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Archive for the ‘Cruise’ Category

Our Seattle ferry cruise had taken us from Elliot Bay in downtown Seattle, up along the Puget Sound Coast to Shilshole Bay where we entered Lake Washington Shipping Canal.

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Now we had to get through the Chittendon locks to raise our ferry up to the level of the lakes. Our final destination for this day was the docks at the south end of Lake Union.

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I always have a sense of anticipation when approaching locks. These locks were built in 1917 … at the time creating the largest locks in North American enabling passage between two bodies of water of different levels.

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When given our all clear, we sailed into the lock, tied off, water was pumped in through tubes at the bottom of the lock as we gradually rose to the lake water level… a difference of about 20 feet. The ship canal project began in 1911 and was officially completed in 1934.

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Gate opens, ferry unties and we sail on through to the next stage of our cruise. It all takes about 15 minutes. It’s somewhat amazing to think that something like this stills exists in this day and age, but it works as it has done for a hundred years.

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And on the other side we came to a busy small shipping area.

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All types of marine transport were tied up in the safety of the canal.

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Another bridge across the canal.

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One of the many dry docks used for ship maintenance.

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A newly painted fishing boat ready to go back out into the sound.

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Tug boats to assist the bigger ships negotiate the canal.

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And yet more bridges… the higher traffic bridge and a colourful train bridge.

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Not all homes along the canal are inviting! This reminded us that in every city, there are those who do it tough in whatever shelter they can find.

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Its always fascinating to look up to the superstructures of bridges, built to take millions of cars and trucks a year safely across the canal. Spare a thought for those who built them.

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Gas Works Park is a large public access space on the northern side of Lake Union. It contains the remnants of the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the US… a plant that operated from 1906 to 1956. In 1962 the City of Seattle bought the plant and opened the park to the public in 1975.

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As we cruised up the length of Lake Union, several sea planes flew overhead. They are an important link between Seattle and the islands including Vancouver Island in Canada.

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A fascinating feature of Lake Union are the number of floating homes.  They come in all shapes and sizes, some virtually indistinguishable from those built on land. While these home owners don’t pay real estate taxes, they do have to pay pay dock fees.

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This floating home community is one of only a few in the United States… I know of one across the bay from San Francisco.  Floating homes evoke a sense of romance and these, along the banks of Lake Union and Portege Bay, do offer a unique lifestyle. We were told that here, for the most part, neighbours are friendly and community minded and there’s a never ending kaleidoscope of things to watch such as wildlife, boats and seaplanes.

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As we approached our dock at the end of our cruise, a seaplane prepared for takeoff.

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Maybe it was going to Vancouver Island… that’s where we will go in the next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Seattle was having its hottest start to July ever (2015) so we took to the water as a somewhat cooler alternative to walking the hot streets.

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As the ferry left the terminal we looked back on an area that is being reconstruction to connect the city back with the waterfront… for too long divided by a fast and busy highway and much of the water’s edge was not available to the people of the city.  After much consultation with the community, the dream is to make a vibrant waterfront for all to enjoy. The highway will remain but the waterfront area will be much more people friendly with boardwalks, parks and amenities. And the ferries that leave from here join that area to the small islands and also link the harbour via a canal to large lakes within the city.

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Seattle has a large, very busy working port area that is vital to the economic health of not only Seattle but to the whole of Washington state. I read that four in ten jobs in the state are tied to international trade, driving job growth and economic prosperity.

As ever-larger container vessels ply the seas, the port has seen dramatic changes to accommodate such vessels. The port has needed to install not only heavier cranes with a longer outreach but also provide deeper drafts.  An ongoing task.

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A view back to the city and the space needle.

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Several restaurants now use the older pier areas. This one is the iconic ‘Waterfront Seafood Grill Pier 70’ which has received recognition many times as one of Seattle’s top dining destinations.  As you would imagine, the menu incorporates the wonderful bounty of fresh seafood of the area, as well as the fresh harvest from the farms in the surrounding countryside.  During summer, guests can enjoy waterfront dining on that long deck.

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I’d seen these silos from the space needle and wondered what they contained. The answer is grain. It’s a completely automated facility moving grain efficiently from trucks and rail cars to silos and then to ship’s hold.

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A massive rock wall surrounds a marina filled with some very expensive yachts.

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Just before the ferry turned from the main harbour area into the canal, we passed West Point Lighthouse, sitting, as it has done for many a long year, at the end of a low, half-mile-long, sandy point that extends into Puget Sound. The lighthouse still sends out alternating red and white flashes, even though from a modern beacon within the tower.

Light houses are usually built on rock. But, to support this lighthouse built on sand, a grill of timber was first built three feet below the ground before adding the brick foundations. The brick tower and and an octagonal iron lantern room were then built on top. They must have done something right, it still stands today, albeit with a surround of added rocks to keep both the lighthouse and the sand spit safe from lashing storms.

 

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Along the canal, many houses are built on timber piles. Safe from storms, this would be my choice of place to live in Seattle… if I could afford one of them…. but probably not!

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Other places are built on the shore line rather than over the water.

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Salmon Bay Bridge, (or Bridge no 4) is on the northern rail line between King Street Station in Seattle and Everett (where the Boeing factory is situated). It’s called a single-leaf bascule bridge, built in 1914, and has two rail tracks. It has a span of 61 mts (or 200 ft).

