Vancouver and Alaska Inside Passage Cruise
- Submitted by: Mark R. Leeper
- Submission Date: 14th Feb 2005
07/24/97 The Journey and the Overview of Vancouver
07/25/97 The UBC Museum of Anthropology and the Shopping Trip
07/26/97 The Aquarium and the Dawn Princess
07/27/97 The Lectures and the Play
07/28/97 Ketchikan and the Gold Rush Lecture
07/29/97 What is so rare as a day in Juneau?
07/30/97 The City Tour and the Horse Trail
07/31/97 The Glacier and the Pirate Play
08/01/97 The Small Animals and the Large Glaciers
08/02/97 Seward and Anchorage
08/03/97 The Museum and the Trip Home
07/24/97 The Journey and the Overview of Vancouver
Not the most auspicious of starts. We are headed to the airport in a rain. At least we are going east coast to west coast. I don't know what the weather patterns are in Western Canada. I hope they are better than here. Our last trip that started out in such bad weather was Spain and it was cold and rainy the entire time we were in Spain.
I usually try to start a trip log with a consideration of why we chose the particular place we are going. This time it is easy. My parents planned the trip. This is a family trip. I will be traveling with two parents, Harold and Mildred Leeper. Somewhere along the line they picked up the nicknames 'Dad' and 'Mom.' There is my sister Sherry Glotzer, six years and four months my senior. Then there is her husband David Glotzer. There is my brother David, about a month shy of three years my senior. His wife is Susan. And they have two children, Sara and Jack. Then there is Evelyn Chimelis Leeper, my lovely wife. And there is me. The idea was to go as a group on a cruise to Alaska. We are going really posh, at least for Evelyn and me. We are taking the Dawn Princess, a huge cruise ship that was new this last spring. I am sure I will be describing it in the course of this log.
Evelyn and I have taken cruises before, but never particularly fancy ones. We cruised on the Amazon with a little Brazilian boat, maybe 100 feet long. This was nobody's idea of luxury. Luxury was having drinkable water that did not smell too bad. The cabins were hot, barely large enough to bunk two beds on top of each other, and open at the top so you basically shared your cabin with every other passenger. Slightly more comfortable, but still not cruise line standards, was the boat we had in the Galapagos that same trip. Then later we took a Nile cruise we were on a reasonable boat. I guess you measure reasonable by decent food. There were no onboard activities we did not create for ourselves. There were little facilities beyond a dining room, the staterooms, and a bar. Now Dawn Princess is supposed to be one of the most luxurious boats afloat. The pictures make it look big and sleek and white.
I must be more nervous about this trip than most. I had a hard time sleeping last night. I wasn't trying to stay up as a cure for jet-lag, I just had this hard time sleeping. I didn't want to wake Evelyn so took my pillow in the other room, put the TV on 'sleep' and watched a movie until it put me to sleep. The movie was George Cukor's TWO-FACED WOMAN. I had never seen the film before and didn't really this time since I did fall asleep on it. This was Greta Garbo's last film. The myth was that at the height of her popularity she decided she did not want to be a star and went to live in seclusion. Possibly true, but I am not sure I believe it after seeing some of this film. First of all it is an attempted screwball comedy. The problem is that it was just not at all funny. That alone would not hurt her career. But this is different from her previous films in two important regards. One, Cukor does not use a soft focus. In the cold, sharp light of day she looks like just another blond. But Cukor also tones down her accent considerably. The latter is a disaster. As little Ninotchka, in spite of her bravado there was a certain frailty. There was a certain glamour in being foreign and frail. Make her an autocratic ski instructor and she is no longer frail, at least in this film. Take away so much of her accent and she is one more naturalized American, not just for this film, but for her career. It takes away what was unique about her. I think TWO-FACED WOMAN was a poison pill to her career anyway.
Well after about 40 minutes I fell asleep but woke up again. This time I put on HAROLD AND MAUDE. This was a formative film for me. It may not have changed my philosophy, but it made me more of what I would have been anyway. EASY RIDER leaves me cold but HAROLD AND MAUDE with its theme repeated over and over of being an individual instead of doing what was expected probably warped me for life. I bet this is a film that would fall utterly flat in Japan.
Mercifully I fell asleep on the movie and Evelyn had to wake me up at 4:40am for our 5am pickup. I had set my alarm for 4am but it had not done the trick. (Actually it went off later in the day at 4pm.) This is one of the rare times Evelyn has ever had to wake me up. The driver actually arrived a bit early.
Well we were among the first to the gate. They say these days that you should arrive 90 minutes before the flight, but they don't need nearly that much time.
They gave us seating for the second flight, Detroit to Vancouver. But not together.
They also now say that no electronic devices may be on from the moment you sit down on the plane. You will be told later when some can be turned back on. That seems excessive. But then once we were in the air they told us within five minutes that we could turn on electronic devices. As usual, I am logging the trip in an HP 200LX. I tried to doze off a little before and during takeoff, but it did not really take.
The flight went from 7am to 8:30am. No breakfast. I just got a cup of orange juice. The airlines are really cutting back and Northwest Orient seems worse than most. It never fails that if I eat at home, they feed me on the plane. If I skip breakfast... Well, I'm dieting anyway. I bet once I get on the ship I will eat more than my share.
We landed in Detroit, went to the new gate and Evelyn arranged to get our seats reassigned so we will sit together.
At about 9:15 we boarded the plane. The flight attendant found a man stowing a fishing pole and explained that the rule was if you bring on fishing pole on board the price is on big fish-not little but big-per flight attendant.
We left Detroit about 10:10 on the leg to Vancouver. Detroit was my old stamping grounds in the days I worked for Burroughs. We made some good friends, but did not like the city in general. We liked three things: our friends; the fact that Windsor, Canada was so close; and it was a great restaurant town. The auto companies had brought in a lot of different ethnic groups, but did not pay them very well. The result is a lot of great ethnic restaurants that did not overcharge.
Well, we are on our way to Vancouver, which I tell Evelyn is French for 'Covered Van.' I am probably wrong, but it sounds good.
Breakfast included a choice of items. I had cereal, a bagel (actually more like a bagel-shaped roll), yogurt, a banana, and a glass of spicy tomato juice.
At about 10:20 Vancouver time (I am switching over, it is 1:20 at home) the ground under the plane has become hilly and the peaks are covered With snow in late July, we must be getting up north. About half an hour later we are over farmland, low hills, and a river. Well, in Vancouver sunup is currently at 5:34am and it sets at 9:02pm. That is a couple of minute short of 15 ½ hours. The day we hit Anchorage, the sun will be up 5:35a to 10:33p or two minutes short of 17 hours. however today the sun is up there 5:13a and sets 10:56p or 17 hours and 43 minutes. I guess that means the day is will be 45 minutes shorter in a week than it is today. Summer leave this area really quickly.
We landed about 11:30. The people behind us on the plane are also on the cruise. Not too surprising, since of the capacity of the ship is over 2000 passengers.
The airport is decorated in what look like Indian motifs. It is decorated in beiges and greens and looks very Pacific Northwest. We stand in line at immigration and a man with a black Labrador walks up and down the queues sniffing for banned substances. The dog is a better detective than the human and all he gets is a can of horsemeat.
The immigration official asked us if we were Devil's fans. I guess you have to know all the US local teams if you are an immigration official. Customs was a wave-through. We got money with a credit card and went off in search of bus 100. Evelyn went to explore and decide to take the Airporter instead. That's $9. I will quote all prices in Canada in Canadian dollars. There is about $1.38C in $1 American. This bus is about $6.50 in US. The bus seems to be more service-oriented than I would expect at home. Luggage is stored on the bus (as opposed to under it), but they still load it for the passenger. I guess they want to keep the passenger passenging.
This seems like an area with a big Chinese contingent. There are LOTS of Chinese restaurants. We will not starve. The weather has turned beautiful. Blue overhead and a few billowy white clouds on the horizon. The architecture could be Californian crossed with a bit of English. For those who know the town, we are on Granville St.
The downtown area seems to feature a lot of buildings with green or blue tinted glass. They also go in big for billboards that show you three ads with vertical rotating columns. There are a lot of nice tall buildings, but nothing like West Shinjuku.
We got to the end of the bus line and had to search to find our Hotel Sylvia. It is sort of old-ish and ivy-covered. It could be better maintained, but it is nice and convenient. We dropped off our things in the room. We headed out to find lunch on Denman Street, a street whose restaurants we were ogling from the bus.
On the way we got a bus pass for the day. It is $4.50. It is a card that is covered with silver paint like scratch-off. You scratch off on place for the month and one for the day of the month. You have to scratch off for one date only and then the ticket is good for any rides on just that date. If you are wrong about what today's date is you can actually purchase a second chance at only $4.50. It's that simple.
I think I would like to spend a few days here just going to restaurants. We decided to get a small lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant called Vina. They has lunch dishes for $6.95. That would be cheap in US money, but it is really about $5.02. The lunch special was a choice of two entree samples. We got a fried platter. (Shoot, what was it that was fried? It was good, but I should have made a better note.) We also got a Hot and Sour Clam Soup. The former came with dishes of two sauces, one like a Hoi-sin sauce, one the Vietnamese sweet and sour clear sauce with carrot. The soup had a pineapple and a clam flavor. It was a pretty good lunch.
After lunch we got on a rather crowded bus for Gastown. It is named for saloonkeeper 'Gassy' Jack Deighton and his 'gassy' stories. The bus on the way was really packed. We talked to a woman about what was good to see. We told her how beautiful the city seemed to us. She agreed that the residents think it is a beautiful city and told us some things worth doing.
Vancouver is a city with a long heritage much like San Francisco's. Most cities must have had eccentrics in their founding but like San Francisco, Vancouver likes to keep that heritage alive. That is why there is a part of the city named Gastown for Gassy Jack. His statue is one of the attractions. The other, which we saw, is the first steam-driven clock. Samuel Johnson said of women ministers that a woman preaching is like a dog walking on his hind legs. It is not that she does it well, it is just amazing that she does it at all. That is pretty much true of the clock that runs on steam. It was three minutes slow and the glass over the faces tended to steam up with condensation. There was a face on each side, the clock itself was on the street and was about eight feet high, by the way. Every 15 minutes it would 'chime.' This is a new use of the word 'chime' since it was more a simulation the chiming of Big Ben in steam whistles. (Of course these days we would realize what a sexist and politically incorrect comment that was that Johnson made and would recognize that the women he heard were preaching just as well as the men if not better, regardless of what his faculties told him. Political correctness is, of course, very often a triumph of fair thinking over believing your faculties.)
As a somewhat touristy area they have turned Gastown into a shopping area much like Monterey. The prices are not so high, but it is kind of touristy. The books talk about a strong Asian influence in Vancouver and even in Gastown. I don't see it. I see a big Asian presence-that is in people and restaurants-but I don't really see Asian culture. Even that we will see it in Chinatown, but not Gastown. The buildings do not look Asian and I generally am not seeing much Asian culture. We went to Gaoler's Mews where there used to be an old jail. The mews was well marked but the Gaol was not.
From there it was a short walk to Chinatown, the second largest in North America. San Francisco has the largest. The first attraction is the six foot wide Sam Kee Building. When the city decided not to widen the street, they gave Sam Kee back a piece of land they expected he would use for parking. He was angry not to get enough to build a new building so on a bet he turned a six foot wide strip into a building. The building made Ripley's Believe It or Not, its major claim to fame. The floor is only about 52 inches wide and it has been turned into an insurance office. There is a Chinese Cultural Center with a big Chinese gate. Behind it is a small park with a pond and duck and very large carp. Now a lot of people would just look at this and continue with their business. And they might be better off. But I am not a lot of people. I started trying to see the pond from the point of view of the carp.
It strikes me that to a fish, a duck is a weird sort of fish that hugs the top and has two big funny-shaped fins. Sometimes the weird fish will disappear entirely into the above-the-surface world. Sometime it will just materialize from no place. When you are a fish you no longer have a law of conservation of matter. You can be staring at the surface, which for you is the edge of you world and suddenly a creature will be there where there was none before. It is one thing being a large carp that no duck would attack, but for smaller fish this could be a pretty scary situation.
Of course some fish would know there is more to the world above the surface. For them the above-the-surface world is probably a source of wonder. There are some fish that realize there is something in the other world and funny creatures up there.
Most have no idea. They just look in wonder as some pieces of floating food actually pull fish into the strange world above the surface. Some of these fish disappear forever, some come back someplace else. And those fish that come back have a real fish story to tell if only they could figure out how. I guess we are getting into the realm of piscine theology. Flying fish must be mystics among fish. They routinely jump into the mystic world, take a quick look at it, and return to the real world.
Take a look at the movie JAWS again, but from the point of the shark. The shark knew there was a world above because he could stick his head out to see. But this shark, who we are told is one smart fish, is actually caught in a life and death struggle with creatures from that alien world above the surface. All the shark knows is it is eating food as it has to do-and it is pretty bad food, humans are a lot of bones and almost no meat-and suddenly it has a new friend. The friend from beyond the surface. I say friend because it is certainly dropping tasty food down, the surface aliens call it 'chum.' Suddenly the aliens attack the shark, trying to pull it into the other world. 'Barrels' are nothing more than surface huggers, or strange devices that try to hug the surface if you pull them down.
Look at it like the Whitey does. The aliens try to shoot sharp pieces of metal into you to tie you to these top-huggers. Now you know you are in a life and death struggle with these aliens who are invading your space. You can no longer escape. You have to kill the aliens. But what are they? And why are they attacking you? It makes no sense. You have to think how to fight back. Think. What you see of them is mostly this big hard shell of their attack ship with the spinning flesh-cutter at the back end. That's not where the enemy is, but it is where your enemy is attacking you from. Think. The aliens drop into your world in some sort of funny square bubble with a hard shell around them. You can tear up the bubble but the alien inside swims away. Your only hope is to destroy the alien craft. You jump on it with the full force of your weight. Just the tipping pulls one alien into your mouth. Serves him right. Go for the last invader! He's put something in your mouth. You can't close your mouth. He's wedged your jaws open. Can you bite through it? You try. Now he's aiming something at it. What the...
Anyway... Chinatown proved to be low-key and lacking in the energy that New York's Chinatown has, Evelyn points out. Of course we usually see New York's Chinatown on a weekend.
A little history of Vancouver. The Spanish sailed past the area but never actually came ashore and stayed into the 19th Century. Fur traders were probably the first Euros into this area. Then in 1858 the gold strike brought Euros in hordes. In fact the demand to get to the area was so great, there was a shortage of available hordes. Prospective prospectors started coming in wagons instead. Even after the gold strike was settled there were not enough available hordes to take the miners home. In fact by 1886 there were 2000 people and it was time to become a city. Two months later a fire reduced it back to being a minor town again and did $1,300,000 in damage. Luckily that was Canadian dollars, but even so that much money bought a lot of damage in those days. And most of the miners thought even so that the amount of damage done was a bargain at that price. By the end of the year the city was rebuilt and when they counted they had unaccountably grown to 2500 people. It may be that this had become a port city and they were coming in at night. Or it could have been the result of other illicit night activities. On May 23, 1887 the first passenger train arrived in Vancouver. Just how it got there has not been recorded. But the plucky little train convinced the town that they wanted track laid to the town. And the rest is history, which was never my strongest subject in school.
