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After a morning up in the Space Needle, we only had to walk a few yards to our next destination… for right next door to the Space Needle is a permanent exhibition of the beautiful glass creations that have been designed, blown and crafted by perhaps one of the most famous ‘sons of Seattle’, Dale Chihuly, and his skilled team.


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This exhibition was the top of my ‘to do ‘list in Seattle. I’d seen some of Chihuly’s work in Australia, several years ago, at Canberra’s Floriade spring flower festival. The masses of tulips were beautiful, as were the rest of the spring blooms, but Chihuly’s glass was the stand out feature. And his exhibition at the art gallery was also a hit with everyone. Now, here in Seattle, I had the chance to see a wide variety of his work and learn much more about what has influenced and inspired his creative spirit. Photos can never give the full experience of seeing this glass work up close and personal, but I’ll try to pass on some of the magic. If you can, I’d recommend that you look at these images on a lap top or larger screen to get the full effect of the glow of the glass.


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The entry foyer is simply stunning; tall, elegant tubes of glass on a black mirror floor.

You half expect them to start to move and begin to waltz.


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A close up of some of the pieces glowing against the black base.


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In the first main room of the exhibition are some stunning freeform vases and bowls that incorporate a basket weave style of decoration.


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A close up of the blue vase.

Chihuly had studied weaving in his interior design course at college and had tried out ways of incorporating bits of glass into his tapestries. His weaving instructor saw his ideas and encouraged him to further experiment with melting and shaping glass.


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A close up of the orange basket weave vase… one of the many complex pieces inspired by the weaving of the native peoples, especially the Navaho and Pendelton blankets.

I’ll add a link below for a you tube presentation by Chihuly to show how these is made.


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Chihuly began to acquire Indian woven blankets many years ago. His love for the strong colour combinations used in these blankets influenced his own sense of colour. Chihuly began his Blanket Cylinders series in 1975, and later moved on to blowing the more free form bowls and vases seen in this room.


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Native weavers and basket makers are honoured on one wall.


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Some of Chihuly’s glass pieces are displayed together with native basket weaving.


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A close up of one of the vases.


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Chihuly’s constant experimenting with his team finally gave him the skills to fuse coloured glass shards and thread into his free form vessels. They are stunning!


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Often a group of delicate bowls is set up together.

It’s now time to move on to the next room… displaying the very different ‘Seaforms’ series, begun in the early 80’s. I’ll give a link below for a video that demonstrates the inspiration for, and craft of, making these pieces.


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The room devoted to Chihuly’s “Seaform Series” is dominated by a very large glass ‘tower’ that develops from deep blues to paler blues, soft greens and touches of sunlit yellows, browns and sandy golds. Embedded in this ‘wave’ structure are various golden creatures of the sea, blown in rippled glass, which swim effortlessly through the waters. 

Chihuly lives by the water in Seattle and his love for the sea shines through these pieces. In 1979, unfortunately, it was his love for the sea that changed his career for the second time… the first was a car accident that took the sight of one eye. This time, a body surfing accident ended Chihuly’s ability to hold the long glass blowing pipe. Years earlier, while visiting the glassblowers of Murano in Italy, he’d seen the benefits of team work in glass blowing. Now, team work became a vital part of his own art practice. He employed a team of skilled glass blowers to form the individual pieces for him whilst he concentrated on designing complex creations like this sculptural ‘Seaform’ piece. 


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I spent a lot of time really looking at each of these exquisite forms.


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Also in the “Seaform”room are some very unusual individual sea creature sculptures. I was fascinated by how each piece was formed and the variety of glass skills involved.


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The time spent looking carefully at each of these sculptures was very rewarding.

We’ll move onto the next room in this amazing exhibition next time.

In the meantime here are a couple of ‘you tube’ links for those who are interested.

They explain, so much better than I ever could, just how these glass forms are made.

The woven cylinders and bowls series:


The ‘Seaform’ series


Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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USA: Seattle #4 The Space Needle

The day began clear and hot, again! It would get even hotter as the day wore on. So we decided to take the monorail to the Space Needle instead of walking.


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The Space Needle is an unmissable part of the Seattle skyline. In 1961, the builders of the Space Needle were given a little over a year to complete the needle as the central feature of Seattle’s 1962 World Fair. Finished in 400 days, it was dubbed, “The 400 Day Wonder.”

Now here’s some statistics for those who like that sort of thing, as David does. When pouring the foundations of the Needle, it took 467 cement trucks less than 12 hours to fill the foundation hole (30 feet deep and 120 feet across). Those foundations weigh 5,850 tons of which 250 tons is reinforcing steel. The whole Needle structure weighs 3,700 tons and it is fastened to its foundation with 72 bolts, each 30 feet in length. It should not move!


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It was a pleasure to take the monorail and see the city streets from above.


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It’s not easy to describe the needle! It’s huge, breathtaking, beautifully designed, elegant and a whole lot more. And there’s plenty of time to think about it as you stand at its base in the queue, moving slowly, a couple of feet at a time, waiting for your turn to take the elevator to the observation deck. But it’s worth the wait!

If allowed, we could have walked up the 848 steps from the bottom of the basement to the top of the Observation Deck. But it was hot!  We wondered how the elevator would go on a windy day… fortunately it wasn’t windy that day. We learned, while we read the blurb and waited, that the Needle sways approximately 1 inch for every 10 mph of wind. It was built to withstand a wind velocity of 200 miles per hour. The tower would be closed long before that. In fact, if the wind gets to 35mph, the elevators automatically reduce their speed to 5 mph for safety reasons. And how fast do those elevators travel? 10mph or 800 feet per minute and takes 43 seconds to get to the top. Not being a lover of fast elevators, I was somewhat calmed to learn that although one cable is strong enough to hold the entire weight of the elevator and the 25 people inside, each elevator has seven cables. And if all seven cables brake? An automatic brake would lock. OK. Head of the queue. Ready to go.


