ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Come to Alaska: I Sailing South from Juneau

Updated on July 17, 2018

Sawyer Glacier, photo by Richard Fleck

Sailing South from Juneau

Sailing South from Juneau

Enjoying Juneau Harbor's blinking lights, I ambled down to the dock where my fishing boat cruise would begin the next morning to Sum Dum Bay and Tracy Arm and tried to imagine what landscapes I would see. In preparation for my trip I had read two companion volumes, John Muir's Travels in Alaska (1916) and Samuel H. Young's Alaska Days with John Muir (1915). The Tlingit and Tsimshian Indians in those days (1880's) were in the process of learning English and a new religion from Protestant missionaries like Samuel Hall Young whom John Muir had befriended. Muir explains in his book that he wanted to hire several Indian guides (in whose stories and conversations he delighted) to go into the back country where he could explore glaciers. The Tlingits suggested the names of a few and Sitka Charley who would be the best for that purpose because he "hi yu kumtux wawa Boston--knew well how to speak English."

Dawn came bright and clear up in the panhandle of Alaska. About twelve of us boarded the "Riviera" skippered by a young man called Rusty from Cape Cod; we soon left the harbor behind us. Sitka-studded Admiralty Island looked like a Rockwell Kent etching with snow-capped peaks flanked by feathery clouds of silver. On the mainland side we could make out Taku Inlet but not the receded Taku Glacier. On another day I would take a seaplane over the immense Juneau Icefields and the crinkly surface of Taku Glacier to land on a marshy inlet and tramp the lush forests for several hours. On that flight I would catch a glimpse of what most of North America looked like at the height of the Wisconsin Ice Age.

As our craft plied through waters beyond Taku Inlet, we passed numerous crab boats hauling in their catch with big nets. Within an hour we entered Sum Dum Bay as Muir had done well over a hundred years earlier. We gazed at the "hanging" Sum Dum Glacier in cloudy mountains south of Tracy Arm fiord. Quickly granite walls engulfed us rising straight up to glaring snowfields. Stream of water hurled through space down to the green waters of the fiord. Bright blue icebergs drifted past as we closed in on a tell-tale cliff carved and scratched by myriads of slow-moving glaciers of yore. Following Ralph Waldo Emerson's lead, Muir called these scratches "glacial hierogylphics" because they surely furnished as much geologic information as the Egyptian Rosetta Stone furnished linguistic knowledge.

Approaching South Sawyer Glacier, we amused ourselves watching jet-black seals sunbathing on bright blue icebergs, blue being the only color refracted out of their dense masses. Our ship came to within a hundred yards of the glacier looking like an arched blue planet all its own. A sudden thunderous boom startled us as a huge chunk of ice broke off the edge of the glacier and splashed down into a narrow bay. The Tlingit words Sum Dum are apt. The berg makes the sound SUM, and the echoing cliffs DUM! Aquamarine and copper-colored chunks of ice bobbed all around the glistening new berg. Here we could easily envision future yosemites. Samuel Hall Young writes in Alaska Days with John Muir, "Glaciers were Muir's special pets, his intimate companions, with whom he held sweet communion. Their voices were plain language to his ears, their work, as God's landscape gardeners, of the wisest and best that Nature could offer."

We sailed silently through a fiord as mesmerizing as the floating swan's down of the Nishkiya ceremony that a tribal elder spread into the air to open a dance ceremony the evening before. In the silence I imagined an Indian's voice singing from the top of some immense summit. By now we had become accustomed to a world of dark blue ice, hieroglyphic cliffs, and rivers falling out of the sky. But we were in store for something more. Just off Admiralty Island a humpback whale rose out of the water to flap his tail fin so forcefully it sounded like a cannonade. His gigantic body rose and splashed several times before disappearing southward. Too quickly Juneau Harbor, dominated by Mount Juneau and Mount Roberts, came into view.

You don't have to take an expensive cruise to Alaska, you can pay a fisherman at the docks of Juneau to ride with him for the day,

Juneau Area

© 2009 Richard Francis Fleck

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      I appreciate your comment jeremytorres

    • jeremytorres profile image

      jeremytorres 

      7 years ago

      Very nice article.

    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      It can get lonesome up there

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      I was living in a small village fishing. It was nice for a while. Got home sick. lol

    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      It's a great place. It was too cold and rainy for many bugs when I was there.

    • Granny's House profile image

      Granny's House 

      8 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

      june, I too have been to Alaska. We loved it there. Except for the flies and mosquitoes

    • juneaukid profile imageAUTHOR

      Richard Francis Fleck 

      8 years ago from Denver, Colorado

      Thank you Hello, hello--glad you could come along as a reader.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      You had such terrific experience it must be unforgettable. Thank you for sharing it with us.I also like yur style of writing it is so descriptive.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)