All facts in the previous paragraph have been authenticated-or at the very least inspired-by the American Automobile Association's Tour Book.
Our next activity was to take the SkyTrain to just get an overview of the city. The SkyTrain is an elevated train that gives a nice view of the city. Unfortunately this was getting near to dinnertime and the train was crowded. Not as crowded as the trains we had ridden in Japan, but certainly standing room only. To make matters worse there was an obnoxious drunk who thought he as a comedian. His idea of humor was to ask me, 'How are you doing, Isaac?' Or he would yell to someone getting off the train 'Hey, don't go. You're driving.' He asked on guy if he voted. When the guy said he hadn't the drunk yelled to the whole car, 'Hey, he didn't vote.' Eventually he got to his stop and as he was leaving he saw a friend of his. I could hardly believe that this guy had friends. But this was an older looking man with a white beard. They shook hands and exchanged words. Then the bearded one got on the train and we lost our drunk. About halfway to the next station the bearded one started yelling about Jesus. They have relay subway freak tag-teams here. Wotta country!
I keep being astounded by Vancouver. I think the two most beautiful cities I have ever seen are Hong Kong and San Francisco and Vancouver looks like some sort of cross-breeding of the two. I see the rocky hills across the water and the buildings clustered around the bottom and I think I am in Hong Kong. I see the architecture and the steep little hilly streets and it looks like San Francisco. So right now it looks very nice. I just wonder if it looks so nice in the winter with rain and worse the dark. We are not above the arctic circle so there is sun every day. It is never less that 8 hours and 12 minutes of sunshine here. Helsinki can have less than six.
Well it is interesting to look around the car and see what people are doing-I mean the ones who are mentally competent. A woman who sat next to me was studying medicine. Most were reading or talking or just looking at the scenery. There is a moving company called Two Small Men with Big Hearts Moving Company. Well the moving companies have funny names in New York also.
We got off the train near where my parents' motel was. It was a bit of a walk and when we got there, no motel. Evelyn wanted to search further. I said that there was not much point since my parents were not likely to be in any case. Instead I said we should go ahead to the SeaBus. This is a catamaran between North Vancouver and the City of Vancouver across English Bay. The view is much like from the Star Ferry in Hong Kong. We had to run to make the ferry. Unfortunately it was nearly full and we did not get very good seats. The boat does not allow passengers to stand up during the trip and we had seats that had our backs to the only real view.
We walked around the port area of North Vancouver, then waited for the return trip. Because we were waiting a long time for good seats we got some of the best on the boat and some good photos. The ride is about 25 minutes. You approach the main city at a dock next to Canada Place, a sort of dockside shopping mall.
Returning we had dinner at Ma Dang Kool, a Korean restaurant just a few doors down from the Vietnamese restaurant where we had lunch. I had Bulgalbi. Evelyn had Soon Doo Boo Ji Gae.
On the way back I stopped at a grocery and picked up a Coffee Crisp, a Canadian candy bar. I got a taste for them when I lived in Detroit across the river from Windsor, Ontario. It is sort of a wafer bar with coffee flavor frosting between the wafers and covered in chocolate. Quite tasty.
I call my parents motel and talk to my father. They are going to take a trolley and see the city tomorrow. I feel a little guilty not going with them but we have seen the city today and want to see the museum of Anthropology.
I went to bed about 11.
07/25/97 The UBC Museum of Anthropology and the Shopping Trip
I had gone to sleep about 10:30ish, if I remember and woke up about 5. This would not be unusual behavior for me at home either. Evelyn was asleep so I slunk off to the bathroom where I could turn on a light. Sunrise is at 5:35a this morning and sunset at 9:00p. (Can you tell I have been playing with my palmtop and the spreadsheet for predicting the sun's movements?) Anyway, with sunrise so early they had to make the curtains opaque.
It was early morning and we decided to take a walk along the sea wall promenade of English Bay. That is just across the street from our hotel. In the early morning there were runners along the path, people walking dogs, a few people sleeping on the beach, and some geese pecking up breakfast from the grass. There were barges and tankers anchored in the bay and smaller boats moving around. There is a small but nice beach. I guess it was something of a luxury having this beach. The sand was trucked in. There was no naturally occurring sand here. I told Evelyn that it must be valuable. We had been hearing at work about how the computer industry is suffering a silicon shortage. That must mean the world now has a shortage of sand, right? Anyway I misspoke myself and called it silicone. Now that's a scary though. Think of all the ghoulish treasure hunters digging up the graves of all those Hollywood starlets.
The whole shoreline is dotted with park benches. Each (but one that we saw) has a plaque. Most are in memory of someone. Evelyn suspects that many are AIDS victims and that Vancouver may be a city with a high gay population, another similarity to San Francisco. Anyway the plaques all say something like 'You came, you saw, you made us laugh.' That one is on the bench of a man who died at 22, if I remember. I wonder what is the metaphysical foundation for the belief that you can get a message to the dead by leaving it on a plaque on a bench? Is the belief that the dead reside within the bench? If so I do not envy them their view of the living. Is that what being dead is like? You are either bored with no company or you are looking up at an unflattering angle at your loved ones? Jeez. I'd rather be... OH MY GOSH!
Well one intelligent thing they have on the beach is to have a rule against playing radios. I have heard people over the last couple of days playing Walkmans so loud that it was disturbing. Well earlier this year I had my vengeance. I won't go into the circumstances, but I was driving down El Camino Real in Palo Alto in a rented convertible. Only the third or fourth time I was in a convertible at least with the top down. And the radio was playing Puccini's TOSCA. And I said why is it always such lousy music I get blasted with by others. So I turned the radio to full blast and let the world hear Puccini. There is definitely an attraction. Anyway this is a nice beach in the early morning.
We returned to the room and I took a shower. I left out my night-case token. Actually it is the handle of a chopstick labeled 'Night-case.' I leave it so it sticks out of my night-case. When I put the night-case in the bathroom I leave it out in plain sight somewhere in the main room. It reminds me not to leave the case.
We ate in a place called The Bread Garden. I was expecting a lot of rolls with seeds. I mean considering the name of the restaurant. Evelyn had a Pain du Chocolate and a Latte. I had a shrimp wrap which turned out to be noodles, spinach, and a few pieces of shrimp in thin wrap.
We are eating outside on a wobbly marble table. Why are restaurant tables so often wobbly? Does your dinner table at home wobble? I am watching the woman across from me. She is an older woman sitting and drinking coffee and smoking while she talks to a friend. She throws her cigaret down on the tiled floor and steps on it, lighting up her next. Why do smokers consider that cigaret butts are not really litter. This is a woman who does not look like someone who breaks rules. She does not look very punk. We just have come to accept this form of despoiling the environment.
Someone who sees us typing into our palmtops comes over to make conversation just asking about them. I guess he at one point ran a computer store so knows what PCs are all about. He asks a lot about what accessories you can get with a palmtop. He also gives helpful information about how to get to our boat. People seem a lot less reserved here than in the US. They talk to strangers.
At about 9:30 our new bus passes kick in. They are only good after the morning commute is over. We take he bus to The Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. This is a long ride on the bus and then a long walk on the campus. We get there about 10:55am. We are just about in time for the 11am tour. There are maybe six or eight people on the museum tour. The woman sometimes has a many as 50 people she says. I don't know how she manages because her voice is barely strong enough for the six of us to hear. It is not helped by the design of the museum, concrete walls that bounce back every sound in the room and there are little kids running around and treating the museum like a playground.
This museum is supposed to be a general museum of anthropology. But at least 90% is devoted to what they call 'First Nations,' a new name for what we call 'American Indians.' Actually I am told by Evelyn that based on a survey in the US, the majority of First Nations peoples prefer to be called 'American Indians.'
Most of this collection was collected around 1926 and the museum itself was built in 1976 of a simple concrete design. That was the design that was playing havoc with the acoustics.
Off to one side they have a ceramics collection that seems more art than anthropology. Probably the central area of focus is the totem poles. The totems were so common in this area because the land was rich so the local tribes did not have to be nomadic. That meant they could take the time to decorate. The making of totem pole is not just an art of the past, but an on-going one. Only someone important like a chief will have a totem pole. Some people think that totem poles tell a story, they don't. And the poles are not idols that were worshipped. Actually they are closer to heraldry than hieroglyphics. There will be incidents and tales connected with the family's past that will be represented on a pole. There will be totems from he wife's family and from the husband's family. Each animal on a totem pole will in some way belong to the family's background. Each image has songs and stories associated with it. Also there might be multiple somethings at the top to show how many potlatches the family has given. One showed three watchmen to symbolize three potlatches given. I will describe potlatch later. I wonder if totem poles had to be updated if more potlatches were given. Maybe it was a good excuse to opt out of giving another potlatch.
Much of the information about what the symbolism is has been lost since European diseases wiped out about 90% of the First Nations population. Knowledge would be wiped out when everyone who knew it would die out. It is much like during the plague years whole villages would go out of existence when everybody died of the plague.
Poles come in two types. The half poles that are decoration for the front of a building. A cross section of the pole itself would be a D-shape made from a split log. Then there are the free-standing ones that use the full circle.
Now a Potlatch should be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a Bar Mitzvah. A potlatch is nothing more than a big celebration party (16 hours long, no less) at which every attendee is given a nice gift. It is a show of wealth that a family can afford to have a potlatch. Inviting a whole tribe and perhaps a neighboring one to potlatch would break someone who was not very wealthy. It was a way to spread the wealth. Family's would often start three years in advance to get all the gifts together. The Euros that came tried to suppress the potlatch because the locals enjoyed the custom and it took too much time from being Christian. Also it was claimed to spread disease, but you can bet they didn't think church gatherings spread disease. But in general the Christians liked to compare their customs to those of the locals and then ascribe the differences as being either immoral or unhealthy. The attitude was that if the First Nations people really worked at perfecting themselves they would end being just like the Europeans.
I assume that the participants would stockpile gifts so they would be ready for any event that comes. And they do it like 'let's make 200 all-purpose gifts. Somebody will want them.' And what is the best all purpose gift but a bentwood cedar box? These were favorite possessions. The cedar started as straight planks. They would then cut three ridges and heated and steamed the wood so it would bend. With the three bends they had the sides of the box. The loose ends were sewn or pegged together. Then a base was pegged in place. The result was a box you could carry water in, use as a cradle, just about anything. It was sort of Tupperware.
On exhibit was wood and metal work. The metal work had an interesting story. The people of the First Nations would trap animals for pelts which they would sell for silver coins. They would then beat the coins into jewelry. Now I am sure the Euros did not pay the First Nations people well for pelts. A lot of animals must have died for very little jewelry. But we people of non-First-Nations descent now know it was a good thing the First Nations were doing, living in harmony with nature and painting with the colors of the wind.
One of the temporary exhibits was a piece by local artists saying that art done on First Nations themes should be sold only by people of the First Nations. The museum, by giving a forum to this point of view and none of any opposing point of view seemed to be sanctioning it.
There has been a disturbing trend in museums of late. At one point museums were just institutions to share experiences and facts. That was considered to be their sole function. Over the last few years I have noted more and more museums where the feeling is that they can present opinions as fact. Now I suppose that Relativity is in some ways an opinion, but there is scientific evidence that it is a correct opinion and the scientific community strongly believe in Relativity. But the presenting of political viewpoints seems to go beyond the bounds of what a politically funded museum should be doing. A couple of years ago the Smithsonian wanted to set up an exhibit about the bombing of Hiroshima (a good choice for an exhibit) and present it as a purely reprehensible act. If they want to present it as still controversial 50 years later, that is fact. If they want to take sides in the controversy, either side, that is not what they are being paid for. To use a position as a public teacher paid by taxes. To push a single point of view is an abuse of trust. I don't care if they do agree with my politics. I don't want them to use public money to teach even my politics as fact.
I cannot really put myself in the place of the First Nations wanting to restrict their themes to themselves. There has never been much demand for Judaica outside the Jewish community. Well, that is not quite true. There was a strong demand for Jewish art in Europe in the 1930s. That, however, can be ascribed to bargain hunters rushing to take advantage of low or frequently non-existent prices. But I don't think much of this art was displayed at the time and more frequently it was melted for the materials.
There were also examples of weaving roots and the centerpiece of the museum was a piece of artwork by local Bill Reid showing a creation myth. Reid is continuing the traditions of his ancestors by creating art on traditional themes and selling it to museums. He also does not want non-First-Nation people telling traditional First Nation stories, so our guide could not tell us the story of this creation myth, but did point us to a sign on the wall where Reid told in his own words the creation myth story.
'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.'
The art piece shows the raven on a clam shell and people-all male-crawling out of the clam shell.
Another unusual point of this museum is its keeping most of its storage in cases where it can be seen by visitors. They have cases with drawers, open the drawers and you can see more of their collection.
Following the museum we had a small snack of some sandwiches and cokes. They were sold by and for the benefit of people from the First Nations.
Around the back of the museum was an outdoor display of more First Nation art, particularly totem poles. On our way back to the bus we stopped at the Geology Museum to see their skeleton of a Lambeosaurus.
On the bus on the way back I see a place that advertises erotic body piercings. I guess people will pay to watch just about anything these days. They don't say if the victims know they are the entertainment.
We stopped into Duthies, supposedly a really good bookstore. Supposedly. I was impressed only by certain sections. I thought they had a really good history section but only a mediocre science section. I did get a book, THE AXEMAKER'S GIFT by James 'Connections' Burke and Robert Ornstein.
In a department store we bought our Canada chachka, a small tin of maple syrup.
From there we went back to the room to rest up. I tried calling my parents about dinner, but could not reach them. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant called the Saigon and had curried seafood hotpot and Grandma's Chicken. The latter was a pressed chicken dish that showed signs of becoming chicken loaf.
Well now most of the Canada part of the trip was over. I bought three Coffee Crisps to use up money and went back too the room to write. Actually I ended up watching MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. Apparently they still show reruns here.
I cannot complain about the weather. We have had really good weather for Vancouver. It is usually rainy but today and the day before were just beautiful.
07/26/97 The Aquarium and the Dawn Princess
Well again I woke at about 5 in the morning. Evelyn did also. I wrote a little while in my log, but I was anxious to get the day going. This was the day we would be seeing our cruise ship. It was also the last we would spend in Vancouver. Early we went out to find breakfast, going back to the Bread Garden. I had Pan du chocolate and fruit salad. Then we went back to our room, checked both out and our luggage, and headed out to explore Stanley Park, the wooded portion of Vancouver. We returned to the sea-wall we walked yesterday but this time we went to the right to follow the sea-wall promenade six miles around the peninsula that composes Stanley Park.
