Friday, January 29, 2016

Five Hours in Ketchikan, AK

On Day 6 of our Alaska Cruise, the Westerdam docked in Ketchikan early in the morning for a brief 5 hour stop.  With so many possible things to see and do it was difficult to decide how to spend the short amount of time we had available.  Some of the attractions like a Tour of  the city and Totem Bight Park and the Ketchikan Duck Tour sounded interesting, but in our previous ports of call we had filled our days with tours, so we decided to spend our time in Ketchikan relaxed, flexible and at our own pace.

The "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign near the intersection of Mission Street and Front Street
The ship was docked on Front Street near the intersection of Mission Street in a very convenient location for walking around town. The first thing we saw was the the iconic "Welcome to Ketchikan" sign right across the street from the pier.  We wandered along the waterfront a short distance and stopped at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau for a map.  We then proceeded south on Front Street and which became Main Street and decided to stop and watch the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.





We had a great time at the show and afterwards we headed east to Stedman Street.  As we walked along we enjoyed the sunny weather and watched the fishing boats coming and going out of the marina.

Fishing boats at the docks in Ketchikan

We turned right onto Stedman Street where we watched several people fishing from the bridge and the rocks below.


Stedman Bridge, Ketchikan AK


Looking down into the water as we crossed the Stedman Bridge, we could see numerous fish milling around in the clear water at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek.  No wonder so many people were fishing and some were successfully catching fish, too!

Salmon below the Stedman Bridge in Ketchikan, AK



After crossing the bridge we arrived at the entrance to Creek Street.

Creek Street Ketchikan Alaska


 This plaque at the street entrance says it all:  "Where Fish and Fishermen Go Up the Creek to Spawn".  Of course, it wasn't only fishermen who spent time on Creek Street.  There were lumberjacks, miners, sailors and men with other occupations, too.

Sign at Creek Street in Ketchikan, AK
Like most ports and frontier towns, Ketchikan had a large number of men coming into town seeking a drink, some fun and female companionship.  The city was incorporated in 1900 and in 1903 the city passed an ordinance prohibiting prostitution within the city center, so all of the "working girls" in Ketchikan relocated to Creek Street creating a red light district just outside the city's "no prostitution" boundary.   Probably the most famous madam of Creek Street was Dolly Arthur.  Her home is just a short distance past the street entrance.


Dolly's House Ketchikan, AK
Dolly was actually named Thelma Copeland when she was born in Idaho in 1888.  She left home when she was 13 and eventually made her way to Ketchikan.  She opened her business as a "sporting woman" in her home at 24 Creek Street in 1919.  Prostitution was legal on Creek Street until 1954 so that was the year that Dolly retired.  She died in 1975 and her home has been turned into a museum. I must confess that although I would have liked to, we did not go in for a look.  There was a large crowd waiting in line and that wasn't how we wanted to spend our limited time.  We also had our 12 year old granddaughter along and I wasn't sure how G-rated this attraction would be.

Creek Street in Ketchikan
Creek Street is not so much a street as a narrow winding boardwalk around buildings perched on pilings over the creek.  Alcohol prohibition laws went into effect in the Alaska Territory in 1918, which only served to keep Creek Street the sinful entertainment hub of Ketchikan.  The location made it easy for bootleggers to sneak their boats from the harbor, up the creek and under the buildings to secretly deliver their cargo to the bordellos, speakeasies and gambling rooms above.  In case of a raid by local law enforcement, customers could escape up the hill into the forest via what was called "Married Man's Trail"

Creek Street boardwalk
What was once a seedy and disreputable neighborhood has been preserved and was designated as a National Historic District in 2014. 

Antiques and collectibles for sale on Creek Street
We wandered into many of the old buildings that are now art galleries and shops filled with local art, crafts, antiques and unique souvenirs like Alaska gold nuggets.



Annie's Place
Scattered between the shop entrances. several signs are displayed with information about some of the buildings and the women who once lived there.  We enjoy looking at antiques so we ended up spending quite a bit of time exploring the shops on Creek Street. We checked the time and noticed that we had less than 2 hours of time left before the ship's scheduled departure time, so we opted to start making our way back toward the ship.  If we had more time I would have liked to hike up Married Man's Trail to check out the views along the way and Cape Fox Lodge at the top.  As we made our way through the town, there were many more temptations awaiting us.

Ketchi Candies
The aroma of chocolate was too much for my husband to resist so we stopped to buy some fudge at Ketchi Candies.  Delicious!

Salmon for sale in Kethikan, AK

And since we were in the "Salmon Capital of the World" how could we not stop to purchase some Alaskan salmon to take home?