So what is a bascule bridge?  In simple terms its a draw bridge that uses a massive counter weight to continuously balance a bridge span, or leaf, as it swings upwards to allow clearance for boat traffic. As we were to see later, largish ships use this canal.

The concept has been used since ancient times. But it wasn’t  until the introduction of steam power in the 1850s that long, heavy spans could be moved quickly enough to make their use practical for more modern day usage.  I guess this is electrical these days.

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I liked this house near the bridge… solid foundations rather than timber poles that have a habit of rotting over time…and lots of balcony to sit out and watch the bridge in use!

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More houses along the canal. It was very pleasant sailing passed these canal side homes as we made our way to the locks that lift the ships from the ocean level to the lake level.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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Our last afternoon in the Inside Passage was spent in a delightful bay… waiting. Our destination for the day was the town of Sitka out on the western coast of this part of Alaska. And to get there, we had to negotiate Peril Strait. As it’s name suggests its not the easiest place to navigate with tide changes up to 7m through the narrows.

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P1110917 © DY of jtdytravels

So we waited for the right time to sail towards the narrow passage and had an interesting afternoon checking out each others photos. Everyone was asked to add three photos to the pool and it proved to be fascinating to see what each person added.

P1140539  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140539 © JT of jtdytravels

Later, as we moved towards the passage, we did a side trip into a wide bay which seemed to be full of whales. Having taken many whale photos, this time we just enjoyed them. One or two performed amazing breeches right out of the water, but most were just feeding.

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After a while, I decided to get my camera. Lucky! As I left our room, a whale came right up beside the ship and gave me a wonderful wave of the tail. Then it, and most of the other whales, seemed to vanish. It was as if this one was saying good bye.  We sailed on.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110906

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110906

Dusk was gathering as we entered a more narrow passage of water. All seemed very still.

BUT the water way ahead of us was treacherous; the tide coming in and going out very rapidly and all ship’s captains have to be especially vigilant in these waters.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140543

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140543

The ship glided slowly towards our appointed time to go through Peril Strait. There is a definite process to be followed and our Captain had applied for our specific time.

The Tlingit natives had a name for this strait- Haat xhishxhaak.  Haat meaning tide, rapids, whirlpool or back-eddy; and xhishxhaak meaning, appropriately, to sit down! They would pull there canoes to the bank to wait for the tide to be just right.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140550

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140550

The view back from the rail outside our room. Night approached.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140551

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140551

There was a strange eeriness about these waters. And many have perished here. One story tells of some native Aleut seal hunters who pulled in here to await the tide change. While waiting they had a feast of shellfish. Unfortunately for them, the shellfish were poisonous and about one hundred and fifty of these men died. Where they died is now called Poison Cove and Deadman’s Reach.  Not the best of bed time stories!

P1140547  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140547 © JT of jtdytravels

After watching the moving shapes in the waters for some time, I finally turned in for some shut eye, trusting the Captain and his crew to get us safely to Sitka.

map of trip

The map shows where we had travelled on this wilderness adventure.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140555

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140555

I woke to the sound of the engines slowing down. We had arrived. Dawn was breaking.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140557

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140557

The clouds were mirrored in the still waters of Sitka Harbour.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140558

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140558

Looking out from our room was our first sight of a Sitka residence.

P1140559  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140559 © JT of jtdytravels

We made our way under the bridge to the dock. This is a big bridge that takes a road to almost nowhere. Fir the only way into Sitka is by sea or by air. There are only 22.5 km or (14 ml) of road in this town; half go east-west and half go north-south. We had chosen to stay here for an extra night. Was that wise in such a small town of only 9,000 people?

P1140564  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140564 © JT of jtdytravels

It’s always hectic when a ship comes into its final port. Bags have to be out by 7 am; breakfast is earlier than usual; everyone must leave the ship by 8am. But while I waited, I took some time to check out the harbour around us. It’s a busy fishing port.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140562

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140562

Fishing boats of all sizes were moored near the fish co-op.

P1140561  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140561 © JT of jtdytravels

In deeper water, a larger ship unloaded its cargo. These ships are the life line for the townspeople bringing in cargo from the larger cities.

P1140563  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140563 © JT of jtdytravels

The tide was well out. Its just as well they have variable gangways up to the docks.

P1140566  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

P1140566 © JT of jtdytravels

It was time to farewell our good ship ‘Sea Lion’ and our Captain and crew. They had all been wonderful.  What would we find here in Sitka? We had read that in March 2013, the Smithsonian Magazine named Sitka as #9 in its top ten towns in the USA! That’s quite some call… so we looked forward to exploring here for a couple of days.

And we’ll share that with you all anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

.

 

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

 

 

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The morning of our last day in the Tongass National Park wilderness was overcast and misty. There was talk of rain. We hoped not.

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P1140473 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

After breakfast, the clouds began to rise revealing the mountains.

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P1140469 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The crew dropped the kayaks into the water and everyone geared up for our last day in this pristine, wonderful part of the world… walking, kayaking or floating about in the DIBS (inflatables known as Zodiacs in Australia).

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P1140474 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

What a beautiful place! There was great anticipation amongst the walkers (David included) that this might just be the day that they would encounter a bear on their walk. The area is known for its bears and the salmon run was about to start in streams around this bay.

