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After a wonderful day sailing in Glacier Bay National Park, we called into Bartlett Cove Ranger Station to see a memorial to a very special humpback whale called Snow.

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Bartlett Cove Ranger Station © JT of jtdytravels  P1140368

Being permitted to dock here was yet another advantage of being on a small ship; the big cruisers can’t come here… the bay is not deep enough, the pontoon jetty is not big enough for them and the small public area around the Rangers Station and Snow’s memorial just would not cope with thousands of cruise boat passengers at a time.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110674

So what was special about Snow? In July 2001, Snow, a 44 year old female hump back whale was killed in Glacier Bay by a large cruise ship. Not intentionally, of course.

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Snow, named for the white spots on her tail, was a favourite of the park rangers. They’d tracked her each year since 1975 as she returned from her long migration to the south. They knew her well… and all of her babies. As our ranger told us the sad story of Snow and her untimely death, I realised that this story had a special significance to me. I’d heard it before. I was here, sailing in this area on a cruise ship shortly after the drama of Snow’s death began to unfold back in July 2001.

I’d been sailing down the coast from Anchorage on a large cruise ship and I was really looking forward to sailing into Glacier Bay; a definite highlight of any cruise in Alaska. However, we weren’t permitted to enter… no ship was. Snow had been killed a couple of weeks earlier and all ships were barred from entry for quite some time. And that was one reason why I’d come back to the Inside Passage this time… to visit Glacier Bay. Now I had a chance to honour this whale and visit her very special memorial.

 

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Snow was 14 m (45.5 ft) long and weighed 35 ton. These are BIG animals, as you can see from this photo of park personnel beside her beached body.

Snow’s body was left to decompose on the beach for 15 months. Her bones were then soaked in the ocean and later moved into compost pits to allow nature to help clean them. All of this took a great deal of work but many students and community volunteers donated hundreds of hours to help the rangers of the National Park Service. The bones were then transported to the east coast of USA to be properly cleaned and preserved. A settlement with the cruise line that had killed Snow, helped provide the much needed funds.

 

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1140388

Now Snow’s bones form the world’s largest hump back skeleton display. She ‘lives on to teach the world about whales’. The memorial is an amazing example of how tragedy can be turned into triumph.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1140381

There are many signs around the memorial that teach more about these humpback whales which visit Glacier Bay every summer. The whales come from either Hawaii or Mexico. To get to Glacier Bay they travel 4025 kms (2,500 miles), the journey taking them 5 to 6 weeks. They arrive back in Alaska very hungry since they eat little while in their summer mating and calving grounds. The nutrient rich waters of Alaska provide a virtual ‘all you can eat’ buffet for whales. We had been privileged to spend hours watching them feed in several places during our journey through the Inside Passage.

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140400

© JT of jtdytravels; P1140400

One of Snow’s legacies is the stricter rules that govern visits to Glacier Bay. Now the park service strictly limits the number of ships permitted to visit each day. Speed limits are also imposed and the approach distance between ships and whales are strict. Now the whales can swim and feed in peace… and visitors can once more enjoy the natural wonders of Glacier Bay National Park.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1100260

There was one more story our ranger told us about Snow. When the memorial was opened, the park service invited an elder from the local Tlingit tribe to welcome Snow back. At the same time as this ‘service’ was being held, the guests were amazed, and very moved, to see some whales come close into Bartlett Cove as if to welcome her back, too.

I was so glad that I was able to visit the memorial and glad, too, that I’d finally been able to visit Glacier Bay. It had been a very special day.  But there was still just time to go for a short walk in the forest area behind the ranger’s quarters before leaving Bartlett Cove.

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Pyrola asarifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110681

Pyrola asarifolia, the Pink Wintergreen, is the largest of all the Wintergreens in the Tongass Forests.  David found most of the others on his other walks.

Sanguisorba canadensis ssp. latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110683

Sanguisorba canadensis ssp. latifolia © DY of jtdytravels; P1110683

Sanguisorba canadensis ssp. latifolia, is known as Sitka Burnett or Canada Burnett. It’s one plant not seen before on any of the other walks. This is a most unusual flower. It has no petals; just long white sepals arranged around a cylindrical head.  Sanquisorba refers to the fact that a concoction made from the  roots have been used to stop both internal and external bleeding. Even today, herbalists recommend that the leaves can be made into a herbal tea.

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Lupinus nootkatensis. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110687

A large patch of Lupins, Lupinus nootkatensis, made a great splash of colour. These were over a metre in height. The flowers open from the bottom to the top

The leaves are referred to as being palmately compound; as you can see, they radiate out from a common point and are not all the same size.

