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Archive for the ‘Forests’ Category

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

P1140473.JPG

P1140473 ©  JT  of  jtdytravels

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

P1140469.JPG

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).

P1140474

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.

P1110789.JPG

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.

P1110808

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.

P1110837.JPG

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!

P1140528

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 7.51.52 AM

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

Read Full Post »

 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110352

A cloudy afternoon © DY of jtdytravels; P1110352

The weather looked decidedly unpromising as our Captain repositioned the ship from George Island back along Icy Strait and into another sheltered cove where Fox Creek enters the sea.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110353

The clouds begin to lift © DY of jtdytravels; P1110353

Fortunately, as everyone prepared for the afternoon on shore, the clouds lifted.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110356

Elymus mollis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110356

This was another rocky shoreline. It’s amazing the places plants find enough nutrients to grow. This elegant grass known as Dune Grass or Dune Wild Rye;  Elymus mollis,  is a native grass that only grows in coastal areas. It’s hardy with strong, erect stems up to 30cm (1ft) long which have been used by native peoples to make twine and bindings .

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110357

Elymus mollis © DY of jtdytravels;  P1110357

A close up of the inflorescence of the Dune grass show it to be very soft and hairy.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110358

Grass  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110358

This grass is not native to Alaska. It’s a European beach grass which is gradually dominating the coastal areas that were once the domain of the native Dune Grass, Elymus mollis.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110366

Kayak preparation © DY of jtdytravels; P1110366

Heavy skies but the crew goes ahead to prepare the kayaks.

Note the rocky beach; not easy walking.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110368

Kayak group © DY of jtdytravels; P1110368

The kayakers prepare for a paddle in this sheltered bay.

There’ll be no DIB exploring today.

© DY of jtdytravels ; P1110369

Senecio pseudo-arnica © DY of jtdytravels ; P1110369

The Beach Groundsel or Seaside Ragwort; Senecio pseudo-arnica, is a daisy… yet another member of the large Aster family. It’s stout stem is surrounded by luxuriant foliage of fleshy, large, oval leaves which are green above & fuzzy white below.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110370

Senecio pseudo-arnica  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110370

We were just too early in the season to see these Senecio pseudo-arnica flower heads burst open with bright yellow rays surrounding a darker yellow disc of flowers. These daisies are not native to Alaska; they’re abundant along the shores of the eastern and western Pacific and the western Atlantic. The common name of Groundsel seems to be derived from an Old English word grundeswylige which meant ground swallower! And, yes, it often becomes a weed.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110375

Honckenya peploides © DY of jtdytravels; P1110375

Beach Greens or Seabeach Sandwort; Honckenya peploides, is a low growing plant that is found on gravelly beaches near the high tide line. It can even survive being covered by sea water during an especially high tide. It’s densely covered with fleshy, pointed leaves. The flower petals are spatula shaped, shorter than the prominent green sepals.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110378

The beach walkers! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110378

It’s always pleasant to just wander along a beach to see what can be found.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110379

Mertensia maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110379

Mertensia maritima, is, as its species name suggests, a plant of the seashore. It has a circumpolar range on the northern beaches of the British Isles, Scandinavia, Greenland, and northern North America. It’s an attractive perennial herbaceous plant with a long spirally-twisted taproot that anchors the plant to the gravelly beach. One common name, Sea Bluebell, refers to the lovely blue bell like flowers. The clusters of flowers begin as pink buds before turning blue. Another common name is Oyster Plant. This name refers to the silvery blue-green, thick, oval leaves which, some say, taste of oysters.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110381

Mertensia maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110381

A shower of rain just added extra beauty to this Sea Bluebell flower.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110386

Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110386

The Beach Pea, Lathyrus japonica is also known as Lathyrus maritimus. It’s a lovely climbing or trailing plant that grows over other plants along the edges of gravelly beaches.  Flower buds are deep reddish purple gradually turning to a deeper purple.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110384

Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110384

Fully opened flowers of Lathyrus japonica, have intricately veined petals.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110385

Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110385

Beach Pea is native to temperate parts of Europe, Asia, North and South America. They ‘travel’ far and wide! The seeds, housed in long pods, have the amazing ability to remain viable while floating in the ocean for up to five years. Where-ever they wash ashore, the seeds germinate when the hard outer seed coat is bruised and opened by wave action on sand and gravel.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110387

Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1110387

Another world wide ‘traveller’ is the Creeping Buttercup; Ranunculus repens.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110388

Castilleja unalaschensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110388

Unalaska Paintbrush; Castilleja unalaschensis, is similar to the red paintbrush we saw earlier at Pond Island, except it has yellow rather than red bracts surrounding the flowers. 

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110390

Platanthera dilatata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110390

The lovely White Bog Orchids; Platanthera dilatata, are probably the easiest orchids to identify because of their pure white flowers and sweet perfume. David found these on every walk here in the Tongass National Forest area. Yes, they might be common; but they are beautiful. This one had a very tall stem that did not fit into the photo. In the right conditions, the stems of these plants can be a meter in length with up to 100 flowers per stem.

Bog Orchids have been seen in their thousands in marshy spots beside roads and in forests in mountainous areas of the Pacific Northwest. What a sight that would be!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110398

Fritillaria camschatcensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110398

Fritillaria camschatcensis, as its species name suggests, is native of the Russian Kamchatkan Peninsular, just across the sea from Alaska. This lily looks lovely but it has a really bad smell which it uses that to attract flies as pollinators. It has at least four common names; Black Lily or Chocolate Lily for the colour of its flowers. Indian Rice or Eskimo Potato are a little more obscure. They refer to the way native people used the plant’s clusters of tiny white bulbs which resemble rice and were used in much the same way as rice in times past. Now rice is plentiful in shops and the art of harvesting and cooking the lily roots has all but disappeared.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110415

Fritillaria camschatcensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110415

Close up of the lily flower of Fritillaria camschatcensis.

The group now left the beach and turned into the forest to explore along Fox Creek,

a  forest that is a well known feeding place for grizzly bears.

Whether they came across a bear or not will have to wait until 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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From the beach, the walking group made their way up through the forest to the Pacific Ocean side of George Island. There, they would find an almost forgotten gun site from WWII.

Signpost for Gun Site Walk © DY of jtdytravels; P1110257

Signpost for Gun Site Walk © DY of jtdytravels; P1110257

The pathway up to the gun site was only completed in 2012. Before then, this was a rather forgotten part of World War II history in Alaska and the USA.

.

View back into a bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110271

View back into a bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110271

The walk went by some delightful rocky coves.

Rain drops © DY of jtdytravels; P1110264

Rain drops © DY of jtdytravels; P1110264

The rain that had been threatening all morning began,

but it was only a light shower.

Climbing to the top © DY of jtdytravels; P1110273

Climbing to the top © DY of jtdytravels; P1110273

The path was steep at times, but there was always something to see;

a chance to stop for a bit of a rest.

The group spared a thought for the men who pulled the gun up this hill.

Rocky Bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110272

Rocky Bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110272

The higher the walk, the craggier the inlets.

Another Rocky Cove © DY of jtdytravels; P1110281

Another Rocky Cove © DY of jtdytravels; P1110281

Rock ‘stacks’ were left by the pounding waves of many a storm.

Aster sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110278

Aster sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110278

There were indeed big vistas, but there were also small plants to enjoy.

This Aster sp. was delightful.

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110280

Moss © DY of jtdytravels; P1110280

As with all of the forest areas that we had visited, there was plenty of moss.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110296

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110296

Another rocky bay came into view through the trees.