P1110775 © DY of jtdytravels

P1110775 © DY of jtdytravels

Several interesting jelly fish floated by as we were preparing to climb into the DIBs to go ashore. This one was the Lion’s Mane Jellyfish, Cyanea capillata.

Like all jellyfish, this one is ‘diploblastic’ which means it has two primary layers: the ectoderm, the inner layer of tissue associated with the gut, and the endoderm, the outer layer, which includes the nervous tissue.  The animal’s radial symmetry allows it to reach out in all directions from the centre, assisting their feeding.

But this jellyfish has some specialised characteristics. It doesn’t have a brain or eyes so it has to rely on nerve cells to sense and react to either food or danger. Some of its eight lobes have organs used for sensing odor and balance. And at the end of some of the lobes there are primitive light receptors!  It’s understood that these sensing organs tell the jellyfish whether they are heading up or down, and into the light or away from it.

Most of us know to beware of jellyfish and their stings; and the Lion’s Mane jellyfish is no exception. As you can see in the photo, there are many tentacles. In fact these animals can have up to 8 clusters each with 150 tentacles; Now, how’s your maths? I make that add  up to  1,200 tentacles per jellyfish… AND… one researcher recorded a  Cyanea capillata‘s tentacle at almost over 6 metres (200 ft) long… AND every single one of these enormous tentacles are lined with large amount of cnidocytes, the stuff that stings if you touch it. That’s impressive! One of the effects of the venom of the Lion’s Mane is ‘hemolysis’; the destruction of red blood cells. So stay well clear of these beauties.

And we did; we watched and waited until they floated by. But they don’t really float. They propel themselves using special muscles called coronal muscles which are embedded on the underside of the bell. These muscles push water out of the hollow bell. Then, as water is pushed in one direction, the jellyfish moves in the opposite direction.

Learning about them from our marine biologist was fascinating.

 

 

P1110780  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110780 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time we got to shore, the kayaks were lined up ready for those wanting to paddle their way around the calm waters of this bay.

P1110782  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110782 © DY of jtdytravels

David and his group began their walk, going by this tree that was just clinging to the rock face.

P1110787  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110787 © DY of jtdytravels

Another tree had a squirrel’s cache of pine cones in a hole at its base.

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P1110789  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Nearby was a lovely example of the Narrow Beech Fern;  Thelypteris phegopteris.

P1110794  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110794 © DY of jtdytravels

This Coralroot Orchid, Corallorhiza maculata, is named the spotted orchid for its spotted lip. But it’s named coral root because it has no roots; it has, instead, hard, branched rhizomes that look like coral. It’s a parasitic orchid deriving its nutrients from mycorrhizal fungi in the deep, damp humus and soils in the understory of coniferous forests.

P1110812  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110812 © DY of jtdytravels

An Native of the Alaskan mountain forests,  Clintonia uniflora is a member of the lily family. It’s common names are bride’s bonnet and queen’s cup… neither of which seem to be very apt to me. 

You have to look in the understory of the coniferous forests to find this delightful small white flower.  Two or three long, wide leaves are located at the base of the stem.

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P1110808 © DY of jtdytravels

This flower will be replaced by just one round, blue berry, up to one centimetre wide.

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P1110862  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Dying petals look very delicate, almost translucent, adorned as they are with raindrops.

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P1110863  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

The forest canopy reflected in a raindrop; one of the joys of a walking in the rain!

P1110814  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110814 © DY of jtdytravels

As usual in these forests, fungi abound, some like this one are very ‘architectural’.

P1110815  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110815 © DY of jtdytravels

A rain collector!

P1110821  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110821 © DY of jtdytravels

While David wandered on his flower spotting way through the forest, I was meandering in a DIB around the streams that run into the bay.

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P111o837  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

Every now and then we spotted each other through the trees. These streams are spawning grounds for salmon and I was enjoying Jason’s stories of the salmon as we floated along.

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P1140513  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

It was a delightful way to spend my last day in the Tongass National Forest.

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P1140516  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

The reflections were perfect… if we sat still enough in the boat.

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P1140499  ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

We found a pair of eagles to watch. They were watching for salmon!

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P1140528 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

After a dive into the water (no fish on this occasion) it dried its wings.

We watched it… it watched us. We wondered what it thought!

They are such a magnificent birds !

P1110825  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110825 © DY of jtdytravels

David walked on further into the forest but still following the stream.

P1110831  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110831 © DY of jtdytravels

The delightful red paintbrush flower; we’d seen it several times before.

P1110833  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110833 © DY of jtdytravels

Always well worth a closer inspection.

P1110839  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110839 © DY of jtdytravels

We had seen many example of the Black Lily or Chocolate Lily, Fritillaria camschatcensis, on our forest walks. The name denotes that it is native to Kamchatka on the far east Russian Peninsular where David had trekked a couple of years before. (Those stories are written up on www.dymusings.com)

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that this lily looks lovely but it has a really bad smell which it uses that to attract flies as pollinators. Before rice became available in quantity in these parts, the local native people of Alaska used the plant’s clusters of rice like, tiny white bulbs as food hence the other common names of Indian Rice or Eskimo Potato. Nowadays, the art of harvesting and cooking the lily roots has all but disappeared.   

P1110887  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110887 © DY of jtdytravels

A good example of bracket fungi, a woody fungi that grows on tree trunks.

P1110886  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110886 © DY of jtdytravels

Further upstream away from the larger pond, the walkers had to cross a stream.

