Alaska Trip 2007


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North America » United States » Alaska
May 28th 2007
Published: May 28th 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY



5/10-5/12/07
Thursday-Saturday

We’ve been in Vancouver for a couple of days now. We’ve never been on this side of Canada before and it really is a beautiful city. We’re staying at the Renaissance downtown on the waterfront. It is a very active harbor with lots of cruise ships and working boats coming and going. It even has a gas station floating in the middle of the water. We have a harbor view from our room so we are able to see all the activity. This must be the cleanest city ever; no garbage anywhere even though we haven’t seen any street sweepers or anyone picking anything up. It’s also very trendy; lots of high-end shopping and restaurants. We even saw a few SMART Cars (you know, those tiny cars used in Europe (think about the Pink Panther movies) and even a bright yellow Lamborghini convertible which caught Cannon’s eye.

Even though we were tired after our long flight from Florida, after checking in to our hotel we decided to go to the movies; Spiderman 3, of course! Our favorite part of Vancouver though has to be the Capilano Suspension Bridge in North Vancouver. It took a bit of manipulation to get there, though. The Sea Bus (ferry) across to North Vancouver and then the #216 bus up to Capilano.

The Capilano Bridge itself was the brainchild of a civil engineer from Scotland named George Grant MacKay and was built in 1889 with the help of local natives. A team of horses drug the heavy rope cables across the canyon and then the cables were secured to tree trunks and pulled taut. Over the years there have been several owners of the bridge (it is privately owned) and in 1914 some additional cables were added to the bridge for stability. In 1956, the owner at the time Rae Mitchell, out of concern for safety, completely replaced the bridge replacing the original rope design with wire rope cable and 13 tons of concrete on each end of the bridge.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007
Sunrise: 5:42 a.m.
Sunset: 9:33 p.m.
High Temperature: 50 degrees

*From the Navigator
After our departure from Vancouver yesterday afternoon, Diamond Princess sailed northwest through the Strait of Georgia towards Discovery Passage. Early this morning we passed through Seymour Narrows, the narrowest part of this passage. Seymour Narrows is a stretch of water 750 meters wide where the tidal current can run up to 16 knots; therefore the transit through the narrows is only possible close to slack water. Once clear of Discovery Passage various courses were steered through Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Strait. After we disembark our British Columbia Pilots at Pine Island pilot station a set of northwesterly courses will be set through Queen Charlotte Sound and Hecate Strait towards Ketchikan.
*From the Navigator taken directly from the Princess Patter, the daily cruise bulletin.

We left Vancouver yesterday for our cruise to Alaska. We’ll be traveling for seven days stopping in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and finally finishing in Whittier just outside of Anchorage. We have a fabulous suite with a balcony and a fantastic steward who is taking care of all of needs. Gerry, being very familiar with the layout of boats and ships has no problem getting around the ship and Cannon of course looked at the map once and since he obviously has inherited Gerry’s sense of direction has mastered the complete “lay of the land”. While I (Sheri) on the other hand, have managed to stay in a constant state of “lost”. And to think the only “state” I thought I was traveling to was Alaska!

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Monday, May 14, 2007
Sunrise: 4:39 a.m.
Sunset: 8:59 p.m.
High Temperature: 51 degrees

*From the Navigator
In the early hours of this morning, Diamond Princess will sail through Dixon Entrance. After embarking our Southeast Alaska Pilot at the Twin Island pilot station, we will commence our final approach to Ketchikan, where we expect to be safely anchored by 6:30 a.m. Ketchikan is one of the major cities and ports in Alaska. It is the administrative and commercial centre for the collection and trans-shipment of local export cargoes and the distribution of import cargoes. Ketchikan is also a very popular port of call for cruise ships. Diamond Princess will weigh her anchor at 2:00 p.m., and once clear from Tongass Narrows, various courses will be set through Clarence Strait towards Juneau. Around 6:30 p.m. we will pass through Snow Pass, and once clear of the narrows, we will enter Sumner Strait.