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A map gives a broad idea of what we would see from the observation tower; Puget Sound to the west; lakes and suburbs to the north; mountains to the east and the city CBD to the south. The deck was crowded with people when we arrived, so it was a case of find a spot at the edge, when you could get one, and stay there. I began looking to the north west.


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A wide angle view of Puget Sound stretching north west from Elliott Bay and the CBD.

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Puget Sound is a large inlet from the Pacific Ocean. North of the line is Canada.


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Closer view to the north west with Canadian mountains in the background.


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A crowded marina gives some idea of the love for sailing in the Seattle area.

Big cruise ships often dock at these wharves. None in town that day.


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Tanker being loaded from silos… not sure what product.


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520 feet below the north side of the Observation Deck is a playground area. We were almost at the top… 85 feet above us, on top of the Needle, is an aircraft warning beacon. Also up on top are 25 lightning rods (24 actual rods, plus the tower). 


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The orange maze in the playground attracted quite a few walkers.


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Looking directly north is Lake Union. We’ll explore this lake later by ship.


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Lake Union is another boating paradise. Ferries and tour boats berth here and sea planes and helicopters leave from here to fly passengers out to the islands and up to Victoria on Vancouver Island, Canada.


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We went over this Lake Union Bridge on our way to Everett and the Boeing Assembly Plant. It crosses a narrow part of the canal entrance to the much larger Lake Washington.


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Looking south south-east we could just make out Mount Rainier in the distance, 54 miles (87 km) from Seattle. It’s the highest mountain in the State of Washington..It’s summit is 14,417 ft (4,394 m) and its covered year round in glacial ice.  I was surprised to learn that Mt Rainier is considered to be one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes although it’s last eruption was in 1894. Perhaps it’s due for an eruption!


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Looking south over the CBD we could see the monorail leading back towards our hotel.

Yet another high rise building was going up in the foreground.


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A view south over the CBD and across Elliot Bay to the shipping docks.

Our 360 view of the city was complete. More and more people were crowding the deck, and, anyway, we had other things to do and see. So we left the Needle with some reluctance… but it was made easier knowing that we had return tickets for the evening.


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We returned at 7.45pm when the Needle glowed golden in the late afternoon light.

This was a very different experience. The ambience had changed.


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Many others had the same idea… to watch the sun set from the Needle.


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The sky turned from bright orange to pale gold and the city seemed to stop.


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The last of the light caught the top of Mt Rainier.


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The moon rose over the city in a soft pink sky.


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The colours of the sky began to darken. Everything seemed still.


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Lights came on in high rise buildings. Cars turned their headlights on.



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The city might have slowed down, but the dockyards never sleep.


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Lights lit up the buildings below the Needle as the light faded even more.


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And, finally, it was time to go after an experience we can recommend to all.

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By the time we’d waited for an elevator to take us back to ground level, the sky was pitch black. The Needle rose above us like a space ship as we, and hundreds of other visitors, left it to its task of warning aircraft in the area. Thankfully, after a full day out, the monorail was still running to take us back to our hotel and our beds.

Next time, we’ll show you what we did during the rest of the day, in between our visits to the Needle… a magic visit to Dale Chihuly’s Glass Exhibit and Gardens.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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USA: Seattle #3 Pike Place Markets

After a long morning going to, and through, and back from the Boeing Assembly Plant, we were somewhat on the hungry side. So in search of lunch, we left our bus in 2nd Avenue, two streets above the famous Pike Place Market and began the down hill walk.

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Pike Place Market is not small! It’s a whole ‘community’ down the hill from the CBD, near the water but not on the water. When it was opened on 17 August 1907, it would have enjoyed being by Elliott Bay, but now a very busy motorway roars its way between the markets and the waterfront. Now, bridges and steep steps give access to the waterfront.

Last time we were in Seattle, we took the market ‘taste tour”; an excellent way to experience the market. This time we just wandered and enjoyed the ambience.

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Photo courtesy of Google Maps

I said Seattle was hilly! We walked down Stewart Street to get to the market, but Pike and Pine Streets are just as steep. On our right as we came down the hill, we walked by Stewart House, built in 1902, so predating the markets. It’s now a home for low-income seniors, one of the community projects run by the Pike Market Community Foundation. I was fascinated to learn more about the Foundation’s work as we wandered through markets.


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There are several entrances to the long market ‘halls’. This is the main one. In front are the ‘tables’ where local farmers can sell their produce. Inside are the permanent stall holders. Back in the early days, the only cover was for the customers. The farmers sold their produce from their wagons on the street. At its peak, nearly 600 farmers sold their produce here. It was then, and is still, the main fresh produce market in Seattle.

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At the main entrance and under the iconic clock, there’s a life size ‘piggy bank’ called Rachel which collects money for the Pike Market Foundation. Rachel is beloved by the locals and tourists alike. Rubbing her nose… and popping in a donation, is said to bring good luck! And the donations bring practical services to the poorer people of the area. Some of the money is used for ‘Market Fresh Coupons’ which allow people to choose fresh fruit and vegetables directly from the farm stands at Pike Place Market. The coupons are used just like cash. Farmers and producers are compensated for all Market Fresh Coupons redeemed, so it is a real win-win for poorer people and farmers alike.

Near the main market entrance is a place that’s affectionately called the ‘Gum Wall’. People who attended the Market Theatre, in years gone by, were asked to leave their gum outside… better on the wall than on the pavement, I would say!


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A large area of the market floor is tiled with ‘named tiles’, some dating back as far as 1985. During restoration work, nearly 55,000 tiles were laid to honour donors who helped to pay for the much needed work. They show the pride locals have in their market.


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The tiles make a very special flooring for the millions of feet that walk these aisles each year. This is just a small part of a market hall that runs almost three city blocks.


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One of our favourite areas in the hall is the flower market. Such colour and perfume!


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Mixed bunches are always popular… these in early July full of summer blooms.