Platanthera stricta © DY of jtdytravels; P1110284

Platanthera stricta © DY of jtdytravels; P1110284

The Slender Bog Orchard, Platanthera stricta, is one of the Rein Orchards; stricta means slender. This one differs from the White Bog Orchard (photographed on an earlier walk) because it has green rather than white flowers.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110286

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110286

Another beautiful orchid found along this forest path was Listera cordata, commonly called  Heart-leaved Twayblade. The pale green to purplish brown flowers have a long lip that is divided into two lobes. Each plant may have between 5 to 16 flowers that grow in a terminal elongated cluster. It grows well in a mossy, moist part of the forest.

Apparently Charles Darwin was fascinated by this orchid because of the way it blows its pollen away in a explosive puff. The pollen, which is held within a drop of sticky fluid, glues itself onto whatever insect it lands upon, often a fly or a fungus gnat. The flowers lure these insects by having an unpleasant odour. So, they may be delightful to look at, but don’t touch or smell!

© Dy of jtdytravels; P1110289

© Dy of jtdytravels; P1110289

One very different moss in this forest is Hylocomium splendens or Step Moss, so called because its stems are twice pinnately branched. The 3-5cm long, step-like annual increments are clearly visible in this closeup photo. The age of a step moss can be estimated by counting these annual ‘steps’. This moss likes calcium rich soils as opposed to the the Sphagnum Moss , that prefers acidic, organic soils.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110299

Moneses uniflora © DY of jtdytravels; P1110299

Deep in the forest where little light penetrates, David found the lovely Moneses uniflora. This plant, which is called WaxFlower, has two, perhaps more appropriate common names ; Shy Maiden and Single Delight. The latter refers to the single, white, fragrant nodding flower on top of a leafless stalk. The name Moneses derives from the Greek; monos meaning one and hesia meaning delight. And I think you’ll agree, it is a delightful flower.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110295

Penguicula vulgaris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110295

Another beautiful flower is the Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris.  This plant grows in moist areas which low in available nitrogen. So it supplements its nutrition by trapping insects. The purple flower plays no part in catching prey and it’s held high above the leaves by a long stem, well away from the sticky insect catching leaves. The plant doesn’t want to catch its own pollinators by mistake! One of those amazing survival tricks of nature.

Another one of those survival tricks relates to the way this plant catches and digests its food. The leaves have two special glands on the upper surface. One, the peduncular gland, produces a wet looking secretion that forms droplets on the leaf surface, hopefully luring a small insect in search of water. But it’s not water; it’s sticky and traps the insect. As you might expect, the insect begins to fight for its life, but that only triggers more glands to secrete more sticky droplets. This secretion begins the digestion process and that triggers an initial flow of nitrogen to the plant.  And that brings into play the second type of gland, the sessile glands, which lie flat on the leaf surface. Those glands excrete enzymes which further break down the insect into digestible fluids that can be absorbed into the plant through special holes in the leaf. And that just leaves the insect’s exoskeleton on the leaf. And that’s just another example of what makes learning about plants so fascinating, don’t you think?

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110305

Cornus canadensis © DY of jtdytravels; P1110305

In that same moist area, covered yet again in moss, there were more of the lovely Dwarf Dogwood; Cornus canadensis.  This perennial plants forms a wide mat of oval leaves borne in whorls above the moss on erect stems. White, oval bracts surround tiny greenish flowers. These are followed by the red berries, locally called Bunchberries.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110296

An ocean side rocky cove © DY of jtdytravels; P1110296

The Butterwort and Dogwood were growing beneath trees above this rocky cove.

And out beyond the cove, the Pacific Ocean stretches thousands of kilometres.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110309

The gun © DY of jtdytravels; P1110309

And here at last was the gun; an eighteen ton (36,000 pounds) steel gun.

Yes. ‘Twas indeed  mighty effort to get it up here.

But this gun was never fired in anger.

