Tomorrow we disembark the Sea Lion at 8:30, head to a museum in Juneau and visit another glacier and then fly to Fairbanks. We stay in Fairbanks tomorrow night and leave the following day for Denali where there will be no internet.
In fact, speaking of internet, today we have been in a very steep fiord riding zodiacs near Sawyer Glacier. We were able to go very close to the glacier so my experience with glaciers here in Alaska has been better than Antarctica, but the icebergs, although nice, were not nearly as impressive. On the float plane yesterday, we flew directly over the top of the glacier and looking into the crevasses on top of the glacier was mind boggling. They told us that some of the crevasses can be over 200 feet deep. I have never flown over the top of a glacier before, so I am really glad that we did that. It was quite an experience!
Our plane took off from Petersburg, Alaska where we had stopped. It is a tiny fishing village; make that serious fishing village, and nothing else. The man who the town was named after came to Alaska to homestead and wanted to farm. As I have mentioned, Alaskan soil is not suited to farming. So, how did he make his money? He sold ice to the more southern states and became a millionaire doing so. He started selling salmon along with the ice and the desire for Alaskan salmon was born across the nation.
One of our naturalist on board worked as a deck hand on several fishing boats that were in the harbor and he was very excited telling us about all of the various types of fishing boats. He was very passionate about his job. He shared which type of boats takes up to 60 to 75% by-catch, fish and marine animals that are not wanted, and which types only take 2% by-catch. The demand for salmon encourages people to fish indiscriminately no matter the cost. Of course, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this cannot last forever.
People now build fish ladders for some of the salmon in certain areas, collect the fertilized eggs, and keep them contained in nets in their native river. They are then safely taken to the ocean and fed in nets. When the plankton bloom is good, and they have an instant food source, they are released. Once in the ocean the harvested fish eat natural food like wild salmon and even return to their native river to spawn. Our naturalist told us that however, when caught, there is no doubt which ones are wild and which ones were harvested. They are plainly not the quality of wild salmon. Of course, the harvested salmon are much better than farm raised. One grave concern that our naturalist had is harvested fish are likely to have a disease because they are weaker so they could easily give it to the wild salmon. Today the Alaskan salmon industry is very healthy but it is a worry because the more southern states are very poor for fishing salmon and Atlantic salmon is now almost nonexistent. Our naturalist was saying that there may be a day when we have to just allow the salmon to be as is, which would mean we humans would have less. However, we all know that is not going to happen.
The life of a fisherman is very harsh like the climate here. They go out for months at a time and never come to port. There are boats they call to come and pick up their catch and bring them supplies, even their mail. They are not paid until the end of the fishing season. Our naturalist said after the captain deducted fuel and food for the crew, he made 8% of the total proceeds. Not bad wages. Some catches of salmon would be over several thousand pounds of fish at a time. Right now fishermen are being paid 45 cents per pound.
This was an extremely interesting village. One that is virtually unchanged. Huge cruise ships cannot visit, and it is certainly off the beaten path so should remain an historic part of Americana hopefully for many years to come. I hope they fish responsibly. As our naturalist explained, everything in this area depends on the salmon except the glaciers. That means all of the animals either directly or indirectly including the forest which is home to the animals that the salmon feed.
“As long as habit and routine dictate the pattern of living, new dimensions of the soul will not emerge.” - Henry Van Dyke
More to eventually follow,
Tom & Holly