It was Saturday morning and people were out jogging, walking dogs, roller-blading, and even fishing. Evelyn walked along macabrely reading benches and plaques which often dedicated the benches in the memories of someone dead. We looked out to the barge that was to be the home of the Symphony of Fire.
I should explain the Symphony of Fire. This was to be an international fireworks competition. Three countries are competing this year, Spain, China, and the US. The first presentation is tonight with the world champion Spanish team. Each team is given three days to prepare the display. Unfortunately we will have sailed by the time the display starts tonight.
Walking by the water I see a Blue Heron standing by the water's edge. I am watching him close up with my field glasses. He drops into the water and I see he got a fish. He holds the fish in his beak for a few seconds, perhaps waiting for it to stop struggling, then swallows it. This is one more fish learning about the world above the surface.
A way further on there appears to be a flock of geese on the ground pecking away. Actually there seems to be a goose territorial dispute going on. The geese do not seem to get along very well. They are as bad as humans. Almost.
But it is a nice walk. You have nature on one side and can look out at tankers in harbor. One of the sites passed is Siwash rock. This is a tall narrow rock sticking out of the water that the brave use as a diving point. It is about 20 feet high, if I remember right. There is a plaque to commemorate a high school student who dived off not knowing it was low tide. Just how he could dive off not knowing he was diving onto wet rocks is unclear from the plaque. In the shadow of Siwash a jogger asked if we would like our pictures taken. We did and we talked a little while. She agreed that the great weather we were having was typical. Meaning, of course, that it wasn't at all.
We passed some Chinese fishermen who wished us a good morning and I responded 'Zao an.' The end of the six-mile walk is a park-like area (well the whole thing is park, I guess) with a collection of ten or twelve totem pole with the ugliest creatures on them you could imagine. I mean the tourists who were letting their children climb on them, were standing in front of them forever to get their pictures taken and who were making rude comments.
I see the tourist trolley my parents would have taken. It is some sort of trolley-form bus. It does not ride on a track and get pulled by a cable. It has a gasoline internal combustion engine. It is a faux trolley.
So seeking for further amusement we paid and went into the aquarium. I had been to SeaWorld in San Francisco and this was what I was expecting there. Yes there were show, but the animals were not asked to do many special tricks and it was much more educational than pure entertainment. The first thing we saw was the killer whales. We went into an underwater observation area. Unfortunately it was mobbed. Fortunately they were just starting the killer whale show and the room emptied out. We were the only ones left and since we could hear the loudspeakers above we decided to watch the show from the underside. It was probably much more spectacular watching a whale jump as seen from under water that seen from the surface. You see the force it exerts, not just the result. They still had it do the silly tricks like jumping out to bite a fish, but we got a better view of how the whale did it. The whale did some sort of surface trick it looked at me in view port, sort of shrugged, and gave me a 'what the heck, it's a living' sort of look.
One thing I did not understand. The whales I saw took particular interest in swimming upside-down. I don't know why. But underneath they were doing a lot of swimming belly to the surface. There was a male and female orca and a much smaller dolphin. The female orca is the dominant. She decides what friends the males can have and what they will do. If she decides he cannot have the dolphin as a friend, we were told, the male will obey.
The aquarium has a good collection of other animals. Of course there were sea otters whose intelligence has apparently been measured and compares favorably with that of fans of Iggy Pop and Smashing Pumpkins.
We watched a show with Beluga whales but this time there were a lot of people watching from the underwater viewports. So many that it was difficult to see anything. Luckily the program got educational so people started to leave.
There are tanks in which sushi fans can see ebi, uni, and tako on the hoof. There is a nice steamy Amazon area where you can get a close look at birds and butterflies of the region and perhaps even see some creatures more shy. There are sharks roaming some tanks. We saw caimons, turtles, and an ananconda.
Well, it started to get late. And if the truth be known, I wanted it to get late. The next thing we were going to do was to go to the ship. This was the exciting part of the trip coming up. Just not fast enough. We walked back to the Sylvia, that took about 20 minutes. We got our luggage and called for a taxi. It was there in two minutes, driven by a Sikh. I was listening in the cab. We passed a kid about six years old talking to his mother. 'And all vampires need blood to live, right?' I would have been curious to hear the rest of the conversation.
It seemed like a long ride through the city until we got to the dock. But from the cab we could see the ship a good distance away. It must be ten or eleven stories above the water. (Actually it is 11 stories above the water line. Some facts: The ship was built in Malfalcone, Italy in the year 1997. It is registers in Monrovia, Liberia. It ways 77,000 tons. That is 154 MILLION pounds. It is 856 feet long 24 feet short of a 1/6 mile, 106 feet wide.)
The cab stopped and our luggage was taken. We walked in, spent our last $3 on Coffee Crisps. We showed our tickets and got admitted to a large room with airport style security to get in.
We line up by deck number. My brother's family, was lined up next to us but did not see us. I said 'Hello, Jack' to my nephew. They all looked around. There were the customary handshakes and greetings. Then we were at the head of our line. We got cards that said just about everything relevant about us. It has a picture of the ship, the name of the ship, my name, my stateroom, my starting and endpoints, the dates, the voyage number, our assigned dining room, our dinner seating, our table number, my hat size, my favorite color, what I had for dinner the night before, and my favorite flavor of ice cream. Once you have that you go up an escalator, you get your picture taken in the hopes it is so bad and you are so distracted and flustered you will look terrible and you can be blackmailed into buying it back from them.
From there we continued up the gangway and onto the ship. There are people to direct you to Your stateroom. The room is about 9'x18'. The bed is under the port window. And is about 5 ½' wide. One side there is a chest of drawers. Beyond the foot of the bed is a desk and mirror on the side without the chest. The side with the chest has a small bottles bar with a refrigerator and a TV on the top shelf. Continuing to the door there is a closet 18 inches deep, the passage to the door down the center, and a small bathroom with shower opposite the closets. There is a safe in the room that every time you close it you key in what will be the combination next time. That bothers me a little since I could make a mistake. But I guess they can electronically reset it.
The ship has a crew of 880 taking care of 2000 passengers. The passengers pay on the average $500/day. So I would say the ship grosses a million dollars a day. With that they are able to provide pretty top-notch service. The very worst interactions with staff seem to be cordial and most are at least friendly.
There is a daily newsletter to keep people up with what is happening on the ship. It is called the Princess Patter. They do the same thing at science fiction conventions, but the newsletters are more frequent.
The first newsletter said that the ship would anchor in English Bay to give passengers the opportunity to see the Symphony of Fire fireworks display that night. It went over very well.
We had a quick lunch on deck 14. This is the Horizon Court, a restaurant that never closes. I had a platter of fish. Afterwards we explored the ship briefly and found a basketball court and hot tubs. After a little while we headed back to the room to see the broadcast of a tape on the day tours available.
At 5pm we had a drill on what to do in case of emergency. We all went to our assigned muster stations and tried on our life-vests.
We went back to our room to try to see more of the tape on the day excursions. We did see a bit more but got interrupted more than we would have liked. After about an hour it was time for our first dinner. The waiters are very good and solicitous, but I could not help feeling they had a patter all set up more high roller passengers. Somehow having servile waiters at my beck and call is just not my thing. I started with shrimp and prawn salad, the 'soup' choice I chose tuned out to be not a soup at all but a pina colada, light on the rum. I was expecting some sort of a cross between a pina colada drink and a soup. No it came as a drink, period. Evelyn and I had some idea of what a pina colada was and it was just the two of us who ordered it. Other people at the table said it looked good when it came and they requested ones also. It think they made a hit. I can't believe that Evelyn and I were the only ones who knew what a pina colada was, and I don't drink any drink with enough alcohol to be detected with a spectroscope. I had a salad with tomato dressing. The main course was a seafood pastry. Dessert was profitroles, a cream-filled pastry with fresh berries. The latter usually comes with alcohol, but I asked for an alcohol free version and got it. In fact they put in a double load of berries. I think there is a general acknowledgment that people have paid a great deal of money to travel this way and in return deserve a high level of service. Service personnel were chosen who could appear always cheerful and helpful at a minimum, humor is a bonus. Evelyn calls this service servile. It is not my idea of what servile means. To be servile means to do something demeaning. This is not demeaning.
At we went out early to see the fireworks. Little local boats came by mainly to see the fireworks but also to talk to us. When the time came for the display the Captain or one of the mates apparently studied up on the event and gave a commentary. 10,000 tons of sand was loaded on the barge and mortars for the fireworks placed in the sand. 600 staff hours are needed in setup time for each show.
The Spanish had a few effects I had not seen before. One seems to create what looks like a perfect sphere of embers from the explosion. The other is to have the embers from an explosion and from their midst a little meteor seems to flash out. One of the things any fireworks display needs is luck. The Spanish display was missing that commodity. They also has no wind at all. Each rocket that exploded added to a veil of smoke that no wind dissipated. Eventually there was little to see, just flashes behind a cloud of black. The other problem that was more their fault was that they supposedly synchronized the effects to music. But that almost always is a failure. There seems to be no relation between the music and the explosions. When the display was over, most of us went to sleep while the engines came to life.
07/27/97 The Lectures and the Play
I woke up a little past sunrise at about 5:35. I looked out window and saw shoreline. Now we are on the post side of the ship. That means left. If we were going north I would expect to see land to the starboard side. But the shore going by is on the port side. Evelyn thinks that we are threading our way between an island and the shore. But what does she know? She thinks she knows everything. I know that we are going the wrong way and I have to get a message to the captain somehow. Quick. Well maybe after breakfast.
When we came back from dinner last night there was a bowl of fruit in the room. Two bananas, two oranges, two nectarines. Perfect, I thought. This morning would be our monoversary and I needed something to give Evelyn. By monoversary, I mean that it is the 27th of the month and we were married on the 27th of the month. So I give Evelyn breakfast in bed. This morning we shared a banana. This is our 299th monoversary.
Well we threw on our clothes early because supposedly they start the tour registration early. Officially they start registration at 6:30, 6:45, or 7:00, depending or where you look. Actually they were already well into the process when we arrived at 6:25. They must have started at 6. They have made it comfortable by having you take a number when you come in. You then take a seat and only about 10 or 20 of the next people actually stand in line, The rest sit in comfort. While you sit there people come around to make sure that you have filled you form out correctly. They call you to line up when they get near your number, then you go to one of the 12 or so servers on computers. The actual registering took about three minutes. The whole process took twenty minutes, from 6:25 to 6:45. Very nice and well thought out.
We went up to the top floor to have breakfast. Actually we should have gone aft to fore first and then taken the elevator in the fore section. Since we did vertical first we had to walk across outside. The ship was threading its way between pine-covered mountains on each side. I guess this was our first view of the scenery close without a window between us. Outstanding.
We went to breakfast. I was a bad boy and had a bit of the Brie. I had a bagel and cream cheese. And they have lox! Some out of the way places don't have it. I wonder if they ship it in. (OK, before I get eight people writing me to explain to me how ignorant I am, that was a joke. By the end of this week I expect to have salmon out the wazoo. Actually, this was not even good lox. I think it wasn't very smoked. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there is always an option to have salmon. The shop has chocolate covered salmon pieces. I passed up the salmon granola for breakfast. The ice cream parlor has a flavor Salmon Almond Crunch.)
I found the pineapple, the lox and the cream cheese did not have much flavor. The food was OK, but not as good as the dinner food. I do have to be careful. The claim is that the average person gains eight pounds a week on a Princess Cruise. Maybe they are just saying that so you can gain five and still feel proud of yourself.
Well after breakfast we went out on the deck and watched the passing scenery and wrote. Not an unpleasant way to spend a morning.
We went back to the room to see if there was a new Patter and warm up a bit. Then at 10:15 we went to a presentation on Wild Alaska by photographer Dean DeFillipo. It was just a high level look at glaciers and animals of Alaska. I guess his major point where that Alaska is always changing and that everything is intimately connected with water.
Alaska is unique in a lot of ways, by far it has the highest number of pilots per capita. There is one pilot for every 58 people. The area was covered with a 5000 foot thick glacier in the ice age and of course the glaciers have not entirely receded. There are two kinds of glaciers, the hanging glaciers on the mountains and the tidewater glaciers somewhat lower down. The latter are more of interest to us this trip. When a tidewater glacier warms up, bits of the edges break off and become icebergs. This process is called 'calving.' It can be pretty spectacular to see and not a little dangerous. Seeing a few hundred tons of ice fall into water gives you a new perspective on nature. There are people who will land a plane or helicopter on a glacier, but not on an iceberg. Icebergs are unstable and easily roll over. A glacier comes in a sheet that abrades at mountains and picks up grit and stone. Another feature of glaciers is a cave-like hole called the moulon. It is just a melted hole from a sun-heated stone on top of a glacier. Ice we are used to seeing is white and has air trapped in it. If it is compressed it reflects light differently and appears to be blue.
After the talk we returned to our rooms, wrote a while then had lunch with the family.
After lunch was spent with log-writing and perhaps napped just a bit. We also visited the library. They have a library with big comfortable seats and a reasonable collection of books and some CDs. There are big easy-chairs that play the CDs in front of windows that have a view out to sea. It is just about perfect. A lot of thought has been given to the question of what it would be nice to have and on this ship you have it. The ship itself is of a sort of unique design, looking more like a floating hotel than a traditional cruise ship. Evelyn borrowed the Lonely Planet book on Alaska and I borrowed the Oxford Book of Sea Stories. Geez, am I an optimist. When will I ever read it?
After that there was a talk on whales by Dean DeFillipo. Since I am falling further and further behind in my log writing I will just list facts gleaned and written in notes.
The largest animal that every lived on Earth is alive right now, the 110 foot blue whale which weighs 190 tons.
Whales evolved from furry land animals who returned to the sea, traded fur for fat, and their nostrils migrated to the backs of their necks. Now they vary in size from little dolphins to the blue (see above). (Actually if you see a blue whale above you, be VERRRRRY CAREFUL).
Gray whales are the species seen the most.
Whales have baleen plates that they use to strain krill out of the water. It is the largest animal on earth eating one of the smallest. (I suspect one krill does not go very far.)
A whale may put just on fin out of the water and let the wind carry it. This is called 'sailing.'
Whales are safe to swim around most of the year. However, the males go a little nuts at mating time.
Some whales throw out sound and travel by sonar.
The sperm whale eats giant squid.
DeFillipo told a story of having had one Beluga follow his boat all day, staying around the back near the prop. It never seemed to do anything there, it just hung around there. Finally he decided to put his head under and just watch the Beluga. It seems whenever the prop would stop spinning the whale would spit water on it to make it spin the other way. The Beluga using prop as a pinwheel.
A killer whale is very social.