Mission Street, Ketchikan Alaska
Since the ship was in sight and only a couple of blocks away, we did a little more window shopping on our way back to the dock.

The Rock, by Dave Rubin
 Before boarding the Westerdam, we stopped to admire a bronze sculpture on the dock. "The Rock", created by Dave Rubin, honors Ketchikan's past with seven statues, each representing significant people in the city's history.  The figures include local Tlingit leader, Chief Johnson, a fisherman, a logger, a pilot, a native Alaskan woman, a miner and a woman carrying a suitcase dressed in the style of the 1890s (perhaps some of the madams?).

A view from Ketchikan, AK
After boarding, it wasn't long before the Westerdam departed the dock heading south to our next destination on our Alaska Cruise, Victoria, BC.

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show Ketchikan, AK

The third port-of-call on our Alaska Cruise was Ketchikan.  For the first 5 days of our cruise we had chosen activities that focused on educational topics like Alaskan wildlife, glaciers, Russian and Native Alaskan culture.  For our stop in Ketchikan we decided it was time to have some light-hearted entertainment so we signed up to go see the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show.


The Westerdam was docked near the intersection of Front Street and Mission Street, a short distance from the show, so we enjoyed the sunny morning as we walked a few blocks to the entrance.



After purchasing our ticket, we entered the venue that has been built to look like a logging camp.


As we entered we were greeted by two of the friendly cast of the show including the MC and one of the lumberjack competitors.


We found great seats near the center of the stage. Seating for the audience is heated and under a roof so even on a cold rainy day it would be comfortable and dry.



The show began with our MC, "Shortstack", introducing the teams and explaining the rules of the competition.   Two rival logging camps, one from the US and the other from nearby Canada would be competing against each other in a variety of lumberjack skills.  The audience was divided in half by seating area and each was assigned as the cheering section for one of the teams.  Everyone was urged to be vocal in both supporting their team and jeering their opponent.





Members of the two teams hurled insults at each other while performing traditional logging skills with axes, saws and chainsaws as quickly as possible to win the event.



The athletes were also good actors as they occasionally dramatized their rivalry with fisticuffs to the amusement of the crowd.




The speed climb up the pole was one of the most impressive events.  The log rolling was another favorite, with plenty of opportunity for pranks by both teams which caused roars of cheers, boos and laughter from the audience when one of the competitors fell into the water.


My still photos don't do the show justice, so I found this short video clip that gives a little better idea of what we experienced.




All too quickly the 6o minute show was over.  In addition to being great kid-friendly entertainment, it turned out to be educational as well by illustrating the strength and skills that were required by lumberjacks.   In my next entry, I'll be sharing more of our adventures in Ketchikan including famous Creek Street.

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Friday, December 4, 2015

The USS Arizona Memorial

As  December 7th rolls around each year, I am reminded of my visits to the USS Arizona Memorial. Although I was not yet born in 1941 and have no personal acquaintance with anyone who was there that day, it is still a very moving experience.

Photo Credit: USS Arizona Memorial (aerial view) by DoD photo by: PH3(AW/SW) JAYME PASTORIC, USN,  Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons
The Navy had some very specific requirements for the memorial.  It was not allowed to actually touch the Arizona, it was required to be able to handle 200 people at a time and look like a bridge.   Although that may sound like a daunting task, there were several designs submitted. The one chosen was the work of Honolulu architect, Alfred Preis.


USS Arizona Memorial

Preis explained the shape with the lower height in the middle as being symbolic of the attack on Pearl Harbor as a low point in US history with higher points at the ends before and after.  The design was not without critics. Some described it as looking like a "squashed milk carton".  I must confess, I find the exterior of the memorial rather ugly, but I have never really appreciated the architectural style of the 50s and 60s.

The construction of the memorial was completed in 1961 and it was dedicated on Memorial Day in 1962.  The USS Arizona Memorial and Visitor Center are components of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument which is managed by the National Park Service.  Tours are free.  Several thousand tickets are available each morning starting at 7:30 am at the visitor center on a first come, first served basis. Since there are up to 2 million visitors per year, tickets can go quickly. Tours start every 15 minutes and tickets are stamped with a specific tour time. There is also an online ticket reservation system in place for a limited number of tickets that can be purchased up to a day before the scheduled tour. The reservation system charges a small service fee (currently $1.50) for processing.   To enhance the experience, headsets with a recorded narration can be rented and reserved.

I am typically an early bird, so I have always just arrived early in the morning and have never had a problem getting a ticket but the reservation system is a nice option if you aren't an early riser or have a tight schedule and want to make sure you won't be disappointed.  There are some interpretive displays in the visitor center, but it was crowded and our tour was scheduled to begin so I didn't take any photos.  The tour begins in the visitor center theater with a 20 minute film about the Pearl Harbor attack.