It was fired but four times after they eventually got it in place in 1942. A target was set up to test the gun. On the fourth shot, the the gun mount sheered and the gun jumped back a few inches. The stand came down on one of the men’s foot and broke his toe. And that was that. The gun was covered over and never fired again. It was also almost forgotten. All of the other guns that the US set up in Alaska to target a possible invasion by the Japanese have gone; broken down or pushed into the sea for the fish to swim around. This is the only one that is left standing. And only very recently, the path to the gun was restored; a piece of history

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110315

The mount of the gun © DY of jtdytravels; P1110315

The gun mount looks sturdy enough!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110323

Looking down the barrel © DY of jtdytravels; P1110323

Isn’t it amazing, that even in a place like this,

people can leave their trash behind!

What happened to the wilderness etiquette? Pack it in, pack it out!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110313

The magazine  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110313

The ammunition was stored here. Not much was used!

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110322

Inside the magazine © DY of jtdytravels; P1110322

At least they removed the ammunition when they left the site.

There’s not much to see here now.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110307

What’s left of an accommodation hut © DY of jtdytravels; P1110307

The accommodation quarters have seen better days. Life was tough for the gunners who were posted here.  It’s a blustery, windy, often cold and wet place. Despite the rain, there was very little water; none in the winter, because it would freeze. Most of the men went back to Sitka. Two men remained but it wasn’t long before they also locked up and left.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110312

View from gun site © DY of jtdytravels; P1110312

Looking north from the gun site.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110317

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110317

One last look out across a bay to snow topped mountains beyond.

Across the ocean, by about 4,000 kms, is Kamchatka where David explored a couple of years ago. His experiences of the many volcanoes in that part of Russia, and the wonderful variety of plants and mushrooms he found there, are written up with photos on our other web site: www.dymusings.com

 

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140016

Back at the beach © JT of jtdytravels; P1140016

As the walkers returned from the gun site, the kayakers also came back to the bay.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140018

Returning the kayaks to ‘Sea Lion’.© JT of jtdytravels; P1140018

One last task for the crew; return the kayaks to “Sea Lion’.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1140021

The weather closed in again, but no one was concerned. Lunch was served.

More 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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After lunch on 24th June, the “Sea Lion” relocated further north up Chatham Straight to Sitkoh Bay which is a narrow inlet on the southern end of Chichagof Island and directly across the Straight from Angoon.

Sitkoh Bay map 1

Sitkoh Bay map 1

The story of this bay provides an insight into the consequences of the way resources are harvested and why it’s so important to understand and respect relationships in the environment. This is a story that wasn’t told to us on board the ship, but it probably should have, could have, been. It’s a story I’ve had to piece together from my own research.

Map of Sitkoh Bay Alaska

Map of Sitkoh Bay Alaska

This 8 km (5 mile) long bay is fed by the Sitkoh River which, in turn, is fed by a mountain lake. And that’s just the type of environment Sockeye salmon require in order to spawn. But this type of stream is comparatively rare in South East Alaska and, when man changes and spoils this pristine environment, so the numbers of Sockeye decrease markedly.

Summer Camps on Sitkoh Bay

Summer Camps on Sitkoh Bay *

The first humans known to come to this bay were groups of native Tlingits who made their summer camps along the edges of the bay. Tlingits had lived in South East Alaska for 10,000 years before the first white men arrived. They were subsistence harvesters of fish and they understood the importance of not over fishing and also the need to keep the environment clean for the fish to spawn. They fished according to their need.

Tlingit fishing canoe© JT of jtdytravels; P1140668

Tlingit fishermen with canoe ©  JT of jtdytravels; P1140668

Each year, the Tlingits harvested some of the Sockeye as they moved upstream. At that time, the fish were full of fat; good food but difficult to smoke for later consumption. These were eaten immediately. Fish caught after spawning, the ones that would die naturally anyway, were less fatty and able to be smoked for later use in winter. There was a healthy balance between man and resource.

