If you are considering going to Canada or any Country where a Visa eTA is required this con be obtained on line but take great care to use this official govt site for that Country For CANADA :-Link
Use this official Canadian Govt web site site and not a travel agent who is presenting their application Form in such away to make you believe you are using the official site. I am most careful but have still been caught out. The Canadian Govt state that the Visa is 7 Canadian dollars we have just been charged £77.00 each, 10 X Plus extra cash, for the same Visa and having now done some research many other people have been caught and are being ripped off by these Companies. So don't join us.
The site that ripped me off was :-www.etravelcanada.org/eta DO NOT USE THIS COMPANY, which is at the top of the list on the www.I hope this warning saves you money. We have been to Alaska from both the US and Canada both now require eTA(Visa's)
Now please enjoy
Alaska Cruise June/July 2015
All photos and MP4 film shots on this page were taken using a Sony DSC HX200v Camera with a 30 x zoom lens and a facility for recording the GPS (Global Positioning System.) GPS, The Global Position Coordinates are shown for some photographs in red. If you copy and past this coordinate into 'Google Earth' search, Free download from the WWW. Google will then take you to the precise spot where the film or photo was shot. Having reached the precise spot, click on the + and - Bar, left hand side of the screen to view the surrounding area.
Try it using the coordinates (in black)for the 'Welcome to Alaska sign' which you will find is located on the Northern US/Canadian boarder Crossing. Travel back South on the only road available and you will come to Skagway.59 37 40N 135 9 52W
Ten years ago my Wife and myself went up to Alaska and loved it so much that we promised ourselves that one day we would come back, although both being retired at the time did wonder if we would ever make it.
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Well I am pleased to say that we did make it and in June of 2015 we traveled to Vancouver in Canada, a nine and a half hour flight from the UK where we were met at the airport and transported to our Hotel in style where we stayed overnight, joining the 'Norwegian Sun' Cruise ship the next day.
Our previous trip had been on the 'Norwegian Star' which was similar in many ways making finding our way around the ship very easy.
Things got off to a good start our seeing a lone seal in Vancouver Harbour.
We left Vancouver and made our way up to Alaska going as far as Seward, where the majority of the passengers disembarked. We ourselves had booked a return trip to Vancouver making it a very worthwhile seeing things on our return journey that we had not been able to visit or see on the way up, along with visiting 'Icy Strait' which had not been to on our previous visit.
We left Vancouver with another cruise ship, leaving at the same time and as is common with Cruise ships took the inside passage which makes for interesting and
calm cruising. Once under way the other ships are rarely seen, apart from the various ports as well as some traveling back towards Vancouver or even more destinations like Seattle.
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The first day was at sea cruising which is generally boring unless you want to partake of the many things that are arranged on board. Not so on this cruise, having a stateroom with a balcony we were able to sit and watch the various views and wildlife which included Whales seals and later on White sided Dolphins, although to capture these animals and Whales on camera you have to be pretty quick, this Whale nearly got away.
After having had our evening meal we were able to sit and watch the glorious sunset over a glass of wine, it was just on 2200 hours, (10pm) when this photo was taken. If you can think of more peaceful way to spent an evening please let me know.
Better opportunities are expected on the return trip because we have booked a Whale watching trip at 'Icy Straight' Point, One of the ports we did not visit on the outbound journey. We will report later on the experience.
The First of our stops was Ketchikan the approach to which is vastly different to ten years ago with masses more buildings along the waters edge although the town has more shops it is still very nice as a port of call. albeit the photos were taken on the return journey.
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It has quite a history, including great play being made of Dollies House. A lady of ill repute who ran a house with her ladies, complete with a red light outside, she and her girls got at least one night a year off to attend the police ball! The house although still there is now empty apart from a bit of furniture, it now attracts tourists rather than paying customers.
Every where you look there are tributes to the salmon of various types which play such a large part in the lives of the Alaskan people, this one can be see at the head of the walk way by the old town.
By far the most interesting part of the town is the old part which many small shops now selling gifts and items for tourists with walk ways and which goes over Ketchikan creek which is almost certainly fed by ice melt which provides a safe home for the salmon fry.
