This online document is a means of sharing the adventure of traveling on America's waterways with friends and family. Last Dance is continuing to take her crew to historical, natural, beautiful, and interesting places. Enjoy the ride.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Alaska - Hoonah Happenings

Hoonah is a small village, populated mainly with Xunaa Kaawu Tlingit.  The major industry is commercial fishing, which has brought a large, modern marina with protective rock breakwaters surrounding it.  Perfect spot for Adventures to land and spend some time.

Lively 1 is a wooden, commercial fishing boat, Adventures' marina neighbor.  

Donna Ann is an aluminum seine net boat.  The small boat at her bow is a tug that she tows to the fishing grounds to help spread the net while fishing.

Condition of the commercial vessels varied greatly.  Chik-a-min is one beautiful boat, appearing like new.

On a walk through the village the day before found Chik-a-min on the hard in the local marina, finishing up some work.  The striped ridges are bilge keels, designed to reduce the roll of the vessel in heavy seas.  Not sure of the symbolism of the dollar sign painted on the rudder - is he lamenting the dollars the repairs were costing or was he hoping the the upgrades would bring more fish and more dollars for the boat and crew?

Evidence of the Tlingit culture are throughout the town.  Even the benches along the street are crafted with cultural symbols.

This totem stands proudly in a small stream that runs from high on the mountain behind Hoonah, under the main road and into the harbor.  Everywhere, it seems, there are reminders of the culture of the Tlingit.

And, not just crafted symbols.  The two animals more revered in the Tlingit culture are the eagle and the raven.  A pair of eagles have built a nest in the middle of the village.  Eagles are wilderness creatures, wishing to be far from human populations.  But, this pair have decided to join the Xunaa Kaawu.

Ravens were seemingly everywhere in Hoonah.  This guy was standing on a rock along the edge of the harbor at the marina.

And this one was calling as it perched in the rigging of a commercial fishing boat.  They are talkative creatures.

Any time 3 DeFevers get together, a Rendezvous can happen.  And, it did.  No, the big blue boat is not a DeFever,  Not sure of the manufacturer, but do know of the owner - Boeing Aircraft.  It is the corporate boat for entertaining customers.  They had selected the Glacier Bay area for the summer.

The larger white boat across from the blue yacht is a DeFever 53 POC, Holoholo.

After some interesting conversation, a dinner party was planned aboard Holoholo.  Becky and Ian are cruising on the DeFever and operating it as a charter service.

They did not have a charter at this time, although Becky's parents were joining them for this section of the cruise.  A grand time was had by all.  You meet the nicest and most interesting people along the waterways.

The sunset is celebrated many different ways.  In the islands, a conch shell is used as a horn to blow a single note.  At yacht clubs, a cannon is fired.  Ian is beginning a tradition on the waters of the Pacific North West of celebrating the sunset with bag pipe music.  A more pleasant way of recognizing the occasion.

Finally, one of the main reasons for visiting Hoonah - it has a tiny airport with scheduled air service.  This Cessna was our transportation back to Juneau, to connect with an Air Alaska flight for the trip home.  All good things have to come to an end.  An ending in Hoonah was filled with experiences.

Alaska - The Tlingit People

The Tlingit (pron. Clin-kit) people arrived in Glacier Bay 10,000 years before the Europeans.  The area where they lived included what is now the panhandle of Southeastern Alaska and surrounding areas of Canada.  Their culture continued until the late 1880s, when European diseases, such as small pox, could not be cured by their traditional medicine and Russian Orthodox missionaries converted them to Christianity.

The sub-set, tribe, of Tlingit living around Glacier Bay are the Xunaa Kaawu, known in the Anglicized term as the Hoonah People.  The literal translation is “People from the Direction of the North Wind.”

In 1925, their relationship to the U.S. Park Service began when the park service took their lands at Glacier Bay for use as a national park.  That relationship has improved in recent years and the Tlingit Culture is now a part of the park experience.