P1110891  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110891 © DY of jtdytravels

And not long after that, they were stopped in their tracks. What are they looking at?

P1110895  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

P1110895 © DY of jtdytravels

A bear! Yes, they actually came across a bear. Stand still. Don’t move. That’s the rule.

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But the bear was not interested in them. It was looking to see if any salmon had come up the stream yet. The salmon spawning run was about to begin and this bear was ready!

And you can imagine the excitement back on the ship. Last walk. Last chance. A BEAR!

And so the forest walks ended on a very high, very satisfying note. But once the bear was seen, it was not wise to stay in that part of the forest, so it was back to the ship- quietly.

But once on board, the lunch room was a buzz of excited bear chatter. And after lunch, it was time to weigh anchor and sail for Sitka, our final port of call on this adventure through the waterways of the Tongass National Forest and the Inside Passage of Alaska.

More of Sitka anon

.Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

www.flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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Welcome back to this site after our diversion to www.dymusings.com for photos and stories of David’s treks and explorations of parts of China and Mongolia. We hope our regular readers have enjoyed those posts and thank you for joining David for his journeys.

He’s having a rest from travel at the moment and will be off again later in the year.

So to keep all of our armchair travellers out and about and exploring the world, we’ll now return to my journey with David through Alaska’s Inside Passage adventure in June 2015 with National Geographic/ Lindblad expeditions on our small ship Sea Lion. Of course, as I write this from the heat of an Australian summer, Alaska is in the midst of deep winter. But no matter; we can still enjoy more of this amazing part of the world together. I will be posting on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for those who wish to follow these post.

In the last post that I published on this site, (#23 in this Alaskan series), we sailed north through Glacier Bay National Park towards the glaciers that give the park its name. In this post we’ll add photos of some of those majestic glaciers which can only be viewed from the ship… no landings are permitted within this National Park.

Glacier Map

Glacier Map

Glacier Bay needs a full day’s sailing to explore; it covers 3,280.198 acres and we only saw the part visible from our good ship as it meandered its way up through the mountains.

As we sailed, our National Park guide reminded us that when Capt. George Vancouver sailed the Alaska coast in 1794, Glacier Bay did not exist. It lay beneath a sheet of glacial ice several miles wide and thousands of feet thick. Since then, in one of the fastest glacial retreats on record, the ice has shrunk back the 65 miles of our sailing. As it has shrunk, it has unveiled new land and a new bay. It’s as if this area is returning to life after a long winter’s sleep.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

Approaching Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

The first glacier we approached was the Margerie Glacier in the Tarr Inlet. This glacier is about 1.6 km (1 mile) wide and it’s height at the face is about 110m (350 ft) ; that includes the ice that extends underwater for a depth of 30m (100 feet). Although at this point the glacier still looked far away and not too large, it grew in grandeur as we approached. 

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

Margerie Glacier extends up into the mountains for a length of 34 km (21 miles) to its source on the southern slopes of Mount Root.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

We were able to clearly see the black lines of moraine… the dirt and rocks that are carried down with the ice towards the terminus.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

We were able to get close enough to see the deep blues in the fissures in the ice.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

We were told that an iceberg’s colour often reveals its makeup; dense bergs are blue, while those filled with trapped air bubbles are white.

© JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

Margerie Glacier © JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

There were many wonderful ice sculptures to hold our attention.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

Some seemed to be on the verge of breaking away to calve into the bay.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

Ice has been a major force in the Glacier Bay region for at least the last seven million years. However, the glaciers we gazed at with such awe, are remnants of ‘ The Little Ice Age”… a general ice advance that began about 4,000 years ago.  The ice here reached its maximum extent about 1750, when general melting began.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

This is a good example of the layering effect of a glacier… layer upon layer of ice with layers of moraine trapped in the ice for perhaps centuries.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

We were lucky enough to see several calvings of ice from the face of the glacier. It’s just difficult to get your timing right for photos! You can be watching one end of the face, when with a loud creak and crash, the ice falls from another part. But you always hear them. When the ice hits the water it sounds like a cannon shot. “White thunder,” the Tlingit called it, ‘the awesome voice of glacial ice’.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

The remains of a calving break up into various sized icebergs that float off down the bay. Blocks of ice up to 200 feet high sometimes break loose and crash into the water.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

Without doubt, the most majestic glacier in Glacier bay National Park is the John Hopkins Glacier. It’s 19 km (12 m) long and cannot be approached too closely by ships… the bergs that carve here are too large for safety. And, anyway, this is a favourite safe haul out for harbour seals… well away away from predators, especially when they are pupping.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

With a long distance lens, the ‘roads of moraine’ are clearly visible.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

John Hopkins is one of the several huge tidewater glaciers that flow out of from these mountains and down to the sea.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

Our guide told us that scientists come here regularly to study glacial retreat; this area is called by some “a living laboratory for the grand processes of glacial retreat, plant succession, and animal dynamics. It is an open book on the last ice age.”