The Instrument by which a ship may be steered on a pre-selected course and by which bearings of visible objects may be taken to fix a ship’s position on a chart is the compass. There are two types of compasses in use at sea; the magnetic compass, of which the north mark points to the magnetic North Pole, and the gyroscopic (or gyro) compass, of which the north mark points to the true North Pole. At the heart of a marine gyrocompass assembly there is a perfectly balanced wheel (gyroscope rotor) which is arranged to spin symmetrically at high speed about an axis; a gyroscope rotor maintains the direction of its plane of rotation unless an external force of sufficient amplitude is applied to overcome this inertia.

*Ketchikan
Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “First City” because it’s the first major community travelers come to as they journey north. Ketchikan is located on an island and began as an Indian fishing camp. The name Ketchikan comes from a Tlingit Indian phrase meaning “eagle with spread-out wings” and refers to a waterfall near town. In the early 1900’s when gold was Alaska’s claim to fame, fishing and timber industries were established in Ketchikan and have developed with the state. The growth of these industries has helped this Inside Passage port town become Alaska’s fourth-largest city. Visitors to this beautiful city will be intrigued by its rich Indian heritage. The Haidas, Tlingits and Tsimshians are all a part of the city’s colorful history.
*From the Navigator and Ketchikan taken directly from the Princess Patter, the daily cruise bulletin.

Today we woke up bright and early; at 4:30 a.m. We are so mixed up with the time difference but we are managing. It’s really quite funny but for the last two nights our steward, Armando, has come by our room around 7 p.m. to turn down our beds and we have already been in our pajamas. Each night he asks us, “You’ve already had your dinner?” and of course since we selected anytime dining instead of pre-set dinner times we have. He seems quite amazed that we are ready for bed that early but surely others are suffering from the time difference as well since we have met several from the East coast of the U.S. We keep “threatening” to go see a show at night but so far the bed looks much more appealing.

This morning was beautiful; we’ve been using our new “Super Giant” binoculars to really take in the scenery and since it is daylight here about 19 hours a day we have lots of opportunities. We’ve even seen a few whales so far.

Since we were not able to dock and had to anchor out, it was necessary for us to tender to shore. This was a little more difficult since we had to be assigned a boat number and wait until there was one available. With more than 2000 people going ashore this was a little tricky. It didn’t take as long as we expected and we were on our way in no time; it only took about 15 minutes to get from the ship to the shore.

We did a little shopping, had a snack at the local Subway and headed back to the ship by 1:30. This was a short day since the ship departed at 2:00 enroute to Juneau.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Sunrise: 4:33 a.m.
Sunset: 9:15 p.m.
High temperature: 53 degrees

*From the Navigator
During the early hours of the morning Diamond Princess we will be sailing through Chatham Strait, Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage towards Juneau. After entering Gastineau Channel early this morning, we will commence our final approach to Juneau, where we expect to be safely berthed by 8:00 a.m. Juneau, being the State Capital of Alaska, is the centre of administration and the seat of the State Legislative Assembly. Diamond Princess will sail from Juneau at 9:00 p.m. and after retracing our courses out of Gastineau Channel, a set of northerly courses will be set through Lynn Canal towards Skagway.

*The Anchor
The earliest form of the anchor was used by the ancient Greeks and consisted of large stones or baskets filled with stones which were lowered to the sea floor attached to ropes. As ships grew larger, the need for more efficient and larger anchors as well as better means by which to handle them became necessary. This led to the first iron anchors which were shaped like hooks designed to dig into the sea floor as strain came on them. The invention of these early anchors is often credited to King Midas of Phrygia and the early seafarers from Tuscany. Eventually a second arm was added to the hook as the anchor continued to evolve into the shapes commonly found on today’s modern vessels. Several improvements in design followed, including the addition of the “stock” which is the horizontal piece at the top of an anchor which ensures that the flukes lay horizontally on the seabed increasing the holding power. The anchors on the Diamond Princess and on most large ships today however, are of the “stockless” variety, meaning that the “shank” of the anchor is able to pivot independent of the “flukes” or the hook part. The idea of having “flukes” that pivot is a variation that came about in 1838 and was patented as a “porter” anchor.