Whale society is dominated by the female who makes the rules. When the dominant female becomes a grandmother, she baby-sits and is very much like a human grandmother.
He told a story of watching a pair of Orcas and they would look a little at him and then continue what they were doing. Toward the end the female just pointed down and the male swam down and disappeared from sight. He waited wondering what would happen. The male came up 30 seconds later with and 8-foot shark in its mouth. Like cats playing with mice they would let the shark go, then grab it again. DeFillipo was a bit afraid because the shark still had enough life left to go after him. Finally they pulled the shark in half and each ate half. Then they gave him one last look and both dived down out of sight.
He said that we are in the right waters and we could start watching for whales. You look first for the geyser as they blow. One statistic that would have been interesting would have been to hear is how many hours of watching is expected to your first whale viewing.
The whale talk went a little late so we were late to the classical music concert that was our next event. They played some Hayden, some Dvorak, and then got to the popular section of the concert with the song 'It Had to be You.' Somehow this portion was distinctly unpopular with Evelyn and me and we left. Do popular musical concerts ever get to a classical section?
Much of the rest of the day was low-key. It was spent log writing.
My dinner was Rock Cornish Game Hen. My parents and the Glotzers went to the show while Evelyn and I sat on the deck and wrote. They came out an hour later really raving about how good the show was. Each show is given four times and you see it depending on what your assigned dining room is and whether you have early and or late seating, but you really can go to any of the performances.
There was a lot of farbling about what people wanted to do the rest of the evening. We had an extra hour since the clocks were being turned back. I suggested that Evelyn and I would go to the second show if it was that good and others could join us if they wanted to see it again. Sherry and my mother took us up on the offer.
The play was called OdysSea and the story, what there was of it, took a backseat to the dancing and performances of some excellent Chinese acrobats. The story does not bear much thinking about. A diver has entered a trench (how has he avoided being crushed is not explained). He is enchanted by sea creatures. The daughter of the King of the Sea falls in love with the diver and the diver is transformed into a sea creature himself. Of course the story was very secondary. Even the title was secondary. It has absolutely nothing to do with either The Odyssey or any odyssey. It mostly takes place in one (mythical) place. The costumes and the dancing are all very God. One costume seems to be some underwater giant mounted on something like a horse. The giant is on stilts and the horse is just a skeletal structure, but it gives the idea. The Chinese acrobats are terrific, but it is unclear why they are playing sea creatures or how their acrobatics have anything to do with their roles. Why would crabs jump around climbing poles? This is more watching a circus act than a play with a story.
When the play was over I went up to the Horizon Court for a drink (lemonade, I drink no alcohol). I was surprised to see that fruit was all that was available. Fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice. I later heard that you have to go to the Bistro in the back to order real food, but that it was available.
07/28/97 Ketchikan and the Gold Rush Lecture
This morning we get to docking in Ketchikan, once the Salmon Capitol of the World. It is, however, a capitol in enemy hands as humans have occupied the capitol and not only frequently kill the enemy, they eat the dead. The salmon have yet to organize any sort of effective counter-offensive.
We got up early with a few dozen other stout hearted souls to watch the docking. Ketchikan is nestled at the foot of a hill, and is said to be five miles long and four blocks wide. We watched and took pictures while the ship sidled slowly up to the dock.
This is really a salmon cannery town and looks it. It has about 14,000 people. It has been canning salmon since 1883 and in 1903 a saw mill so it also looks like a saw mill town. But it favors the cannery side. This was an extremely efficient salmon catching and canning area (note the name of the town). So much so that in the 1970s they had pretty much completed the task of catching and canning all the local salmon and were ready to move on to the next labor. However, some of the locals became nostalgic for money. They began dragging their feet on the last of the salmon and letting them breed, and by the mid-1980s the fish population was out of hand again. It may be a few more years before they finish the job, but they are really dragging their feet on the last of the salmon.
After watching us dock Evelyn and I returned indoors and had breakfast with my parents. It was something unmemorable from the Horizon Court, probably lox, cheese, a fried egg, etc. My parents would be taking a bus tour of the town, Evelyn and I had decided to take a local walking tour offered free by the Visitor Information Center. We headed down the gangplank and were quickly at the Info Center and picked up the map and walking tour. There is a sign used to measure the rain. It claims you can use the mountain behind the town to find out he weather for the day. If you don't see the point at the top, it is raining. If you can see the point it is going to rain, But so far no rain. The shops are built with plenty of awnings to give people protection from the rain. I guess when you live with rain a lot, you get used to it.
Whale Park is small-New York has bigger traffic islands, but it has a totem pole, a replica of one erected to Tlingit chief Kyan.
On Steadman Street we passed by a marina with fishing boats. I took a picture of them with the Dawn Princess looming above them in the background. There is a kiosk with an explanation of the different types of fishing boats. Fishing boats you will see are of four types. Trollers are hook and line boats that have the tall poles over the boat. These tip back to a 45 degree dropping hooks into the water. When the big fish bite they are reeled in. Seiners are net fishers that have big power blocks to retrieve nets. You see big pulleys to pull on nets. Gillnetters are small with a large spool toward the back to reel in the nets, the nets float high in the water behind the boat. Finally there are longliners which you can recognize for their coils of line. They use buoyed hooks and lines.
About this time we discovered that neither of us had brought money.
Evelyn suggested I work on my log and she would go back to the ship. (What a nice wife!) We went back to Whale Park and I wrote while she went to the ship. Rain finally came and I had to batten down to keep my computer from getting wet.
Our first major stop is the Totem Heritage Center. The entrance fee is $3 or $5 if the salmon hatchery is included. The Heritage Center starts with the story of Raven and Fog Woman. Raven is a sort of local deity of the Indians. Not much would have happened in the universe if Raven wasn't there to get it going. We saw earlier that humans would still be in a clamshell if not for Raven. In this tale he married a mysterious woman. One day he hit her and she got upset and left him, leaving behind a box. He opened the box and salmon came into the world.
The Heritage Center is two small rooms, one with five vertical poles, the other with some pieces of totem poles in racks. In my opinion the admission price is a bit high for what they have. Their description of a potlatch was somewhat a variance from the one we got at University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology. Here they said the potlatch would last from three days to three weeks. Everyone gets a gift and in return high-caste guests agree to hold potlatch and invite the host, low-caste will agree to speak only good of the events at the potlatch. Instead of one there are five kinds of totem pole: potlatch, commemorating a potlatch; heraldic, telling of the family heritage of the chief; story, with figures from a story; mortuary, commemorating the death of a person; and memorial commemorating an event.
By this point it was raining fairly hard. We continued on to the fish hatchery.
This was more interesting than the last. This is actually a simple factory for creating new salmon and trout. It is a bit cruel, but effective. They have a fish ladder and the salmon fight their way up only to have the best clubbed on the head and killed. The females are cut open and their roe are taken, the males have their sperm taken and fertilization takes place in a bucket. In plastic tanks the new salmon are grown and marked and then released. We had a guide who seemed to take great joy at explaining the gruesome aspects of the process. We asked why the ladder was needed and she was not sure. We had to figure it out on our own. The walk took us around to Ketchikan Creek where we watched for salmon but did not see any.
On we went to Creek Street, the street set aside for bawdy houses by a 1903 City Council ruling. There were 30 or so such houses, most with only one or two girls. With Prohibition there was a more profitable trade in alcohol. The houses became speakeasies. Dolly Arthur's House is the only brothel museum I ever remember seeing.
One store has a sign which shows the odds against the prospectors in the Gold Rush:
20,000 came north 4000 found gold 300 could be considered wealthy 50 held on to their wealth
Where the cathouses were are now mostly souvenir shops.
The Tongass Historical Museum shares a building with the local public library. One of the more interesting exhibits is a totem pole to show the major world leaders of its time, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman.
Other things we saw include artifacts of the sawmill and an exhibit of artifacts of the northwest coast Indians including small bentwood boxes, a stone mortar and pestle, and lip ornaments. There was an account of the coming of the first white men. At first the local tribes thought it was Raven who had come for a visit. Instead they where strange men who offered food that was refused. 'It is not Raven, it is strange men, crazy from drifting on the ocean who eat skulls, worms, and drink blood. After a day they raised white skins and left.' It should be noted that the white men offered food to the Indian but were refused. The food they offered was biscuits, rice, and red rum.
There were artifacts of the Salmon industry whose slogan was 'we eat what we can, and can what we can't.' There were labels of many brands of salmon.
Then in the mining section I noted a box with lettering that looked Biblical. It had an illuminated title that sad 'Protector' and then in Biblical fonts 'against ammonia fumes, poisonous gas, fire damp, smoke, flame.' They had a steel drill. They had canister of carbide gas for miners' lamps from a new company called Union Carbide.
We continued on to Eagle Park, taking pictures of an eagle totem pole and taking pictures of other tourists with their cameras while they returned the favor.
Looking at the tour sites we did not get to, there was a good reason why. We did not have time to see the post office substation. I am not sure why we didn't but I now know my walking tour of Ketchikan was somehow incomplete. I would say that there must be a good reason it was on the walking tour, but I know better. Are there really people who go from town to town wanting to see the post office substations.
We did some shopping, getting some ideas what will be our Alaska chachka, but not setting on anything. Then we returned to the ship for an early leaving time.
Lunch at the Horizon Court was a potpourri. We went out back behind the ship to watching as the ship left the dock, but had to rush out to go to another of Dean DeFillipo's talks. This one on seals, otters, and dolphins. This was not one of his better talks and it was more an opportunity to see his photography than anything else. He talked about manatees, but did not say whether they were even in these waters. He talked about how often they are maimed with propeller blades and how they were probably he basis of mermaid legends.
He talked about walruses, some of which attain a length of ten feet.
They use their tufts of whiskers to hunt for clams in the sand.
He had some information about otters, but it was surprisingly little. There are close cousins of the weasel who have turned aquatic. They are the only aquatic mammal to use tools. They use rocks placed on their chests to break open shellfish. Seals and sea lions are easy to tell apart. Seals have external ears sea lions do not (or is it the other way around)? He also had material about dolphins. The most interesting thing is that autistic children will come out of their shell when they come in contact with dolphins. The same is true of large talking stuffed dogs. Well, I mean the children come out of their shells for the dogs. This was a project at work, to build dogs for autism therapy. It seems autistic children will come out of their shells for just about anything but humans. What does that tell you?
Probably the most interesting of the presentations was the one the cruise director gave on the Gold Rush of '98.
We call the 1890s the 'Gay 90s,' but they were not so gay. There were foreclosures and there were soup kitchens. There was a general depression. Meanwhile it was pretty sure there was gold to the north, but nobody had thought it was worth finding. The Russians had assumed the fur trade was all that was worth pursuing and when they started to deplete that they sold the territory.
In 1880 a mining engineer named George Pilz offered a reward to any Indian chief who could lead him to gold-bearing ore. The geology was right for gold, but not a lot had been found. One chief claimed the prize with some gold ore. Pilz sent Joe Juneau and Dick Harris to find it. At first they failed. Eventually they did find a rich strike at Gastineau Channel in Alaska. After a few name changes that area was named for Joe Juneau.
The real gold rush however started with a strike in Canada. Actually gold had been found by Robert Henderson in small amounts in the Yukon in a place called Rabbit Creek. Henderson had told a fellow prospector George Carmack, that Carmack could look for the gold and probably find it at Rabbit Creek, but he didn't want Carmack's Siwash Indian friends in on it. Carmack found the heavy lode at Rabbit Creek. A week later when Henderson returned to the area he started hearing tales about a big strike at Bonanza Creek. Now he knew there was no place of that name in the area. With a little asking he found out what people were calling Bonanza Creek had recently been called Rabbit Creek. When he heard the name Rabbit Creek, his blood ran cold. He had given away a fortune. Now other people were mining the gold he had known about and his bigoted remark had queered any chance of him partnering with Carmack.
The news of the gold strikes was fairly local, protected by the heavy local winter of 1896-7. There we food shortages as people spent their time digging for money in the ground. In May of 1897 the ice broke in the Yukon river. Boats got out carrying the news that there were big gold strikes in the Klondike. Dawson City, near the gold strikes, exploded. Gold dust became the currency of exchange in Dawson. Bartenders would grow fingernails long so they would collect gold dust when they handled it. Or they would keep their hands sticky to pick up extra gold, then they would wipe their hands in their pockets.
Seattle went crazy with the news of gold to the north. They had mass resignations as people went north to prospect. Reporters quit their jobs, so did store clerks. Ships would take people north, but then had to be abandoned because the crews would desert. In all one million people at least started to make plans to go to the Klondike, though only 20,000 actually set out. It wasn't safe to leave your dog out at night for fear he would be stolen to use as a pack animal.
The area that we now as Skagway was hundreds of miles from any gold strike. However that was a good deal inland and you had to go over mountains to get there. The only pass that would get you there were the White and Chilkoot passes. Once you passed those it was all downhill. It was still hundreds of miles, of course. Prospectors would have to build rafts and boats to continue.
At one time prospectors knew only of the Chilkoot. William Moore decided that the White Pass to the east was better than the Chilkoot and set up a tollhouse there. It did him little good. When the hordes arrived they resurveyed even taking Moore's house. Moore went to court and in the final settlement got 25% of the value of the land. That was enough that he was set for life. The town that Moore in fact founded became Skagway. When the prospectors arrived the town swelled quickly to 10,000 people. One of those people was Soapy Smith. There will be more on him later.
Too many people were going over the pass unprepared for the journey that was to come. The Canadian Mounties instituted a law that nobody could go into the Yukon without sufficient food for one year. This meant people had to cross the pass many times. It took an average of three months for prospectors to get sufficient supplies over the passes. Eventually two brothers hacked a stairway into the Chilkoot pass, then charged a toll for using the stairs. It became one of the indelible images of the gold rush, a long thin line of men, miles long but only one man wide, walking over the Chilkoot Pass in lockstep. The toll was good for as many crossings as you wanted in a day, but few people could carry 50 pounds of supplies over the pass more than once a day. 22,000 men crossed the pass, most many many times.
The pass was a really hard trek and the animals got the worst of it.
The selfishness and inhumanity toward animals became legendary. Thousands of horses died going over the White Pass which came to be known as the Dead Horse Trail. There were many tales of animals throwing themselves over cliffs to commit suicide.
(The sensitive may want to skip the next paragraph.)
One witness reported seeing a horse who had stumbled and broken its leg. Its owner took off its pack and someone bashed it in the head with an ax rather than wasting a bullet. It was then just left blocking the trail as prospectors continued their march walking over the still warm body. At the end of the day the witness passed the point again and all that was left was a head on one side of the trail and a tail on the other.
By the time these prospectors got to the Yukon there were no more properties to be had and so the business of 'mining the miners' started. This meant trying to find something the miners would pay for. One man brought in stacks of old newspapers and sold them to miners starved for news. Another made money by dragging in a heavy grindstone, figuring that picks would need sharpening.