As we sailed between glaciers, we saw that much of the very rugged, more recently deglaciated land was beginning to host some vegetation.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

Several glaciers were continuing their retreat back into the mountains.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

Lamplugh Glacier was my favourite of all the glaciers. It rises 45 to 55 m (150-180 ft) above the waterline and goes down 3 to 12 m (10-40 ft) below. The Lamplugh is immense; almost 1.2 km (3/4 ml) wide. It flows for 26 km (16 ml) from its source at a rate of 365 m (1200 ft) per year. They are pretty impressive statistics; but not as impressive as being there, right there… close up to such grandeur!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

While we were enjoying the spectacle of such a wonderful glacier, our guide gave us brief explanation of the formation of a glacier. Up in the high mountains, at the source of the glacier, it’s so cold that none of the snow melts even in the summer… so the snowfall exceeds snowmelt. Over time, that snow pack builds up until the weight of the upper, newer, layers of snow press down on previous layers of snow, deforming the flakes beneath and changing them into granular snow, like round ice grains. I was amazed to learn that individual crystals can sometimes grow the size of a football. Air trapped between the snowflakes is also frozen into the ice at this immense pressure.  Eventually the granular snow becomes solid ice, many, many meters thick.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

The ice near the bottom of the glacier is under such tremendous pressure that it flows almost like plastic over the rock beneath. Friction between the glacier and the bedrock produces meltwater which also allows the ice to slide. In places, you can see a cave like section under the glacier where the lowest layer of ice has melted away.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

It’s fascinating to watch large chunks of the ice calve off forming icebergs, some so large they might last a week or more as they deteriorate and melt way. Icebergs provide perches for bald eagles, cormorants, and gulls, as well as haul-outs for seals.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

We heard the mighty crash and splash as more ice fell into the bay. Spectacular! But it was also a timely reminder that icebergs are in retreat in many places around the world… and that’s not a good scenario for rising sea levels.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

Here, we were able to witness the start of an iceberg’s journey down towards the sea. Earlier in our journey, we’d had the privilege of getting up very close to icebergs in our inflatables. Then, we’d actually heard the crackles and pops as ancient, long-trapped air was released from the ice.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

Retreating Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

Too soon, it was time to sail back south away from the glaciers. There, on slopes which had been deglaciated 50 to 100 years ago, we saw alder and willow growing in the moraine close down to the shore. Rocky areas and cliffs, exposed within the last 30 years, had patches of pioneering plant life such as mosses, mountain avens and dwarf fireweed. And on the crest of the view was the last vestige of yet another retreating glacier.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

Leaving the glacier zone © DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

The further down the bay we sailed, the more vegetation we saw. This new vegetation has created habitats for wolves, moose, mountain goats, black bears, brown bears, ptarmigan, and other wildlife; all in an environment less than 200 years old. Our park ranger guide told us stories of her camping trips in the wild here and of her contact with some of these animals… up close and personal! A little too close and personal for my liking!

The sea here also supports a wide variety of life; salmon, bald eagles, harbour seals, harbour porpoises, killer whales and humpback whales… and its the story of one particular whale that will be the centre of our next Alaska posting.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass this site onto others

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A much anticipated day was our visit to Glacier Bay National Park.

Glacier Bay map

Glacier Bay map

This area, at the northern end of Tongass National Forest on the Alaskan Panhandle is very special. As far back as February 25th, 1925, the uniqueness of this area was noted. It needed to preserved as true wilderness. In a far sighted act, the then US President, Calvin Coolidge, proclaimed it a ‘National Monument under the Antiquities Act’.

In total, the wilderness area of Glacier Bay National Park covers 10,784 km² (4,164 mi²). There’s also a large extension to the park that’s called a preserve, where hunting can be undertaken, but only under special licence. I’ve never been able to fathom the need for people to hunt and shoot wild animals for ‘trophies’ but that’s the way it is in these parts.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140458

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140458

The entrance to Glacier Bay is close to the entrance of the Inside Passage. The big Cruise Ships come in from the Gulf of Alaska via Icy Strait, away from the rolling sea, as I remember it from my last visit here in 2001, and into much calmer waters. On this visit to Alaska, in 2015, I’d spent the night asleep on board our small ship ‘Sea Lion” in the calm waters of one of the nearby coves. In the morning, we only had to sail across the strait to the National Park  headquarters to pick up our guide, Nicole. Every ship, large or small, must take on board a Park Ranger. Their task is to check that no rules are broken and also to act as the NP guide for the day.

Many of the glaciers in this famous Bay, owe their existence to the largest of all mountains in the area, Mt Fairweather. Storms blow in from the ocean and dump their icy waters as snow on and over the Mt Fairweather area. Over centuries, glaciers form from the compacted snow.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140456

Tlingit Totem symbol © JT of jtdytravels; P1140456

In the 1800’s, this area became a fishing place for the native Huna Tlingit. Their name for the highest mountain in the area was Tsalxhaan.  When Captain James Cook saw it, on a fine day in 1778, he named it Mt Fairweather… not really an apt description as it’s not often seen for cloud and is not known for fair weather. Regardless of that, Cook’s naming has been kept.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140448

Glacier Bay in 1750 © JT of jtdytravels; P1140448

The story of Glacier Bay in recorded history is one of fast, spectacular retreat. In Tlingit memory, a huge glacier protruded out into Icy Strait. The first European to mention this area was French explorer La Perouse in 1786. Then, when George Vancouver’s expedition came this way in 1794, they found Icy Strait choked with ice…. hence the name. The area we now know as Glacier Bay was in fact just one tidewater glacier. By 1879, just 85 years later, the famous naturalist John Muir found that the glacier had retreated up the bay by 77km (48mi). And by 1916, the ‘Grand Pacific Glacier’ had retreated 105km (65mi) from the mouth of the bay. This was the fastest recorded iceberg retreat and has been studied by scientists ever since.