The plants die back in winter and are thus able to survive the harsh, cold winters.

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Nuphar polysepalum © Dy of jtdytravels; P1110708

On the pond were some beautiful flowers and leaves of Nuphar polysepalum also known as   Yellow Pond Lily, a common name that one might expect. But its other local name is rather more unusual: Spatterdock Cow-lily.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110711

A robin hopped around on logs among the lilies, insect catching , no doubt.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110713

Various lichens and mosses adorned both rotting logs and rocks.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110716

Equisetum sp. is a strange looking, but quite striking, small bog plant.

Listera cordata © DY of jtdytravels; P1110717

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110717

The tiny white flowers of Listera cordata hold their heads high on stalks above their heart shaped leaves… which give the plant its common name of Heart-leaved Twayblade.

Listera caurina © DY of jtdytravels; P1110723

Listera caurina © DY of jtdytravels; P1110723

The Northwestern Twayblade, Listera caurina, has different shaped leaves.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110735

All of these plants grew around this small pond and bog. It was quite lovely in the evening light with the forest reflected in the dark, still waters.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1110743

On leaving the forest, David noticed this eagle Tlingit totem carving.

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© DY of jtdytravels; P1140456

Tlingit totem art takes many forms. This was on a poster back near the dock.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1140443

Darkness was closing in as we made our way back to the dock.

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‘Sea Lion’ © DY of jtdytravels; P1110761

‘Sea Lion’ was waiting to take us to our evening anchorage outside of the National Park, to an area where we’d be able to take one last walk in the Tongass Forests.

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

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

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

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

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

Glacier Map

Glacier Map

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

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

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Approaching Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110593

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140228

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1110602

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

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Margerie Glacier © DY of jtdytravels; P1110605

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140231

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT od jtdytravels; P1140235

There were many wonderful ice sculptures to hold our attention.

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140253

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140255

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140219

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140258

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

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Margerie Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140252

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

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John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140294

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

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John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140303

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

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John Hopkins Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140299

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

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A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140327

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

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

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A retreating glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140324

Several glaciers were continuing their retreat back into the mountains.

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140353

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

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140335

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

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140339

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

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140349

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

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140352

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

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Lamplugh Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140359

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

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Retreating Glacier © JT of jtdytravels; P1140314 2

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

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Leaving the glacier zone © DY of jtdytravels; P1110591

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

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

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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

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

Glacier Bay map

Glacier Bay map

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

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

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1140458

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

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

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Tlingit Totem symbol © JT of jtdytravels; P1140456

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

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Glacier Bay in 1750 © JT of jtdytravels; P1140448

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

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

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Tlingit summer fishing camp © JT of jtdytravels; P1140452

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

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Tlingit canoe © JT of jtdytravels; P1140425

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

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

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

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

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Steller Sea Lions © DY of jtdytravels; P1110503

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

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Steller Sea Lion defending territory © JT of jtdytravels; P1140041

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

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Cormorants © DY of jtdytravels; P1110498

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

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Puffin © JT of jtdytravels; P1140074

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

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

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Braided stream © JT of jtdytravels; P1140105

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

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

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

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

Only lichens and mosses could grow on these cliff faces.

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Grizzly Bear © JY of jtdytravels; P1140166

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

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An old glacial valley © DY of jtdytravels; P1110543

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

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A beach of glacial murrain © JT of jtdytravels; P1140168

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

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Wolves © JT of jtdytravels; P1140204

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

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

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

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Mountain goats © DY of jtdytravels; P1110565

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

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

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

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

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

So time out for lunch.

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

After lunch the terrain around had changed somewhat.

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

Stunning scenery all around us.

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

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

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

Jennie and David

All photographs copyright © JT  and DY  of  jtdytravels

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

www.jtdytravels.com

more of our travel stories and photos can be found on

www.dymusings.com

More of our travel photos are on

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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.

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The clouds begin to lift © DY of jtdytravels; P1110353

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

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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 .

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Elymus mollis © DY of jtdytravels;  P1110357

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

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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.

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Kayak preparation © DY of jtdytravels; P1110366

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

Note the rocky beach; not easy walking.

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Kayak group © DY of jtdytravels; P1110368

The kayakers prepare for a paddle in this sheltered bay.

There’ll be no DIB exploring today.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The beach walkers! © DY of jtdytravels; P1110378

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

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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.

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Mertensia maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110381

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

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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.

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Lathyrus japonica © DY of jtdytravels; P1110384

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

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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.

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Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1110387

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

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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. 

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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.

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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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 While I mused on the story of the derelict Chatham Cannery village in Sitkoh Bay,

the walkers, including David, were ferried over to the opposite shore.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130997

Some walkers chose to stretch their legs on a longer forest walk;

David chose a meander along the shore line.