Back at the head of the trail a man named Henney was experienced at laying track and claimed he could build a railroad anywhere. He took up the task of building a line over White Pass. This would have been the ultimate mining of miners since it would have saved them incredible effort in getting over the passes. He chose Skagway and the White Pass. Around this time, however, the Yukon fields were just not being rewarding to newcomers. Just about all the good land was taken. Then gold was discovered in Nome. There was a sort of secondary gold rush there, but not one of the excitement of the Klondike strike.
The gold rush did not end, it just sort of petered out.
Dinner that night was Shrimp Fra Diavolo. While we were eating someone sighted a whale outside the window. We could see little more than spray. But at least I had seen a whale.
We stayed the evening in our room writing.
07/29/97 What is so rare as a day in Juneau?
Again we woke up about 5:30. At about 6:00 all the power went out on the ship. I had been in the bathroom and was immersed in darkness. We were in darkness only about 10 minutes. Apparently the problems went on for a while, but the passengers did not see them. We went up to the Horizon Court for breakfast.
I think I have discovered the secret of not overeating at breakfast, even at the Horizon Court Buffet. The secret is to remember to plan ahead. Don't just get everything that looks good or you will end up with an enormous plateful of food. Plan when you go in that you will just have the fish and a bowl of cereal. And of course orange juice. And if the fried eggs look like they have soft yoke take one-ONE-of those and a bagel to have with it. And butter. And if the sweet rolls look good you can allow yourself to take one of those. Maybe a piece of fruit since it is a long time until lunch. A piece of cheese since you have shown so much self-control. But draw the line at the pancakes and refuse to give in.
My parents came along and we had breakfast with them. The discussion turned to computers and Internet. After breakfast we go out to see Juneau a little before our helicopter to the Mendenhall glacier.
View of mountains with layers of clouds is impressive. On a wall was a metal rendering of another Raven story. This is how Raven released the sun, the moon, and the stars. An old man had the sun, moon and stars imprisoned in a box. Raven turned himself into a spruce needle in a stream. When the old man's daughter drank at the screen she swallowed the needle. She became pregnant. She gave birth to a child who was really Raven. The old man loved his grandchild and could deny him nothing. Raven played with the boxes and released the celestial bodies from them.
A little way away is a statue to Patsy Ann, a deaf bull terrier who greeted steamship passengers. Nobody knows how she heard the whistle for boats coming into the Juneau harbor, but she escaped her original master and through the 30s she lived by begging, but was always on the dock to greet the boats as they came in and happily wag a tale for new faces. She was born Oct. 12, 1929 (she was a Saturday pup). I am afraid I did not get the date of her death. It had to be early 40s. There is a statue to this ugly but loyal female. I wonder if there is a book someplace of statues to dogs. Japan had a statue to a dog who met subway trains, Edinburgh has Greyfriars Bobby. It is a tribute absolutely meaningless to its subject. To a dog a statue is little more than an object to lift a leg on and anoint, but people have a need to memorialize human virtues, particularly loyalty, in dogs.
Juneau looks like an awfully small town to be a State Capital, but then Alaska is made up of small towns. It is a really big state made up of mostly nothing but terrific wilderness and of small towns. We diverge from the normal path to do some shopping. I get a book on the Gold Rush. (THE KLONDIKE FEVER by Pierre Berton. It looks to be a very good piece of history writing. Exciting. It also appears to be what is used as he standard.)
We go back to the ship for the final gearing up for the glacier tour. I have from the outside in a photovest, a jacket, a sweater, a heavy shirt, a T-shirt, and a thick layer of perspiration. I can be Alaska Glacier on the outside and still be Amazon Rain Forest next to my skin. I am prepared for any eventuality but heat prostration.
We file into the bus. A woman comes around to get our names and weights. She sees my palmtop and asks what kind of a computer it is. 'I can type notes in while I travel.' 'Wow! That's really cool.'
They ask a woman near me her weight and she says 27-squared. I can't believe that. I look back to see and no, she certainly is not. 'Stop looking at me.' 'I just couldn't believe 27 squared.' She may be 13 or 14 squared. 27 is a bit absurd. She probably made a guess and did not understand the power of squaring.
Well the bus left going through the middle of Juneau. We got a chance to see a little more than we had walking. We passed a stream with salmon going upstream. Not far away were piney hills with clouds at the top in multiple wispy layers. There are lots of sea planes flying between us and the peaks. Off to my left I see an airfield to the right with copters, blades spinning.
We drive in and go into the building. We sit down in rows of chairs. A teenager comes to the front of the group, grins, and says 'Hi.' he then just stands there grinning. Boy I hope this isn't the copter pilot.
It isn't. He just gives us instructions for the flight. Most important do not walk near the back of the copter. The rear propeller is nearly invisible and is great for turning people into sliced coldcuts. We leave our shoes under our chairs and are given glacier boots. These are boots with tread that go about halfway up the calf. They are held in place a novel way. The insulation goes most of the way around the leg but not all. Then there is a thin nylon sleeve around the upper part of the boot. Roll down this sleeve and you can slip you foot into the boot. Then roll the sleeve up your calf and the boot is held tightly in place. Perhaps this is not an uncommon form of boot fastening, but this is the first I have seen it. We are called with four other passengers and we led out to the airfield.
We are standing there for a while then we see a fleet of helicopters coming in. I tell Evelyn 'I love the smell of napalm in the morning'
The steering mechanism for the copters is on the right, like with a car in Britain. We climb in. There is a headset so we can hear the pilot. It has a mike, but that apparently does not work. Pity, I would have a lot of questions to ask.
On one of the other helicopters a woman who decided she does not want to go. I sure do. They see the umbrellas in our pockets and say we cannot carry anything so loose. They check them for us. Well we don't have rain anyway. Take-off feels like being picked up on a bungee line. No particular acceleration, Just suddenly we are in the air. We lift higher and soon we are high over Juneau International Airport. Higher we go and we get a bird's eye view of the area. What looked like two mountains to our right has a glacier pouring down between them. This is a tidewater glacier and at its base it feeds into a lake. There are holes at the front where melt-water flowed through the glacier. Looking at the glacier from above there are horizontal and vertical cracks, though more are horizontal. The texture on the surface looks almost like elephant skin.
This is a receding glacier. One does not think of ice as a fluid, but it really moves down the valley from the mountain. Very slowly. About two feet a day. But ice is falling off the end faster than the ice can be delivered. So a piece of ice is moving down the valley, the location of the bottom edge is moving up the valley. The force of the ice pushed by gravity causes the horizontal cracks. Some of these go 150 feet deep.
Pushing the ice down a valley that is lower at the center than the edges causes the vertical cracking. The glacier just pours down between the mountains looking like a white frozen river.
The copter is so noisy I can't tell when I have taken picture. We pull to the side of the main flow onto an ice tributary. This glacier gal1200 and it reached its peak about the mid-1700s. Since then most of the glaciers have been in decline. Obviously we started to over-industrialize the world about the time of the American Revolution. Those big Man o' Wars of the Napoleanic War really screwed up the climate. 60% of the glaciers are retreating, and have been for about 250 years. There was 400 foot thick ice where we were standing. It was part of the 1500 square mile Juneau ice flow. Some don't distinguish between an ice field and a glacier. An ice field is the source area, a glacier is the actual flow. At places the glacier is 4000 feet thick. One of the features of a glacier surface is deep holes. The glacier picks up stones, temporarily proving itself the victor. But the sun heats up the stone and heat is a glacier's Achilles Heel. The stone bores a hole into he glacier making it sorry it picked up the stone. You bet. This is called cold comfort or cryocentric heating. There is a further effect of water falling down the hole spinning around due to coriolis effects and drilling the hole even bigger. These holes can go down 100 feet without blinking an eye.
We walked around the glacier for about 30 minutes then the helicopters returned with a bunch of glacier freshmen. With our experience of half an hour on the ice we could feel superior.
We file into our copter and again the elastic tug and we are up. Flying back we see a different view including large lakes. Our pilot was heavy into finance, particularly banking. Well we got back to the airport, got our shoes back, got our umbrellas back, had a hot cider. On the way back we asked how often do they have sunny days like today. About 24 a year. Well back we went to the ship.
For lunch we went to La Scala pizzeria, an almost free restaurant. I say almost because you do tip the waiter, if you happen to have money on you. Though few people do since everything else on the ship is cashless and handled through your cruise card.
(Evelyn wants it fully understood that the following paragraph does not represent her viewpoint.)
I have a number of books on cheeses and one makes a rather interesting comment on cream cheese. The author said that by objective standards cream cheese is a very high quality cheese. It is only the facts that good cream cheeses are inexpensive and readily available that keeps it from being respected. I feel that way about both cream cheese and pizza (but not together). I have had cuisines from all around the world, but there are darn few dishes that can stand up to a well-made hot-from-the-oven slice of pepperoni pizza.
Anyway it was pleasant to eat pizza and listen to classical music from the deck below. It was good pizza, but it could have more tomato flavor.
From there we headed out on our walking tour of Juneau. The first stop was the historic Red Dog, trying desperately to hang on to the feel it had during the glory days of the Gold Rush. It is a little hard to do when your clientele is modern tourists and not old-time hardened prospectors. The only thing in common is the level of swearing. The Saloon is not even in the same place. They moved the saloon to a more profitable place. But it has sawdust on the floor, the moose head over the bar, computerized register, he bear skins. You know the real frontier feel. Oh, and there are photographers everywhere. It looks like they make good French Fries, but we don't stop to try them.
Out front they have Old Number One, the engine from the narrow gauge railroad of 1893. The thing looks a little small to be a real operating railroad but in Wales we road the a narrow-gauge railroad and it also had an almost toy-like look.
We continued on to the Alaska State Museum. The layout of this museum is the lower floor is split between temporary exhibits and exhibits of native American peoples. Those are the Athabaskan, the Tlingit, the Eskimo, the Yupiaq, and the Aleut. The upper floor is more devoted to Europeans, the Russian early ownership, the purchase, the gold rush and mining, and Alaskan Art. Connecting the two floors is a spiral walkway surrounding a Eagle Nesting Tree.
As we entered they had an exhibit of photography by Brad Washburn. He was one of many Alaskan artists who specialized in showing the desolate and lonely look of the snow-capped mountains. I am not sure if I would have seen a difference of style from one such photographer to another. As we were looking at the exhibit they announced that a tour of the museum was in the offing. Evelyn and I decided that we were tourists so took the tour. The woman who led the tour told us that Alaska had only one person per square mile. That is not quite true, there are a few more people than that, but it is not a whole lot more than that. That makes for a pretty much unoccupied land. Alaska is big. If it did not have a government saying it would all be in one time zone it would naturally cross five different time zones. Of course that is somewhat helped by the fact that it is so far north. A postage stamp centered over the North Pole would be in 24 different time zones. Three quarters of the state is situated on permafrost. One of the exhibits shows spirit masks. These were all made for Walt Disney's cameramen shooting a documentary. When they were done the locals went to burn the masks and the Disney people asked if they could have them. They ended up in this museum. Each has some animal and some human aspect. We saw a local Eskimo home. Alaskan Eskimos do not build igloos though there are Canadian ones who do. This house was of wood and had frog totems. There were exhibits of Eskimo boats and Eskimos hunting with atl-atls. I did not know any modern people used atl-atls. This is really an arm extender to get more power in throwing spears. There was a female boat covered in female walrus hide. It was considered a female boat because it was the females that rowed it.
We then went to the Eagle Nesting tree and discussed eagles and local arts. Then the upper floor got only a very cursory treatment. There was a little about Russian America , and its furs-based economy, but with the otter population dying out the Russians were willing to sell it. We saw most of the upper floor on our own.
After that were walked around the town looking at the Governor's Mansion among other things. It looks like it could have come from Massachusetts except for the totem pole in front. Following that we walked around shopping a bit. Evelyn found a store in which a local artist made pins. We got our chachka, an Ulu knife. I left Evelyn shopping while I returned to the ship and worked on my log. Dinner was fish lightly fried and desert was Bananas Flambe.
After dinner we heard on the ships TV a description of what was to be seen in Skagway.
07/30/97 The City Tour and the Horse Trail
Well today we hit Skagway. A little history:
There are a sort of long fin of mountains that one has to pass on the way to the Yukon where gold was discovered. You go to the left and you have the Chilkoot Pass but first you go through the town of Dyea. The Chilkoot pass was high and deadly. If you choose to go to the right around the mountains you are choosing the White Pass, lower but longer, and the jumping off town is Skagway. Each of the 40,000 stampede prospectors had to choose one or the other. It was not so much a choice as a dilemma. Which ever one you picked you'd be sure you picked wrong. In the cold winter that started 1897 a good 3000 horses and other pack animals died trying to make it over White Pass. But before prospectors got to the pass, they had a bad hazard to pass in Skagway. That was Soapy Smith.
Perhaps the most celebrated person in the history of Skagway is Jefferson Randolph Smith, better known as Soapy Smith-I will get to why he had that nickname. And perhaps 'celebrated' is not quite the right word. The fact that a Soapy Smith could virtually run Skagway even for the nine months that he did strongly implies that the Alaska Gold Rush did not attract people of the highest mental caliber.
Soapy was born in Georgia in 1860. Life was tough for him during and after the Civil War. As early as he could he ran off to Texas to punch cows. It was a tough life, but it gave him a chance to meet gunfighters and gamblers and to get a feel for the land. His real education began when he lost six months pay to a sharp in San Antonio in the shell game. Smith knew he had been cheated, but he decided to use it as an education. He started hanging around the Three-card Monte and shell game dealers, learning their techniques. When he thought he could do it he started dealing the same games and started making his fortune.
Very soon Smith opened an incredibly crooked gambling hall in Denver. No game could be played in the hall unless there was some way for Smith to rig it. Eventually he moved to Creede, Colorado for silver strike. There was money to be made fleecing the credulous miners. Smith gained the nickname 'Soapy' for his 'soap scam.' He would stand on a soapbox hawking soap and claiming that random bars had $10 and $20 bills inside the wrapper. A lucky passerby would buy one and find money inside. Other people would buy soap inspired by the passerby's apparent success. The passerby was a shill working for Soapy of course. Soapy's competition in town was one Bob Ford. Ford was already famous. He was referred to in the song line 'that dirty rotten coward, who shot Mr. Howard, has laid poor Jesse in his grave.' Ford had shot Jesse James in the back as Jesse adjusted a picture on the wall. Hired killers killed Ford and it is generally assumed that Soapy paid them off.
When the silver was pretty much all mined out in Creede, Soapy looked for more miners to fleece and found them in the Alaska Gold Rush. By this point he has acquired a whole gang of followers.
One of Soapy's first actions was to set up a traveler's aid and information desk. His people told newcomers about Skagway in a likable friendly fashion. At the same time they were sizing up people for robbery, finding out who had money and where they had it hidden. If you warn people about how dangerous a place is and warn them to hide their money well, they often will confide how and where they are hiding their valuables. Soapy would arrange as many as ten robberies in a single night.