The most dramatic example of glacier retreat in the last century was that of the glacier named after John Muir. The calving face of Muir Glacier was 3.2 km (2mi) wide and 81 m (265 ft) high. By the 1990’s, it was no longer calving into the bay. It had retreated back into the ice sheet in the mountains. One wonders what Muir would have made of that!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140452

Tlingit summer fishing camp © JT of jtdytravels; P1140452

In the late 1800’s, John Muir found the Tlingit people living in their summer camps near the mouth of the bay. They came here to fish and hunt. These people travelled in their dug out canoes throughout these waters, fishing, hunting and visiting other clans for weddings and for ‘potlatch’ ceremonies in which gifts were exchanged to keep peace between the various clans. Maybe we could learn something from this ‘potlatch’ tradition today to help maintain peace instead of resorting to seemingly endless wars! A tradition of giving rather than taking!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140425

Tlingit canoe © JT of jtdytravels; P1140425

This example of a Tlingit canoe was built, in the traditional way using an adze, by craftsmen in 1987.  It’s made from a single spruce tree and is on show at the Ranger’s headquarters.

After picking up our Park guide Nicole and her understudy, Jenny, we sailed on into the bay in search of wildlife. This was the distinct advantage of being on such a small ship. The large cruise ships sail straight up the bay to see the glaciers and then straight back down again. We had the priviledge of taking our time, of exploring around small islands, of slowing right down when animals were sighted and of getting in close to bays and beaches and cliffs. But we stayed on board. There were no off ship excursions or activities. That was not permitted.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110474

Stellar Sea Lions hauled out on a rock © DY of jtdytravels; P1110474

Small rocks we passed were often covered in Steller sea lions. They are named after Georg Wilhelm Steller who first described them as a distinct type of sea lion in 1741. They are the largest of the eared seals and like other sea lions, they are thigmotactic; they like to cuddle up close together!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110503

Steller Sea Lions © DY of jtdytravels; P1110503

Steller sea lions are, for some as yet unexplained reason, declining in numbers in Alaska. They are the object of much debate by Alaskan scientists, fishermen and politicians. The reason for the decline is likely to be a complex web of factors including less available fish due to over fishing. With less fatty fish like herring available, sea lions eat more of the leaner fish like pollock and flounder. This limits the amount of fat in the diet, a necessary requirement for survival in these cold waters. Other reasons put forward for this decline in numbers are: shooting by fishermen who see the sea lions as a threat to their own livelihoods, changes in climate, contaminants in waters and increased predation by orcas. The latter I find hard to believe. We did not see one Orca on the whole expedition.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140041

Steller Sea Lion defending territory © JT of jtdytravels; P1140041

The big bull Steller sea lions constantly defend their chosen territory. They are polygynous but, unlike the sea lion species we had seen in Galapagos, these Stella sea lions don’t have harems of females. Instead the bulls control a space where females can come and go but no other male is welcome. We watched this big fellow see off several intruders.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110498

Cormorants © DY of jtdytravels; P1110498

These cormorants seemed to be doing the impossible; standing on a steeply sloping rock face. But they do more than just stand on the slopes; they nest on narrow ledges and shallow depressions on the steepest slopes they can find on the cliffs of rocky islands like this one. The nests are made of anything they can find such as marine algae, grass, moss, sticks and flotsam and debris. They use their excrement to cement these bits and pieces together. All that work is not wasted as the nests are reused year after year. These birds are great divers and feed mostly on bottom feeding fish and invertebrates.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140074

Puffin © JT of jtdytravels; P1140074

It was wonderful to see quite a lot of puffins in these waters near the small islands. But they are very small and so hard to photograph. And they are endlessly diving for small fish. Their large colourful bills are more colourful in the summer nesting season than in winter when the bill’s outer layers are shed. Their black and white plumage is referred to in their genus name  Fratercula, which is derived from the Latin meaning ‘little brother’. It was thought that their plumage resembles monastic robes. Once again, perhaps some imagination is required!

In general, puffins nest underground but at rocky sites like these islands, they do nest on cliff faces. The female lays just one whitish egg and then both parents take turns in the important tasks of incubating the egg and going out to fish. The chick is hatched in July or early August, and then the parents take turns in caring for and feeding the chick. At about five days old, the chick has to fend for itself on that ledge whilst both parents go out to find food.  As the colder weather comes in, the birds leave to spend the winter in the Ocean and never venturing back to the land until the next breeding season. So we were very lucky to see them at nesting time.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140105

Braided stream © JT of jtdytravels; P1140105

In several places we saw braided streams coming down through old glacial valleys. Here, the pioneer plants like Alder were in evidence, re-establishing land previously covered in ice.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140116

Snow and ice covered mountains ahead. © JT of jtdytravels; P1140116

Ice covered mountains came into sight the further north we sailed up the bay.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140147

Rocky cliffs scoured by glacial action © JT of jtdytravels; P1140147

Only lichens and mosses could grow on these cliff faces.

