After departing from Ketchikan we continued up the Inside Passage with the Coast Mountains on the right (north and east) of our ship. These mountains divide Alaska from British Columbia. Some of its peaks rise above 10,000 feet, and the mountain continues into the ocean to form the Alexander Archipelago, a 300 mile chain of islands that shelter the Alaska coastline. Chicagof Island is the fifth largest island in the United States, and lies entirely within the Tongass National Forest.
We sailed through Icy Strait under clear skies to reach the City of Hoonah (population 860 in 2000) in the northern part of Chicagof Island. Hoonah is populated by the indigenous Tlingit people, and its economy depends upon tourism, fishing and logging. As we approached the port of Hoonah we could see the evidence of clear-cutting of the virgin forest. Lowland areas selected for timber harvest include a disproportionate share of old growth, a density of about 12 times more per acre than normally found overall in Tongass National Forest. Logging roads fragment the wilderness and must later be maintained, at a cost to the US Forest Service of about $20,000 annually for each logging job that is created.
Our ship anchored offshore in deeper water as we rode in a tender to the dock.
The Hoonah cannery stopped operating in the 1950s, and its buildings now serve as a spacious Visitor Center.
I processed my photo of this old fishing vessel as an oil painting, juxtaposed to the cruise ship in the background.
Many Bald Eagles roosted and flew in the port area.
The majority of eagles were in their second and third years. Their heads and tails become fully white when they are 4-5 years old.
This bird is in adult plumage except for some dark tail feather tips.
Although the salmon run had not yet begun, there was a bounty crop of herring, which the eagles devoured rapidly.
Our day started with a wildlife cruise, in search of whales, a very successful venture! Our granddaughters waved from the top deck of our catamaran as we pulled out to see wildlife.
Whale sightings were guaranteed-- money back if none are sighted (no refunds have ever been granted). This Humpback Whale is "sounding," waving its tail good-bye as it dives deeply.
Individual whales may be identified by the pattern of pigmentation, barnacles and scars on their tails, like fingerprints. See: Identifying Individual Humpback Whales
Of course, I had my eye out for birds. This gull is probably a Western x Glacous-winged Gull hybrid.
Common Murres were, well, common.
Following the cruise we took a bus into the forest in the northern reaches of Chicagof Island. As I related in an earlier post, I saw my first Red-breasted Sapsucker, the third "lifer" of the trip (the earlier were the Rhinoceros Auklet and Red-legged Kittiwake).
Soon after the sapsucker sighting, our daughter Jackie again proved her prowess as a wildlife spotter. As we walked across a wetland on the boardwalk she said she saw a very large yellowish tan bear very briefly up ahead of the group. No one else saw anything and I feared her credibility was at stake, so I kept a sharp eye out as we walked to a bluff that overlooked a wet grassy area. Sure enough, I spied movement about 1/4 mile away, and my telescopic lens view confirmed it was an adult Coastal Brown Bear, a "blond" sow known to our guide as also having a yearling cub.
To our surprise, the cub, which weighs about half of its mother's 600 pounds, suddenly appeard out of the deep grass quite nearby, and waded across a small stream.
We had packed quite a bit into our short stay, and at 5:00 PM started steaming to our next port, Juneau.
Visit these links to view the entire series of blogs on this Alaska trip:
Cruising to Ketchikan, Alaska
Cruising to Alaska's Icy Strait and Hoonah
Visiting Juneau and Skagway
Hubbard Glacier and Seward, Alaska
Denali National Park
Riding the rails from Denali to Anchorage