*Juneau
In 1880, for Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, the going was slow and frustrating as they searched for gold with the help of Indian guides. Finally, after climbing mountains, forging streams and facing countless difficulties, they found nuggets “as large as beans”. Out of their discovery came three of the largest goldmines in the world. By the end of World War II, more than $150 million in gold had been mined. Eventually the mines closed, but the town Joe Juneau founded became the capital of Alaska and the business of gold was replaced by the business of government. Some 30,000 people live in Juneau and its total area makes it one of the biggest towns, in size, in the world. Today Juneau is not only famous for gold and government, but also for its breathtakingly beautiful glaciers and stunning views of both water and mountains.
*From the Navigator and Juneau taken directly from the Princess Patter, the daily cruise bulletin.

After arriving in Juneau this morning we headed straight over to the Mount Roberts Tramway. The tram took us 1800 feet to the top of Mount Roberts overlooking Juneau. The interpretive center was very nice and we even watched a movie called “Seeing Daylight” on the native people of Alaska, The Tlingit. For centuries, the Tlingit people, hunted and fished along the shores of Gastineau Channel. There are many totem poles here which tell the stories of the rich and varied history of Juneau’s first residents. They revered the raven and looked to it for guidance. Black ravens are abundant in this area; we have seen many during our trip. We even learned a few Tlingit (the "t" is pronounced with a "c" sound) words; here are a few:

Waa sa iyatee? = “How are you?”
Yak ei = “Good”
Ax xooni = “My friend”
I gu.aa yx Xi’an! = “Be Brave”
Gunalcheesh = “Thank you”
Yei xa yatee = “You’re welcome”

There is a beautiful bald eagle that lives at the center. She is four years old and unfortunately can never be released back to the wild as she was rescued after being shot. She has been rehabilitated but she is very timid and would not survive on her own. She is so timid in fact, that we were not even able to get a picture of her.

There are also many trails on the mountain but since there is still a lot of snow on the trails they were closed. Although it was very cold up on the mountain, it was definitely worth the trip; absolutely beautiful!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Sunrise: 4:25 a.m.
Sunset: 9:29 p.m.
High temperature: 51 degrees

*From the Navigator
During the night Diamond Princess will be sailing through Lynn Canal, and early this morning we will pass ½ mile east of Eldred Rock Lighthouse. We will then enter Chilkoot Inlet and pass the city of Haines on our port side. Shortly after this, we will enter Taiya Inlet and commence our final approach to Skagway, where we expect to be safely berthed by 6:00 a.m. Skagway is the ocean terminus of the White Pass and Yukon Railroad Railway and a branch of the Canol Pipeline, and serves as the marine transit point for both. Diamond Princess will sail from Skagway at 8:30 p.m. and after retracing our courses out of Taiya Inlet and Lynn Canal, various courses will be set through Icy Strait towards Glacier Bay.

Why do we take a pilot?
A pilot is a qualified coastal navigator, often an ex-sea captain, whose purpose is to assist our bridge in navigating the vessel into or out of port, or through a narrow coastal passage or river. In many ports, local regulations make it compulsory for ships over a certain size to take a pilot.

Although a vessel may have a pilot on board, her Master retains full responsibility for her safety. As such, the pilot acts in an advisory position to the ship’s Captain, using his or her local knowledge to guide the ship into or out of port. The pilot will often take the con of the ship giving orders directly to the helmsman, under the direct supervision of the Captain and his Officers.