We then went on one of the tours arranged by the ship, which was a short walk through the rain forest, the story that went along with it was very interesting and there was clear evidence of bears, although none were seen, it appears that we are a few weeks early, when they will be seen catching the mature salmon returning to the shallows to spawn, that's if the fish get the chance, bears footprints were clear for all to see it was obvious that they knew it would not be long before the favorite food, mature salmon would arrive.
The local area like a lot of the towns in Alaska rely on salmon to provide income, In Ketchikan they do not just rely on mother nature to provide they also have a salmon hatchery, the fry are eventually released into the nearby stream which backs up the long term provision of mature fish when they return to the waters of their birth some four years later.
Bald headed eagles both mature birds of greater than 5 years as well as young birds were in abundance also waiting for the salmon, they eating what the bears discard as the bears are only interested in the most nutritious part of the fish while fattening up for hibernation over the winter period.
The tour ended with us seeing some rescued birds which for one reason or another could not be released back to the wild. It was obvious that a very good job was being done by all concerned in looking after them.
unfortunately the photo's of this venue got away when I transferred them to the lap-top, due to a defective cable but being on the outbound journey we had plenty of time to substitute the ones lost.
Many of the tours arranged by the ship are also available on shore and we may have saved a few dollars, however it is very important to remember that if you are on a tour arranged by the ships company the captain will almost certainly wait for you to return to the ship beyond the time specified at each port when the ship will sail.
If you are on a private trip or one arranged on shore there is a real chance that if you are late returning you may well find the ship gone! Getting to the next port of call in Alaska would be a very expensive business and remember all your belongings are on the ship, you may save a few dollars but it would cost you a fortune as well as a lot of worry to try and catch the ship at the next port of call.
We then moved on to our second port which was Juneau which was very busy, a number of cruise ships having docked on the same day.
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Docking at Juneau an attractive place even from the ship and a beautiful day, very different on the return journey when the mountains and cable car were hidden by low cloud and mist with the result that the new passengers who joined the ship at Seward were not able to enjoy the views as we had done only one week previous albeit the cable car was still running.
We went on the cable car, On the outbound journey, locals call it a tramway, an arranged tour to Mount Roberts. The mountain top station and guest centre which serves some great food overlooks the town and harbour area, a short walk through the mountains on a well marked track revealed a number of plants which were in bloom dispute being at high altitude along with the carving on living tree which is symbol associated with the Native shareholders.
The whole area being surrounded by mountains.
58 17 49N 13423 4W A totem pole carved into a living tree and an old tree on a steep bank, its exposed roots offering shelter to the small plants in its care.
The views from the top of the mountain were spectacular. A number of the places we have been to on cruise ships have cable cars however this one is different in that it run and is owned by the Gold belt Incorporated, Juneau's Urban Alaska Native Corporation which is owned by 3,300 Alaska Native Shareholders and this shows in the excellent service provided to the guests/customers in the restaurant and gift shop.
There is a 120 seat theatre where you can a watch an 18 minute film an introduction to the Tlingit way of life. Or you can watch two local men making a full size totem poll from a massive tree trunk. Failing that you can have your photo taken with the black bear who sadly is stuffed. I would have much rather seen him alive in the wild from a distance but it does at least prepare you for what you might meet if wondering in Alaska and more so when on your own, with tasty smelly food in your knapsack!
58 17 46N 134 23 17W Our cruise ship is the one docked towards the centre of the Gastineau channel, and looks small in comparison, however it was not small when you walked from one end to the other, I was pleased our temporary residence was close to the lifts and below the restaurants had we been towards the bow (front) of the ship we would have had a considerable walk just to reach our meals, although stateroom service is available if you wanted it. Talking of meals the ship served some of the best rib eye steak we have seen for a long time and cooked as you requested , well done the chefs.
This photo was taken between Juneau and Skagway but like so many it is difficult to say precisely where on the route.
