Monday, April 16, 2012

Alaska Cruise: Day 5 – Ketchikan

Day 5 of our World Bird Sanctuary 2009 Alaska Cruise found us exploring the Port of Ketchikan for our last full day ashore. 
 Dockside in Ketchikan
This port had a total of 39 land tour options offered by Holland America Lines.  So many to choose from—so little time!  After poring over the long list of tours we opted to see Totem Bight State Historical Park for it’s beautiful setting and awesome selection of native art, as well as a tour of the Deer Mountain Eagle Center and Salmon Hatchery.
 Our tour guide regaling us with local stories & native lore
On our way to Totem Bight our very knowledgeable and personable tour guide gave us a brief history of Ketchikan, as well as pointing out the unusual architectural style—buildings are built on steep hillsides and most of them have at least one side perched atop wooden pilings.  Some of the homes and apartments have as many as 300 steps to the front door!
 We joined Walter and his fiancee Mary Elise for the day
We spent the next few hours walking through woods lined with beautifully restored and/or duplicated totem poles.  In the early 1900s many of the native people moved to communities where work was available, leaving behind their villages and totem poles.  These were soon over-grown and reclaimed by the forest, and many of these beautiful works of art were eroded by time and weather.  In 1938 the U.S. Forest Service, using Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) funds began a program of reclaiming and restoring or duplicating these beautiful relics.  They employed some of the older Tlingit natives who still remembered how to make the necessary tools and paints and knew how to carve the totems in the old way.
 Note how the clan house front resembles a face--a stylized Raven
One of the most interesting points on the tour is a reproduction of a native clan house, which could have housed 30-50 people—usually members of the same family.  The corner posts and supports were carved totems and the workmanship was incredible.
 Interior of the clan house
Our next stop after Totem Bight was the Deer Mountain Eagle Center and Salmon Hatchery.  This facility was originally operated by the State of Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game.  The Ketchikan Indian Community took over management of the facility in 1994, and in 1998 they expanded it to include the current Eagle Center.
 Carved sign for the Tribal Hatchery and Eagle Center
The Eagle Center currently has a collection of ten resident birds, which they use to present educational programs similar to those offered by the World Bird Sanctuary.  The tour was unique in that it focused on the cultural significance of the various species in Native American tradition and lore.

My husband was fascinated by the Salmon Hatchery tour where they had many exhibits showing the evolution of a Salmon from egg to adult.  It was really interesting to see the Salmon trying to swim upstream in a stream with simulated rapids and boulders—otherwise known as a fish ladder.

Ketchikan is known as the Salmon fishing capital of the world and one of the land tours offered was a sport fishing trip.  Had we been headed directly home after we left the cruise ship I’m sure my “in house fisherman” would have managed to sign up for this option.  However, upon our return to Seattle we would be headed back to Alaska for a five-day bear watching adventure and some Halibut fishing.  We felt we had to draw the line somewhere.
Dinner was accompanied by entertainment presented by the dining room staff 
Dinner on the cruise ship this night was accompanied by a show in the Grand Dining Room presented by the dining room staff (including chefs, waiters, busboys, etc.)  I can’t say enough about the staff and crew on this ship.  They were unfailingly helpful, accommodating, always pleasant and eager to please.

If you would like to make a reservation to join us on the World Bird Sanctuary’s Alaska Cruise September 9-16 Click Here for more information.

Submitted by Gay Schroer, World Bird Sanctuary Volunteer/Photographer

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