Category Archives: Alaska
Though Haida Gwaii, a spectacular archipelago off British Columbia, is known as the “islands at the edge of the world,” it is well within reach aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird and Sea Lion—the only U.S. vessels permitted to visit these hallowed islands in over twenty years. In large part, we were initially permitted to visit Haida lands because of our commitment to artisans, evidenced by our Artisan Fund and its varied projects, currently financed by a percentage of sales from onboard Global Galleries. The Haida are legendary Pacific coast artists and artisans. And to see their works, most strikingly the totems created by master carvers, and to hear the stories woven into the very fibers of Haida regalia, is indeed a privilege. We will visit the Haida Heritage Center at Kay Llnagaay, see a panoply of Haida art and crafts, even see artists
at work. But we will also experience the rare, spiritually satisfying adventure of exploring the coasts and landing on remote beaches to share the silence with silvered
sentinels—the weathered totems, carved lifetimes ago, that have kept watch on Haida lands since the first days.
When Lindblad Expedtions returns in May, the islands will be awakening from their winter slumber. Humpback whales will gorge on krill and the lush forests will warm, while still snow-clad mountains set the perfect context for this entrée into the life of the Haida.
A perspective of living in Alaska….
I was born in raised in Los Angeles, and just spent the last three years living in Anchorage. I loved it very, very much – and indeed I only left because I could not afford to travel often back to CA to see my family, to whom I am very close.
You’re asking two very different questions – what it’s like to live there, and what it’s like to live there as a Californian.
What it’s like to live there:
•Incredible outdoor recreation, wildlife and parks within Anchorage. People, generally, are extremely outdoorsy in one way or another.
•Anchorage is very diverse. There are large military populations, large oil-company populations, large Alaska Native populations, large ethnic minority populations (mainly from Asia & Pacific Island nations) and lots of other people just seeking an adventurous life.
•Very tight-knit community. Anchorage is around 200,000 people – more, if you count the suburbs. It’s shockingly tight-knit in terms of the neighborhoods and communities of practice that develop within it. I always saw people I knew at restaurants, concerts, special events, etc.
•It’s the last frontier. People come to Alaska because it’s huge and sparsely populated – and there is not a whole lot of government-per-square mile to enforce laws and so forth. So people come there to be left alone. There are also a lot of creative “counter culture” people living truly adventurous lives, doing unusual stuff.
•The wilderness is right there, on your doorstep. Alaska is wild and almost inconceivably huge – and it’s just on the edge of Anchorage. People die in avalanches, get mauled by bears and suffer hypothermia, all within or just outside of city limits. You have unmatched access to public lands, wildlife, wilderness and freedom. The Chugach Range, Alaska Range and Cook Inlet surround Anchorage. You can fish for wild salmon in Ship Creek, see bears in Far North Bicentennial Park (or on your lawn) and see moose almost every day. Just wandering around.
What it’s like to live there as a Californian:
Cold and dark in the winter, rainy, light and less cold in the summer. Paradoxically, perhaps, Anchorage is sunny in the winter, when it’s cold and the days are short. It’s considerably less sunny in the summer. And still not warm – in the three years I lived there, I think it only got over 70 degrees 6 or 7 days. I missed warmth a lot, but it wasn’t something that I worried about a lot. I adjusted to the winters by staying very active and getting out in the sun whenever possible.
•Frankly, it’s kind of hard being a Californian specifically. Old-timer Alaskans have a very parochial view of people moving up from the lower 48, and you earn credibility by the length of time you spend there. I think a lot of people think we all move up there to bring our hippie culture and California tax laws while taking advantage of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Truthfully, I resented being dismissed as “just a Californian” when participating in conversations about the future of Alaska.
•It’s expensive to get out of AK (again, the reason I left). Plane tickets to and from the lower 48 are very expensive. If my family were there, I wouldn’t have left.
•You won’t have nearly as much access to diverse food, music and entertainment activities. In its place, you’ll have the wilderness and outdoor culture, an opportunity to learn about how communities wrestle with diverse cultures and differing views of the ownership of land.
