Friday, July 3, 2009

#29 – Sitka

Today, our crew Dick and Harriet, moved off the boat into the Westmark Hotel. No they're not unhappy, it's just their time to leave, as the new crew arrives tomorrow, July 4th. We think their statements like “Wow, you've done it again” and “Now that was a cruise” are compliments. We have certainly enjoyed their company as together we've researched Sitka. The Wild Blue has been tied to the dock here for a near-full week, and with the Squires, we've walked, dined, drank, shopped, driven, taxied, bused and enjoyed most all this town has to offer, and had a great time. Seriously, we can tell they had fun!

Harriet and Dick at Sitka's Totem Pole Park

Sitka History: Sitka was originally settled by the native Tlingit people. Then the Russians came about 1800 and after a few years of battles between the two, the Russians established a permanent settlement and Sitka became the Russian Americas capital. Sitka was the site of the ceremony in which the Russian flag was lowered and the United States flag raised after Alaska was purchased by the US in 1867. The flag lowering and raising event is re-enacted in Sitka every October 18, Alaska Day. Today Sitka culture reflects native peoples, Russians and Americans.

A Great Museum: Sitka has an awesome natives peoples museum built by Sheldon Jackson, a minister that traveled Alaska just after it was purchased in 1867. Convinced that Americanization was the key to their future, Jackson actively discouraged the use of indigenous languages and traditional culture. Because he was worried that native cultures would vanish with no records of their past (a process which ironically his own educational efforts would accelerate), he collected artifacts from those cultures on his many trips throughout the region. Today the Sheldon Jackson Museum contains wonderfully maintained artifacts, clothing, tools, and boats used by the native peoples of Alaska. Of the many beautifully maintained artifacts, here area are two of my favorites.

Cold Water Dive Suit: This one piece, waterproof, airtight suit made from bearded seal skin was worn during whale butchering. Because of it's tremendous weight, the whale was left partially in the water. The suit protected clothing and provided a certain amount of buoyancy for the wearer.
An Argillite Art Piece: Argillite, a carbonaceous shale, is quarried in the Queen Charlotte Islands Islands of BC, homeland of the Haida Indians. Argillite has been carved for sale or trade with outsiders since the early 1800's.

The Russian Bishop's House and Saint Michael’s Russian Orthodox Cathedral are among the few remaining Russian era buildings.

Sitka Russian Dancers: When a cruise ship is in port, local residents perform Russian Cultural dances for visitors. The dancers are not Russian and are all local women with no men allowed, mainly because they are all out fishing. Also, they said, dancing seems so un-Alaskan for men.

Tlingit Native Dancers: Many local residents are also of Tlingit and Haida lineage. The various native peoples cultures thrive in Sitka. We visited a Tlingit dance performed in a finely built, Indian-like log theater.

The Tlingit Dancers

The Tlingit and Haida peoples were the original settlers of Southeast Alaska

Totem Pole Park: Sitka has a National Totem Pole Park. Around 1902, several Native leaders from villages in southeast Alaska agreed to donate poles to the people of Alaska. After exhibiting the poles at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, the poles were sent to Sitka where they were erected in the “government park”. Over the years, replicas of some of the original totem poles have been carved as the original poles deteriorated. Many of the poles now standing along the park’s wooded trails are replicas of the originals collected. The original totem poles that have survived are now conserved and exhibited in Totem Hall at the park visitor center. There were so many totem poles, prompting Dick's comment "They haven't seen a tree that they didn't want to carve!"

Haida Poll #1

Haida Poll #2

Haida Poll #3

Food & Beverage: The Wild Blue crew has eaten well all week long. Besides fine dining at local favorites Ludwigs, Channel Club, the Westmark Hotel restaurant, the Wild Blue galley has turned out several epicurean delights including poached wild pacific salmon, salmon cakes, crab cakes and BBQ duck breast.

Salmon Cakes: For when you begin to run out of salmon recipes!

Scrabble: Our satellite TV service doesn't provide coverage this far north, so instead of changing to a service that does, we've opted to find different forms of entertainment. Of course there is the obligatory DVD showing of “Hunt for the Red October”, our favorite line is “State-to-state, no papers?”, but beyond that we are learning to play games with our guests. Last week it with the Almas's we played Pinochle, which we had just begun to grasp, as they left. With the Squires, we made a huge mistake in suggesting Scrabble. We failed to take note of their background: they are members of multiple book clubs, regular crossword puzzle wizards, and use BIG, multi-syllable words in normal conversation. Pat and I missed these obvious signs, and ended our games with Squires 4, Bensons 0. Of course who has heard of words like “quire” (a measure of paper), “ze” (a pronoun), and “adz, adze” (a tool used by Indians which we saw in the museum here). But then the Squires allowed the “do, re, me, fa, sol, la” musical note names, which we could not find in the dictionary, and Alex got by with “wog” (short for polliwog”. Harriet's ultimate “go out word” to win the match was “fie” (a curse on you). No one challenged, including Dick had a 20-point lead at this play. Afterward “fie” was not contained in our Oxford English dictionary. Protests were not allowed!

Cruise ships: There are two types of cruise ships: the large 1500+ passenger size, and the 150 or less passenger size. The larger ships anchored out and ferried there passengers into shore, while the smaller sided to the dock and offloaded passengers.

Carnival Spirit Anchored Out

This Holland America cruise ship has not run aground.
It uses two anchors Bermuda style anchor technique.

This 150 passenger Cruse West ship can do donuts in Sitka Harbor.

Fireworks: Oh my how these Alaskans celebrate Independence Day! You would think General George Washington had crossed Sitka Harbor and ran the English off Alaskan soil. The fireworks display here in Sitka is spectacular. They start when it gets dark, which is late, about 11PM on July 3rd not the 4th. Tonight there were six different firework venues that surrounded us here in the harbor, the largest being on the airport island just 1/3 mile SW of town. The Wild Blue was surrounded and showered by the works in a 360 degree extravaganza that we have never experienced. By far, the best we have seen!

Just one of the thousands of loud and bright works in Sitka's night sky

Sarah Quit Today and all Alaskan official photo captions were changed.
We snapped this shot of the one in the Sheldon Jackson Museum.

Tomorrow those Los Osos surfers, sailors and fisherman come back for more Alaska. We'll try to keep them from climbing an iceberg like last year. We leave Sunday for the west coast of Chicagof Island and won't have internet until Pelican, Alaska around July 10th. You'll hear from us then.

No comments:

Post a Comment