Sonya Gray is Xunaa Kaawu Tlingit.  She is now serving as an interpretive park ranger providing a tour and insight into the Tlingit People.  We were fortunate to be a part of the first Tlingit interpretive walk.

The walk begins at Protest Beach.  Twenty years ago, a group of Tlingit rowed in traditional canoes from the town of Hoonah to the park headquarters in protest of the park service taking their traditional lands.  This peaceful protest began discussions as to the appropriate ways that the lands might be shared.  The Tlingit Walk is one of the results of those talks.  A large commemorative plaque provides visual and written information on the protest that occurred at that spot.

A second stop along the trail is at a traditional Tlingit canoe, one like was rowed on the two-day voyage from Hoonah to the protest at the park.  A 36 inch wide spruce log is carved and hollowed out.  It is then stretched to 6 feet wide, which pulls up the bow and stern.

A visit with the whale named Snow, followed.  The whale was killed in a collision with a cruise ship.  The dialogue began with stories about Snow, then led into the importance of animals to the Tlingit People’s subsistence and culture.  Tlingit traditional religious beliefs are that objects, places, and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence.  Animals, land, plants, trees, seasons and all aspects of the environment are respected and honored.

The major exhibit is the new Tribal House.  The aboriginal people of the Pacific Northwest, including the Tlingit, lived in one, large, shared house, soundly constructed of wood.  This house has not only brought the Tlingit meeting place back to Glacier Bay, it has also returned the spirit.  The wall facing the bay is intricately carved with representative features of Tlingit traditions. 

Robin Roberts Photo

The carvings include a representation of the maiden who stayed as the glacier moved south, encouraging the glacier to carve the bay which produced much of their food, harvested from the waters.  She is depicted with glaciers in her eyes.

The tribal house was built with the same hand tools as have been used for centuries.  Each board surface was struck many times with an adze, a sharp tool on a handle, much like a hatchet or ax, but with the blade transverse to the handle.  The force of the blade cutting the wood seals the pores, making the wood more waterproof and more resistant to rot.   A lesson learned long ago, passed down through generations through teachings of the elders.

Two totems stand at either side of the Tribal House, one topped with an eagle, the other with a raven, the two animals that are most highly revered in the culture.

Inside, the tribal house has one large, open room, with four huge supports, caved as more totems.  The large screen in the front of the room is also carved and painted with representations of the culture. 

Some of the carvings on the screen are easy to spot, as they are highlighted with paint.  Some are not as obvious.  There are two canoes.  Looking closely, a canoe carving can be seen with a salmon and octopus on the bow.  There is even a rope attached to the bow with an anchor (round rock) on the other end.

Each representation on the wall and on the totems tells a story of the Tlingit Culture.  Sonya shared only a couple of the stories and, when she finished, a spirituality could be felt.  It is hard to describe such a feeling.  It was there inside us.  Yes, the spirit has returned to Glacier Bay.

Hoonah is a small town on an island southeast of Glacier Bay National Park.  Over 70% of the population is Tlingit.  We left Glacier Bay, moving to Hoonah, to take advantage to their small airport and a flight service to Juneau for the trip back home.  It was also a chance to visit with the Tlingit and learn more about the culture.

There is evidence throughout the community of the Tlingit culture.  The high school is painted a bright red with two totems in front.  The images at the beginning of this post are two of the representations on these totems.

A new totem is being carved for the park.  It is a contemporary totem, telling of recent history and relationship with the park service.  It will become part to the Tlingit Trail at the park.

Gordon, who is leading the design and carving of the pole, was kind enough to take time to explain the stories behind the images that were becoming a part of the pole.  Kindness is a characteristic of the Tlingit.

One of the images is of a masked character.  He was described as our friend who has too many hands, our friend who grabs everything, our friend who has no eyes to see what he does, our friend who cries no tears, our friend who has chains.  It is a representation of the park service.  Interesting that they call the park service, who took their lands and who they have had to spend many years in negotiations to reclaim a few rights, their friend.  Gracious people, the Tlingit.

