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Posts Tagged ‘Chatham Straight’

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

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All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

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While the kayakers and the DIB explorers returned to the ship, David enjoyed some extra time on shore wandering back to the small beach on Pond Island.

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Pond Island Shore ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110124

Let’s take a quiet wander with him.

No commentary necessary!

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Mussels and seaweed  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110104

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Antler shed by a deer ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110107

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Sea Urchin Shell  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110109

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Crab shell ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110111

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Banana Slug ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110114

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Shelf or bracket fungi ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110116

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Starfish and Mussels  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110125

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Close up of star fish patterning ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110129

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Bald Eagle returning to tree with a catch ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110131

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Bald Eagle  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110135

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Kayaks waiting to be returned to the ship ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110041

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Brady takes the tiller ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110135

The wandering over, it was time to return to “Sea Lion”.

On the way back, young Brady was given the tiller by Nikki, the ship’s Bosun.

This nine year old was really making the most of this expedition.

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Ryan, the Chef ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1110343

And waiting for us all to return on board, was our chef, Ryan. He, and his small team, did a wonderful job of providing us all with good, fresh food… without going over the top as happens on the big cruise ships. Breakfast was the usual fare, with hot porridge for the likes of me! Lunch was salads and a hot dish, varying the cuisine of those dishes each day…. and there was always ‘the cookie of the day’ to finish off our lunch. In the late afternoon, while we had our daily debrief,  there were nibbles that usually included cheese and a salmon dish. The evening meal was a choice of three mains; meat, fish or vegetarian. We ticked off our choice in the morning and, there it was, ready for us in the evening. No waste. There was one starter, that was usually the soup of the day, and one dessert. No choice, except to say no! I have to say that no-one could have, or did have, a complaint about the food. It was all very good.

Jen Williams © DY of jtdytravels; P1110224

Jen Williams © DY of jtdytravels; P1110224

After lunch, I had a massage from Jen, our wellness expert.

It was just fantastic. Thanks Jen.

The ship relocated a little further up Chatham Straight to Sitkoh Bay

and David decided to do another plant hunting walk.

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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After our hot walk up the hill to the muskeg plateau, I was ready for a rest while David went off to explore some of the small town of Petersburg. He was intrigued by a building that we could see from the ship, one that had a viking ship beside it. David has been fascinated by the stories of the Vikings ever since his exploration of the Viking Islands a few years ago. The story of that trip is written up with photos on our other travel website www.dymusings.com.

Map of Petersburg by Google

Map of Petersburg by Google

A quick look at the town map shows that it is developed on a grid system of roads. It would be difficult to get lost! This is it. The only roads are within the town area. There are no roads from here to any other part of Alaska. The only way in or out is by water or by air.

The red marker was David’s first goal; the Memorial Park and Hall but he would explore further. As we looked at the streets on the map we noted at least five different types of church for a town of this size; Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Bethesda Fellowship. They were not actually on his list to find; he was looking for a book shop. We had seen a very good book on plants of Alaska and, as usual, we should have bought it when we saw it!

Norway Hall Petersburg

Sons of Norway Hall, Petersburg

Located along Sing Lee Alley, the Sons of Norway Lodge building dates back to 1912 when 60 charter members borrowed money and sold $5.00 shares to enable them to construct the hall. Their aim was, and still is, to share and promote the town’s proud Norwegian heritage.  In 1984 the hall was placed on the USA’s National Register of Historic Places.

The hall has been at the centre of the community. It has been witness to many wedding receptions, parties, dances, potluck dinners and coffee get togethers. 

Fishermen's Memorial ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100537

Fishermen’s Memorial © DY of jtdytravels; P1100537

Built on pilings over Hammer Slough, The Bojer Wikan Fishermen’s Memorial Park stands in front of the hall and was built in 2000 in memory of the many fishermen from this small town who have lost their lives at sea.

It was here that David found the viking ship, the Valhalla. It was built in 1976 in New Jersey to celebrate the Bi-Centenary of the USA. After appearing in many parades across the USA, including a Tall Ship Parade in new York, it was bought by the Petersburg Little Norway Festival Committee. The Lodge is now responsible for the boat’s maintenance; it stands proudly in front of their hall.

Fisherman memorial ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100538

Fisherman memorial © DY of jtdytravels; P1100538

Bojer Wikan, a long-time fisherman who promoted the idea of the memorial park, is remembered by this impressive bronze statue. He represents all fishermen.

Memorial plaques

Memorial plaques

Many memorial name plaques have been placed on the column beneath the Bojer Wikan statue and many more on the low wall that surrounds the park. Reading those plaques is a salient reminder of dangers that face the fishermen, especially in days past when ships were less seaworthy and help in the form of radios and rescue helicopters were not available.

Old village houses ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100528

A backwater © DY of jtdytravels; P1100528

After visiting the memorial, David’s walk took him on into the town.

There are reminders everywhere that this is a fishing village.