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I also loved the fungi stalls… so many different varieties. These are morchellas, true morels. I’ve never tried these honeycomb like morsels. So how do you use them, I asked. The response was ‘keep it simple’.

Wash and slice the fresh mushroom longways into quarters. Soak in large bowl of salt water for a couple of hours.. but not for too long or they’ll go mushy. Soaking kills and removes any little ‘critters’ lurking in those honeycomb ridges and holes. Drain and dry.

Now for the fun part. Use a zip lock bag for mess free work (or use a bowl) to coat the morels in a mix of wheat flour and rice flour. (Apparently, the addition of rice flour helps to make them crispier.)

In a frypan, melt butter (preferably… a better taste than margarine). Don’t overheat.

Gently saute mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Eat and ENJOY. I’ll try it.


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Other mushrooms that were unusual to me were the Maitaki (Grifola frondosa.) These are polypore mushroom that grow in clusters of gray-brown caps at the base of trees, particularly oaks. The clusters, that can become as large as 100cm, grow from an underground tuber like structure about the size of a potato. They may grow in the same place for many years. Maitaki mushrooms are very often used in Japanese cooking.


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I do know about Shitake mushrooms and will probably never use them in my cooking. Although I know that many people use them, some people, like my sister, are allergic to them. I will never forget a night at a hotel at Sydney airport where we were spending the night prior to an early morning flight to Europe. We ordered our dinner and were really enjoying it, when, to my horror,I noticed my sister’s cheek around her eye begin to swell…and swell… and swell. We had no idea of the cause. We sent for a doctor who called the kitchen to ask about the ingredients in our meal. Shitake mushrooms! An injection and a good night’s sleep and the swelling went down. Thankfully, we were able to board our plane and enjoyed our holiday!  So… no Shitake mushrooms in our food.


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We had arrived in Seattle at cherry time! On offer were the delicious golden, sweet Rainier cherries grown so well in Washington State. They are the result of a cross between Bing and Van varieties and first came onto the market in 1960. Seattle is famous for them.

Cherries are also the heart and soul of the ‘Chukar Cherries’ stall that has been selling yummy chocolate covered cherries and other delights at Pike Markets for 20 years. You can try before you buy! They are totally addictive. And yes, they ship them home.


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Apart from fresh fruit and vegetables, quality meat and deli goods are on sale. It always makes me wish I had a kitchen in town to take some of these offerings home to try.


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King Crab legs have always been a favourite of mine.  We didn’t buy these, but chose to try one of the home made sausage cafes. Good… but I still prefer crab!


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One thing Seattle City does well, apart from its market, is the way it composts food waste. No longer are scraps wrapped in plastic or paper and put in the bin. Each home has a bin for food and garden waste that’s collected by the city and turned into compost.

Food left over here in the markets is not always thrown away. The community has a food bank to help the poor and an ‘economy area’ where day old food can be sold cheaply. And to the left of the main central hall is the La Salle Building which contains two fine dining restaurants. But that’s not all that’s in there. The building also contains the Pike Market Senior Centre which serves nearly 50,000 meals a year to low income seniors.

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Photo courtesy of Google Maps

There are several other areas of the market below the main hall selling crafts and collectables and some clothes. Other areas are not under the main roof but in buildings in Pike Place and in side streets. On the right in this photos is the Corner Market… yes its on a corner… where all sorts of things are sold.


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In one shop in this area we found a tea shop with some appropriately styled tea pots!

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Further along in Pike Place is the first ever Starbucks Coffee shop. When it opened in 1971, Starbucks sold only coffee beans. Then in 1987, the store was taken over by Howard Schultz.Then, the store began to sell espressos. Now Starbucks stores seem to be everywhere… except  in Australia, although there are some where American tourists gather. But in general, Australians were not enamoured of Starbucks coffee and many of the shops that opened here soon closed down. We prefer the Italian style of baristas.

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Photo courtesy of Google Mapss

Where the markets finally come to an end, it’s good to rest and enjoy views over the bay from Victor Steinbrueck Park. There are plenty of places nearby that sell good lunch food and it’s pleasant to enjoy the sunshine… that is, of course, if it is not raining!


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Seattle is not called the Emerald City for nothing.


Photo courtesy of Google Maps

It was not raining when we were there… the city was sweltering through a heat wave, the worst they’d had for many decades. We were pleased to find some shaded alleys to wander along as we made our way in a zig zag fashion back up the hill to what is, for some odd reason called Seattle’s ‘downtown area’!  It’s not! It’s definitely the UP HILL area!

It was good to get back to the hotel after a really good day at both the Boeing Assembly Plant and at Pike Place Markets. T’was time to rest up for another big day ahead.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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High on our ‘to do’ list while in the Seattle area was to visit the Boeing Assembly plant at Everett, north of Seattle. David’s son, Peter, had been based there for a year.

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To get there, we could have taken a bus or a train. But since the easiest way to get in to see the assembly plant is to go with a group, we opted for that. It was a pleasant trip… or at least it should have been. Our lady guide did her best to tell us the story of Willem Boeing and his passion for flying. However, her commentary was all but totally sabotaged by a man and his 8 year old son who sat apart and talked loudly the whole way about anything other than Boeing. Not only were they rude, and Mum didn’t seem to care either, but they spoiled the morning for the rest of us. Neither polite requests from the driver, nor lots of ‘shooshings’ from the passengers, made the least bit of difference. Thankfully, I’ve been able to piece the story together from various sites on the internet!


So why was David’s son Peter at the Boeing plant? He was overseeing the building of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliners to be built for JetStar in Australia.We had not been able to get to Seattle whilst Peter was there, so now was our opportunity. It was a great experience.

We saw two of these long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliners sitting on the tarmac all ready for delivery.  Jet Star now uses Dreamliners on international routes.

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Boeing’s factory in Everett is HUGE!!!! It’s recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest building in the world by volume, at 472 million cubic feet. It covers a massive 98.3 acres of land. It’s so massive that when it was first built, accumulated warm air and moisture, actually formed clouds inside near the ceiling. But not any more.