Map of Sitkoh Bay

Sitkoh Bay in Relation to Sitka *

The first pressure placed on the numbers of Sockeye in the bay came after the Russians took the land around Sitka by force in 1804. Many Tlingits fled over the hills from Sitka to live in the Chatham Straight area. More people put pressure on the bay in summer and fights broke out between the different groups. But there were still sufficient Sockeye salmon for all.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1130991

Chatham Cannery Site © DY of jtdytravels; P1130991

This balance in nature changed dramatically in the years after the Chatham fish processing plant was built in 1900. It was set up to take advantage of the rich resources of Sockeye in this bay.  When the Tlingits expressed their views on the way the fish were being over-harvested, they were silenced by armed US guards. The price for good red Sockeye was high in the market and the Cannery made of the most of Sitkoh’s summer spawning runs.

While some Tlingits were employed by the cannery, at a very low rate of pay, the owners of the cannery continually refused to listen to them about the need to take fewer fish. As a result, by 1920, the numbers of Sockeye had begun to diminish markedly.  Eventually, the cannery closed in 1974 but not until the Sockeye had been almost totally fished out. 

Lake above Sitkoh Bay

Lake above Sitkoh Bay

The third pressure that beset the Sockeye salmon was forest logging around the mountain lake that fed their spawning stream. Logging took place in this pristine valley between 1969 and 1974 and, according to research reports, silt had a big effect on muddying the stream and on changing the water temperature. Since logging ceased, efforts have been made to clean up the water ways and the Sockeye are recovering in number. Fortunately, nowadays more is known about the interdependence of life in the wilderness and changes are being made.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130988

Chatham Cannery Site  © JT of jtdytravels; P1130988

There’s not much left of the Chatham Cannery site and its village. When in use by the Cannery, the inhabitants were segregated into three areas; White owners, Asians and Tlingits. It’s still used by Tlingit peoples for summer harvest of salmon.

© JT jtdytravels; P1130989

© JT jtdytravels; P1130989

Much of the once bustling village is now derelict!

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130992

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130992

No-one uses this jetty anymore. It stands as a mute reminder of the days of the cannery and the consequences of not understanding the needs of a natural resource.

Jennie and David

* A good report and commentary on the story of Sockeye in Sitkoh can be found on:

http://www.arlis.org/docs/vol1/A/24172307.pdf

‘Use of Sockeye Salmon in Sitkoh, Alaska’

Technical Report Number 174

by

T F Thornton, R F Schroeder and R G Bosworth

.

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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© JY of jtdytravels; P1130915

© JY of jtdytravels; P1130915

Ah yes! What a morning; waking up to this stunning view from our room … clouds reflected in a glassy sea inside a sheltered cove. Not a bad start to a day! And now we were up to Day 3 of our expedition exploring the islands and coves of Alaska’s Inside Passage aboard National Geographic/ Lindblad’s ship, “Sea Lion”. But where exactly were we?

Kelp Bay Map

Kelp Bay Map

Overnight we’d sailed, from Petersburg, north back up Frederick Sound, past where we had seen all those whales, turned west at Five Finger Lighthouse and sailed down the main shipping channel until we could turn north into Chatham Straight and on to Kelp Bay. We were still within the wilderness of the immense Tongass National Park.

Pond Island Bay

Pond Island Bay

Our activities for the morning would centre around Pond Island Bay.

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P1110039

This was the first day for kayaking and there were many excited people on board just waiting to explore the shore line on their own in a kayak. I had chosen to explore a little further afield by inflatable DIB and David had chosen to do another forest walk. Before anyone could take part in any of these activities, the kayaks had to be lowered from the roof and taken ashore.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130920

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130920

David’s walking group, taken by Lee, was the first to go ashore.

That’s David in the blue jacket with his trusty brown backpack at the ready.

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P1110044

The need for boots is clear…

this was the usual style of wet landing in icy waters on a pebbly shore.

Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Tongass National Forest, Alaska

David’s walk was yet another walk and plant hunt in Tongass National Forest, the forest area that we had been exploring ever since we left Juneau.  Established by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, Tongass is the largest National Forest in the USA. It covers approximately 80% of Southeast Alaska; 69,000 square kilometres, or almost seventeen and a half million acres, and it encompasses more than 5,000 islands and more than 16,000 miles of shoreline. In fact, it covers all of the area known as the Inside Passage except for the Glacier Bay National Park (which is the large white area just west of Juneau on the map).

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P1110046l

The Tongass is part of the world’s largest remaining coastal temperate rainforest even though, during the past century, substantial portions of the large tree, old-growth forest have been harvested. There is much discussion today about how to protect and conserve the remaining high-value forest; high value for the environment and all the wildlife within the the forest and its waters, but also high value timber for the foresting industry.

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Shelf fungus ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110053

As we have seen on David’s other forest walks, shelf fungus is not hard to find.

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Fungus  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110045

Wherever there’s debris from logging, or just from trees falling after big wind storms as happened here, mosses grow and, with them, fungi. This fungi, which forms quite a sculptural group, was missed by most of the walking group. Fortunately for those of us doing an armchair walk with David, he is very observant. People who actually walk with him are often amazed at what he sees, and photographs.

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Hypopitys monotropa  P1110051

One very small, strange looking plant that David saw, but most others missed, was growing down in the mosses. This plant is commonly known as Pinesap, and that maybe because it’s a saprophyte which ‘saps’ the juices of its host, in this case the pines under which it grows.  It’s scientific name is Hypopitys monotropa from the Greek hypos, meaning beneath, and pitys meaning tree. That all makes sense; but what about monotropa? That refers to the flowers which all face one way; and they do.

P1110052

P1110052

Here at Pond Island, many trees were unfortunately uprooted in a large windstorm. This is a natural phenomenon in forests. But in other parts of the Tongass, there has been a great deal of logging done over many years and the status of the Tongass will be degraded if logging continues unabated. So what are the pros and cons in the discussion about old-growth vs. second-growth? Our naturalists gave this answer.

In old-growth forests, uneven aged trees provide a broken, patchy canopy that permits sunlight to penetrate and support a healthy plant community on the forest floor. Any old-growth forests sustains the health of watersheds and aquatic systems, regulates water temperature and moderates flooding. Here in Alaska, this healthy water creates habitat for fish and wildlife.  The high quality water habitat supports many fish such as the five kinds of salmon, the mainstay of the local fishing industry. It also provides a healthy environment for harbour seals and sea birds as well as a high quality land habitat for brown bear, black bear, wolves, deer and squirrels to name a few of the forest dwellers. Dozens of bird species are also associated with old-growth forest habitats, including Bald Eagle and Northern Goshawk. Other birds such as woodpeckers,Marbled Murrelets and Brown Creepers nest in old growth tree cavities.

On the other hand, after harvesting old growth forest, the area is replaced by a dense even-aged stand that inhibits sunlight and thus understory growth, resulting in relatively sterile habitat that will not support many of these species. To log or not to log old growth? To me it’s what is known as a “no brainer”!

P1110083

Squirrel ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110083

And while we are talking about the need for old growth forests for forest dwellers… this cute squirrel is one of them. In spring, squirrels feast on the new tender buds of spruce, hemlock and alder. As is the case with all squirrels, they also feed on seeds and nuts.

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A squirrel midden ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110102

In autumn, they ‘squirrel’ away cones and seeds in chambers in their tunnels or in their forest floor middens. The midden is covered in holes where a squirrel has been busy planting its food treasures.  Not all squirrels have tunnels; some make nests in the trees or in holes in old growth trees. Although seeds and nuts are their main food source, squirrels also cut off fungi and take them up into trees to lodge in crotches of branches to eat later.