Ranunculus repens © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100530

Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1100530

Gardens aren’t a great feature of this town, at least in the part David walked through. But there were occasional plants giving some bright colour like this Creeping Buttercup; Ranunculus repens. This plant is not native to Alaska and, as in so many parts of the world, it has become a weed, finding a root hold in disturbed soil along road sides in settled areas.

Crow on path ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100534

Crow  © DY of jtdytravels; P1100534

Apart from seabirds, we hadn’t seen many land birds; but every town has crows!

Petersburg Street©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100544

Petersburg Street© DY of jtdytravels; P1100544

Petersburg is not filled with souveneir shops; there are few tourists here.

David was still in search of the local bookshop.

Rosa nutkana ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100543

Rosa nutkana © DY of jtdytravels; P1100543

He not only found the bookshop, but it had a small garden with a group of rose bushes in flower; the Nootka Rose, Rosa nutkana. This native rose grows from northern California into Alaska. It’s named after Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, where it was first described.

The Nootka Rose is undoubtedly a very good rose to grow here. The attractive five petaled pink blooms have a subtle sweet perfume. They appear from May through July. The round, red rose hips, stay on the plant throughout the winter, giving colour throughout most of the year.  The plant is hardy, grows in both full sun and partial shade, can tolerate flooding and drought and grows well in many different soil types. And, here in Alaska, it’s pest free. What more could you want?

Museum  ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100546

Museum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100546

The Petersburg Fisheries museum is housed in a rather attractive building.

Unfortunately, time did not permit a look inside.

Plaque ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100547

Plaque © DY of jtdytravels; P1100547

A plaque commemorates the founder of the town, and of the fisheries, Norwegian Peter Buschman. The plaque says that he “built a canner on this site in 1897. The business prospered and, as a result, the town of Petersburg grew up around it.”

Totem poles © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100553

Totem poles © DY of jtdytravels; P1100553

Petersburg has two 35 foot high red cedar totem poles. They were carved in 2000 by Tlingit master carver Tommy Joseph and are placed in a small park directly across the street from the Municipal Building and Buschmann Park. They bring all sections of this community together, the original peoples and the “newcomers”.

Creek view ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100557

Creek view © DY of jtdytravels; P1100557

The tide was coming further in as David made his way back to the ship. Reflections of these old buildings in the slough were quite picturesque.

Rubus spectabilis ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100551

Rubus spectabilis © DY of jtdytravels; P1100551

On the way, he was able to sample a yellow variety of Rubus spectabilis. 

Salmonberry comes in both reds and yellows; equally tasty.

Bridge over creek © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100559

Bridge over creek © DY of jtdytravels; P1100559

Even the old bridges need to be kept in good order here.

They are the only means of getting from one part of the town to another.

Hieracium aurantiacum ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100562

Hieracium aurantiacum © DY of jtdytravels; P1100562

Here, by the roadside, David found another introduced plant, Hieracium aurantiacum, known in Alaska and western USA as the Devil’s Paintbrush.  It was probably introduced to these areas as a garden plant by immigrants from Europe who would have known it as Orange Hawkweed. It’s one of Europe’s native Asters. Lovely as it is, it’s an extremely invasive plant, a weed, if we take the usual definition of a weed as ‘a plant out of place’.

Orange hawkweed is not just a problem in Alaska and the USA. It’s on the ‘Alert List for Environmental Weeds’, in Australia; a list of 28 “nonnative plants that threaten biodiversity and cause other environmental damage”, especially in alpine areas and the temperate tablelands in eastern Australia. The problem is that it quickly fills spaces that are necessary for the regeneration and survival of native species. It squeezes out the native plants.

Fishing Decorations ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100564

Fishing Decorations © DY of jtdytravels; P1100564

Back down at the marina, David found buildings decorated with fishing floats…

evidence that this place is home to fishermen.

"Sea Lion" at Petersburg Dock © DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100565

“Sea Lion” at Petersburg Dock © DY of jtdytravels; P1100565

“Sea Lion” awaited his return; and so did I.

Like you, David’s photos were my window on the town of Petersburg.

"Sea Lion" maintenance ©  DY  of  jtdytravels; P1100568

“Sea Lion” maintenance © DY of jtdytravels; P1100568

While we’d been out exploring during the day, crew members had been doing maintenance; a never ending task especially when the ship is in port. All crew members have to multi-task!

©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130777

© JT of jtdytravels; P1130777

When everyone had returned to the ship, we farewelled Petersburg and set sail back out of the channel towards another wilderness destination.

Island homes ©  JT  of  jtdytravels; P1130889

Island homes © JT of jtdytravels; P1130889

Near the head of the channel, this small home was bathed in late evening light. Very soon, we were turning north into Frederick Sound and sailing off into the twilight after another very special day in Alaska. But there was another treat to come! Down in the dining room, a feast of freshly caught Dungeness Crab with grilled corn awaited us. It was indeed delicious.

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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