When we arrived at the reception centre, we had to leave everything we had with us on board our bus. No cameras, no mobile phones were permitted, no purse; nothing at all.

After inspection at the security gate, and a strict briefing, we were taken by special Boeing Tour bus across the tarmacs to get to various parts of the building. At each stop, we had to walk through underground tunnels, kilometres long, to get to the areas where each of the different Boeing planes are put together. The assembly line is fascinating; mind blowing.


The murals on front of the huge buildings are celebrating 100 years of Boeing planes. They celebrate a century in which “humans went from walking on Earth to walking on the moon. They went from riding horses to flying jet airplanes. With each decade, aviation technology crossed another frontier, and, with each crossing, the world changed.


And at the very end of the building is the mural of the newest plane, the Dreamliner.

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So who was William Boeing who once flew an early plane like this and went on to build the Boeing Airplane empire? It seems that he was a man who had a passion for adventure and who took chances at the right moments.

William was born on October 1st, 1881 in Detroit, Michigan. His father, Wilhelm Boeing, had made a fortune as a timber baron after migrating to America. He died when William was 8 years old so he never knew of his son’s dreams and goals of flight.

In 1904, William Boeing began his studies at Yale’s Sheffield Scientific School but he left there a year before finishing. In that same year, the Wright Brothers made their historic flight… and Boeing moved to Gray’s Harbor, Washington where he established his own timber business, making a fortune. Seven years later, he moved to Seattle.

Boeing surrounded himself with other wealthy and adventurous friends. He is reported to have said, “science and hard work can lick what appear to be insurmountable difficulties. I’ve tried to make the men around me feel, as I do, that we are embarked as pioneers upon a new science and industry in which our problems are so new and unusual that it behooves no one to dismiss any novel idea with the statement that it can’t be done.”

One of his friends was Conrad Westervelt. Both men enjoyed sailing and boating in the Puget Sound, Seattle. But Boeing was never satisfied with the boats available on the market, so he bought a shipyard and started to build boats to his own designs. Soon, he became interested in the world’s newest invention, the airplane.

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I wonder what he would have made of today’s Boeing Dreamliner! His own first flight was on July 4th, 1914, in a friend’s Curtiss hydroplane. It was not a good experience. The plane was loud, unstable and very uncomfortable. He was sure he could build a better one! 

But first he had to learn to fly. After a brief introduction to flying, he bought a plane, took it back to Seattle and then crashed it, luckily living through the accident. Parts would take weeks to come even by the fastest route, so Boeing and his friend Westervelt, pulled the wrecked plane apart and began to learn about construction and design.

Happy with his new design, Boeing gave the skilled workers in his ship yard the task of building his new plane. He flew the plane on its first flight on June 15th, 1916.

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Boeing quickly realised the importance of the airplane for both civilian and military purposes. He formed a new company; the Pacific Aero Products Company. Not long afterwards he renamed it the Boeing Airplane Company. And the rest, as they say, is history… or at least it can be read on one of Boeing’s web sites (links below).


What a difference from that early wooden structure to the massive Boeing plant today!

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It what a proud day it was for all those involved in that Boeing Assembly plant when Dreamliner No 1 showed its style in the skies!.


The ceiling of the visitors’ centre is festooned with the flags of all of the countries serviced by Boeing’s planes today, many of them with orders in for the new Dreamliner.

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Also hanging from the ceiling of the visitors’ centre, is a replica of a very famous plane, Boeing Model 1. Indeed it has been an amazing 100 year journey.

We highly recommend a visit to Boeing if you ever get to Seattle.

And now for links to web sites with more information and a documentary video:

For more information on the biography of William Boeing:


For a Chronology of the Boeing Company story:


For an excellent 40 minute documentary that goes inside the Boeing Everett plant to see the assembly of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner (even more than we saw), click on:



More of our explorations in Seattle anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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We’d arrived in the bustling city of Seattle after days out in the wilderness of Alaska’s Inside Passage. We had no Captain to guide our way here. We needed to get a map, get our bearings and find out how to make the most of our couple of days in this city.

Thankfully, getting around the city is relatively easy, especially when you get hold of the city’s transport PDF colour coded map. Then all you need is an ORCA ticket. Whether you take a bus, ferry, streetcar, light rail or rail, or a combination of these, one card is all you need. You can top up on the internet or at vending machines.

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The map is great but what it doesn’t show is that this is a hilly city… those streets might be straight but they are certainly not flat, especially from the centre of the CBD down to the waterfront! So getting to know the transport system is a good idea.


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So what are the options? Getting from the airport is simple. Walk from the terminal via a walkway to the Link Light Rail station and catch the train to the city centre. Easy!

Link light rail travels from Sea-tac Airport to Westlake Station, right in the very heart of downtown Seattle It makes 11 stops along the way and runs every 6 to 15 minutes depending on the time of day. Adult fares range from $2.25 to $3.00 depending on how far you travel. And seniors, like us (over 65) pay just $1. So,so much better than a taxi!


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We chose a hotel in Olive Way (centre top of map), very close to the Link light rail station which ends its journey underneath the Westlake Shopping Centre.


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Right out in front of our hotel was the ‘streetcar’ terminal. Those who know David well will know that he is a transport buff, particular of trams. This was perfect.

There are two tram lines at the moment in Seattle. This one goes down to the South Lake, a pleasant waterfront park to visit. The tram blurb says that Seattle is in the process of building a modern streetcar system “that will strengthen connections among the places where people live, work and socialise.” Good on them!

We love this sort of transport in a city. Trams run on rails… they go to somewhere and come back the same way. You can’t get lost! And you see so much along the way.


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Also right in front of our hotel, and crossing over our street, was the monorail. The station is inside Westlake shopping centre. The monorail cost $3.5 million to build back in 1962 when it carried millions of people from the CBD to the World Fair site. It still carries up to 2 million visitors a year to the Space Needle and Chihuly Glass Exhibition (which we’ll visit later in this series on Seattle.) Again, the senior fare is just $1… one advantage of age!



