent about forty-five minutes looking through that, then went to the history gallery for the guided tour of it.
This was given by Ruth Ellen Andersen (who has lived in Alaska twenty-nine years; apparently no one was actually born here). Alaskan history starts about 10,000 B.C.E., when the Siberian land bridge allowed migrations from Asia. It seems as though three main groups came across, the Aleuts (who seem to be related to the Ainu of Japan), the Inuit (who seem to be related to the Mongolians), and the Athabascan. (I can't remember what Asian group she related the Athabascans to, but it seems as though they are related to the Navaho and other more southerly tribes. For example, the Athabascan term for themselves is "the Dene" while the Navahos are "the Dine," both pronounced with two syllables.)
Okay, I think I've got it: the Inupiaq (in the Northern part), the Yupik (in the Western part), the Alutiq (in the Southern part) are all Inuit or Eskimos, which are equivalent.
Early Russian explorers of Alaska included Simon Dezhnev (who in 1648 sailed through the Bering Strait, proving that Russia was not connected to North America), Bering (1728), and Mikhail Gvozdev (who "discovered" America from the west in 1732). They were followed by Spanish explorers Juan Perez (1774) and Juan Bodega y Cuadra (1775), and Englishman Captain James Cook (1778).
The Alaska Purchase (in case I failed to mention it earlier) was in 1867. It passed the Senate in part because Senator Sumner talked about getting rid of the last king in North America; the sale passed there by two votes. Because of the mis-handling of the transition (such as the accidental tearing of the Russian flag when it was lowered at Sitka), almost all the Russians left, even though they could have stayed with dual citizenship.
We also saw Billy Mitchell's saddle from when he was in Alaska working on the WAMCATS telegraph line. And we heard again, in more detail, how in June 1942 the Japanese captured the Alaskan islands of Attu and Kiska. Attu was recaptured in May 1943 with 2351 Japanese and 549 American deaths. In August the military invaded Kiska right after a dense fog had lifted and discovered that the Japanese had evacuated it.
And hanging from the ceiling was something I had expected to see more of on this trip: a forty-nine-star flag, the official flag from January 3, 1959, to August 21, 1959.
We left that tour a bit early (actually it was running late) to get a tour of the Gold Rush exhibit by Louise Gallop.
She started by explaining that unlike the adventurers of the California Gold Rush, the Klondike Gold Rush drew ordinary people who had no other options after the Panic of 1893 and the depression following it. She told us how The Wizard of Oz is really about the gold standard, the silver standard, etc. (I knew this but a lot of people were surprised.)
The Gold Rush really started on July 17, 19897, when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer announced that a ship carrying a ton of gold had just docked. They were wrong-it was two tons.
She also said that Carmack was the one who staked the discovery claim because anyone staking a claim got a second one, and he was the one white man of the group (George Carmack, Skookum Jim Mason, and Tagish Charley). He claimed he and thought people wouldn't stand for an Indian getting the bonus claim.
The big Chilkoot snow slide was Palm Sunday; the Alaska Earthquake was Good Friday. Does this mean something?
"The worst curse of the country is the restless spirit of the people and their willingness to stampede on the slightest rumor of a new discovery." (Ralph Lomen, 1911)
The miners used mercury, whiskey, kerosene, and patent painkiller as a thermometer, since they froze in that order as the temperature dropped.
And though much is made of the Klondike Gold Rush, since 1880 twelve times as much gold has been mined in the rest of the United States than in Alaska, even though it's only five times the size.
Miscellaneous notes and quotes:
"Apr 1st 'All fools day' and most all the fools are here. We started for Crater at 6 AM. Storming some on the lake and before we reach the head of the canyon we met many coming back home and they were [furious?]. On top a raging snow storm but we push on. I lead as the rest are effected [sic] by the snow. I lost the trail many times but am fortunate enough not to get far away. We finally get there & load and start back. Eat lunch about a mile from Crater in a deserted [tent?]. Weather changes and we have nice evening to come home in. I bring 650# with my 3 dogs." (Louie B. May, 1898)
"With horse flies, gnats and mosquitoes in dense profusion, the Yukon valley is not held up as a paradise to future tourists." (Frederick Schwatka, 1883)
Jack London estimated that the Klondike stampeders spent $75,000,000 to get out $22,000,000 in gold.