We then cruised on to Skagway where it was like being in a different World, the weather was cold and the wind was blowing between 50-60 knots,(65 MPH approx) because the ship was allotted to a open dock which was not protected by the mountain from the high winds we were unable to dock. The Captain Ronny Borg made several maneuvers to access to impact of the wind on the ship and eventually gave up on safety grounds, unlike major ports there were no large tugs that could have any impact on the safe docking of a cruise liner which is some 78,309 tons, 848 feet long and 106 feet wide, after all the safety of the just under 1,936 approx passengers and approx 1,000 crew had to come first, as well as of course the ship.
The ship is fitted, as are most ships with bow and stern thrusters but these were just not sufficient to ensure a safe docking although they are normally more than adequate to enable docking without tug assistance.
We left Skagway and cruised to an alternative port, Haines.
59 13 43N 135 26 0W The ship had not docked their before and the wind was still strong however we managed to dock safely and spend the day there rather than cruising around which would have been the only other option.
There were no excursions available here as the town had only had two hours notice of our coming but a shuttle was made available to get passengers into the town.
The views of the snow topped mountains in the background was spectacular.
59 13 31N 135 25 25W We opted to go it alone and went for a walk along the bay.
Only a short distance from the Ship and the views were stunning, many flowers in bloom, and red elderberries which I we had never seen before while looking closely at these a helpful resident stopped her car to tell us they were poisonous, although we didn't intend eating them her advise was helpful, especially as we make fine wine from the black elderberry gathered in the UK!
While sitting on the beach in the sunshine, only 20 minutes away from the port where we were unable to dock due the very high winds we were able to sit and watch Eagles and an Alaskan belted kingfisher, the brown belt of plumage obviously the reason for his name, very much larger that our native bird in the UK but attractive in his own right, he like the local populous lives mainly off the fish which live and come back to these waters, in the case of the 5 types of salmon to spawn.
59 13 33N 135 25 59W In Ketchikan, and most of the ports Bald headed Eagles seemed to be everywhere the problem was getting one to cooperate and have his/her photograph taken, this one high up in a pine tree did cooperate, he knew he/she was safe at least 80 feet above ground. Although Haines had a modern docking facility it is not regular cruise ship stop he/she was a little less wary of humans although I can't say he looks very happy about us disrupting the peace.
It was interesting to note that we saw more eagles around towns and areas occupied by humans. Even in flight they were impressive.
We Left Haines and the following day visited Glacier Bay where we were joined on the ship by three rangers from the Glacier National Park who provided a map of the area and while up on the bridge of the ship were able to alert the passengers to wildlife seen in the area and comment on the glaciers history etc.
This illustration of the Glaciers make up is a real eye opener. It is hard to believe that so much is taking place below the water line. It is said that just 250 years ago glacier bay was all glacier and no bay, just a river of ice approx 100 miles long and thousands of feet deep. Very different today.
This illustration is photographed with slight modification for clarity from the map issued by the Glacier Bay
National park wardens who visited the ship while in Glacier bay.
59 2 12N 137 2 48W The first being Margerie glacier, apart from seeing this spectacular Glacier up close, the ship managed to get close for us the hear the noise created by the movement and cracking of the ice as the glacier ground its way through the mountains finally reaching the sea where large shards shear off and float away, slowly melting in the warmer water.
This large hole in the face of the glacier would hold several double decker buses on top of one another without a problem, it does not take a lot of imagination to see why crossing such a glacier holds so many dangers, drop into a crevasse such as this and you would be very very lucky to survive.
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It was said that Glacier Margerie located in Tarr Inlet is moving six feet per day with large and small parts shearing off and the floating away into the open water, a real risk for small boats and not something to be under estimated by cruise liners either as so much of the ice is below the water line. line.
59 2 22N 137 2 59 Most of us have heard of being taken for a ride, well these three gulls certainly are, I just hope they don't get cold feet!
58 54 50N 137 0 36W And this mature eagle is not going to be outdone by showing his/her skill and landing on ice, as a bird with a wingspan of between 1.8 and 2.3 meters, that must take some doing and yet this bird made it look easy, his talons no doubt playing a large part in his/her ability to land on what must look like an ice cube from above.