*Skagway
Skagway was known to thousands of hopeful gold rushers as the gateway to the gold fields. Although it boasted the shortest route to the Klondike, it was far from being the easiest. Over a hundred years ago, the White Pass route through the Coast Mountains and the shorter, but steeper, Chilkoot Trail, were used by countless stampeders. The treacherous Chilkoot Trail, combined with the area’s cruel elements, left scores dead. The gold rush was a boon to Skagway; by 1898 it was Alaska’s largest town with a population of 20,000. The town’s hotels, saloons, dance halls and gambling houses prospered, drawing Skagway residents as well as the 10,000 people living in the tent city of nearby Dyea. But when the gold yield dwindled in 1900, so did the population of Skagway as the miners quickly shifted to new finds in Nome.

Today, Skagway has less than 1,000 residents, but it retains the flavor of the gold rush era, especially on Broadway, with its false-front buildings, and in the Trail of ‘98 Museum, with its outstanding collection of memorabilia.
*From the Navigator and Skagway taken directly from the Princess Patter, the daily cruise bulletin.

Today was great! We arrived in Skagway early and went ashore for an 8 a.m. train excursion aboard the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad. The trains are vintage rail cars that start at sea level and venture up to White Pass which has an elevation of 2865 feet.

We saw beauty beyond belief here. There is so much wildlife to see; moose, bald eagles, caribou, mountain goats, and black bears. The animals do keep their distance from the train tracks but as we were going along one of the passengers hollered and everyone looked. It was a black bear just a few yards from the tracks. He lumbered away quicker than anyone could even get a picture. It was amazing, though!

We passed the “Gold Rush Cemetery” where the legendary villain, “Soapy” Smith is buried. Apparently, during 1897-1898, “Soapy” and his gang of thugs were intent on taking over the town of Skagway. The town hero, Frank Reid, decided to do something about it and in July of 1898, Frank and “Soapy” shot each other in a confrontation. They both died. Frank was given a large monument engraved with the words,

FRANK H. REID
Died July 20, 1898
AGED
54 Yrs
“He gave his life for the honor of Skagway”

While “Soapy” on the other hand, was buried on the outskirts of the cemetery with makeshift bars around the site. Apparently, these were the only bars that would ever hold him.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007
Sunrise: 4:32 a.m.
Sunset: 9:41 p.m.
High temperature: 51 degrees

*From the Navigator
At around 6:00 a.m. Diamond Princess will enter Glacier Bay and embark the Glacier Bay National Park Rangers off Bartlett Cove. Once the Rangers are on board, we will cruise through Glacier Bay enroute towards Margerie Glacier and Lamplugh Glacier. Diamond Princess will disembark the Rangers and depart from Glacier Bay at around 3:30 p.m. After disembarking our Southeast Alaska Pilots off Cape Spencer, a northwesterly course across the Gulf of Alaska will be set towards Prince William Sound.

*Electronic Devices
Today, ships are equipped with a large quantity of electronic devices which help the navigator to reach his destination. Even if we have all these modern instruments on board, a sextant is still carried on board. The sextant is the navigational instrument for the measurement of vertical and horizontal angles at sea. It is an instrument of double reflection by means of two mirrors, and although its actual arc subtends an angle of 60 degrees at the centre, it is capable of measuring angles up to 120 degrees. The sextant was developed in 1757 from the quadrant, which could measure angles only up to 90 degrees, following a suggestion of Captain John Campbell of the British Navy. The requirements for the additional 30 degrees arose from the need of making lunar observation in order to discover a ship’s longitude. A modern sextant has a fixed mirror mounted on an arm of the sextant with the observer’s telescope and parallel to the index bar when it is set at 0 degrees on the sextant scale; this mirror is only half silvered, so that the horizon can be seen through the plain half and the reflected object seen in the silvered half. A second mirror is mounted on the index bar, which is pivoted at the enter of the sextant.