Some miners got tired of the life and when the army opened an enlistment office in a tent, miners would come and enlist. They would be told to strip down to be examined by army doctors in another tent. The funny thing is the doctor never showed up. Finally they would go back to get their clothes and belongings and find they were gone too.
Then there was a shack set up as a telegraph office. Miners would pay $5 to send telegraph messages to their families to say they had arrived safely. Many were also willing to pay $5 to get a message from home. They could hear the message being tapped out. It didn't matter that none of Soapy's men knew Morse code, of course, since there were no telegraph wires leading from the shack anyway.
Occasionally Soapy Smith proved himself to have higher motives. One day a clergyman was collecting money for a new church. Soapy amazed everybody by starting the contributions with $1000. Based on this contribution the clergyman collected $36,000. Soapy robbed the minister and then bragged that 36 to 1 was a good bet.
Smith ruled Skagway for nine months. Locals who got tired of being fleeced formed a vigilante group 'The Committee of 101' to chase Soapy out of town. Soapy formed his 'Committee of 303' to intimidate the first committee.
On miner fleeced of $2800 got angry and went to the Committee of 101. The local surveyor, Frank Reid, headed a group of vigilantes who chased down Smith. Reid had shot a man in the back and later he had come to Skagway and held different jobs, including bartender. While at this job he found surveyor's tools left in the bar and decided he was now the town surveyor. He also was the staunchest opponent of Soapy Smith. As we will see later Reid and Smith ended killing each other. At Soapy's funeral, some say that someone threw three shells and a pea onto the body. Perhaps Soapy would have liked the touch.
Anyway, that is Soapy Smith. The huge dilemma of how to get over the mountains was solved when one Michael J. Henney built a railroad that would go over the White Pass. That was absolutely an amazing feat. The trail that was so terrible it killed thousands of horses could be traversed by sitting back and enjoying the view from a train. But Henney got the idea a little too late. He missed his real window of opportunity. By the time the railroad was ready the Yukon gold strike was petering out and gold was discovered in Nome. The demand dropped way off. But the White Pass Railroad still runs runs from Skagway to White Horse-mostly for tourists.
I woke up at 4am and could not get back to sleep. One nice touch is the light by the bed has a variable switch (really a knob). You can turn it to very dim if you, like so I can lie in bed and write without disturbing Evelyn. Much.
After breakfast we headed out on foot to see Skagway. We were docked only a mile from town and it didn't seem to be even that much. We were birthed at the very docks first built by Captain William Moore, the founder of Skagway. We had arranged for a horse ride that afternoon, but had nothing to do but see the town in the morning. We set out toward town, passing the painted rocks. Docked ships used to paint on the rocks messages of when they had been there. The rocks, after all, were just rocks. As the years rolled by the locals began to worry that vintage graffiti was worth more than the recent stuff and a local law was instituted to protect the valuable old graffiti from the ravages of newer stuff. At the end of the dock the local tour-givers hung around at the end of the docks waiting to pounce, selling cut-priced tours for those who had unaccounted-for time. They were are lot cheaper than the tours sold by the Princess Lines. (Surprise! Surprise!) We were quite willingly pounced upon and bought a tour of the area.
Into town we walked, two innocents, expecting to see only what anyone would expect. Just a colorful old town turned into a sort of tourist trap with upscale shops, and maybe a museum or two and the like. Ho-ho, what fools we were, little thinking that there might be anything unusual ahead of us. But as it turned out in this case we were absolutely right.
There was a nice but small museum of the gold rush run by the National Parks Department. Most memorably was a relief of the mountains that guarded the beginnings of the Trail of '98. (And I guess after they guarded it so well, they needed some relief.) Here they showed you the two paths over the Chilkoot Trail or the White Pass-which ever way you go you wish you'd taken the other. White to the right deteriorated under the crush of travelers, Chilkoot to he left had golden stairs. The exhibits talked about the hardship of having to carry a year's supply of goods-the ruling was good for men but bad for the horses that had to do all the hauling. Later we saw from a distance Soapy Smith's old headquarters, an unprepossessing cracker-box of a building.
There was some overlap of material with the Trail of '98 Museum. Walking through it we saw kitchen goods like a coffee grinder, the inevitable stuffed bear, relics of the warm relations of the fraternal organization, the Arctic Brotherhood. There were various pieces of gambling paraphernalia like a wheel of fortune and some early slot machines.
The Red Onion Saloon is still present like the Red Dog we saw the day before. Red is the color of low-brow and rambunctious fun for, uh, rednecks. This was a the local hostile hostelry offering a line of bad beverages, all with a high alcohol content. However bad the drinks were, and there is little record, the women were worse, and their pictures on the wall do record what they looked like. One look at the mugs on these women will tell you more than John Maynard Keynes ever did about how short supply increases demand.
When the time came for our tour we went and waited in front of the hotel. A woman found us and asked if we were waiting for the tour. Apparently we were the only ones on the tour who had actually come into Skagway to see the town and walk the streets before the real tour began. Everyone else had joined it on the docks. And we were rewarded by getting the seats at the very back of the bus that had a view of the mountains on the left and a view of the bus's out-of-order bathroom on the right.
We started on Old Juneau Wharf and drove through town. We again saw Smith's parlor and H. E. Hegg's photography studio. Hegg was a Swedish immigrant who tied goats to a dogsled and set up his darkroom on the sled. Some of the most famous scenes of the Gold Rush were photographed by him including the long narrow line of men climbing over the Golden Stairway. There were dozens of saloons with alcohol in town during the rush, in spite of the fact it was illegal. We were also pointed out some 'houses of negotiable affection.' From one of these came the madam, Pea Hole Annie, so named because she made herself rich with hollow peas. When prospectors would pay in gold dust, she palmed a pea which she used to scoop up more than her share of gold dust. The City Hall was originally a college for girls, but it closed for lack of interest in education for women. Even today the town with a population of 700 has no doctor. It has two doctor's assistants assisting nobody. If you really need a doctor, and with the cholesterol in the food you just might, you have to be airlifted to a doctor. Then on the positive side the closest McDonalds is 200 miles away. A lot sells for $15,000, and you would spend $175,000 for a home.
Our first stop was to Gold Rush Cemetery. Smith who three days before his death was leading the Fourth of July Parade could not even be buried in the cemetery and is just outside of it. Smith had made good friends and fierce enemies. He was, by most accounts a man of great charm. We were told in a little more detail than we had before about his death. J. D. Stewart, a prospector came into town with $2800 in gold dust. He went to two fake assaying offices, neither giving him a fair price, but both saying that Jeff Smith gave the best prices in town. Going to Smith's to get his gold valued he handed the gold to the man in charge who took it and headed straight for the door. Stewart went after him, but the other men pretended that Stewart was drunk and slowed him down so the gold got away. Stewart when to complain to the Town Marshall, the Town Marshall was one of Smith's men also and told Stewart his best course would be to go back to the Klondike and dig another $2800. Stewart was not ready to do any such thing. Instead he told everybody he saw that Jeff Smith was a crook and a cheat. He became a rallying point for the those in the town that opposed Smith and even Smith's own men were afraid that they were getting too famous too fast. Smith turned stubborn and insisted that they would continue business as usual. People who had been apathetic about Smith in the past were joining in the forces who wanted to get rid of him. Smith found his support was diminishing and did something he almost never did, he got himself drunk. Then he went to the angry rally that vigilante leader Frank Reid was having on the docks. 'Damn you, Reid, you are the cause of all my troubles. I should have gotten rid of you three months ago.' With that Soapy Smith pulled a gun and aimed it point blank at Reid's head. Reid grabbed the barrel and pulled it down as he pulled his own gun out. 'Don't shoot. For God's sake, don't shoot,' yelled the suddenly frightened Smith. Reid pulled the trigger but his gun only clicked. That was enough for Smith and he fired, now shooting through Reid's groin. Then both men fired. Reid was shot in the leg, but Smith was hit in the heart. Both fell and Reid got another shot into Smith's leg, but Smith was already near death. He was the lucky one. Reid lived on in agony for many days before his wounds killed him. His epitaph reads 'He gave his life for the honor of Skagway.' Smith lay on the dock for eight hours before anybody lifted a hand to take him away. (This description is based as much on the on in the book THE KLONDIKE FEVER by Pierre Berton as on the description given on the tour. But the Berton book seems to be a respected source on the Klondike stampede.)
Reid's and Smith's graves are the main attraction of the cemetery. We were told about some of the locals, but they certainly don't stack up to Smith in legend-value. One ran the trolley, one was a train dispatcher.
The name Skagway means 'home of north wind.' The Indians would name the area but did not like it. It was a cold and desolate place to cross the mountains until the railroad was built. 35,000 men worked on railroad to bring in miners and to take out the gold. It took a year to build the railroad from Skagway to Whitehorse. Before then 4000 horses died on the Dead Horse Trail. After the struggle to get up over the pass it was just the most difficult piece that was done, they still would have 550 miles to go. The miners would build rafts to float to the Yukon. The tour took us over the pass and showed us the valley beyond.
Part of the tour was discussion of the White Pass Railroad, whose tracks the road followed. Also it was a drive over the White Pass itself.
As I said elsewhere only a small handful of people really did well off the Klondike strike. There were less than 50 men who struck gold and stayed wealthy. There were some personal fortunes made that we still see today. Among them were Nordstrom who founded a line of department stores and Alexander Pantages, a Greek immigrant who used his money to found a chain of movie theaters. Then there was Augustus Mack. He went over the Klondike trail with a small dog named Little Mack whom he thought to be forever loyal to him. Talk about dogs who have had statues to them, there is a statue of Little Mack as a hood ornament of every Mack Truck.
It seemed to take forever to go through the town getting back to the ship as we got told a little of the town's modern social history. We were concerned since the play was to finish the tour, get back to the ship, get lunch, and be back for our next item all between 1pm and 1:50. But our tour went over by 20 minutes. We rushed to the boat, I got film, we rushed up to the Horizon Court, grabbed sandwich fixings, made sandwiches, and ran down the dock eating them. Then we ended up waiting around for 15 minutes or so. A fellow in a cowboy hat was rounding up people for two horse tours, one of which we were on. This was Adrian (a cowboy named Adrian?) and he was waiting for the other tour leader to show up. That was Vicki. Adrian does not like Vicki and makes no bones about it. Vicki is from West Texas and is a little flighty and tends to be late for things. Adrian browbeats her. Of course she was late. When she arrives we file into her van.
We are told many of the same things we were told earlier in the day. The only way in to town is by plane or boat. Even the Indians did not want to live in Skagway. The town was and is a wind trap so Indians would not settle here. On the other hand Vicki claims that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were in town the night before, probably buying furs.
Well Vicki drives us out into the woods and there are the horses ready. Adrian has a group of slightly more experienced riders. At least that was the theory, though some of them had not ridden before. Evelyn and I were relative newcomers having ridden in Kenya and perhaps when we were little urchins. There are riders that qualify as riders or perhaps jumpers. I think from the point of view of the horse we were still in the 'freight' category.
They gave us instruction on how to communicate with your horse. Evelyn says they gave us so much information in so little time she forgot it all. And she has the better memory. But I found when I needed to know something it came back to me.
Next they brought out the horses. Mine was named Gypsy. I found out later that Gypsy was a 20 or so year old pack animal and what's more this was her third ride of the day. She would be just anxious to carry around her freight and get it over with. I had the feeling she knew I communicated like a newcomer and she didn't care. She could tell she was the experienced one and this was sort of a buttermilk run. She knew where we were going and was just doing her last task of the afternoon. The whole thing was a little depressing.
As horse rides go, this one was probably overpriced and was not much. It was just a walk through the woods, over a watering hole, and to a point of just OK scenery, as Alaska scenery goes. We rode single file, though Gypsy seemed to want to pass the horse ahead of her and ride toward the front. Evelyn was two or three horses back. I tried to photograph her but it is really tough to turn that far around in the saddle.
We let the horses drink at a watering hole and continued on our way. This ride gets you wet, as they say at amusement parks. On the way back I started feeling I really had the hang of this and could communicate with the horse. As we approached the starting point we heard the most God-awful howling in the woods. Apparently they train huskies nearby. I was afraid the sound of all these baying hounds would spook the horses, but they knew the neighborhood better than we did.
As for my control, I then discovered I was wrong. When we got back to where we picked up the horses we were supposed to take the horses back to where we got on them. Gypsy saw her dinner however and decided to ignore my signals and go for the food. I tried to communicate with her where to go, but the food spoke louder.
They rounded off the tour by giving us a snack of soda, salmon dip, Triscuits, and Ritz Crackers.
While we are waiting somebody brings in two husky puppies. They are absolutely darling and probably not at all happy about being photographed. They are about five weeks old. They have an instinct to pull things. While the adults are waiting for a sled race to start they will bury their heads in snow and kick their legs trying to bulldoze it. It is their idea, but they have been bred as pullers. Their genes are just encoded with the idea that pulling is fun and exciting. Apparently you can breed animals to think a certain way. What are the implications for humans? How much of our thought patterns do we get from logic and how much from our genes?
We again filed into vans and returned to the ship. As I tipped Vicki I told her not to let Adrian's browbeating get her down.
Dinner was escargot (without the shell, Evelyn and I were the only ones in the family to try it), French Onion Soup (most at the table had it), and duck (just me). The latter was medallions wrapped in fat. I cut off the fat. Dessert was Cherries Jubilee.
After dinner Evelyn and I went to the back of the ship to watch us start the engines and be guided out of the harbor by a blue and white tugboat called Le Cheval Rouge. (!) It didn't tug either. Its real responsibility was to guide us. We have gone from an economy of rendering physical services to an information economy, I guess. It is, however, a beautiful sight to see the harbor surrounded by mountains and beyond it yet another mountain shining with the sun reflecting off a hanging glacier.
At 9:45 we went to a reading of poetry of Robert Service poetry. Service is considered the poet of the Gold Rush since his poetry is mostly about the harshness of the conditions the miners faced. Service really was describing the Gold Rush second hand. He was English and went to Canada in 1905 after the rush was over. But he liked to talk to miners about the days of the Gold Rush. He entered the Bank of Commerce and was transferred first to Whitehorse (that was where the miners first hit after crossing the White or Chilkoot passes) and later to Dawson in the heart of mining country. In his spare time he also and performed dramatic readings of D'Arcy's 'The Face on the Barroom Floor.' For fun he wrote poetry about the Klondike and then put the poems in a drawer. But his friends liked his poetry and one year for a Christmas gift he decided to get his poems printed in book form. Apparently there was sort of a mix-up at the publisher where they did not realize the poetry was supposed to be of only limited interest. Somewhere the publisher got the idea that Service's poetry could be a big seller and without Service's knowledge they started taking orders for the book. Service was already a success as a writer before he knew his poetry was being offered. In the next two years he became the most popular living poet in the world.
