Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sitka and the turn to the South

Mount Edgecumbe from Sitka Harbour

Last Mango in Sitka
Sitka's history is a fascinating delve into the past. In the 1740's The Russian Empire had established a colony further North in the Aleutian Islands, after explorations by Bering, a Danish navigator who was commissioned by Peter the Great to establish whether Russia and North America were joined. The Russians were primarily interested in the fur trade. Later in the18th Century, various explorers were reaching Alaska from the South - Captains de Hezeta (1775), Cook (1778), Dixon (1787),Vancouver (1792), Valdes (1792) to name only a few. Russian traders discovered that sea otter fur was even more valuable than sable back in Russia and in 1795 they built a fort at Sitka, throwing the local Indians out of their settlement on the very pleasant shores of Sitka sound. In June 1802 the Indians attacked the fort, burning it to the ground and killing virtually all the colonists. The Indians were then in turn attacked and driven out after the Russians returned with an Imperial Warship. Sitka - New Archangel - was the Russian capital of Alaska, and still has its small cathedral and Russian history. Later in the 19th Century, when the profits from the fur trade had declined, and to keep the British out of Alaska, the entire territory was sold to the United States for $7.2m. Sitka is a small town, very scenic, enjoying a wonderful isolated setting on the edge of the Gulf of Alaska. 
Mother earth totem
 The museum, the totem park memorial
Raven war helmet from the battle
to the battle of Sitka, and the raptor
centre were great places to visit, and the weather here in Alaska was excellent. With the freezers full of our fish, we rose early to find a fish boat captain from a neighbouring berth washing Last Mango from a soot discharge. Being very apologetic, he kindly handed us a huge Ling Cod as we left - so Lenny the Ling went into the bath tub to await being turned into steaks and fishcakes.
Finally we have reached the Northernmost point of our Pacific voyage this year and it is time to turn and head South. Leaving Sitka we headed out into the Gulf of Alaska, which was having a benign day. Day 1
Three humpbacks
we must have seen thirty or forty
Prepare to dive.......

humpback whales, usually fishing the tide lines, sometimes broaching, flippering or diving.
The spouts are usually the first sign, then they will surface somewhere and breathe for a
few minutes before diving again. Apparently, after

migrating here from the South, they spend months feeding in the

Going down.........
rich waters here. In the harbour, the water was teeming with
herring and grilse.
Our journey South took us to
peaceful anchorages on
Coronation Island (named for the accession of George III) and to Exchange Cove, Prince of Wales Island. Now back in Ketchikan, we are just stocking up from Walmart before heading South and back to Prince Rupert, BC. We have very much enjoyed our time in Alaska; we will try to organise more time in the event that we can come back for more.

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