*Glacier Bay
Visitors have been coming to Alaska since the 1880’s to see Glacier Bay. The writings of naturalist John Muir painted vivid pictures of a place where the history of the ice ages would be revealed before their eyes. Here, massive glaciers stretch from the ice-draped St. Elias and Fairweather mountain ranges to sit at the end of majestic fjords. Tidewater glaciers are rare in the world. With a perfect recipe of ocean, mountain height and precipitation, we are graced with a dozen of them in Glacier Bay.

When Captain George Vancouver sailed through the ice-choked waters of Icy Strait in 1794, Glacier Bay was little more than a dent in a mountain of ice. Less than a century later, John Muir made his legendary discovery of Glacier Bay and found that the end of the bay had retreated 40 miles from Icy Strait. Today, the glacier that bears his name is some 60 miles from Icy Strait. The resultant decolonization plants and animals has fascinated naturalists since 1916. Apart from having the world’s highest concentration of tidewater glaciers, Glacier Bay is the habitat for a wide variety of marine life. Whales, black bears, wolves, moose, mountain goats and over 200 species of birds make their home in Glacier Bay. The National Park Rangers will be pointing out these local inhabitants as they are sighted.

“Calving” is the thunderous phenomenon that occurs when salt water melts the glacier’s snout and huge pieces of ice crack off the face. The Margerie and Johns Hopkins Glaciers are so active, cruise ships generally approach no closer than ¼ mile. At this distance however, it is still possible to see icebergs being born.
*From the Navigator and Glacier Bay, taken directly from the Princess Patter, the daily cruise bulletin.

Another amazing day!! We spotted a few seals on a piece of ice. The Park Ranges report that these are the questions most asked by visitors to Glacier Bay:

1. Why does the ice look blue? When light hits highly compacted ice, long wavelength colors (reds) are absorbed, while short wavelength colors (blues) reflect back through the ice to your eyes.

2. Does the Bay freeze in the winter? No, the combination of wind, tidal fluctuation, and moderate maritime temperatures keep the bay from freezing over.

3. Can anybody bring a ship in here? Vessels of all size must obtain a permit for entry into Glacier Bay. The current limit is a maximum of two cruise ships on some days and one or none on others.

4. Where are the whales? Humpback whales are most often seen in the lower portion of Glacier Bay, near park headquarters and close to shore. Look for water vapor hanging in the air; and remember, even whales can look small from a distance.

5. How high is the face of Margerie Glacier? The Margerie Glacier is about one mile wide, with an ice face that is about 250 feet high above the waterline, and a base about 100 feet below sea level.

6. Why is the Grand Pacific Glacier so dirty? Avalanches, rock slides, tributary glaciers and the scouring of the valley have caused an accumulation of dirt and rock.

7. How deep is Glacier Bay? Very deep! It was carved out by a glacier and filled in with saltwater as the glacier retreated, creating a fjord. Much of the bay is over 1000 feet deep.

8. What are the chances of seeing ice calve? Fairly good. These glaciers can move over five feet a day! Calving usually occurs a few times an hour from tidewater glaciers.

9. What’s the weather like here? It rains a lot; 80 inches a year near park headquarters. May and June are the sunniest, and it is usually not as cloudy near the glaciers as in the lower portion of the bay. The constantly changing moods and quality of the light are part of Glacier Bay National Park’s scenic splendor.

10. Is Global Warming melting the glaciers? As part of a natural cycle, the bay’s glaciers have been retreating for the past 200 years. But during this time, there are also glaciers in the park which are advancing.


In the evening Cannon spent some time in the game room while Gerry and I took in a show in the Princess Theatre. The show was entitled, Piano Man, which was a tribute to the music of Billy Joel, Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow, Liberace, and Elton John. The music was good but we were quite surprised to see the flamboyant tribute to Liberace, complete with everyone wearing candelabras on their heads and dancing around the stage. We don’t believe that it was meant to be funny but we sure got a kick out of it!