It is quite amazing what a modern camera will disclose, in the background of the photo there is another glacier, the small dot in the red box is a boat bottom right, from which two people can be seen fishing, that clearly shows the vastness of this area something which first time is very hard to take in. Having been to Alaska before we were aware in part what to look out for in this environment you really could get lost, and I suspect your mobile phone would be next to useless because of the high surrounding mountains.
On leaving glacier bay we saw something even more spectacular and unusual, it was the black wolf seen at great distance walking along the shore line. we having been alerted to its presence were able to film it walking along the banks of the bay. I did manage to get it on film but he was at maximum zoom holding the camera still on a moving ship is not easy.
Even the captain who was on the bridge at the time had not seen a wolf in the area before. I have not put in the precise location of the wolf for good reason, we do not want it shot by unscrupulous hunters.
In fact it was so small that it was difficult to see it with the naked eye just a small black dot moving along on the far off bank.
It was said that the captain had not seen such a variety of wildlife on any of his previous visits to Glacier bay so we were in luck. As well as many seals, we also saw sea loins lazing on the large rocks that bordered with the waters edge.
However on our trip 10 years ago we saw them rather closer when we saw these seals that were taking a rest, or were they just out with the buoy's (boys) A picture of these seals on the same bouy can now be bought on a post card in Alaska.
On our outbound journey a Brown bear was also seen at the waters edge but it was on the starboard (right hand side of the ship) so we were not in the right place to see them.
60 6 42N 149 26 9W We continued our way up to Seward where approx 1,700 passengers disembarked, a similar number joining the ship later in the day.
If you watched my film clip I expect you like us were wondering what the siren was for? Well as with a couple of the towns we had visited it appears they sound a siren at midday, however when we got back to the port a couple of hours later two fire appliances was on the dockside but as the were no crews with them we considered this to be coincidence rather that a cause for the siren.
Because we were booked on the return trip to Vancouver we had a spare day and spent it in part doing our own thing, taking the free shuttle bus then walking along the embankment watching fishermen trying to lure the odd salmon which are now starting to get back to the place of their birth, we never saw one caught, although throughout the journey we saw masses jumping out of the water and in one case swimming around the ship while she was docked.
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There were a number of eagles along with the gulls, cormorant's a heron and a rook or possibly a raven which are plentiful in the area, all fishing shallow water of the incoming tide.
Lighting posts made a great perch for these two mature eagles from where they could keep an eye on what was going on and spread their wings to dry out their feathers at the same. time.
60 6 26N 149 26 1W Further along the beach we were fortunate enough to see a Sea Otter diving then feeding on his catch, time and time again he dived then swam on his back eating his freshly caught meal. He was some distance off the beach, and like the Whales reappeared where you least expected him to, albeit Whales do give their position away by blowing spent air from the lungs as they surface. I was however able to film him mainly due to his repetitive actions, obviously one hungry otter.
Even the sea weed was interesting I feel sure this one should be named lobster or crab claw.
Having now picked up our new passengers we left Seward and having spent the night at sea attempted another visit to the Hubbard Glacier which we had attempted to visit on the outbound journey but had to abort due the low visability and large Shards, icebergs in the entrance channel. Obviously passengers were disappointed but history clearly points out that large chunks of ice, icebergs and ships of any size do not go well together. I feel sure by some of the comments that some outbound passengers made they had never heard of the Titanic and its connection with large ice cubes!
We were fortunate by traveling for two weeks, up and back to Vancouver as we were now able to make another attempt to see the Hubbard Glacier As we approached the entrance to the bay it became very obvious why the Captain had aborted his attempts on the outbound journey, colliding with the mini icebergs which were floating away from this massive glacier or even other unseen vessels was the hazard. Radar would not pick out the icebergs only the smaller vessels hitting either could have put the ships and their occupants at risk. The photos do not do justice to their true size only a small portion of which is seen above the water line.
59 55 57N 139 36 27W Situated just to the centre right of the photo is a 50 foot yacht. What look like small shards turn out to be large as the ship approaches.
I am pleased to say that on this occasion we were able to reach the glacier face. Although Hubbard glacier is a major glacier there is also another joining the water on the left in the same region although it is black with shale from the surrounding mountains. The map clearly shows that there is another channel on the right which in the past been dammed up by the glacier, and knowing that Hubbard is still increasing in size it could well happen again.
