I love the name of the tribe of Native Americans who have inhabited this area for a long time: Tlingit. In the late 1800s a local native chief, Chief Kowee of the Auk Tlingit, showed samples of gold ore to a mining Engineer, George Pilz, who had offered a reward for site information. In 1880 Pilz and two cohorts, Richard Harris and Joseph Juneau, took a look at the lode and staked a claim elsewhere, establishing a town site on the beach of Silver Bow Basin. By the following year, more than 100 eager prospectors had arrived in the settlement, named Juneau in that man’s honour. Juneau is the capital of Alaska, with no gold mines still running but, as you might expect, tourism its biggest industry. You will find a mother lode of tchotchkes: magnets and key chains and T-shirts, bear and moose poop (chocolate), maps, of course, and tons of jewellery, both fake and real.
I have given away my jewellery but I was quite taken with, almost tempted, by one symbol that has been replicated in pendants, pins, earrings and ornaments: the tail of a diving Humpback Whale, the last thing you see of it as the animal flips into its deep dive (maybe 1400 feet?), not to emerge some distance away until more than 7 minutes have passed and you have to stop holding your breath . They made me think of loons with their unpredictable showing after a dive. But loons don’t look like surfacing submarines as they emerge – very exciting, in fact, awesome!
Our whale-sighting boat that took us to the sea view of the animals was shorter, smaller and weighed less, I am sure, than the whales we were after. The guidebook says that a humpback whale is about the size of a school bus.
Like the spinning dolphins I saw last spring in Polynesia these whales left me a nature lover, not that I can ever pursue that affection with a course and career, but many younger people do. I got so I could recognize that combination of of love and fervour that keeps these naturalists (I think that’s the generic term). I remember our guide to the dolphins last year who told us he was studying marine biology when he first went to Polynesia and stayed. I think he was pushing 40 when we saw him. . That same attachment was evident in the crew of one and the driver of our whale-sighting boat. I started to think that I had never been hooked like that by something but of course I have been– with writing. It doesn’t seem as dramatic or photogenic as whale- or dolphin-watching but it’s the same fire in the belly that drives us all.
I’m off the cruise now, and in Vancouver for a Writers’ Union AGM. I have a day to myself and I’m trying to get caught up in Blogs and Screenplay homework. I still have to report on the Misty Fjords. Soon.