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Friday, May 18, 2007
Sunrise: 4:53 a.m.
Sunset: 10:37 p.m.
High temperature: 48 degrees

*From the Navigator
During the morning Diamond Princess will maintain the same northwesterly course heading across the Gulf of Alaska. On rounding Cape Hinchinbrook on our starboard side we will be entering Prince William Sound where we expect to embark our Southwest Alaska Pilots early in the afternoon at Blight Reef Pilot Station. We will then set various westerly courses toward College Fjord, where we expect to start cruising by 5:30 p.m. On arriving at the north end of College Fjord a beautiful view of Harvard Glacier is showing up. At this point we will be reaching the most north latitude of our cruise 61 degrees, 16.6 feet North. We will leave College Fjord at 8:30 p.m. this evening, and once clear from the fjord , various southerly courses will be set through Port Wells and Passage Canal bound for Whittier.

*College Fjord
College Fjord is the hidden jewel of Prince William Sound. Drink in other worldly vistas as you enter a narrow channel outlined by mountains and punctuated by ice-blue glaciers. The Harriman Expedition of 1899 named these glaciers after Ivy League colleges. Imagine their wonder at seeing Harvard Glacier calve icebergs into a tranquil sea.
*From the Navigator and College Fjord, taken directly from the Princess Patter, the daily cruise bulletin.

It seems redundant; but another beautiful day! In the evening the three of us decided to take in the Farewell Variety Showtime, in the Princess Theatre. Alexander, the magician was really quite good and the comedians Miguel Washington, who has appeared on BET and Cary Long, who has been on Letterman were excellent as well. Cannon laughed so much; Gerry and I were happy knowing that Cannon was having such a good time. It was a great show and no one had to wear a candelabra on their head!

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Whittier
We arrived in Whittier (about 60 miles outside of Anchorage) sometime around midnight last night and our wonderful cruise has come to an end. Here is a summary of the distance we traveled during the cruise:

Vancouver to Ketchikan 510 Nautical Miles 15.0 Knots
Ketchikan to Juneau 276 Nautical Miles 17.9 Knots
Juneau to Skagway 97 Nautical Miles 13.4 Knots
Skagway to Glacier Bay 111 Nautical Miles 14.5 Knots
Glacier Bay to College Fjord 588 Nautical Miles 17.6 Knots
College Fjord to Whittier 45 Nautical Miles 10.3 Knots

Total Distance Traveled: 1627 Nautical Miles = 1872.3 Miles
Note: 1 Nautical Mile = 1.15 Miles

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Saturday, May 19, Continued

After leaving the ship in Whittier and picking up our rental car we started our journey to The Princess Wilderness Lodge just outside Denali National Park. It took longer than we expected at about 5 hours to drive the 300 miles. Again, more beautiful snow-topped mountains and we had to stay on the lookout for wildlife as something could run into the road at any given time. There were lots of jack rabbits. After arriving at the lodge, we decided to rest as we were heading out for an early morning adventure tomorrow.

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well, we woke bright and early this morning as we were scheduled for the Denali Self-Drive Adventure. We considered lots of tour options but in the end decided that a tour where we were in control of the schedule was best for us. We picked up our Jeep at 6:45 a.m. at the Holland America Gray Line Tours office located at the hotel next door and after receiving somewhat vague instructions on using the narrative GPS system and the three routes we could take, were on our way.

We decided to venture out into the Industrial Wilderness and onto Stampede Road. The travelling was primarily on two lane highway but Stampede Road is a rough gravel road. Be sure to take a look at the photo of us taken at the end of this road.