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The main city transport is the trolley bus system… again with stops right in front of our hotel!  If using an ORCA card, you simply tap on at a machine as you get on and and then tap off at your destination stop. The fare is subtracted from the money on your card.
ORCA cards are NOT usable on Seattle’s hop-on hop-off bus. It’s a private system. Along its 2 hour loop, it stops at 16 of Seattle’s top attractions including the iconic Space Needle, Pike Place Market,the Great Ferris wheel, Seattle Aquarium and Pioneer Square. You can choose 1- or 3-day pass, then board at any of the stops and get to know the city with on-board commentary from a professional tour conductor.
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Of course, there is another way to explore the city… on foot, remembering that it’s very hilly and, when we were there, it was very hot! A good map is a good idea and good walking shoes are a must! I saw ladies trying to walk these streets in heels… not good.

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You tend to see so much more when walking. Manhole covers are often interesting. This one was rather helpful showing a map of the city and waterfront area.


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One street has several foot plaques of famous Seattle-ites like Dale Chihuly. A visit to his glass exhibition was a must on our list of things to do.


Another very famous Seattle-ite was Jimi Hendrix!


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And when you’re just too tired to walk any more, there are shady courtyards for a rest. Finding a good coffee spot was rather more difficult. There are lots of Starbucks coffee places of course… this was USA. But we don’t appreciate Starbuck’s coffee. After quite a lot of searching, we did find an excellent barista and whiled away a bit of time drinking good coffee and just watching the world go by.

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P1130393 © JT of jtdytravels

And then, when the heat and the hills finally defeated us, we wandered back to our hotel and looked at the view from the 21st or 39th floor…or something like that. High up.

This was July so the sun was rather loath to set… and the moon got up early. Electric lights began to appear on streets and in buildings. The city began to slow down… a little.


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We checked emails and downloaded photos. Using any electrical appliance was absolutely no problem in our room. There was no lack of power points… almost a hundred I think David counted on the skirting boards alone.


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At last the sun went down, the air cooled a little, and we turned in to get some sleep. We needed to be up early and ready for some more exploration of the city of Seattle.

More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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After a quiet morning in Sitka, it was time to take the small shuttle bus from the hotel to the airport to prepare for our flight back to Seattle. There had been some problems with flights but they all seemed to be ones going to Juneau… not ours. Thankfully.


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A large information board in the small airport had this map of the Inside Passage. While waiting, we were able to check out the route we’d taken on the ‘Sea Lion’ and get an overview of the islands we would fly over on our way to Seattle. I had an eastern side window seat so was in a great position to take photos… so here we go!


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Lots of small planes filled the tarmac area of the airport… the only form of transport out of Sitka, unless you go by sea. Many Alaskans have their own small planes.


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From the runway… a view of the bay and the mountains beyond.


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As we circled to leave the airport, we had a good final view of Sitka.


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Leaving Sitka and its many islands behind.


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A stream entering the Inside passage.


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Island in the Passage. It’s possible we passed by these on our journey.


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Flying over the shipping channels at the lower end of the Inside Passage.


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Patterns of timber getting and forestry tracks.


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Mountain peaks of western British Columbia.


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More rugged, snow topped mountains.


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Inlets carving into the mainland of Canada.


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Possibly oyster leases… or something like that.


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More mountains… always a delight to see when flying.


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A deep quarry scarring the environment.


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Rafts of logs lined up along the Canadian coast.


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A wonderful halo effect around the shadow of our plane.


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Possibly the southern end of Vancouver Island. I couldn’t tell exactly.


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A northern Seattle marina. Sailing is very popular in this area.


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Abstract art on the waters; krill or pollution? I’m not sure.


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Lakes like these near Seattle were excavated by glaciers. Now they are no longer filled with ice but by a myriad of pleasure boats and yachts of all sizes.


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At last Seattle. Looking down on the CBD and its high rise buildings.


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Anyone for a game of football or baseball!


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A smaller airport near to the main international airport.

Time to put the camera away and prepare to land.


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A 45 minute train journey from the airport took us to Seattle city. A short walk, and we were ensconced in our hotel looking out at glass and concrete instead of trees!


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Darkness fell and the moon came up as we looked at maps and brochures for things to do to keep us happily and busily occupied for the next few days. More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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Sitka National Historical Park gives visitors like us, not only the opportunity to discover the poles, but also to wander along quiet wooded paths in the forest by the bay.


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Under the towering conifers in the forest were several clumps of pink orchids.


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At several places along the paths you can go out to the shingle beaches by the bay.


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A lovely view back to the town and harbour from the park.


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At the entrance to the forest is a visitor centre surrounded by a a small garden with plants such as this geranium… always a lovely addition to any garden.


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And hedge roses are a feature, too.


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Before we went into the visitor centre, it was time for a much needed toilet break… and imagine our surprise to see this sign on the baby change room table. A little touch of Australia so far from home!

I was delighted to find that, housed within the visitor centre, is a completely independent Native non-profit organisation, the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center (SEAICC). Established in 1969, it aims to help visitors learn the history and understand the culture of the native Sitka Tlingit community.

As modern times have distanced the Tlingits from their old lifestyle, the SEAICC also provides a studio in which artists can learn and practice their traditional crafts.


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Many Tlingit artifacts have been donated by local clans who have wanted to make sure that their culture will continue to be remembered. I was fascinated by the many embroidered banners, weavings and baskets. I’ll leave you to enjoy them, too.


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After our visit to the museum, it was time for most of our fellow passengers to go out to the airport for homeward flights. But we had chosen to stay the night in Sitka, so we had a little more time to explore the old town on our own. More of that anon.

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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Sitka National Historical Park is a forested area of Sitka, close to the water’s edge, that showcases the cultures of the native peoples of the coast and their totem poles. All of the poles in this forest park are seen as ambassadors for Alaska and its native peoples. Not only do the totem poles have a fascinating story, but so does this out door museum. I’ll use the National Park’s web site words to tell the story of how these poles came to be here.