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When looking at the icebergs and floating ice from the cruise ship they do no look that large, however compare them with the yacht, I calculated to be 50 foot in length, seen in the Hubbard bay from the Cruise ship it clearly shows how large these ice shards are (mini icebergs) are, certainly the captain of the yacht needs to look out for his keel for much of the ice is under water and does not reflect the shape or size below the water line.
look out for the yacht in the film clip and note how large the icebergs are in comparison. just one more observation, I don't think I would be standing hands in pockets when one small collision with ice could easily throw me overboard into icy cold water, and without a life jacket as none are being worn! Clearly the yachts crew must be glued to their deck.
59 55 53N 139 36 31W These glaciers are a site not to be missed and I think I can say that not many passengers missed taking a good look and photographs by the thousands while being served hot chocolate drinks by the dedicated crew. Very welcome indeed for being near the glacier was like standing in front of the frozen food counters in 'Iceland's Stores'
57 53 45N 133 35 5W One interesting point made which of global warming supporters will not tell you is that Hubbard Glacier is still growing where as other Glaciers are receding.
I cannot begin to explain how vast these glaciers are, when large sections ( shards of ice) of the glacier collapse large waves are created, small vessels would be well advised to keep a safe distance.
There are several glaciers coming into the water. Note also there is nowhere near as many large ice shards as with the earlier glacier visited.
Following our visit to Hubbard glacier, our next stop was 'Icy Strait point' which was an anchorage rather than docking, the only way a shore was by ships tender, which although convenient does give you some idea of what being in one of the ships life boats would be like, lets just hope that situation never arises because they are rather cramped after being on the large ship and the lifeboats do not have windows like the tenders.
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It was here that were are going Whale watching, always providing the Whales cooperate. The weather is very sunny, with a temperature of 70 degrees, some cloud but at least it is clear and the sea is calm.
Well our Whale watching tour went very well and the Whales were present and performed well making the tour very worthwhile, their is nothing to compare with seeing these massive animals feeding and going about their daily routine in real life and within a few hundred yards of the action. There are conditions as to how close to and for how long you can view a particular pod of Whales, the boat we were in did comply, however smaller boats in my opinion did not they were closer but stood the risk of either injuring the Whales with outboard motors or getting struck by the tail or even being capsized by one of these very large powerful mammals who just want to get on and feed.
All of the Whales in the film clips are feeding in the same area, Just swimming to and fro which makes taking photo a challenge because they do not reappear where to expect them to. They come to Alaska in the summer months to fatten up, feeding for 22 of every 24 hours. At the end of the summer they then swim off to the breeding grounds where they have their young but do not eat over the winter months even though the are providing sustenance for their young, they themselves survive on the fat reserves they built up during the summer months. It was said that they go to Hawaii in the winter because there are no predictors like the killer Whale (Orca)who can bully, kill and eat their young.
59 33 19N 135 7 47W Getting all the action on camera is a different matter as they always pop up where you least expect them, anticipate their speed and they turn and pop up going in the opposite direction so watching in real life is far easier and enjoyable, mind you filming from a moving boat does not help.
Having spent 30-40 minutes watching the Whales we returned to the harbour and then back to the cruise ship by tender.
Having re-boarded the cruise ship and having had a rest we went for our evening meal, only to see more Whales, quite close to the cruise ship while still laying at anchor, a really worthwhile day and an experience that would be hard to forget. If you look to the stern of the ship (rear, and port side of the ship) you can just see the tenders used to transport passengers ashore while the ship lays at anchor.
We are now cruising to our next port of call Juneau where if the weather allows we will be taking a flight in a float plane which takes us over Glaciers etc but we now know that nothing happens in Alaska until it actually happens, mainly due to the variable weather conditions which can change within a few minutes and dramatically change in hours. Each town seems to have it own micro climate which is opposite to its neighbour.
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As an example of this on our outbound journey we went up in the cable car and were able to take pictures of the harbour from the top Today one week later the mountain is covered in low cloud and there is no chance of seeing anything other than cloud although the cable car was still running This obviously affected the possibility of us taking our pre-booked flight in the float aircraft so that was cancelled.