Following the profile of Service the tour director read The Face on the Bar Room Floor, The Shooting of Dan McGrew and The Cremation of Sam McGee.
Log-writing, a little TV and bed.
07/31/97 The Glacier and the Pirate Play
Well, so far we have had phenomenally good weather. Weather that is usually gray and rainy has been sunny. Today it may catch up with us. Just when visibility should be good, in Glacier Bay, it looks foggy.
I have been up two or three times since 4am, but had gotten back to sleep. I woke up at 6am and so did Evelyn.
We were able to watch only a short piece of their tape on what to expect in Glacier Bay. I did find out that only two cruise ships were allowed in the park-Glacier Bay is a National Park-at a time and that there are ice worms.
We were having breakfast in the horizon court and a voice came on the PA describing what we were seeing. They had some Park Service maps and I got one for me and one for my parents. I went to the cabin to get jackets and met Evelyn and together we went out on the promenade deck. The announcer said we have already passed two humpbacked whales but we will see fewer as we get close to the glaciers.
We passed Reid Glacier. It is a little misty to see really well. We are passing small icebergs. The glaciers have rapidly retreated over the last 250 years. Too long for the primary cause to be industrial-generated warming.
We are following glacial retreat north past Russell Island. Most of this area used to be under glacier but the glacier has receded. We pass more icebergs, dirty with the mountains they rubbed. There are tidewater glaciers bulldozing their way down from the mountains to a lake where the ends calve and form icebergs or dissolve in the water. The glaciers look like dirty snow painted blue. Here is obvious stratification in the layers of the glacier. When these things calf, blue ice that is many hundreds of years old ends up in icebergs.
A man next to me asks why it is blue ice. 100 feet a year of snow can fall. The pressure really compresses the ice and squeezes out all the air. The natural color of ice when it is not frothed up with air is blue. There is an outlet of melt at the base of the glacier so we see water bubbling up. Lines are horizontal and vertical Horizontal because of stratification of the snow falling in strata, vertical because of forward pressure. I have not seen any calving but I hear the thunder. The side of the ship has gotten downright crowded with gawkers.
By this point we have gathered my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. It is pretty cold. The speaker says that a glacier is coming up on our starboard side. We look around and Evelyn and David Glotzer have disappeared. It is not like Evelyn to disappear. I wait a few minutes, then leave her a note by our chairs. All the time it bothered me that it was not like Evelyn to just disappear.
We watch the glacier go by on the starboard side. Then I decide it is time to figure out what happened to Evelyn. She slipped away to surprise us with coffees. Only it backfired. What is more she was not sure exactly where we had been sitting so she had given one of the coffees to a woman whom she found there.
I take her to the Starboard side. Now my parents and Sherry are missing. We found they moved into the ship to warm up.
According to people who study such things only 27% of planned rendezvouses-is that the plural?--actually come off as planned. While the results are not always the disaster it was at the Battle of Austerlitz (a small problem over whether the date of the attack was on the Julian or Gregorian calendar), it is an important statistic to factor into your planning even if I did just make it up.
The rangers say there are some bears on the beach in front of the ship. Of course we are on the side and cannot see straight forward. As the ship turned I see the bears, two adults, two cubs. (Maybe it was one and three.)
The rangers call our attention to kittywigs on the cliffs and puffins. The kittywigs are colorful birds with white, black and gray markings. In the arctic, that passes for colorful. Kittywigs turn out to be seagulls. Oh boy!
We sidled up to the Margorie Glacier. (Well, maybe we were a kilometer away.) My parents, Sherry and David Glotzer and the two of us watched, hoping to see pieces break off of the glacier. Little pieces did fall, but no big dramatic calving. Nevertheless I think that we were all impressed. This is supposed to be the most visually spectacular trip you can take in the US. I think I might still give the edge to our trip to Southern Utah. Zion National Monument , what we saw of it, would be pretty hard to beat. And the really scenic part was closed off.
After a while of watching the glacier we were really hoping to see a calving. Our ranger who has been talking on the PA system let us watch in silence. Maybe if he had made a little more noise we might have seen a piece fall off.
Eventually we went in for lunch. Afterwards we dressed up warmer and went out to look for whales. No luck, unfortunately. There was a humpback sighting but it was just a distant blow. I think that there was no sighting of actual whale flesh.
One guy came along laughing at all the whale watchers. 'Want to see everyone run for the other side of the ship? Just say they're seeing whales over there.' 'Don't you know this trip is about sex and food?' On and on he went.
Well, ads for Disneyworld show Mickey Mouse coming up to welcome your children. Ads for Atlantic City show people winning the jackpot. These things happen, but only if you are lucky. We have seen only short glimpses of whales. So far we have seen no glaciers calving.
'You know what would make my day to see down there 20 feet from the ship poking his head above the surface, just for a second?' 'Him,' I said pointing to our skeptic.
I do have to admit that we are spending a good part of this trip looking for salmon, whales, sea otters, and calving glaciers. So far all these hunts have ended in frustration. Most of what we have come to see we are seeing only on videotape. If this had been a sunny day there would have been a much better chance of seeing pieces break off the glacier. The ranger this morning said we were lucky to be seeing the park on a gray day because this was the kind of day that builds the glacier in the first place. Nuts to that. They have plenty of glacier. I want to see something spectacular. Next winter will do plenty to build the glacier.
Well, at a little after three we saw the tender come to pick up the rangers. We went off looking for a cup of hot chocolate to warm up.
We passed Sherry. She went to the ranger talk. We had a choice of whale watching or going to the ranger's talk at 2pm. Evelyn and I whale watched to little effect. Sherry went to the talk. It apparently put many people to sleep. The ranger even commented on the fact so many people fell asleep on his talk.
They had hot chocolate at the patisserie, but they charged and who wanted to pay for it? We tried the Horizon Court. No luck but they did have bean soup and that was more than adequate.
After that it was back to the room to warm up and write. Well, I did not get a lot written, but I did get some needed sleep. Evelyn woke me up at 5:50 to get dressed for dinner. I found out from Sherry that after having been out in the bone-chilling cold all day, in large part looking for whales, about half an hour after I quit looking a school showed up. This really was a bitter disappointment. I guess it is for people like me that aquariums were invented. Have I ever told you about Luck of Leeper? This is why I don't gamble. Luck of Leeper is never terrible-I still have both my feet-but it is frequently bad. After being out in he cold I figure I had paid my dues to see whales, but that doesn't cut it. You have to be lucky and I am not.
Dinner for me was pheasant. Pheasant was pleasant. For dessert was an Anniversary cake in Evelyn's and my honor. Of course it was not my anniversary. That won't be for another four weeks, but they are willing to stretch a point apparently. It was something of a surprise. Over dinner we mentioned that other people on the net had said they liked the play of the evening 'Pirates.'
Apparently it is a long way to College Fjord. Since we left the park the ship has really been barreling. You can tell when the ship is speeding in part because the ocean goes by the window quickly, but also because it feels like you have something wrong with your inner ear. It is a sort of subtle rocking that makes you just slightly feel that you are losing your balance and are about to fall on your face. I like it, but then I am weird.
After dinner we went to the Princess Theater for the production on Pirates! The play was actually fairly good for a shipboard production. it certainly was better than OdysSea. The main problem is that the story is a little too simple and straightforward. Gilbert and Sullivan plays, which this resembles, would have given the story some twist. But the music was decent for once. One feels that on repetition some of the melodies would grow on you.
The story deals with some male pirates looking for adventure when some would-be female pirates produce a stolen treasure map. The male pirates want the map but don't want the women as pirates. They give in when the women prove they can equal the men. There seems to be a scene when the men are stealing the map, but nothing is ever done with that plot. The pirates get the treasure, but the real owner, a captain in the English navy, shows up. He is promptly defeated and to save his life, he suggests he marry the chief of the men and the chief of the women. He does.
There is not much to this story though it is a Classic compared to OdysSea. Again the main purpose is to show off costumes, dancing, and acrobatics. Two or three of the major characters have (all too visible) mikes. The rest lip-synch.
The play seems set too recently to be Elizabethan and too early to be Victorian, yet the British claim to be in the Queen's Navy. Of course, the plot of whether women should be allowed to be pirates is not quite accurate. There were women pirates who did not care if they were allowed in the profession or not.
The acrobatics are often show-stoppers, which may or may not be a good thing. There is an impressive balancing act. The use of explosive effects create more smoke than the air circulation can take care of.
There is a major unresolved loose end in the men betray the women, but no mention of that betrayal appears in the rest of the play. Also it is not clear why Captain Hornbottom has a treasure map he can use a Queen's ship to defend.
When the play was over, the cruise director got up and said that this was the first time the play was being performed. Of course we had heard reports over the net that the play was good. I don't know how to reconcile the two other than to think that the tour director was stretching the truth. Evelyn thinks that he meant this was the first time on this cruise. I guessed that he might have meant that this was the first time with this cast. Sherry suggested they had another play called Pirates. I doubt that one.
At 11:30 there was a final event, a sort of party with Champaign, crepe suzettes, and a Champaign cascade. There were a bunch of passengers dancing the Macarena, that jazzy post-modern version of 'I'm a Little Teapot.'
We headed back to the room after a few minutes.
08/01/97 The Small Animals and the Large Glaciers
Well this is the last day of our cruise, unless you count getting up and being taken off the ship tomorrow. This is certainly a comfortable way to travel. I guess the real problem is that there is only limited time on the shore and virtually nothing inland. I don't know if you really can get a feel for the country by just taking little four hour excursions. Of course even going to a country for five weeks and traveling on your own, if you stay in tourist hotels you are not seeing the real country. But there is no royal way to visit a country (or in this case a state.) Still seeing what we do is better than not visiting at all. You really want to get a feel for the diversity of humankind. There will be enough people who with the best of intentions-usually-will tell you that we are all alike under the skin and it is a small world after all. It makes a convenient excuse to not get an appreciation for the huge variety humanity. Those familiar with my writing know this is a common theme, but it really is what makes travel worthwhile. What we have on the Dawn Princess is a terrific experience, this is a marvelous hotel with great food and service. But it is not really the travel experience. One thing that does make it worthwhile is the tour director's lectures on history. I love when someone makes history enthralling. Maybe I am a time traveler at heart. What do you think my chances are?
I was falling asleep off and on watching a movie last night so I did not get to sleep until about 1:30, at least the final time. Now I am up four hours later.
Breakfast in the Horizon Court was Meuselix, cheese, and a fried egg.
We went back to our room and picked up our library books to return. They would be due this evening anyway. I don't know if there is an overdue fee. If they don't get the book back they charge your account $50. That seems steep. We sat in the comfortable surroundings of the library and worked on our logs. These are big soft chairs with foot rests and CD players built in. They are placed with a view out on the water. They really thought of every comfort.
At 11am we had a tour of the kitchen. It was a lot of stainless steel. Somehow this was not as interesting as I had expected it to be. There are only a few people working on food. Most is battened down. I suggested to Evelyn that we liven he tour up by yelling 'rat,' but she was finding the tour quite exciting enough without yelling 'Rat!' Sometimes we have different tastes.
At noon the family all gathered for lunch. I ate too much as usual. I had shepherd's pie and it was good. For desert we had my brother's anniversary cake from the night before. That was why we got together. Our cake we had last night, my brother's today. Of course it wasn't his anniversary during the cruise either, but where a fat tip is concerned no service is too great.
After lunch we were approaching College Fjord and Evelyn went out to watch the scenery. Most of the rest including me went to a lecture on the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution. it may have been a mistake, but I decided to go whale watch instead. If I am destined to not see whales, and that is quite possible, at least I want to have done all I could.
I found Evelyn and I watched the scenery and worked on my log. Well, no whales. I should have stayed for the lecture. We enter College Fjord. I guess it is so names since the glaciers are all named for ivy league colleges. On one side they are men's colleges, on the other side women's colleges. Of course this is an artifact of bygone days. It is sexist to discriminate by gender so these days there are women's colleges and co-ed colleges. Harvard glacier cut College Fjord in Harvard's better days. However it has since been receding. I guess education is in decline. We passed Holyoke Glacier (not Mount Holyoke?), Bryn Mawr, and Smith. You see them coming down the mountain bulldozing a black mound of dirt and debris in front of them. Sometimes they will level off a peak in their path. You will see a black stripe down the center of a glacier. The dirt will be pushed into the water and then will rest on top of it.
Along the way we did see some wild life, though at a fairly distant. We saw families of otters and some seals. Otters get air into their fur to keep warm. That is why you see them roll over quickly in the water. This pulls in the air.
The high point was turning our starboard face to Harvard Glacier and just sitting there. At a guess it is something like 400 feet thick. It is a tidewater glacier running into the water. It has caves on the two sides carved by runoff. You often see water bubbling at the base of a glacier where the runoff comes out with something like fire-hose pressure but the outlet can be many feet across.
But what is impressive is to hear the thundering of the glacier as pressures of hundreds of pounds per square inch squeeze the ice to the water's edge. Harvard was actively calving and every ten or 15 minutes small chunks would fall off. No big pieces, but we'd see chunks fall into the water and set the water churning and bubbling, then a big blue piece would come bobbing to the surface. Then it would fidget and turn over.
When we went to Utah we had a hard time convincing anyone that it is impressive to see giant boulders. We will have the same problem making calving sound impressive. I mean my roof does it every winter. It is only the scale of the glacier that makes it impressive.
At the next table at dinner were some high school principals. One of them took pride in memorizing humorous poems and entertaining kids like Jack with them. I myself as a kid used to hear on a record Stanley Holloway (he played Liza's father in MY FAIR LADY) doing what I think was a music hall act, telling the story of Albert Ramsbottom and the Lion. Funny how this sticks with me, but I can still recite that poem. Anyway, I wrote it down for our principal while glacier watching.
When we went to dinner I performed it for him in Cockney and gave him a copy. This was our last supper on board. I ate vary well with oyster soup, salad, linguine with white clam sauce (this was delicious!), steamed lobster (a real disappointment, it had bread crumbs and it just did not taste very good), and baked Alaska. I don't think there has been one dinner and few other group meals where we were not posing for family pictures. This meal had its share also.
After dinner I took a shower. I had to do something to warm up. I was still cold from the day outside. I never did describe the shower, but it has stops so that the water will not get too hot accidentally. It is a good design. The bathroom seems to be a good design overall.
The only problem is size. But that would be true on any boat.
We went back to room for final packing and a nap, then the group got together in the Horizon Court for iced tea and lemonade and talk.
After tip time I found the waiters were just as attentive, the room steward was a little less attentive. Every night there had been chocolates on our pillow, not last night. (I know, life is tough, isn't it?) More importantly there is a handout of the cruise log. People from other parts of the ship got it last night. It would be useful in writing my log but we didn't get one. We went to the purser's desk and they said it would be in our mailbox in the morning.