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“… it is hard to imagine a time when (these poles) were not part of the surrounding forest. Their history, however, tells a very different story– a story that begins in the coastal villages of southeast Alaska and ends, after traveling more than 6,000 miles by revenue cutter, steamship and rail, (to finish up here) in Alaska’s first National Park.”

After the USA acquired Alaska from Russia in 1867, the problem arose as to how to generate interest in Alaska and draw people to settle the area.

In the early 1900s, Alaska’s Governor, John Green Brady, was asked “to create an exhibit publicising Alaska for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition to be held in St Louis in 1904. His answer involved showcasing one of the region’s most recognisable features: the towering totem poles carved by the Native peoples of southeast Alaska. In Brady’s mind, a display of totem poles would draw people to the exhibit.” 


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“Once there, they would learn about the “real” Alaska through displays of raw materials, agricultural products and unique curiosities. Brady hoped visitors would form a new impression of Alaska: that of a place ready for tourism, settlement and development.”


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The word totem means ‘kinship group’ and totems are thus emblems of tribes or groups of people such as a family or clan. Animal totems or emblems, also reflect the lineage of a tribe, reminding them of their ancestry or their mythical past and creation myths.

Each one of the animal totems had a special meaning, characteristics and significance. For example, a frog meant Spring & New Life, Sensitivity, Good Communicator, Stability.

With ‘westernisation’ and a drift by people from villages to towns, Brady was concerned that traditional art “appeared to be disappearing from sparsely populated coastal villages. (He) conceived the idea of collecting totem poles and bringing them to a place where they could be preserved and people, including tourists, could view them.”

“Between 1903 and 1904, Brady toured southern southeast Alaska’s Tlingit and Haida villages by ship, asking leaders to donate poles and other objects for the exposition. After several voyages, he was promised poles from the villages of Old Kasaan, Howkan, Koianglas, Sukkwan, Tuxekan, Tongass, Klinkwan, and Klawock. It was especially remarkable that Brady was given the poles as gifts, because more than one professional collector had tried to purchase poles from these same villages and had been refused. Trusting in Brady and looking to the future, these leaders chose to share their cultural heritage with the world, even if it meant parting with it.”


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And so it was that “in the spring of 1904, 15 Tlingit and Haida totem poles, two dismantled Haida houses and a canoe were delivered to the St. Louis Fairgrounds.”

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (in St Louis) proved to be a truly spectacular cultural event. Massive “palaces” showcased amazing technological advances like electric lighting, the wireless telegraph and the automobile. Although exploitive by today’s standards, anthropological exhibits of indigenous peoples drew huge crowds. The elaborate fairgrounds covered more than 1,200 acres. An astonishing 18 to 19 million people visited the fair between April and December of 1904. For most of them, it was an experience they would never forget.”


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“At the close of the exposition, the remaining poles traveled to the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland for another exhibit there in 1905. Portland was a much smaller exposition. Between June and October, 1,588,000 visitors toured the 400 acre fairgrounds along the Willamette River. Accompanying a reduced exhibit in the Government building, the totem poles and canoe stood in a linear arrangement on the shores of a man-made lake on the fairgrounds.”


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“When the Portland fair closed, the poles began another long journey, this time home to Alaska. They reached Sitka in January of 1906, where Brady’s concept of a totem pole park would be realised. Before the poles could be installed, they were repaired by skilled local craftsmen, most of them Native graduates of the nearby Presbyterian Mission School. Prisoners from the local jail contributed heavy labor to the raising of the poles. The actual arrangement of the poles however, was orchestrated by local photographer E.W. Merrill. Sources indicate that in aligning the poles along the seaside path, Merrill intended to preserve some of the feeling of a traditional village. By March, Brady’s vision of a collection of totem poles preserved in Sitka’s popular park had been realised.”


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“Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the poles is that they continue to fulfil their purpose. Just as the original donors intended, the preservation and display of these objects have provided a lasting memorial to their cultural heritage. Just as Governor Brady intended when he began his efforts to preserve and display Alaska’s totem poles more than 100 years ago, the totem poles of Sitka National Historical Park remain powerful symbols that draw people to Alaska and provide a tangible link to the past.”


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“The totem pole collection has changed since it was first placed there in 1906. Over the years, caretakers patched, painted and finally re-carved the poles.” The carvers have not been forgotten. They are also celebrated in this park.


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If you look closely at the poles you can see that sometimes the carver has played a joke; the owner of the pole may have been portrayed, embarrassingly, naked; or figures carved may have been carved upside-down,”accidentally” ; or maybe a little figure or two grinning and peeking out of Whale’s blowhole or an animal’s ear. All a valid part of tradition.


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Carved many years ago from mature cedar trees, many of the original poles are gone… but their stories live on – along with newer poles like this one, the Centennial Pole. Painted Totem poles are not necessarily fakes: it’s the carver’s choice whether to add paint to his creation or not.

Before we leave the totem poles stories, let’s explode some totem pole myths:

  • Totem Poles were never worshipped. They are emblems, symbols, not icons.
  • Decaying Totem Poles are not thousands of years old; perhaps a hundred years old. The oldest ones in British Columbia date from about 1835. Duplicates of decaying Totem Poles are sometimes made by the descendants of the family who own them.
  • Totem Poles with a rectangular box on the top are called Mortuary Poles… but there’s never been any evidence of a human corpse actually being placed on one.
  • There is no evidence that any slaves were buried at the base of Totem Poles.

To find out more about totem poles, their symbols and meanings, just ask Google or check out the links below:



More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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The next stop on our ‘Tour of the Town’ of Sitka was at the Raptor Centre. Here, up to 200 injured birds a year are taken in for treatment. The aim is to restore the birds, if possible, to the wilderness.