© JY of jtdytravels; P1140166

Grizzly Bear © JY of jtdytravels; P1140166

The cry of “BEAR! BEAR!” soon had everyone rushing to the side of the ship. Because we were on such a small ship, the captain was able to edge closer to the shore and hold position while we watched the bear graze and wander through the grasses. It took absolutely no notice of us.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110543

An old glacial valley © DY of jtdytravels; P1110543

We sailed by several of these very picturesque old glacial valleys, testament to the time when this bay was covered in ice… and that just over two hundred years ago… not millennia!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140168

A beach of glacial murrain © JT of jtdytravels; P1140168

Gravel brought down by the stream from this mountain had formed a beach.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140204

Wolves © JT of jtdytravels; P1140204

And it was on that beach that we saw wolves (Canis lupus). This caused great excitement. Many of our crew had never seen them and the Captain said it was most unusual to find them in this area. They are usually much more secretive. But on this day, these two chose to wander along the beach and were in view for at least twenty minutes. We just slowly followed them along the beach… from the safety of the ship, of course.

These wolves had very dark pelts, much darker than those found in northern parts of Alaska where, I suppose, they need to be able to ‘melt into’ the colours of a very different landscape. But the pelt colour of Alaskan wolves ranges from black to nearly white, with every shade of grey and brown in between although grey or black wolves like these are the most common.

Wolves can be legally hunted and trapped in Alaska, outside of the area of the National Park. They are classified as both big game animals and as furbearers and are deemed to be not endangered in Alaska. We were told that between 1994 and 2005 more than 14,000 wolves were reported to have been killed or trapped by hunters… and probably as many as that were not reported. We were glad that these two had the protection of a National Park.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110565

Mountain goats © DY of jtdytravels; P1110565

Mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), as their name suggests, inhabit rugged habitats. They are the only North American representative of mountain ‘ungulates’ or rock goats. And they need to live in an environment like this where wolves can’t easily get to them. To survive here, their hooves are specially designed for climbing on steep, slippery slopes. Their feet have a hard keratinous sheath with an imbedded soft pad which enables them grip the maximum surface area on even the smallest rock or crevice. It was fascinating to watch these three gamble about on this cliff, grazing, but ever watchful.

They have another survival adaptation that allows them to live in the extreme conditions of South East Alaska; in winter they grow a long, shaggy coat. They would need it!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110572

Sailing ever closer to those remaining glaciers © DY of jtdytravels; P1110572

We left our search for wild life and sailed on towards the glaciers,

still quite a way to go to the head of the bay.

So time out for lunch.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140314

The ice shelf visible above an old valley © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314

After lunch the terrain around had changed somewhat.

Now we could see evidence of the ice shelf in the heights above a valley.

Stunning scenery all around us.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140322

Small ice flows in the water © JT of jtdytravels; P1140322

Finally, the glaciers were heralded by sightings of small ice flows in the water.

And the glaciers that ice came from is the subject of our next post.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

If you enjoy these armchair travels, please pass our site onto others

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

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Having explored the beach, the group now turned their attention to a walk that followed Fox Creek into the depths of the conifer forest. Here, they hoped to find plants that thrive in the under story in the moist, mossy areas alongside streams. This too, is the favourite haunt of grizzly bears, especially at the time of the salmon run in these creeks.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110400

Bear footprints © DY of jtdytravels; P1110400

As they entered the forest, the group soon found evidence of bears in the area.  Apparently, bears choose to regularly walk in these old bear prints. No-one really knows why. But, the size of the prints and the spaces between them show just how big these animals are! Hopefully none were out and about in the forest! But the thought always added an edge of excitement to forest walks in the Tongass. So, time out for bear drill!  Stay together. Talk while you walk. Bears don’t like to be surprised. And if you do see a bear? The first rule is simple, but it may be difficult; DO NOT RUN! A bear can reach speeds of 60km/h and you can’t. Stay still, slowly raise your arms to make yourself look taller, and slowly retreat. With luck the bear is more interested in berries than in you.

Now, what about those stream side plants?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110401

Platanthera stricta © DY of jtdytravels; P1110401

Almost lost in the lush green undergrowth of the forest, the Slender Rein Orchid; Platanthera stricta, can easily be overlooked. It looks so elegant against the rough bark of a conifer.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110411

Boschniakia rossica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110411

Also in this moist, moss covered soil were several of the parasitic Northern Groundcone, Boschniakia rossica, which David had previously found growing under Alders. Here they were gaining their nutrients from Sitka Spruce.

© DY of jtdtravels; P1110405

Oplopanax horridus © DY of jtdtravels; P1110405

One plant to be especially wary of is the well named Devil’s Club; Oplopanax horridus.  Those thorns are horrid; the species name says it all! Despite that, this plant has been used by the native peoples for centuries for its medicinal properties. The roots and inner bark have been used to treat ailments such as arthritis and diabetes, ulcers and stomach upsets. Just getting to the inner bark must have been a daunting process. The stems were also used as fish lures. Some groups believed that charcoal made from burning the stems would protect the wearer from evil powers if used as face paint for ceremonial occasions.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110426

Oplopanax horridus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110426

The pyramidal terminal head of buds that forms the “Devil’s Club’ becomes a rather attractive head of white flowers. These are followed by bright red berries which aren’t edible for humans but are a favourite food for bears…. and this forest is known to be home to many bears.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110416

Arnica latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110416

Making a showy statement in the green of the forest was this bright and cheerful, yellow daisy, Mountain Arnica; Arnica latifolia. How can anyone resist the temptation to take a photo of such a flower? 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110419

Arnica Latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110419

A closer look, shows many tiny flowers bursting out from buds which are clustered on the central disc. Those yellow bracts are strikingly veined. So intricate… and yet so many people often pass them by as ‘just a daisy’!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110421

A fallen tree over the creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110421

A tree, fallen across the creek, its trunk now covered in moss, was surrounded by lush growth. When a tree falls, it opens up the canopy allowing light into the understory and that gives a chance for the forest floor plants to grow stronger.