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A natural rock garden of Plantago maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110151.

The shore here was much rockier than the other beach areas and it was rather more difficult to walk on than either pebbles or sand. But here David found a natural ‘rock garden’ which featured Sea Plantain, Plantago maritima.

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Plantago maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110161

Sea Plantain is also known as Goose-tongue.  This tap-rooted perennial grows in rocky areas that are immersed at high tide. It flowers throughout the summer season. The succulent, salty flavoured leaves are sometimes eaten as a green vegetable with fish.

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Glaux maritima © DY of jtdytravels; P1110143

Another plant commonly found growing by the sea shore, tidal flats and salt marshes is the lovely fleshy perennial, Glaux maritima. It’s  local name is Sea Milkwort because nursing mothers were given an infusion made from the plant to help increase their milk supply.

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Barnacles © DY of jtdytravels; P1110146

Barnacles are a common feature on the rocks in these inter-tidal areas.

Barnacles are crustaceans, related to crabs, prawns and lobsters. In fact they begin life as a tiny shrimp-like larvae swimming freely in water. But to become an adult, a barnacle must attach itself by a form of ‘cement’ to a hard surface such as rocks. That ‘cement’, released from the head end of this small animal, is a very strong adhesive which begins as a clear liquid. As it solidifies, it becomes opaque and rubbery. Once in position, the barnacle begins to secrete calcium-hard plates which totally encase it forming its cone shaped home. And that’s where it stays, head first on the rock, for the rest of its life.

This cone ‘house’ has a door which the barnacle closes when the tide goes out in order to save moisture.  When the tide comes in, as water covers the cone, the door is opened and the barnacle’s six pairs of feathery ‘legs’, feeding appendages, come out and wave in the water collecting plankton for the barnacle to eat.

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Rocks covered in Barnacles © JT of jtdytravels; P1130932

The rocks at the intertidal zone here are covered in barnacles. And that’s just as well, as they need other barnacles to be very close by when it comes to reproduction… not an easy process when stuck to a rock. Most barnacles are hermaphrodites; they have both male and female sex organs. But their eggs must be fertilised by another barnacle. So how is this possible? Each barnacle has a special retractable tube containing sperm With that, it can reach out beyond its cone for several centimetres in order to fertilise a nearby barnacle. Tricky problem; amazingly simple and effective answer.

© DY of jtdytravels; P1110147

Fucus sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110147

Extensive beds of Fucus sp., or Rockweed, are common in the mid intertidal zones. such an abundance of this seaweed indicates good water quality; as nutrient pollution increases, so the amount of seaweed declines.

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Rock banks covered in Fucus sp. © JT of jtdytravels; P1130930

Here along the shores of the islands of Alaska’s Inside Passage, where there are no houses. farms or fertilisers, Fucus can be seen on just about every shore. These rockweeds provide food, shelter, and spawning habitat for many sea and shore creatures such as crustaceans, juvenile mussels, snails and fish. These, in turn, attract feeding seabirds. There’s so much inter-dependence in nature, isn’t there!

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Ulva sp. © DY of jtdytravels; P1110151

Sea Lettuce, Ulva sp., is a green algae that has a fine, silky texture with waved or ruffled margins.  The delicate blades of Ulva are usually only 40 microns thick. This algae is usually found in the mid to low intertidal zones and grows from a ‘holdfast’ that keeps it moored to the rocks when the tide rises. It’s common name not only refers to its lettuce like look but also to the fact that it is sometimes eaten in soups or salads.

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Salicornia depressa © DY of jtdytravels; P1110155

Salicornia depressa,  commonly called Sea Asparagus is edible, and tastes like salty pickles. The stems are jointed, soft and are about as thick as pencils. They are enveloped in waxy leaves that wrap around the stem so tightly that it’s often hard to tell the leaf and stem apart. In June, when we were in this area, this plant was in it’s green phase. As the weather cools down, they will turn yellow, then orange, then red! How lovely this shore would look then.

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Rubus  parviflorus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110163 2

 Rubus  parviflorus is an upright shrub of the forest edges. It has multiple, thornless stems, or canes which can reach up to 2.1 m (7ft). The large five pointed leaves are somewhat like an oak leaf but are hairy and soft to the touch. The bark peels off in tiny fragments.

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Rubus parvifloris © DY of jtdytravels; P1110164

Rubus  parviflorus is called by some, the “Queen of the Berries”. The flowers form between May and early July and are pollinated by insects. The berries are first pink then scarlet and ripen very quickly if given a sunny day.  They are easy to harvest as the stems are thornless and the berries just fall off at the slightest touch. When fully ripe they soft and delicious… what a shame they were not in fruit in June!