It is worth mentioning that any ships organised tours that are cancelled are automatically refunded, but needless to say my wife was disappointed, myself seeing the low cloud cover and wind I think it was a wise decision and one with which I did not disagree. As a result we had a good walk and look round the local shops where I bought two caps for 4 US dollars and a new cable for my digital camera, the last place I expected to be able to get one.
Being the capital of Alaska there are a good number of shops and a wide variety, but the number of Jewelry shops is outstanding, I feel confident in saying you would need to have your bank manager with you before entering the shop. There is a saying I use when I go into Mercedes-Benz for spare car parts and I know it applies to their showrooms where the latest models are always on display. 'If you have to ask the price you cannot afford it', I feel sure that saying would be appropriate in these jewelry shops as well.
There is however some fantastic work done using the antlers of Moose, stone, Whale bones, and even what was claimed to be mammoth tusks, the carving on which was amazing in its detail. I did approach one shop owner and asked if I could take some photographs but she refused so I just took some photos through the window but you would be much better off seeing them for yourselves, they are well worth seeing and buying if they take your fancy and you can find a suitable location for them when you get them home.
This quality of carving is typical of what is being sold, this eagle I purchased from a charity shop several years ago in the UK and it sits on our mantle piece. The only eagles we saw carved in Alaska were carved into moose's antlers, the head of the eagle being carved into the pedicle (the section of the antler that grows from the skull))while the wings are naturally formed from the points of the antler, a very cleaver way of using what is discarded by the animal at the end of the breeding season, if you know where to find them?
We left Juneau at approx 1300 hours and cruised for many hours towards the Sawyer Glacier,
We reached and entered the 'Tracy Arm Fjord' only to be met by massive shards, chunks of ice (icebergs) which has sheared off the Glacier at some earlier time, they were larger than anything we had previously seen.
As with Glacier bay a yachts were present despite the hazard of ice below the water line. You will see in the film clip that there were what look like small passenger boats , they are the same size as we had gone Whale watching in and hold at least 100 persons .
In some cases they were hundreds of feet long and that was only the bit we could see.
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This large cruiser 'Carnival Legend' was on its way back down the fjord , how far it had managed to get up the Fjord we did not know?
We carried on slowly making our way passing some of the most beautiful ice I have ever seen, its blue colour made it look like precious gems on the water, every piece we passed seemed to be better than the last
And close up it was just mesmerizing.
There was little difficulty in realising that it was the glaciers that had carved out the Fjord, the horizontal marks on the rocks walls clearly showed the marks where rock had gouged against rock. The other striking thing was as with all the glaciers the water colour, which is distinctively different coloured by the sediment being carried by the glaciers.
We continued winding our way up the Fjord in the hope of reaching the glacier but alas it didn't happen,
as we neared a narrow bend large chunks of ice flowed towards the ship and so once again the natural elements had won, but the journey as far as we had gone was fantastic.
It was at this point we were forced to turn back, a large ship a tight bend and an large icebergs blocking the way do not make for safe cruising, there are no beaches to swim to here.
The walls of the Fjord are shear solid rock, almost vertical. I knew we were not far from the glacier face we had managed to get to it ten years ago while on the 'Norwegian Star', we had enjoyed the experience at being at a glacier face in Glacier bay on the outbound journey.
However I can add a photo I took ten years ago to the month of the Sawyer glacier face, I suspect it looks very different ten years later.
Note that the waters are clear of icebergs in front of the glacier face, so has global warming done as predicted and caused the faster meltdown of the glaciers today?
You are very fortunate if you manage to do all the things that are on the itinerary when you first leave port. In my view the odd disappointment is made up for by all the other views and things you see, it is a wonderful place to visit and just getting away from the rat race for a couple of weeks is great.
Having turned round we made our way back down the 'Tracy Arm fjord' and made off towards Skagway which is where we will be tomorrow, lets just hope the weather is better than on the outbound journey.
We have re-booked the cancelled tour which incorporates a journey on a train, the weather is forecast to be better so we are keeping everything crossed.