I went to sleep watching INDEPENDENCE DAY. They have one TV listing per season. There broadcast is on a 7-day cycle as is their menu.
08/02/97 Seward and Anchorage
This morning I was up at 5:40am and about ready to debark. I am sorry to see the week coming to an end. We had breakfast with the group. Not Susan and the kids but the rest. Bagel, cream cheese, and delicate tender smoked salmon. Also there was James Beard's French Toast. This is one thing I make better than James Beard. He deep fries the toast. Yug! One nice touch... Leaving you can get a copy of all seven dinner menus.
After breakfast I drop off the evaluation form. On the way to our stateroom I see Rudy. He tells me that he thought he had distributed them the night before. I told him he hadn't. He got two, one for me and one for my parents.
At the stateroom I say goodbye to my parents. Walking into the room I find that what was a double bed is already twin beds. Whatever they used as a bed was pretty good with firm edges. It was hard to tell it was two beds. Now it is a lot easier. The beds are already made. I was thinking of writing a 'Have a nice trip' note and hiding it in the bed for the next group to find. I decided against mischief. Perhaps I am maturing a little.
Waiting to be called for debarkation we dropped off some dead batteries at the photo shop and walked once around the deck.
They called us a little early and we boarded the bus. The service on the bus is pretty good. It is handled like a tour with the driver telling us what we were passing. Of course we are not passing much of any great historical interest. 'There is a church on our left.' That sort of thing. We pass a kiosk selling coffee. It is called Expresso Simpatico. What is interesting is the kiosk is shaped like a cup of coffee. They day was bright on the ship but now it is gray and ugly.
The trip to Anchorage is a scenic one. We made one stop of about 15 minutes to stretch our legs, but it looks just like I picture Alaska. Green forests, majestic mountains, clouds. Just beautiful.
In Anchorage they dropped us off at the convention center where our luggage has been dropped off. We picked it up. A man there has an announcement for people staying in downtown motels like we are. In simple words the announcement is from this point forward... you're on your own. We have come to the end of Princess service.
It is a five block walk. We could take cabs, but we might as well get some exercise. Besides, I have luggage specially chosen to hang onto me instead of vice versa. My hands are free and I can get caught up in my log as I walk.
We checked into the Days Inn. Normally I would say this place looks like a college dormitory, but considering what we have recently been used to... Hey, wait a second, it STILL looks like a dormitory.
This is not really interesting so I will go over it quickly. We went out to the tourists information center. There was not a lot doing in town. The sidewalk around it smelled of human urine. I don't know, maybe it was the flowers, but I doubt it. Anchorage on a hot day, and this apparently is one, looks like something you would expect to see in some Southwestern desert.
A block or so from the visitor center is a flea market, just three little rows and much of what they have seems to be on an Alaska theme. We walked around, quickly, and picked what to have for lunch. I got a barbecued turkey leg, Evelyn got chicken and Philippine noodles. I thought they looked pretty tasteless and they pretty much were. We had to buy the lunch and move it elsewhere because they had Karaoke near where we bought the lunch an we would not have been able to digest the food in the presence of such awful tones. After lunch we headed out and who should we run into but the Glotzers killing time until their plane out. We went with them back to the same flea market. They look a flea market differently than we do. I think they have the expectation of buying something. David got a cap and Sherry got a sweatshirt. The four of us walked around Anchorage to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center. They had a films on the Spruce Bark Beetle and the Tongass Forest. Neither David nor I could stay awake for the films. We also went to a display on wolves near their local mall. Finally we saw them off on the bus to the airport.
We walked back to our motel stopping at Cook Inlet Book Company, a fair-sized book store. Of course if you just look at the books that have nothing to do with Alaska it is a really tiny little store.
You know there is a local magazine called HAULIN' 'BUT that is just devoted to Halibut Fishing? I don't think we're in Vancouver any more.
We returned to the motel to rest. I worked on my log and probably napped a bit. Evelyn fell well and truly asleep. At 8 I put on THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT. At 8:30 I noticed Evelyn was awake and watching it. I asked her what were her dinner plans. She said to eat it. I asked if she intended to perform this feat before 10pm. She looked at the time. Is that really 8:30? 'No, actually now it's 8:33.' The problem was it looked like 5pm or so. Sundown tonight was still two hours off.
We went out looking for dinner. We chose a place called the Alaska Salmon Chowder House. Somewhat down-scale. Plastic garden furniture. I had Salmon Chowder (New York Clam Chowder with salmon instead of clams) and Halibut Olympia (a patty of melted cheese with pieces of fish). I was not impressed. The place seems quite popular, however.
Back at the room I went to bed watching GET SHORTY. I was less than comfortable. There is no air conditioning. In Anchorage you just open a window. Unfortunately the window opens on a bar to noisy that it is hard to hear the TV. This seem a less than high class neighborhood. I have to close the window and sleep in a wet T-shirt to keep cool. This is not the Dawn Princess any more, Toto.
It's 11:03pm and it is still fairly light outside. It is past sundown, but the sky is still light. We are further north than St. Petersburg where we were for the white nights.
08/03/97 The Museum and the Trip Home
I woke up before 5am after having been up past 11. That's fine. I want to be a bit exhausted so I can sleep on the Redeye flight tonight. The sky is a milky white. I don't know if it ever goes black this time of year.
One of the reasons I write a trip log is that it recaptures a lot of the feel of the trip for me to write it. It is a way to go back in time and re-experience the trip in an orderly way. I was already on the Dawn Princess for a day or two when I wrote about first coming on board and somehow I got the same excitement and anticipation again. One part of my mind was racing wondering what it would be like on board even though another part intellectually knew already knew from memory what it was like. This morning I am writing about the visit to the Mendenhall Glacier and wondering what it will feel like to be in a helicopter. Of course I can remember it, but that is a different corner of my mind.
One advantage of entering the log on my palmtop is that I do not have to write about activities in chronological order. I have a separate file for each day and can be writing about the current day and then when I get some time I go back and write about the oldest thing I have not yet covered. I flag where I am in a given day's log file with a string of equals so I know where to go back to. Back when I hand-wrote logs into a book I kept in my back pocket I had to write in very close to chronological order. Typing into a palmtop is perhaps just as fast and I can let myself become unstuck in time, like Billy Pilgrim in SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE. Also handwritten logs had to be typed in when we got home. Evelyn would do that because she is a lot faster at copying material. Keeping my log in palmtop, I just have to concatenate the files, and spell check and proofread the original and it is ready to publish.
Well, that is a little insight into how and why I write a log. I suppose these days I am aware that there are unselfish reasons for writing a log. I really like hearing from people who have enjoyed (or did not enjoy) reading the log. But for me it is the ultimate trip souvenir to bottle the trip in a computer file and to have it to uncork when I want it.
We packed to TV showing TOBOR THE GREAT on TV. Hmmm! Hot and cold running 50s SF films. We left our bags checked and headed for breakfast at the Downtown Deli. The prices for food here are pretty high. It is tough to have a small breakfast for under $8. The waiter puts down two empty water glasses. It has a speck on the inside. I scratch off the speck. The waiter sees me and asks if it wasn't clean. I say it had a speck. He pushes the glass over to Evelyn and fills both with water.
But at least here what you see is what you pay. There are no sales taxes in Anchorage. I don't mind the sales tax at home, but I don't know why they don't know why they cannot fold the tax into the advertised price.
After breakfast we continued on the walking tour of downtown Anchorage. I would like to say this is exciting, but it was more just time-filler. We went into a fancy (now retired) movie theater with some nice floor-to-ceiling bronze murals. We looked at a nice Cathedral, but nothing of much excitement.
Our final stop was the Anchorage museum of History and Art. They have a nice display on the centennial of the Klondike Gold Rush. They had a good collection of artifacts of the stampede. Some of them were a little questionable. There was a 46-star flag that had a whole history for it in the stampede. The only problem was that it wasn't until well after the stampede that the flag had 47 stars. There was a nice offer for people to work with pick and shovel underground for the princely sum of $5 for a ten-hour day. They had a crooked pinball game. It dropped ball bearings, pachinko fashion, into one of several slots. It had a control on one side that could be used to make sure the ball did not fall in certain slot. It was there next to Soapy Smith who might have used it.
One humorous touch, the miners found how to have a sort of rudimentary thermometer from the medicine kit. Depending on which bottles froze they could get an idea how cold it was. Mercury, whiskey, kerosene, and patent medicine tonic. These had successively lower freezing points. If only mercury was frozen it was not too bad. A day cold enough to freeze tonic was a day to stay inside.
There were exhibits of musical instruments and a phonograph. Of course there were pieces of machinery used in gold mining. There were articles of clothing like mukluks, a raccoon coat. There was a replica of a bicycle that was used to traverse ice. The exhibit had assay kits, water conduits, a pre-fab boat kit that was suicide to use. There was a nice relief map showing the Chilkoot and White trails. There also was a piece on the impact of the gold rush on popular culture. There were posters from films set in the Gold Rush, pulp novels, photos, popular books, and children's games on a gold rush theme.
At 11am we took a tour of the exhibit on the native population. starting 10,000 years ago in the migration over land bridge from Asia. One diorama showed a village before Western contact. It shoed two totem poles. At least two other museums we had been told that the making of totems was a recent art that started only in the last century and really required European metal tools. You really do hear contradictions going from museum to museum.
One thing we have hear elsewhere also, Eskimos did not live in ice houses in Alaska. All the igloos were in Canada. In one of the exhibits ice is used as a building material, but only in a hunting blind. They had more of the bentwood boxes. There were baskets made from grass, 5 strands were chewed per blade of grass. With such fine strands the baskets held water. There was an exhibit of Seward buying Alaska from the Russians. Here they said that Russia needed the money after the Crimean War. Elsewhere we had heard it was because the fur source had been pretty well used up. The hand-over ceremony was a real fiasco. In taking down the Russian flag they at first tore it, then let it drop and fall on top of the soldiers standing under it. The argument for buying it was not the resources but to get the last monarch out of the Americas. The Aleuts lived so far north that they had no trees, yet wood was one of their main building materials. They used to pray for the ocean to bring them driftwood. I have heard of praying for sheetrock but not driftwood. (Do people really find the details of what we saw in museums interesting?) We saw Athebascans birch-bark canoes. I do find it of interest that the Catholic Church, the Presbyterian church, and other churches have officially apologized to Eskimos for trying to suppress their religion and culture. It was all a big mistake, apparently. These things happen, ha-ha-ha!
On a more serious note he islands of Alu and Kiska were occupied by the Japanese in WWII. They were the only American territory occupied. The guide was just getting to the 9.1 earthquake when a second tour started on the gold rush of '98.
Much of what was said was already covered in my write-up of the gold rush earlier.
The art part of the museum included two Rockwell Kents but some of the nicest art was by Sydney Laurence.
The Air Force sponsored a concert in the park at 2pm. Air Force concerts are just not what they used to be. This one was mostly rock music. There was no classical at all. Ah well, I guess I am just not keeping up with the times.
Lunch was the Salmon Bake at Blondie's Cafe. The choice was 'long grain rice, French fries, or potato salad.' I specifically asked if all the rice was long-grained. Yes, she said. Au contraire. She probably didn't know the difference between long-grain and short-grain. Ah well, it is going home day. Perhaps I am just in a bad mood. The salmon was good, that is the main thing. I was listening to the conversation at the next table. It was about the film CONTACT and the Roswell incident. They claim the film proved that Carl Sagan knew all along there were aliens. Sigh. Sagan believed all along that aliens existed SOMEPLACE in the universe. He did not believe Earth had been visited.
We don't usually get much for ourselves beyond a chachka and books. I did however see some pieces of china with Netsuke-like realism and detail and I bought myself as a souvenir a piece of a crab and a fish.
Well getting to the airport and onto the plane was pretty much as would be expected. Our flight is a packed redeye. That is going to make it tough to sleep. We were a little late taking off. There is no meal, only a snack. That should be enough.
The snack is a turkey and fresh vegetable wrap-up and an apple. The roll-up drips as I eat it. There is a tomato in it. I have to wrap it in the plastic bag that it came in. It is really difficult to eat without eating a bit of the paper wrapper. The apple was nice. Not a Granny Smith but this isn't a Princess cruise. (They had Granny Smiths on the ship. Apples fall naturally into two categories. There are Granny Smiths and there are other kinds of apples.)
While I eat I talk to the man next to me. He had to cut short his trip for an attack of direticulitis. He was on a Holland America cruise and they had their best food when he could only drink apple juice. Boy, that is lousy luck. Here I was feeling sorry for myself.
Well that lasted a while until I tried to sleep. I am two rows ahead of someone traveling with the noisiest babies I can remember on a plane. The whole flight they have been shouting and crying and crying and shouting. I have earplugs for just such an eventuality but I dropped one and there is no room to find it. Two earplugs are effective, one is not nearly half as effective.
The seats on Northwest Orient are 19 inches wide and the plane is packed. Even Evelyn is more than 19 inches wide. I myself am a 23 inch wide person. I can compress to 21 inches for periods of more than an hour. My duration for 19 inches can be measured in minutes before severe internal damage occurs. This model is just not certified for widths of 19 inches for hours on end. If I am not constantly holding my arms in I will flow into the two seats beside me. I feel like I am waiting anxiously for someone to rub my lamp.
This is the longest seeming flight I can remember and in the past I have flown places like Hong Kong and India. Northwest Orient is squeezing every person onto this flight they can manage. I cannot even put my elbows out enough to type on my palmtop.
I do get a little sleep eventually but not enough. Along about 4:30a they hand out faux bagels. Evelyn looks out in the sky and says there are light streaks. I warn her this is just the thin end of the wedge. Soon there may be more light. It may even take the form of disks in the sky.
The woman behind me told her companion that she is seeing a herpetologist and the first thing I thought of is whether this is or is not covered by her health care. That sounds made up, but it happens to be true.
The plane steward seems to talk in incoherence in a thick Spanish accent. He said something about when we deplane that people from back parts of the plane should give preference to people from the front part of the plane. I think what he means is that since the exit is from the coach section that first class passengers should be allowed to cut into the line leaving the plane. They should have special access to the door. Right! It is nice to know for some like this plane steward America is still a land of dreams. Of course I think they knew that nobody who had just gotten up from a 19 inch wide seat was going to step aside for someone who had just travelled in comfort, but at least it will look to the First Class passengers like they tried.
In Newark it took about 40 minutes and a carousel change to get our luggage. For a while it looked like the US was going to compete with other countries for quality and service. It turned out to be too much effort.
Well, there is no point in carrying this to the bitter end. I am on the last leg of my trip home. Alaska was a good trip. Everybody says it is the most spectacular place in the country. I would still give an edge to Utah. The Dawn Princess is a comfortable way to travel but somehow insulates the passenger from the true experience of travel. Now I wonder how many pounds I gained.
(Post script: two pounds that I lost in the first week back.)