The exhibit had a forty-six-star flag supposedly sewn in 1897, but also noted that the flag had forty-six stars only between 1907 and 1912.
The ethnic make-up of Alaska's population is 78% white, 8% Eskimo, 6% Indian, 3% Black, 2% Aleut, 2% API, and 1% unidentified. 2.2% are Hispanic, but this overlaps other groups.
We left just about 2 PM, arriving at the Town Square Park in front of the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts where the United States Air Force Band of the Pacific was performing. Air Force Bands aren't what they used to be; gone are the John Philip Sousa marches. Now they play rock music.
We had an early dinner (grilled salmon steaks) at
Blondie's. They were better than what we got on the ship. We
made a quick stop at Cyrano's ("the only bookstore/cafe/playhouse
in the country"), where I picked up a Turkish phrase book.
Well, what better souvenir of Alaska? Then back to the hotel
to get our luggage and take the shuttle to the airport.
August 4 (40.4N, 74.4W, sunrise 5:55 EDT, sunset 8:11 EDT): Red-eye flights have their pros and cons. Their pro is that you don't waste a day traveling. Their cons are everything else. The flight was full, and the seats cramped. I got three hours of pseudo-sleep. To top it off, the plane took a long time to get to the gate at Newark, and luggage took about another half-hour due to some confusion.
Well, I usually talk about how much a trip cost at this point. In this case, the cruise itself was a gift, so add some unknown amount for that.
Not surprisingly, this is the most expensive (per day) trip we have taken. What is perhaps surprisingly is that's true even not counting the cost of the cruise.
Would I recommend Alaska? That's really two questions: Alaska and cruises. Alaska has beautiful scenery, but assuming one can compare two very different types of scenery, I would have to say that I found the scenery in the Southwest (Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah) more breath-taking and awe-inspiring. Still, if you like Maine, or other Northern scenery, you will love Alaska.
As for the cruising, well, I guess it's like Club Med. We went
to Club Med with friends once and it was okay and a way to spend
a vacation with them, but not our sort of vacation. This was
similar. It was a great way to be with our family while traveling
around and seeing different things (an independent land trip with
ten people sounds like a nightmare!), but I can't say that I would
enjoy a cruise if it were just the two of us. (Well, we have
taken three previous cruises, but a ten-passenger boat on the
Amazon is hardly a fair comparison. The Nile and Galapagos cruises-about
120 passengers each time-is a little closer, but still off by
an order of magnitude.) Sherry talked about how this was the
first vacation where she "did something" (kayaking,
helicopter trip) rather than just going to a city and sightseeing.