59 27 0N 135 19 46W We have arrived at Skagway on our return trip and it is dry and warm with a light wind so we were OK and docked at the birth allocated on the outbound journey without problems.
If like these folk you decide the venture along the water line take great care the water is tidal and comes in very fast rising approx 20 feet in a very short space of time.
The same beach the folk were walking on no flooded by tidal water. Note how high the tidal water are and they have been higher. The helipad on the raised for-shore was not in operation ten years ago and there were few building on the point.
There are six helicopters flying in and out about every 30-40 minutes so plenty of chance to go sightseeing if you prefer helicopters.
Although there is a heliport at Skagway there does not appear to be any float planes , however opposite the town there is a land based airport from which tours are flown.
With bright weather and clear sky's we took the re-arranged train ride, it basically goes up through the mountains following the route that the gold prospectors took when coming to Alaska in 1896 albeit they had to track through the mountains as the railway did not exist at that time.
These photos may help you appreciate the shear beauty and the vastness of Alaska certainly worth the 4 hours that the trip took. The train three large diesel engines in our case pulled at least 10-12 coaches up gradients you would not want to walk, as well as going through two mountain tunnels one of which was several minutes long and no lights in the carriages so if you do not like the dark, you have been warned.
59 33 41N 135 9 28W Looking up in our direction of travel I was a little concerned to see what I though was a rickety old bridge that stopped dead when it reached the side of the mountain.
However when I looked out of the window to my left and saw this bridge which had partially collapsed and was disconnected from the main line it was obvious that the first bridge was the best of the two options available.
The views as we progressed up the mountain were beautiful, in one place the tail end of the train could be seen as we made our way round a tight bend just before we entered the tunnel (see film Clip)
59 39 40n 135 6 15W
It was quite obvious that this place was a bleak and unwelcoming place in the winter months and yet the folk hoping to make their fortune from gold had tracked over these mountains just to reach the so called gold fields many of them along with their animals dying on the way.
Inevitably mans intervention has left scars on the landscape which will take many many years to cover over due to the slow growing vegetation.
Five flags mark the border between USA and Canada.
The nearer we got to the top of the mountain the more barren it became and the smaller and less common the trees became.
59 42 52N 135 2 45W Having arrived at the border between Canada and the United states the diesel engine's were moved to the now front of the train for the return Journey. We transferred to the mini bus, for the return journey back to Skagway on a road carved into the mountain side as well as passing through the US border post, so yes you do need your passport with you when going on this trip.
59 32 16N 135 12 47W Apart from our train which was made up of multiple coaches pulled by three diesel engines, a renovated steam engine also runs a couple of times per week in the tourist season. It fits into the scenery and really looks the part, and looks more like a model railway exhibit that the real thing, although I suspect the sparks from its fire has caused problems in the past if not in the present.
We rejoined the ship are now making our way back to Ketchikan which will be our last stop before cruising on to Vancouver. But there are still many more things to see, including the fantastic mountains with numerous Glaciers clear standing out in the late evening light. light
58 31 51N 135 4 16W
59 5 52N 135 15 51W
These photo's were taken from the dining lounge while having our evening meal. I was not difficult to see why the weather was so varied, clouds being formed as the winds blow across the ice covered mountain tops.
59 6 27N 135 16 21W
58 31 14N 135 4 4W Numerous glaciers were seen in the distance all slowly making their way towards the sea.
As we approach Ketchikan it becomes very obvious how the town has grown over the last ten yours. from the number of yachts in the basin, it was obvious boating was a big pass time both yachting and fishing.
Not just light industry but heavy as well I was surprised to see two dry docks for servicing /repair of quite large vessels one occupied the other not.
Ketchikan a float plane dock at which we later docked having been out for a crab feast and flown back.
The town and the different coloured houses is very attractive , The docks for cruise ships is nearly in the high street, none of the usual high security fencing etc, very handy for the shops and very welcoming. .
There is little doubt that Ketchikan welcomes visitors to the town, In fact I would say we got as big a welcome as the salmon, or were the bands etc just because it was the 4th of July?
Thank you captain for docking the ship in such a way that our balcony was dead opposite the opening looking onto the high street where the 4th of July celebrations were taking place. The best view in town.