Need another reason to visit Alaska by small ship? Here’s a single day report from a naturalist aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion in Thomas Bay, Spurt Lake, Petersburg.
From midnight to sunset on this day, glorious light enchanted us. After a night of bubble-net-feeding humpback whales and a spectacular display of the northern lights we were greeted with another day of sunshine! Yes… this is only day two of our trip! Today’s hike to Spurt Lake took place in Thomas Bay, just north of Petersburg, our afternoon destination. Our two options were a hike in the forest or to go on a scenic small boat cruise around Thomas Bay. The small boat cruisers headed up the bay towards the Baird Glacier. On the way, three animals were abundant—seals, marbled murrelets and Arctic terns, all looking for some kind of lunch. Before the water got too shallow we got close enough to see some spectacular terminal and recessional moraines formed as the glacier recently retreated.
“It is a happy day!”
With that statement from Dan Blanchard, CEO at InnerSea Discoveries and American Safari Cruises, along with “Oh Happy Day” playing in the background, the dual-christening of the Safari Endeavour and Wilderness Explorer began.
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Last night, American Safari Cruises Safari Spirit was destroyed by fire as it was docked at Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal. Two people, including company owner Dan Blanchard and a staff member were sleeping onboard the docked yacht. They both escaped uninjured. Dan contacted the fire department around 1 a.m. to report the fire. By the time the fire department arrived, the ship was completely engulfed in flames. While the 105-foot ship has an aluminum hull and did not sink. However, so much water had to be poured onto the ship, it began to list. Firefighters had to pump water out so they could continue to pour more water on the ship.
The ship was in Seattle, preparing for its Alaska season starting May 11. Booked passengers will be accommodated on other vessels. American Safari Cruises and its parent company, InnerSea Discoveries, operate seven vessels.
It’s unknown if the Safari Spirit can be salvaged. The cruise line has stated the loss likely will total millions of dollars.
Flip Nicklin, whale expert, will share his knowledge and stories from a life spent researching and watching whales on an upcoming Safari Endeavour Alaska sailing.
Flip first worked with Whales in Maui in 1979. With his father, Chuck, he was part of an Imax Movie crew filming “Nomads of the Deep.” He returned in 1980 to help Jim Darling determine the sex of singing Humpbacks (male). His first National Geographic Magazine story on Humpbacks was in 1982. He has published 20 National Geographic stories, three about work with Humpbacks and two about Killer Whales.
Alaska’s 40th annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is scheduled to begin Saturday, March 3 at 12 noon in Anchorage, AK. The dog sled race (or mushing as referred to by locals) covers 1,049 miles through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills, mountain passes, and across rivers. The race is viewed as a symbol of Alaska’s early history and is connected to many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.
Alaska is one of the most popular cruise destinations in the industry. Hundreds of thousands of people visit Alaska by cruise ship every year. Travelers on the mega-cruise ships get to see a lot of Alaska. However, unless you spend lots of extra dollars on shore excursions, you really won’t experience Alaska’s bounty (with the exception of the jewelry shops which are owned by the cruise lines). With an Alaska small ship cruise, you’ll see, do, and experience more, much of which the large ships simply can’t.
To summarize, here’s our top ten list with reasons why to explore Alaska via a small ship cruise in 2012.
This bear was caught seemingly kissing his meal before consuming it in an Alaskan stream. This scene was caught during an Alaskan cruise with American Safari Cruises.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Sunstone Tours & Cruises.
Ever heard of Paddleboarding? Paddle Boarding is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. And “stand up paddle boarding is catching on aboard small ship cruises.
Originating in Polynesia, the sport has been popular in the South Pacific and Hawaii. The sport has begun to catch on in a perceivably unlikely location — Alaska. While Alaska may not be considered a natural location for this water sport, it’s perfect for the bays and coves that small ship cruises explore, due to the flatwater found in these areas. Another destinations where the sport is picking up steam is Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, where sea kayaks have been popular for years. And of course, you’ll find plenty of paddleboard enthusiasts off the coast of Hawaii.
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