Navy boat ferrying visitors to the USS Arizona Memorial
After watching the film, we were directed to the dock where US Navy boats ferry visitors to and from the memorial.  The boat ride takes about 15 minutes which allows time for some contemplation that I think would be missed if the memorial were attached to the land by a bridge.

Entrance to the USS Arizona Memorial
The boat docks at the memorial and a walkway leads to the entrance with time allotted for a 20 minute visit.  The memorial is divided into three parts, the Entry Room, the Assembly Room and the Shrine Room.   Once inside, I appreciated the simplicity of the memorial design better. The entry room features the flags from US States.  Although technically only a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Arizona, it has become a symbol to honor all who lost their lives as a result of the attack that day.

USS Arizona Gun Turret #3
The Assembly room is an open air structure with openings where the remains of the ship can be viewed and the design also permits people to throw flowers into the water to honor the 1,177 crew members who died.  After almost 75 years, oil, sometimes referred to as "the Arizona's tears" can still be seen floating to the surface from the ship.



The last area is the Shrine Room that features a simple marble wall engraved with the names of every sailor and marine from the USS Arizona that died as the result of the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor.  Like the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, the simple, unadorned design focuses the attention of visitors where it belongs, on the names of those who lost their lives. Contrary to a popular misconception, the Arizona is not still considered an active navy ship.  It was decommissioned on December 1, 1942, but it has been designated as a US Military Cemetery. The flag flying above the memorial is attached to the broken main mast of the ship.  All of the survivors who were stationed on the Arizona at the time the attack can request to have their ashes interred on the ship with their shipmates.  Several have elected to do so and US Navy divers have delivered their ashes to gun turret #4 and then their names are listed on a separate plaque.  Below is a short video about one of these internment ceremonies.



 As of today, only 7 survivors are still alive.  For anyone interested in World War II, there are several other related attractions at Pearl Harbor including the Pacific Aviation Museum, the USS Bowfin and Submarine Museum and the USS Missouri.  These other exhibits charge entrance fees because they are owned and or managed by non-profit organizations.  There are Pearl Harbor tour packages that offer transportation and entrance fees to all of the Pearl Harbor exhibits.

USS Missouri
I think it is appropriate that ships representing both the beginning and the end of the World War II in the Pacific are a short distance from each other. The USS Missouri, the ship where the peace treaty between the US and Japan was signed, can be seen from the Arizona Memorial as we boarded the boat back to the shore.

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Friday, November 27, 2015

A Short Walking Tour of Sitka, AK


After our five hour excursion which included a sea otter and wildlife quest on a boat, a visit to the Alaska Raptor Center and a stop at the Fortress of the Bear, our tour bus returned us to the pier where the Westerdam's lifeboats were shuttling people back to the ship.  Since we had about 2 hours before the ship was scheduled to depart, we decided to take about an hour to walk around and see a few sights in Sitka.


Welcome to Sitka Sign

Totem Square

We walked a short distance to Lincoln Street where we found Sitka's Totem Square and Pioneer Home.  Native Alaskan totem poles tell a story and the creation of the Baranov Totem in Totem Square was proposed in 1940 by a local member of the Tlingits to tell the story of the history of the area up to the arrival of Alexander Baronov, the head of the Russian-American Company in North America and the first governor of Russian Alaska.  A sign next to the pole provides the information about the meaning of each of the symbols in the story.



Totem Square and the Pioneer Home - Sitka, AK
Like many monuments, the Baronov Totem Pole is not without controversy.   When the project was proposed, it was intended that it would be completed by local craftsman in the Sitka area to recognize them as well provide them income from wages.  In the Alaskan Native culture it is also customary for a tribe and clan to own their own symbols and stories told in a totem. The pole was designed by a local Tlingit, but by the time the project was approved, no local  carvers were immediately available.   In violation of this custom, instead of delaying the project until a local craftsman was available, the US Forest Service awarded the contract for the totem to be created in Wrangell and it was installed in Totem Square on March 8, 1942.  In 1973, the ownership of the pole was transferred from the US Government to the State of Alaska and maintained by the Pioneer Home.  With age, the pole deteriorated and a debate over whether to replace it or repair it continued for several years.  In 2010 the pole was removed due to safety concerns and it was decided to proceed with repairing the pole.  Tommy Joseph, a Tlingit master carver who lives in Sitka restored the pole and it was re-installed in 2011.


The top of the pole is a depiction of Alexander Baranov.



The bear is the symbol of Russia.