55 20 47N 131 41 4W
At least this helicopter pilot was not going to let anybody forget the date, he made several fly pasts ahead of the procession.
Even the coast guard had joined in the celebration and taken the day off.
Although we eventually go down to the high street to be nearer the floats entered into the procession, which you can see in the film clip. Well done every body who took part.
While here we did manage to get a ships tour which included a trip on a float plane which involved being transported 30 miles by road, followed by a crab feast and then a flight back to the harbour quite close to the ship.
This wooden crab had been made from one large piece of timber, the nearest I have seen in the UK to this crab is what we call a spider crab, very long spiky legs and a smaller body than the edible crab we eat in the UK. What we had was all white meat where as our crabs have brown meat in the body which is delicious as well as white meat in the claws etc. We sent the majority of our spider crabs to France. . What we had for our crab feast here was great along with wine and starter very enjoyable indeed.
That in itself was interesting because approximatly a 1/4 mile out of town we passed the Indain Quarter which was clearly marked with totem poles and other wooden carvings all beautifully maintained..
It would have been nice to have taken the trip earlier as was arranged but the weather caused the flight to be cancelled, the earlier trip would have included flying over glaciers but it was not to be.
We are now on our way back to Vancouver, like the first day of the cruise the weather is bright and sunny and it is hot.
It is very obvious that the higher you go the snow covered mountains create their own mini climate with cloud and fog and very cold air blowing off the Glaciers of which their very many. As with our previous trip in 2005 we have thoroughly enjoyed the cruise aboard on this occasion the 'Norwegian Sun'. The crew from our apartment steward to the Captain have all been very friendly and as the cruise line say it is freestyle with none of the pressures of other cruise companies we have cruised with and this was our 14th cruise. Surely I should have said Captain to steward, well we have seen more of the steward than the Captain who is kept busy ensuring the ship is steering a safe course, along with the pilots who are on board for large part of the journey ensuring a safe course is set.
We are now cruising towards Vancouver. This photo helps to indicate the vastness of the area. In the background of the photo is a canoeist who is hardly noticeable to the naked eye and yet he/she is there enjoying as much as we are the space and scenery and fresh air of this wonderful wilderness.
In this photo the 2 man canoes are more easily seen but this photo was still taken using a 30 x zoom lens
In the last few miles we have seen several pods of dolphins, very fast and far to quite for me to photograph.
In some parts between Ketkickan and Vancouver logging has taken place, if done sympathetically it does not impact on the view, however in a couple of places the whole area has been savaged leaving just a bare hill/mountain side which look totally out of place, we did not see this ten years ago. It is therefore perhaps a good thing that some of the mountain sides are very steep and would make logging almost impossible.
Despite my comments with reference to mans intervention on Alaska, It is but a pin prick when the vastness of the area is taken into account and as the Bible says 'man cannot live by bread alone' and Alaskan's have to live also. Although the impact of tourism is now beginning to show as it attracts more shops and commercial businesses, like float plane's tourist Whale watching, fishing for halibut and salmon etc we still love the whole area, as we do Scotland part of the UK which in many ways is a mini Alaska.
Would we come again? You bet we would given the chance but we will leave it until a month or even six weeks later in the year so that we have a better chance of seeing the bears and the salmon run.
This sun set photo was taken at 2100 hours 9PM) on our last evening of the cruise and one the will live on in our memories although we have both expressed a wish to come back , but this time we will not leave it ten years.
We arrived back in Vancouver safe and sound on a bright sunny day! Yes sunny, the only problem was that large fires on the outskirts of Vancouver had produced so much smoke that the sun was almost totally obscured.
Although we had a long wait for our flight back to the UK we were happy to be at the airport where there was air conditioning making our wait less hazardous than it could have been.
We had a safe but long flight home, not in this plane I might add, and are now looking forward to the next time.
Thank you for taking the time to look at these photographs and film clips, I hope you have got as much pleasure looking at them as I had taking them and if you ever have the chance to go to Alaska, go you will not be disappointed but do not leave it too long there are always changes on the way and they are not always for the good of our surroundings or World.