After leaving this area, we made our way to the entrance of Denali National Park and the visitor's center. Here we found lots of information on the park and were informed that we were only allowed in as far as the bridge at Savage Loop which is at mile marker 15. Only certain groups are allowed past this point. We decided to park the Jeep and explore the mountain and the river area. Mt. Healy was to the east of us and Mt. Margaret on the west side of the river at an elevation of 5059 feet. We enjoyed exploring the trail; it was very icy though in some places and we had to be very careful. We saw many types of birds including one that we could not identify until later. It was the ptarmigan which is the state bird of Alaska. We even have a photo of one of these. We also saw many "groundhogs" which were actually Arctic Ground Squirrels. We had a great time!

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Mon 5/21-Thur 5/24,2007

We originally had planned to drive up to Fairbanks but decided on Sunday that in order to cut down on "wear and tear" that we would head for Anchorage two days early. Along the way we stopped in Talkeetna. Remember the t.v. show "Northern Exposure"? Well this is the town the show was based on and after reading a magazine article on it found out that the show was very true to life with all the eccentricities of the town folk.

We arrived in Anchorage later in the day and are staying at the Hawthorn Suites downtown and are very pleased with the location; it's close to everything! We visited the Alaska Zoo on Tuesday and really enjoyed it; it was a bit difficult to find, nothing seems to be labeled very well here. Once at the park we were able to see many animals including two black bears, bald eagles and the musk ox which has become almost extinct. Part of the park was closed however due to the fact that a mama Snow Leopard was expected to give birth at any time and she could not be disturbed.

We normally try to visit a Science Center on every trip and since The Imaginarium was in town we decided to give it a try. Cannon always really enjoys this type of environment. We also visited the Alaska Wild Berry Park which boasted its 20 feet tall chocolate water fall; it was closed for maintenance so we didn't get to see how it worked! We also were looking forward to learning about the Earthquake that hit Anchorage in 1964 so we headed off to the Alaska Experience Center to view the movie complete with shaking seats to help simulate the experience. When we got there however, there was nothing but a vacant lot; it looked like the earthquake had hit all over again. We were told that the building had just been torn down! So much for the earthquake simulator! We were not deterred however and made our way to Ship Creek Center which is home to a "still" exhibit on the earthquake. We were able to see many photos of the damage the city underwent and also the before and after photos. It was quite "moving" to say the least. While at the center we watched a presentation by an Eskimo woman from the Alaska Native Heritage Center. She showed us hunting tools and told us many stories of the survival techniques used by these people to endure such harsh conditions. We enjoyed her talk quite a bit. Cannon tried his hand at the native hunting yo-yo; not as easy as she made it look.

On our final day, we visited the Performing Arts Center of Anchorage to view the film, "Aurora". This film gives visitors a view of the Northern Lights as seen from photographer, Dave Parkhurst's, point of view. He has spent hours in miserable conditions to view and capture on film, this natural phenomenon. After the viewing we were able to speak with Mr. Parkhurst and view some of the photos he has taken since 1981. They are absolutely breathtaking!

Here are two of Mr. Parkhurst's most asked questions from aurora enthusiasts:

1. What creates Aurora? Constant eruptions on our sun eject highly charged "winds" in all directions into space called the solar wind stream. When directed towards earth, the solar wind draws into our magnetic field causing a high altitude electrical discharge process in our ionosphere emitting the light we see as aurora.

2. What causes the colors of Aurora? Electrons carried along with the solar wind strike atoms of nitrogen and oxygen. Atomic osygen creates the green aurora, nitrogen emits pink-red, blue and purple aurora, and the rare bright red and orange-red aurora are produced from higher altitude atomic oxygen.

More information can be obtained by visiting the following site: www.TheAlaskanCollection.com
He has lots of information on the Aurora Borealis and offers beautiful photos and collages for sale. We are so glad that we didn't miss this opportunity! The movie is shown during the summer, daily on the hour and is highly recommended.

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May 25, 2007

We flew home from Anchorage last night at 11:30. It still seems strange to think that we were looking out the airport windows at daylight at this time of night. It was a long flight and long 4 hour layover in Denver but we made it home safely around 4:30 this afternoon. Another great trip!










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