The adze used for carving are handmade.  The handles are carved from specific species of wood found on the island.  The small, remote village has few industrial resources, so the steel for the blades was sourced from the leaf springs of old trucks – a contemporary aspect for the contemporary pole.

Owen is one of the carvers.  He uses a small adze, shaping an image on the pole.   Owen had a tranquility about him.  There is a calming effect when you talk with Owen.  The spirit of the Tlingit lives within the people.  We have much to learn from these gentle souls.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Alaska - Glacier Bay National Park - Wildlife

Wildlife.  Critters, as Jill prefers to describe them.  Critters are one of Jill’s greatest joys while cruising and numerous encounters have been experienced over the many miles traveled on Last Dance, but no other cruising area even comes close to the variety and density of wildlife as does Alaska.

A couple eagles were sighted on bergie bits, the pieces of ice that calf off the glaciers.  This one chose not to stay as Adventures approached his position.

Southeastern Alaska has two variety of bears, the brown bear and the black bear.  Both are prolific.  During our time in the park, the black bears were the ones interested in putting on a display.  A couple were sighted along the shore.  Near the park headquarters, where a number of hiking trails are maintained, the trails were closed for a while during our visit as three juvenile black bears roamed the area not sure of their purpose.

Robin Roberts Photo
Previous cruises into Glacier Bay, discussions, and diligent research have helped Robin and Jim identify places where different species of wildlife prefer to come for the birthing season or where they feed.  This knowledge allowed them to find many encounters with critters.  Running the boat close to a vertical rock wall along the side of Gloomy Knob, mountain goats were spotted.  Most had very new kids.  A number were observed nursing.  The goats have developed a uncanny ability to walk along these vertical walls, a place their predators will not chance.

Southern Marble Island is one of the smallest in the bay, but it teams with wildlife.  From a distance, it looks like a white rock rising out of the deep bay.  Closer viewing reveals many species of wildlife that make this island their home.

In this image, a large colony of Steller Sea Lions can be seen on the right.  The glaciers polished many rock outcroppings on and around this island, providing smooth surfaces for the sea lions to sun.  

Large males commanded harems of females, being always on the watch for any that might want to leave.

Southern Marble Island is also a rookery for a number of species of birds.  The most colorful, in a cute and endearing way, is the Tufted Puffin.  He differs from his eastern shore cousins from Nova Scotia in that there is a tuft of feathers running along the side of his head.  A bit like he chooses a longer hair style combed back on the sides in a 1950s ducktail.  

When taking off from the water, they run along the water to gain speed.  Many were in the water each time we passed Southern Marble.  Seems you cannot take your eyes away from the water as you marvel at these little creatures.

Robin Roberts Photo

Maybe the highest ranking on the cuteness scale is the Sea Otter.  They float on their backs.  After retrieving a shellfish, they will lay a rock on their chest and pound the shell against it to break it open.  The moms keep their young on their stomachs as they float.  Or, maybe like this one, they just want to clap in welcome of the cruising boaters.

Harbor Seals give birth and raise their young on ice flows.  They do not go ashore.  Ice flows coming into the bay from John Hopkins Glacier had many Harbor Seals and their pups.  

Of course, the big sea creatures that all visitors hope to catch a glance of are the whales.  Humpback Whales feed in Glacier Bay and all of the waterways among the islands of Southeastern Alaska.  Whales are a challenge for the photographer.  You hear them first, as they exhale a large plume of water mist into the air.  Then, they dive down again giving no indication to the photographer where they might appear next.  Some cameras have a bit of a delay between when the button is pressed and the shutter actually opens to capture the image making it even tougher to catch the whale above water.  Robin has a camera holder that is much like a rifle stock, allowing a quick movement and a quick shot.  This photographer did manage a couple whales in the viewfinder, but only minimally.  In one, a Humpback cruises around the small cove where Adventures was anchored.  In the second, a Humpback was feeding at the entrance to the marina in the small town of Hoonah.  Captain Robin kept Adventures the appropriate distance away and willingly waited for the large creature to finish feeding and move out into the bay before approaching any closer to the marina.