August 15, 2013
Alaska, alas, shrugged…
…at our disappointment about the weather in this corner of the atlas.
Briefly, what’s coming up below: a quick Alaskan photo-fest + brief commentary, after a recent trip to the 49th state. This place is the latest been-to of my upcoming Top-100 Must-See Places in the World.
So, herewith, I submit, your honor, both my witness testimony and photographic evidence…
First thing to say: it’s royally rainy here.
Well, actually, in Anchorage on the very first day there was at least some sun – and no rain at all. But that didn’t last long. Once we left the city and started our three-day drive through Valdez and on to Whittier (see the map), the sun scarpered, the heavens opened, and it started raining cats and dogs and salmon.
Alas, we didn’t get round to checking out the full extent of the beauty of the surroundings here as everything was shrouded in mist – or clouds, or some other such moist precipitation. What a let-down! We’d come here specially to check out the unique terrain and scenery here, only to have mother earth thumb her naughty nose at us. Boo. Oh well, she’s the boss…
Still, no matter how much of the upper part of our field of vision was covered up, we did – phew – still manage to confirm with primary evidence that Alaska is indeed, truly, full-on glacier-and-waterfall country. Gigantic white and blue (why blue?) glaciers and uncountable numbers of waterfalls. Basically it’s the Northern Hemisphere’s Milford Sound!
Some glaciers reach as far down as the fjords. Big chunks of ice fall from the sheer glacier cliffs and into the water now and again – and make a right racket.
In the next several photos the height of the ice that you can see is about 100 meters. But under the surface – there’s a lot more where that’s coming from. In fact, the ice isn’t floating as you might expect, Titanic style. No. There’s that much ice mass that the block is lying on the bottom of the fjord – with about another 700-800 meters going down underwater (I guess this is where ‘tip of the iceberg’ comes from:). The diameter of this chunk, which is by far not the largest here, is almost a kilometer!
So yes, we weren’t lucky with the rain; however, we were really lucky with the ice…
Usually boats don’t get as near to glaciers as ours did as the fjords are normally full of smaller ice chunks that break off from the glacial icebergs. But not long before our arrival there was a heavy storm, and this somehow cleared a path for us. Yeh!
One thing I can say about getting up close and personal to an Alaskan glacier – with the sun turned off – is that it gets more than a little bit parky. It gets ruddy freezing! So, whatever you do, when you get here (whenever that may be, this being a MUST-see, remember? :), just make sure you’ve plenty of warm and waterproof clothing. Plus a Thermos flask of hot tea, and just maybe one of single malt too :).
On the navigator in the below photo, you can see that our boat (green – top right) went outside the limits of where it’s normally ok to sail and was in an area where there’s normally far too much hazardous ice… So thank you storm!
But there’s more to deep Alaska than ice… there’s also the waterfalls and gullies streaming down the mountains (only, we couldn’t see them :).
Back to the comparison with Milford Sound… Like that NZ gem, here there’s also a really long tunnel that goes through the mountain – only here it has a single track road in it, which takes one-way traffic in turns. Another difference is that twice a day a train goes through this tunnel!
What else? Ah, yes – the rivers here are chock-full of spawning salmon. I’ve never seen such an abundance of salmon fins in a river – even in my beloved Kamchatka!
Turns out – Americans don’t eat red caviar (the stuff that comes from salmon)! A survey showed that the locals don’t eat it at all. They’ve never tried it! For me this was no less than dumbfounding. I thought everyone on the planet revered and adored this orange delicacy. Nope, totally wrong. Well what a surprise! Two ideas sprang to mind straight away:
1. It’s a good thing! Imagine the jump in prices for the red nectar if Americans suddenly started eating it! As it is there’s hardly enough to satisfy Russia and Japan!
2. Another positive: If America ate red caviar there wouldn’t be so much salmon in the rivers here.
The following photo is meant to show what we saw briefly – beautiful marsh land peppered with many a moose, topped by a rainbow. That scenario doesn’t quite come across via a camera lens :).
After purchasing the above-shown polar fridge magnet and supping a glass of the shown brew, it was time to put my boots on (not those shown) and head off to the airport.
What’s wrong with this fridge magnet?
Phenomenally excellent local brew
At the airport we came across the rare sight of several Southeast Asian cargo planes all bunched up on the tarmac. We spotted two from South Korea, one from Singapore, one from Hong Kong, and three from Taiwan. “They’ve come for the crabs!” guessed D.Z. No doubt he’s right. And talking of D.Z., here he is:
Once on the plane with an hour or nine to kilI, I found myself contemplating the context of those planes… If Russia’s Far Eastern locations like Petropavlovsk or Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk had decent airports and infrastructure, maybe the S.E. Asians would fly to Russia for their fish, caviar and crabs. They are after all much nearer – en route almost in fact. “It’d become the new ‘Great Seafood Route’ ” added D.Z. to my ruminations. Right again!
That’s all for today folks!
All the photos are here.