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Veronica beccabunga ssp. americana  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110167

Veronica beccabunga ssp. americana, American Brooklime, one of the Speedwell family, is quite rare in the wild. It’s a rather weak plant that grows in gaps in the vegetation on or near the edges of streams, as the name Brooklime suggests. The lilac blue flower has 4 lobes and it has only 2 stamens. If the sun is shining, the flower spreads its petals out flat to attract bees and flower flies. However if the weather is damp, as it is often in this area, the flower only half opens and apparently self-pollinates. It can also propagate itself asexually when side shoots break off and float away during the growing season.

Brooklime is used by dragonflies to perch and view the world and also to lay their eggs; the larvae then use the stems to climb out of the water.

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Aruncus dioicus © DY of jtdytravels; P1110168

Aruncus dioicus, or Goatsbeard, is a clump forming perennial plant that likes to have damp roots but can survive in almost any soil, in sun or in light shade. It’s been used by the native peoples as a poultice for bee stings. A ‘tea’ made from its roots has been used to bathe swollen feet and rheumatic joints. We still have so much to learn about the uses of native plants.

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Toadstool  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110171

Toadstools are found down among the leaf litter.

And where there are toadstools, there are often slugs.

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Banana slug © DY of jtdytravels; P1110170

Slugs may not be everyone’s favourite creature but they are really the unsung champions of the forest, eating dead organic material and turning it into soil. This Banana slug,  Ariolimax columbianus, seemed to be enjoying a feed of toadstool.

Banana slugs have two sets of retractable feelers on the head; clearly seen in this photo.  The top ones detect light and the lower ones provide a sense of smell.  Remarkably, if these feelers are destroyed, they will simply grow back!

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Dark Coloured Banana Slug © DY of jtdytravels; P1110179

Banana slugs come in various colours, often depending on their diet. They have soft bodies and no obvious shell.  A single foot, that looks a little like a skirt, carries the slug via a system of rhythmic waves. To make sure that this foot doesn’t get damaged, the slug secretes a layer of slimy mucus and glides over the ground on that mucus.

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Light coloured slug © DY of jtdytravels; P1110180

On this very pale Banana slug, the breathing hole, the pneumostone, is open allowing the slug to collect moisture out of the air from which it extracts oxygen. However the lungs are tiny and the slug also has to use the mucus on its foot to help it to breathe. The slime keeps the skin wet so oxygen can be breathed through it.

And there’s yet two more important uses for that slimy mucus. One is in reproduction. The Banana Slug is a hermaphrodite which means that they contain female and male organs. When a slug is ready to mate, it leaves a special chemical in its slime which attracts other slugs. When mating, the two slugs form a heart shape and exchange sperm. Each of them will then lay about 70 eggs. The eggs are not cared for… the young are on their own!

The other use for that slimy mucus is to repel prey. Slugs don’t move fast and offer the promise of an easy meal to other forest creatures. Just one nasty taste can teach a lesson and the mucus leaves a numbing sensation in the mouth as well.  However, thankfully this is not a great deterrent to birds and lizards; otherwise the forest would be covered in slugs!

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Ranunculus repens © DY of jtdytravels; P1110187

Here again is that introduced Creeping Buttercup, Ranunculus repens.

It seems to have found its way onto many of the shores in this area.

It is lovely, but….

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Angelica lucida  © DY of jtdytravels; P1110193

Wild Celery or Sea-watch, Angelica lucida, in bud, with a boat-backed beetle.

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Angelica lucida with bee © DY of jtdytravels; P1110196

Sea-watch, Angelica lucida, in full flower,with a native bee. This plant is just one of 60 species of the Angelica family which are spread across the northern hemisphere. The name comes from a legend that an archangel revealed to a man named Mattheus Sylvaticus, that this plant was a remedy for the plague and cholera. Both were deadly diseases that took many thousands of lives across Europe. It came to be believed by many that the plant has healing powers. This species, ‘lucida‘, with its pure white flowers is native to much of the west coast of Canada and USA, including Alaska.

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© JT of jtdytravels; P1130998

Too soon, it was time to call an end to this wandering.

And once more, Nicky brought the walkers safely back to the ship.

Her work was not yet done; she still had to hoist the DIBs back onto the ship

and clean and check them ready for more adventures.

But for the rest of us…

photos were shared, stories were told over another delicious dinner

and plans were made for the next day.

More of that anon.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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.

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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.

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© JT jtdytravels; P1130989

Much of the once bustling village is now derelict!

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© 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

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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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

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