P1140592 © JT of jtdytravels

P1140592 © JT of jtdytravels

Raptors are meat or fish eating birds that hunt for their food. They need to be healthy to hunt and survive on their own in the wild. Some of the birds being treated are kept in this large room where they can safely begin to learn to fly again. They may have had broken wings or other bones, gunshot wounds or have been poisoned, usually unintentionally.

We were told that about 85% of the injuries treated at the centre are due to human  intervention in the natural habitat of the birds. Most injuries are caused by collisions with power lines, cars and other man-made objects. Poisonous chemicals at dumps and those used on lawns and gardens can cause poisoning if what the birds eat is polluted. Birds become scavengers… its an easy way to hunt! Others are caught in fishing lines and tackle left lying around. One of the centre’s aims is to make us all aware of the consequences of our actions, on birds in particular, and the environment in general.


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The Raptor Centre’s symbol is the American Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus Leucocephalus, the bird adopted as the national bird symbol of the United States of America in 1782. It was chosen for its majestic beauty, great strength, long life, and because it’s native to the USA. This symbol is on many of the gift shop souveneirs, the sale of which helps pay for the recovery of the birds. We chose a glass bauble with an eagle for our Christmas tree collection.


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One eagle, which can’t be returned to the wild because of his injuries, has been trained to be the ‘meet and greet’ bird at lectures given at the Centre. He was so well behaved!


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It was amazing to be able to get up fairly close and personal with such a bird. He showed off the main characteristics of all raptors; sharp eyesight, a hooked, sharp beak and strong feet with sharp talons. They are not birds to be played with!


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Even though the bald eagles are a well known symbol of USA, they were for many years on the list of endangered US birds. Why? In the ‘lower 48 states of the USA, the bald eagle populations were almost wiped out by DDT, heavy metal poisoning and loss of habitat. By the time DDT was banned in 1972, there were fewer than 450 breeding pairs left in all of the continental United States. It was on the Endangered Species List from 1978 until July 1999 when it was down listed to ‘threatened’. Now, the bald eagle population is estimated to be about 100,000. Half of those are found in Alaska.

Although never a threatened species in Alaska, there was a bounty on bald eagles from the early 1900s to 1950. As a species of sea eagles, the main diet of bald eagles is fish; salmon and herring in particular. The bounty was placed because the birds were thought to be in competition with local fishermen for the live salmon. They were! But the fishermen have had to learn that they must live with the wildlife of the area and that includes eagles, seals and whales. It is we who have invaded their habitat.


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The bald eagles, like these two, that have been treated satisfactorily at the centre, go through various stages of rehabilitation until they can be released back into the wild.

But some cannot be released for a variety reasons. Those birds may be placed in captive breeding facilities around the country so that their offspring can be released to help restore wild populations. Others are placed in zoos and other educational organisations to help educate the public about raptors.

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This bird, in an outer enclosure, showed off its extremely sharp talons and its not so pleasant personality. ‘Leave me alone, or else…’ seemed to be the message! It’s a sign of good rehabilitation as it needs to be wary and wild to survive in the forest. The white head and tail mark this bird as an adult. Immature bald eagles are a mottled brown.


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A bald eagle has about 7,000 feathers, fluffed out here for our closer inspection!


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An even closer look at those head feathers.


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And that’s some wingspan!


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The large outer forest area of the Centre is the final stage in rehabilitation where the birds practice life ‘in the wild’ before being released to fend for themselves. Eagles can live for thirty years or more… so, hopefully, these birds will survive for many years to come.


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This Red Tailed Hawk, Buteo Jamaicensis, was one of the raptors in the rehabilitation area. These hawks are found in every US state except for Hawaii. They play a very important role in the management of the rodent population. That beady eye can spot a mouse more than 30 m (100 ft) away. One hawk can eat more than 1,000 mice a year. That makes these birds more efficient than pesticides and far less harmful to the environment and other birds.

There are two main groups of raptors. The diurnal raptors, like eagles, hawks, falcons and kites, hunt during the day. But nocturnal raptors hunt at night. These include most of the owls. In the USA, there are 34 diurnal raptor species and 19 species of owls.


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One of the owls being cared for at the Centre was this Great Horned Owl, Bubo virginianus. It’s common name is a bit of a misnomer! The tufts on top of its head are not horns, just feather tufts. This is one of the largest owls in the USA and can survive in habitats as vastly different as the hot, dry, desert canyons of Arizona or the cold, wet rain forests of Alaska. Like most owls, their feather design allows them to fly almost silently, enabling them to stealthily hunt for prey such as mice, squirrels and frogs.


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My favourite owl was the the Great Grey Owl, Strix nebulosa. How could you not fall in love with that wonderful face? I was keen to learn more about this bird.

The Great Grey Owl is one of the world’s largest owls and has the largest facial disc of any owl. It has asymmetrical ear openings that are surrounded by feathers which help to funnel sound towards the ear. This allows the bird to detect the slightest noise made by prey such as voles and mice (This is another bird that is rodent destroyer!)

Great Grey Owls are forest dwellers and have a circumpolar distribution ranging from Alaska to Easter Canada and across the northern forests of Europe and Asia. They are very reclusive and rarely seen in the wild so it was special to see one up so close.

Like most owls, Great Grey Owls don’t usually build their own nests. In Alaska, they often use abandoned Northern Goshawk nests. The success of the owls raising their clutch of one to nine eggs is highly dependent on food source that year. In low food years, no eggs may be laid at all. The male provides food for the female during the 30 days that she sits on the eggs, and also for the nestlings for three weeks after hatching. It surprised me to learn that the young owlets are proficient climbers! They leave the nest and climb around in the trees for several weeks before they learn to fly. Even after they finally fledge at about eight weeks, they may stay near to the nest for several months.

I spent so much time learning about this owl that I almost missed the bus! So whatever was left for me to see at the Raptor Centre will remain a mystery to me. We were soon on our way to our next centre of interest, the Sitka Totem museum.

But, if you’d like to learn more about these magnificent owls, follow this link!