The third figure from the top represents Katlian, the military leader of the Tlingit Kiks.adi clan who fought against the Russians forcing Baronov to negotiate a peace treaty.


The Raven with the eagle crest under its beak is a symbol of the Raven branch of Tlingit tribes of which the Kiks.adi of the Sitka area belongs and the eagle represents the Kaagwaantaan, the Sitka area clan that is a part of the Eagle Branch of Tlingits. These crests are similar to heraldic crests or coats of arms used in Europe.


The double-headed eagle depicts the bronze eagle medallion presented by Barnov  to the leader of the Kiks.adi as a peace offering after they reached an agreement to end their conflict.



The brown bear represents the Kaagwaantaan clan and and the frog is a symbol of both the the Kiks.adi clan and the Kaagwaantaan clan.




The Pioneer Home


The Pioneer Home was built in 1934 at the site of a former army barracks by the State of Alaska as a home for elderly Alaskans.

Pioneer Home - Sitka, AK
Over the subsequent decades it has been upgraded and renovated. Currently it can provide housing for up to 75, some of whom live independently and others who require varying levels of assisted living or more intensive 24 hour care for Alzheimer's or other similar conditions.

Lincoln Street - Sitka, Alaska
Another sprinkle of rain started (and left drops on my camera lens) as we walked past the shops on Lincoln Street on our way to our next destination, St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral

St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral - Sitka, AK
The 94 Russian Orthodox Churches that exist today in Alaska are a reminder that this land once belonged to Russia. St. Innocent Veniaminov, the first Russian Bishop in North America established St. Michael's Parish in 1844.  The cathedral was completed in 1848, making it the first Russian Orthodox Cathedral in North America.  The Russians initially named the town of Sitka, "New Archangel" in honor of St. Michael, the archangel. The cathedral was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The original cathedral building was destroyed in a fire in 1966, but fortunately nearly all of the icons and other treasures were saved.  In 1976 a replica of the original cathedral was rebuilt using the original blueprints.

The Bishop's Cathedra Throne
Upon entering the cathedral, the first item on display is the "Bishop's Throne" which was hand-carved by St. Innocent Veniaminov.


Archangel Michael with the Ikonostasis at St. Michael's Cathedral
Further into the nave is the bishop's pulpit and beyond is the sanctuary.  Separating the two areas is the Ikonstasis decorated with icons saved from the fire that destroyed the original cathedral.  The beautiful chandeliers were also rescued from the fire.


Most of the icons were donated by wealthy patrons in Russia and some date back to the 1700s.


Vladimir Borovikovsky icons at St. Michael's Cathedral
On the left side of the cathedral are two icons created by Russian icon artist Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky.  To the right of the door is the Christ Pantocrator icon and on the left is the famous, Our Lady of Sitka.

Our Lady of Sitka Icon
Our Lady of Sitka, also referred to as the "Sitka Madonna" was purchased with funds donated by workers of the Russian-American Company and is credited with healings.

Inside the dome of St. Michael's Cathedral - Sitka, AK

There were many more treasures on display, but our time ashore was nearly over. On the way out I stopped to take a photo of the inside of the cathedral domed ceiling  above the nave.

Side view of St. Michael's Russian Orthodox Cathedral

Walking around to the the south side of the building gives a view of  the cathedral and the exterior of the dome that is not visible from the front entrance. I would have liked to have visited the Bishop's House nearby, but ran out of time.

 Lincoln Street westbound - Sitka Alaska 
We did a little window shopping as we made our way back down Lincoln Street westbound toward Harbor Road.

Sitka Harbor 
We arrived at the harbor area and could see the Westerdam anchored in the bay.

Holland America Westerdam anchored at Sitka Alaska
Sitka does not have a cruise ship dock so it is what is called a "tendered" port of call.  The cruise ship remains anchored off shore and the ship's life boats ferry the passengers back and forth from the ship to shore.

Life Boat from the Westerdam
The life boats were queued in a line and as each was filled with passengers it departed and the next one pulled up to the boarding dock.  When it was our turn, we hopped aboard and made the short voyage back to the Westerdam.  Although I'm sure if the ship needed to be evacuated, a life boat is seaworthy and would be preferable to jumping into the water, but they certainly aren't built for comfort.

Inside a life boat from the Westerdam
We had a full day of adventure but I wish we'd had one more day to spend in Sitka since there were several other attractions I would have liked to have seen including the Bishop's House, Baronov Castle, Totem Park Historical Site and the Sheldon Jackson Museum.

On to our next destination:  Ketchikan.

We are linked up with the following travel blogs.  Please visit Weekend Travel Inspiration#Weekend Wanderlust  and The Weekly Postcard for more great travel adventures!


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