This is probably the trip in the last ten years or so in which
we did the least. Someday we will probably enjoy this sort of
vacation more, but right now I think we want to be out doing our
The Shooting of Dan McGrew A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon; The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune; Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew, And watching his luck was his light-o'-love, the lady that's known as Lou. When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare, There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear. He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse, Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house. There was none could place the stranger's face, though we searched ourselves for a clue; But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew. There's men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell; And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell; With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done, As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one. Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he'd do, And I turned my head -- and there watching him was the lady that's known as Lou. His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze, Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze. The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool, So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool. In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway; Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands -- my God! but that man could play. Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear, And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could *hear*; With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold, A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold; While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? -- Then you've a haunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars. And hunger not of the belly kind, that's banished with bacon and beans, But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means; For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above; But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman's love -- A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true -- (God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, -- the lady that's known as Lou). Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear; But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear; That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil's lie; That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die. 'Twas the crowning cry of a heart's despair, and it thrilled you through and through -- "I guess I'll make it a spread misere", said Dangerous Dan McGrew. The music almost died away. . . then it burst like a pent-up flood; And it seemed to say, "Repay, repay", and my eyes were blind with blood. The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash, And the lust awoke to kill, to kill. . . then the music stopped with a crash, And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way; In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway; Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm, And "Boys," says he, "you don't know me, and none of you care a damn; But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I'll bet my poke they're true, That one of you is a hound of hell. . . and that one is Dan McGrew." Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark, And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark. Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew, While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that's known as Lou. These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know. They say the stranger was crazed with "hooch", and I'm not denying it's so. I'm not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two -- The woman that kissed him and -- pinched his poke -- was the lady that's known as Lou. --Robert W. Service The Cremation of Sam McGee There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales That would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, But the queerest they ever did see Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam McGee. Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows. Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows. He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell; Though he'd often say in his homely way that he'd "sooner live in hell". On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail. Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail. If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see; It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee. And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow, And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe, He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess; And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request." Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan: "It's the cursed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone. Yet 'tain't being dead -- it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains; So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains." A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail; And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale. He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee; And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee. There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven, With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given; It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains, But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains." Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code. In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load. In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring, Howled out their woes to the homeless snows -- O God! how I loathed the thing. And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow; And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low; The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in; And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin. Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay; It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May". And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum; Then "Here", said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum." Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire; Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher; The flames just soared, and the furnace roared -- such a blaze you seldom see; And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee. Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so; And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow. It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why; And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky. I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear; But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near; I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside. I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked";. . . then the door I opened wide. And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar; And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door. It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm -- Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm." There are strange things done in the midnight sun By the men who moil for gold; The Arctic trails have their secret tales That would make your blood run cold; The Northern Lights have seen queer sights, But the queerest they ever did see Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge I cremated Sam McGee. --Robert W. Service The Spell of the Yukon I wanted the gold, and I sought it, I scrabbled and mucked like a slave. Was it famine or scurvy -- I fought it; I hurled my youth into a grave. I wanted the gold, and I got it -- Came out with a fortune last fall, -- Yet somehow life's not what I thought it, And somehow the gold isn't all. No! There's the land. (Have you seen it?) It's the cussedest land that I know, From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it To the deep, deathlike valleys below. Some say God was tired when He made it; Some say it's a fine land to shun; Maybe; but there's some as would trade it For no land on earth -- and I'm one. You come to get rich (damned good reason); You feel like an exile at first; You hate it like hell for a season, And then you are worse than the worst. It grips you like some kinds of sinning; It twists you from foe to a friend; It seems it's been since the beginning; It seems it will be to the end. I've stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow That's plumb-full of hush to the brim; I've watched the big, husky sun wallow In crimson and gold, and grow dim, Till the moon set the pearly peaks gleaming, And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop; And I've thought that I surely was dreaming, With the peace o' the world piled on top. The summer -- no sweeter was ever; The sunshiny woods all athrill; The grayling aleap in the river, The bighorn asleep on the hill. The strong life that never knows harness; The wilds where the caribou call; The freshness, the freedom, the farness -- O God! how I'm stuck on it all. The winter! the brightness that blinds you, The white land locked tight as a drum, The cold fear that follows and finds you, The silence that bludgeons you dumb. The snows that are older than history, The woods where the weird shadows slant; The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery, I've bade 'em good-by -- but I can't. There's a land where the mountains are nameless, And the rivers all run God knows where; There are lives that are erring and aimless, And deaths that just hang by a hair; There are hardships that nobody reckons; There are valleys unpeopled and still; There's a land -- oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back -- and I will. They're making my money diminish; I'm sick of the taste of champagne. Thank God! when I'm skinned to a finish I'll pike to the Yukon again. I'll fight -- and you bet it's no sham-fight; It's hell! -- but I've been there before; And it's better than this by a damsite -- So me for the Yukon once more. There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting; It's luring me on as of old; Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting So much as just finding the gold. It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder, It's the forests where silence has lease; It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder, It's the stillness that fills me with peace. --Robert W. Service The Face on the Barroom Floor 'Twas a balmy summer evening, and a goodly crowd was there, Which well-nigh filled Joe's barroom, on the corner of the square; And as songs and witty stories came through the open door, A vagabond crept slowly in and posed upon the floor. "Where did it come from?" someone said. " The wind has blown it in." "What does it want?" another cried. "Some whiskey, rum or gin?" "Here, Toby, sic 'em, if your stomach's equal to the work -- I wouldn't touch him with a fork, he's filthy as a Turk." This badinage the poor wretch took with stoical good grace; In face, he smiled as tho' he thought he'd struck the proper place. "Come, boys, I know there's kindly hearts among so good a crowd -- To be in such good company would make a deacon proud. "Give me a drink -- that's what I want -- I'm out of funds, you know, When I had cash to treat the gang this hand was never slow. What? You laugh as if you thought this pocket never held a sou; I once was fixed as well, my boys, as any one of you. "There, thanks, that's braced me nicely; God bless you one and all; Next time I pass this good saloon I'll make another call. Give you a song? No, I can't do that; my singing days are past; My voice is cracked, my throat's worn out, and my lungs are going fast. "I'll tell you a funny story, and a fact, I promise, too. Say! Give me another whiskey, and I'll tell what I'll do -- That I was ever a decent man not one of you would think; But I was, some four or five years back. Say, give me another drink. "Fill her up, Joe, I want to put some life into my frame -- Such little drinks to a bum like me are miserably tame; Five fingers -- there, that's the scheme -- and corking whiskey, too. Well, here's luck, boys, and landlord, my best regards to you. "You've treated me pretty kindly and I'd like to tell you how I came to be the dirty sot you see before you now. As I told you, once I was a man, with muscle, frame, and health, And but for a blunder ought to have made considerable wealth. "I was a painter -- not one that daubed on bricks and wood, But an artist, and for my age, was rated pretty good. I worked hard at my canvas, and was bidding fair to rise, For gradually I saw the star of fame before my eyes. "I made a picture perhaps you've seen, 'tis called the 'Chase of Fame.' It brought me fifteen hundred pounds and added to my name, And then I met a woman -- now comes the funny part -- With eyes that petrified my brain, and sunk into my heart. "Why don't you laugh? 'Tis funny that the vagabond you see Could ever love a woman, and expect her love for me; But 'twas so, and for a month or two, her smiles were freely given, And when her loving lips touched mine, it carried me to Heaven. "Boys, did you ever see a girl for whom your soul you'd give, With a form like the Milo Venus, too beautiful to live; With eyes that would beat the Koh-i-noor, and a wealth of chestnut hair? If so, 'twas she, for there never was another half so fair. "I was working on a portrait, one afternoon in May, Of a fair-haired boy, a friend of mine, who lived across the way. And Madeline admired it, and much to my surprise, Said she'd like to know the man that had such dreamy eyes. "It didn't take long to know him, and before the month had flown My friend had stole my darling, and I was left alone; And ere a year of misery had passed above my head, The jewel I had treasured so had tarnished and was dead. "That's why I took to drink, boys. Why, I never see you smile, I thought you'd be amused, and laughing all the while. Why, what's the matter, friend? There's a tear-drop in you eye, Come, laugh like me. 'Tis only babes and women that should cry. "Say, boys, if you give me just another whiskey I'll be glad, And I'll draw right here a picture of the face that drove me mad. Give me that piece of chalk with which you mark the baseball score -- You shall see the lovely Madeline upon the barroom floor." Another drink, and with chalk in hand, the vagabond began To sketch a face that well might buy the soul of any man. Then, as he placed another lock upon the shapely head, With a fearful shriek, he leaped and fell across the picture -- dead. --Hugh Antoine D'Arcy