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Conifer forest ©  DY of jtdytravels; P1110061

Within these forests, as we have seen on these walks with David, there is a wide diversity of vegetation types, ranging from lichens, mosses, liverworts, and ferns to flowering plants and shrubs to large trees that can be centuries old; some more than one thousand years old.

We hope it remains so always for many more people like us to enjoy; and, more importantly, for all of the birds, flora, fauna and fish that are dependent on it for their well being; and for the health of the air that we all breathe.

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Tsuga heterophylla P1110060

Tongass National Forest is made up mainly of Conifers, cone-bearing trees such as hemlock, and spruce, cedar and shore pine with Alder on the forest edges. But two trees are the most abundant; Western Hemlock, 70%, and Sitka Spruce, 20%. So what’s the difference? 

The leaves of the Western Hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla, are are blunt-tipped, soft, shiny, and flat unlike the sharp needles of the spruce. Hemlock leaves are light green to medium green on top, with two whitish parallel lines beneath.  They grow from two sides of branch, parallel to the ground.

The cones of the Western hemlock are brown, oval-shaped, about 3 cm (1 inch) long and have thin, papery scales. They hang down at end of twig. These hemlocks can grow to between 45 and 60 meters  in height (100 to 150 feet) and .6 to 1.2 meters (2 to 4 ft) in diameter. If left unlogged, they can live anywhere from 200 to 500 years.

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Picea sitchensis P1110112

The cones of the Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis, are quite different; they are the usual conifer cone shape that most of us are familiar with.  They are light orange-brown, usually found in the top quarter of tree, hanging down from branches, with papery scales. 

The sharp needle like leaves of the spruce are dark green and grow on all sides of branches from woody pegs. This is a characteristic common only to spruce.

These trees may live between 500 and 700 years; some have been known to be 1,000 years old.  At maturity they reach between 46 to 67 meters (150 to 225 feet) in height and 1.5 to 2.5 meters (5 to 8 feet) in diameter. 

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The remains of a logged forest  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110100

This part of the walk is quite a mess after the storm.

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P1110096

Indeed, it was often more like a scramble than a walk;

climbing under and over logs…

it was for the fit and adventurous; not for the faint of heart!

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Corallorhiza maculata ssp. maculata © DY  of  jtdytravels;  P1110090

While scrambling through the forest, David found a rather lovely saprophytic orchid, known as Coralroot, Corallorhiza maculata ssp. maculata.  It’s similar to the white-lipped Corallorhiza maculata but this one has magenta spots on its lip, hence the variation in name.

These orchids derive their nutrients from the decaying matter in the rich humus of moist coniferous forests such as this one. Because they don’t need to make their own food, they lack the green colouring of most plants.

P1110059

Alnus rubra ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110059

The Red Alder, Alnus rubra, is usually found on the edges of the forest and is quite different from either the spruce or the hemlock. It’s a fast growing deciduous tree that only lives for about 50 years. It helps to fix nitrogen into the soil and thus helps smaller plants to grow on the outer edges of the forest.

The leaves of the Red alder are broad, pointed at both the base and the tip and they seem to roll over. This is the difference between the Red alder and the more common Sitka alder which has sharp toothed leaves that are not rolled over. (David photographed the Sitka alder at the Mendenhall Glacier.)

The cones of the Red alder are small, hang down in clusters and they stay on the trees during winter. The cones contain winged nutlets that the squirrels enjoy.

Red alder wood is considered by many to be the best wood for smoking salmon and other kinds of fish; another reason for it to be logged. The wood is soft and is used for carving items such as feast bowls and masks. The red bark makes a red or orange dye;  the differences in colour can be attributed to either the age of the bark or the addition of substances like urine!

Pond Island Bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110054

Pond Island Bay © DY of jtdytravels; P1110054

Finally, David and his fellow walkers emerged from the forest. They looked out into the bay where the kayakers were still having fun and where I was exploring the water’s edges in a DIB. 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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