Orthilia secunda © DY of jtdytravels; P1110422

Orthilia secunda © DY of jtdytravels; P1110422

A fairly common plant found growing in moss covered, moist soils alongside a stream is the delightful Orthilia secunda, an evergreen perennial with deeply veined elliptical leaves. These leaves contain an acid that has been used very effectively, we were told, to treat skin sores. The white to pale green, nodding bell-shaped flowers are all directed to one side of the plant. This has given the plant its common name, One-sided Wintergreen.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110425

The forest at Fox Creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110425

This forest was the most dense and lush that David had experienced on the trip.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110428

Lysichiton americanum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110428

As usual in the wet areas of these forests, Lysichiton americanum, Skunk Cabbage, was in evidence. It also has the name of Swamp Lantern. Why?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Swamp Lantern from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A search on images on the internet supplied the answer! Lovely, isn’t it?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110430

Pinguicula vulgaris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110430

A close up of the flower of the carnivorous plant Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris. This photo clearly shows the 2-lobed upper lip and the 3-lobed lower lip with a white ‘path’ of spots in the throat to lead a pollinator into the flower.

It grows in damp environs such as bogs and swamps in places that have cold winters; in the northern parts of Russia, Canada and northern parts of the United States including in Alaska. At the beginning of autumn the plant forms winter buds so that it can survive being frozen.

(More about the carnivorous habit of this plant in #20 Georges Island walk.)

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110436

Aquilegia formosa © DY of jtdytravels; P1110436

One of my favourite wild flowers is Aquilegia formosa or Red Columbine. The common name apparently comes from the Latin, columbina, meaning ‘dove like’. The petals and spurs supposedly represent five doves gathered around a feeding spot. That thought had never occurred to me! The spurs attract sphinx moths, the plant’s main pollinators.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110440

Crossing Fox Creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1110440

Here, crossing the creek, was the most likely spot to encounter a bear.

But not on this walk.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110441

Tiarella trifoliata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110441

Tiarella trifoliata is a small perennial herb. The tall leafless, panicle of bell-shaped, white flowers rises above the basal leaves which are trifoliate. It always grows on a north facing slope in the understory.  Common names are many: Three-leaf Foam Flower, Lace Flower, False Mitrewort, Coolwort or Sugar Scoop; take your pick. The last name needs a bit of imagination! This is another example of the need to use scientific names.

Toadstools © DY of jtdytravels; P1110444

Toadstools © DY of jtdytravels; P1110444

Moist, mossy areas; toadstools and fungi are a common find.

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110447

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110447

The Shy Maiden; Moneses uniflora seemed to be present on every walk.

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110451

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110451

One of the many varieties of moss; each important to the ecology of the forest.

Back to the Beach © DY of jtdytravels; P1110453

Back to the Beach © DY of jtdytravels; P1110453

The creek path lead the group back to the beach.

This is obviously a much larger outflow when it rains heavily

or when the spring thaw brings water down from the mountains.

‘Sea Lion” was almost lost in the soft ‘mizzle’ that had begun to fall.

Heracleum lanatum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110454

Heracleum lanatum © DY of jtdytravels; P1110454

Alongside the creek, after leaving the cover of the forest, Heracleum lanatum, or Cow Parsley, grew amongst the grasses. This large perennial plant was used as a green vegetable by many native peoples. However, because handling Heracleum stems can cause severe skin problems and blisters, only the very young stalks and leaf stems were eaten and only after they had been peeled. They were also occasionally boiled.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110457

Rhinanthus minor © DY of jtdytravels; P1110457

Rhinanthus minor or Rattlebox was also growing amongst the grasses along the creek edge but outside of the fringes of the forest. The yellow flowers, protected by green bracts, have two lips; the upper one being hooded. This plant’s scientific name, Rhinanthus, comes from the Greek and refers to the unusual shape of the flower; rhin meaning snout and anthos meaning flower. The common name of Rattlebox refers to the noise that the numerous, winged seeds make as they rattle around in the seed box before they are expelled to the air.        

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110458

Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110458

A delightful, small, ground hugging plant, Potentilla anserina ssp. pacifica, or Silverweed, grew in soft, wet, sandy spots beside the stream. This is the only one of the cinquefoils which has runners and single flowers borne on leafless flowering stalks. The roots of this plant are of two types; long fleshy taproots holding them firmly in the ground, and short curly roots near the surface. Although bitter to the taste, the roots were boiled as a vegetable.

The clouds descend! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110468

The clouds descend! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110468

As the ‘mizzle’ turned to drizzled and the clouds came down ever lower, it was time to return to the ship, dry out, enjoy some lunch and share stories of the day with new found friends.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110470

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110470

A quick look outside confirmed the decision to stay on board for the afternoon!

There was to be a lecture on current whale research

and a briefing about Glacier Bay National Park, our next destination.

More of that very special place anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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