Orca saying Hello

Alaska Day 6: Whittier & Chenega Bay

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This morning we wake up in Whittier. I had originally wanted to depart the ferry, and begin our adventure from here. Specifically, because the town is entered and exited via a one-way, shared railroad tunnel, that is 2.5 miles long. Why didn’t we? Specially, because the town is entered and exited via a one-way, shared railroad tunnel, that is 2.5 miles long . . . AND, the ferry was originally schedule to arrive, in port, at 2:30 AM. The tunnel does not begin service until 5:30 AM. Queuing for 3 hours in the wee hours of the morning was not high on my list.

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We arrive, in port, late, closer to 4AM which might have worked out. However, it’s pouring rain, so I still think I made the right call to book us through to Homer. We hope to ride back through the tunnel later as we explore the peninsula. We will see if the weather grants us this route.

We didn’t get up early to wave farewell to Percy and Chris as they pointed their Honda and KTM into the eye of the storm. I hope they get to tunnel quickly, and see drier skies on the other side. We did exchange info with them last night, so we still hope to catch up with them somewhere along the Peninsula.

At this stage in our journey the ferry’s 500 person capacity has dropped to a passenger manifest of less than 1/5 of that. Of those that remain, many our locals and most are heading to Kodiak Island. This includes Gabriel. A nice young man who works as a missionary there.

He is originally from Holland, but has been in the United States for about 8 years. He tells me that he and his fiancee are planning a trip home to Europe. We stumble upon our mutual admiration for Spain. He asks if I have been to Barcelona, and I download as much knowledge as I can about the area.

As our conversation continues, he mentions he was hoping to see an Orca. Minutes later I spot one for him, just over his shoulder. As he spins around his eyes catch the spout bursting before a tale goes up and the beautiful creature descends. I feel like I have done my good deed for the day. He thanks me, and then heads back to his sleeping bag in the back solarium to catch some more rest.

I grab some more coffee and head up top to watch our entry into  Chenega Bay. It is very remote and desolate aside from the beautiful beaches, scattered with rocks and driftwood, shadowed under the lush green mountains.

History of Chenega Bay

In port, several people from town come on board and purchase lunch from the Ferry’s cafeteria. Some visit sit and eat, others visit with friends who work on the ship. Others load up ATV’s with to-go orders and cases of sofa for friends in town. The arrival of the ferry means variety in a town that offers very little. I take a moment to learn more about the the hearty residents that call the bay their home.

In 1964, the town survived an earthquake and tsunami that killed nearly 2/3 of the population. 25 years to the day in 1989, the Exxon Valdez Oil Tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound, spilling oil and sending into the beaches of Chenega Bay. The town was still recovering from the Tsunami at the time. It is now known as Chenega Village. With the spill, the towns people, again, had to start over. The spill  destroyed their only form of livelihood, fishing. To this day, they are still rebuilding.

We are to be in port for less than an hour. It is a beautiful day, but with nothing within walking distance, we choose to stay on the ship. I  watch as a young family, I met earlier, drives off. The husband is about to start a one year teaching contract on the tiny island. In a moment of envy, I wonder what it must be like to be so cut-off for so long. What an amazing experience his kids will have to carry with them.

In other news, since, yesterday, I have managed to start and finish a book called Afterlife. It was much more science fiction than I expected. Apparently, Ron Howard is making it into a movie, but after reading it, I have no idea how he is going to pull it off. Seemed more like an M. Night Shyamalan story. This tidbit led me to learn that Mr. Shhyamalan is busy working on a sequel to his 2000 film Unbreakable, which I loved. It also led to a spoiler alert from his latest film SPLIT, and a connection too Unbreakable. Ah, so much pop culture leaving me in the dust, as we float around out here in the ocean!

This afternoon, I started reading, A Lap Around Alaska: An Alcan Adventure by Shawn Inmon. He visited Alaska in the Spring of 2017, and seems to have finished his book, right as I was heading out on this trip. This makes his story fresh and his feedback very timely for our adventure.

Dining Report

I continued my semi-healthy choice of lunch. Salad, clam chowder and no beer. I do treat myself to blue cheese dressing to insure I have the energy to walk the 100 or steps from our room back to dinner later.

Breakfast was corned beef hash and eggs. I justify this, as keeping from falling from my top bunk during the rocky evenings must be burning countless calories. Additionally, reading burns a lot of calories. Well, if not for me, then for the characters in the book, who seem to be running around a lot. I am nothing if not supportive.

Halibut and Squash
Halibut and Squash

Dinner tonight is our final dinner aboard the Kennicott. Bill and I both choose the halibut. At first, I hesitate, as we are heading into Homer, the halibut capital of the world, but I am glad I choose it. I particularly like the acorn squash side. We finish things off with a pre-packaged but, still tasty, cheesecake.

1 thought on “Alaska Day 6: Whittier & Chenega Bay”

  1. Good morning from Bolton, CT. I am enjoying sharing your travels through your writing Jodi. I am learning as you go. Keep on going. Love you, Helena

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