There you’ll find some really great photos. I can’t compete with them! You have to be a dedicated, professional bird photographer with excellent gear to get shots like these.

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Great Grey Owlets on a twig nest.

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Female Great Grey Owl with young on nest.

Isn’t it great that, via the web, we can see such excellent nature photography.

More anon

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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After disembarking “Sea Lion’ we joined the other passengers in a ‘Tour of the Town’. Most of them had a lunch time plane to catch to Juneau or Seattle and so had time to fill in before their flights. Only a few of us had elected to stay in Sitka for an extra night.

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On this tour we learned much about this city, really just a small town of just over 9,000 people. It’s a town with colourful past; a unique cultural and historical blend of peoples – native Tlingit,  Russian fur hunters and, since 1867, the far flung, northernmost state of USA. Accessible only by sea or air, Sitka was the first capital of Alaska.

Amazingly, Sitka is the state’s fourth-largest city by population in Alaska, after Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau.  It’s also the second largest ‘incorporated area’ in the United States, four times the size of Rhode Island. But that city area takes in much uninhabited area of mountains and part of Tongass National Park. The inhabited area is quite small.

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This map shows the closeness of Alaska, outlined in purple, to the white mass of eastern Russia. The line of islands that extend out into the Bering Sea are just the tops of the mountain chain that extends into Russia’s Kamchatka, the long peninsular on the far left.

We’d been exploring the Inside Passage, the small area denoted in purple on the right, in the south of Alaska, (surrounded by Canada). Sitka is on the ocean side of that area.

To share something of Sitka’s story, I’ll use some of the words written about the town on their informative website. (see below for the link)

“Sitka’s history began as the ice, that covered much of Southeast Alaska, began to recede. According to a Tlingit legend, Mount Edgecumbe, a 3,200-foot-tall dormant volcano, located on southern Kruzof Island, was the smoking beacon that brought the original native Tlingit Indians to Sitka around 10,000 years ago.” (We were to visit a Tlingit Museum later in the day to learn more about their story.)


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“Old Sitka was founded in 1799 by Alexandr Baranov, the governor of Russian America. Baranov arrived under the auspices of the Russian-American Company, a “semi- official” colonial trading company chartered by the Tsar Paul I. In 1802, a group of Tlingit natives destroyed the original establishment known as Redoubt Saint Michael (an area today called the “Old Sitka”) and massacred most of the Russian inhabitants. Baranov was forced to levy 10,000 rubles in ransom for the safe return of the surviving settlers.

Baranov returned to Sitka in 1804 with a large contingent of Russians and Aleuts aboard the Russian warship Neva. The ship bombarded the natives’ village, forcing the Tlingits to retreat into the surrounding forest. Following their victory at the Battle of Sitka,the Russians established a permanent settlement in the form of a fort named “Novoarkhangelsk” (the name of the Russian town near which  Baranov was born).  In 1808, with Baranov still governor, Sitka was designated the capital of Russian America.”

The inscription on the statue of Baranov (1747 – 1819) states that he served as the colonial governor of Russian America from 1790 to 1818. Considering his early battles with the native Tlingits, a quote from Baranov on the inscription seems a little odd:  “that we may dwell in amity and peace forever in this region.”


P1140569 © JT of jtdytravels

The Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Michael was the first place that we visited on our tour of Sitka.  It was originally built in 1848 as “the seat of the Bishop of Kamchatka, the Kurile and Aleutian Islands, and Alaska.”

“The original church burned to the ground in 1966, but was restored to its original appearance, with the deliberate exception of its clockface, which is black in photographs taken prior to 1966, but white in subsequent photos.”

The Cathedral was open and we were able to enjoy this example of the Russian cultural influence and architecture that still exists in the town of Sitka today.


P1140571 © JT of jtdytravels

The interior has the usual Russian Orthodox cruciform plan. The walls and ceiling have an unusual, rough, natural coloured sail cloth covering. It’s a replica of the original covering in the Cathedral that was destroyed by fire in 1966.

Although so much of the church was destroyed, fortunately, many of the original art pieces, icons, religious objects and the chandelier were saved or salvaged and restored. They are displayed and in use inside the new structure.


P1140582 © JT of jtdytravels

Wealthy Russians and Imperial government officials donated many of the art pieces to the church in the early 19th century.  These include the beautiful ikon screens dividing the nave and the chapels from the inner altars. These doors and the wall of icons and religious paintings, were the most treasured items retrieved from the fire in 1966.


P1140574 © JT of jtdytravels

Some of the icons in the doors.


P1140575 © JT of jtdytravels

Detail of one of the icons. As is usual in such icons, a painting of the person represented by the icon appears behind a silver outer representation of part of the painting.


P1140580 © JT of jtdytravels

The original large and very beautiful icon of the Last Supper was lost in the fire. This is a faithful replication.  Unfortunately, some other important items lost in the fire have not been able to be replaced including the large library containing books in the Russian, Tlingit and Aleut languages.


P1140581 © JT of jtdytravels

One of the items saved from the fire.


P1140584 © JT of jtdytravels

Crowns worn by the Bishop of the Cathedral.


P1140577 © JT of jtdytravels

Many of the silk and brocade vestments were retrieved from the fire and are now in use again. Although the church is open to the public as a heritage building, it’s still used daily for worship by the many people in Sitka who have Russian ancestry.


P1140579 © JT of jtdytravels



P1140573 © JT of jtdytravels



P1140694 © JT of jtdytravels

Reconstruction of the Cathedral was based on 1961 drawings of the old cathedral. That allowed the building of a replica to the same measurements at the same location, but with modern fireproof material used in its construction.

The original cathedral was built of logs and clapboard siding with wood shingles. This new one is built of fire retardant materials; concrete and steel walls, vinyl siding and asphalt shingles. The domes, instead of the old metal, are now made of copper. It should stand the test of time to help maintain the Russian heritage of this town for many years to come.

( internet link to Sitka city website is : http://www.cityofsitka.com  )

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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