Sunday, May 31, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 5, Tuesday May 26

When we woke we were docked in Juneau. The weather was overcast and the cloud cover was low. We left on the best of Juneau tour that took us on a whale watching expedition, a tour of Mendenhall Glacier and to a Salmon bake. The whale watch took over three hours on a catamaran that took us all over the bay area. We saw several hump back whales, some sea lions; about 50-60 Eagles that were swooping low over the water catching fish, and a pod of killer whales.

We first saw several hump back whales. The first one was sleeping, which is a rare sight. Whales only sleep a couple of hours a day. It is the most dangerous time for them because they are easily hit by boats that don’t see them. They still must breathe so their brains do not shut down completely. We watched the sleeping one for a few minutes and it finally woke up and started moving around. We then came across a cow and her young calf. We watched those two play around for a while and then left to seek out other whales. On the way we came across about 60 bald eagles. Some of them were over the water catching fish. There were about 30 eagles in the trees and another 20 or so on the ground by a tree. They were some distance and so we were not able to get good pictures, but they were there. The captain then took us to another location where he heard there was another cow and calf. We found them and started the watch and soon the captain fired up the engines and took off at top speed. He told us he had gotten a report that there was a pod of killer whales in the area. We soon found them and spent about 20 minutes watching them surface, jump around and really showing off. The captain told us that this sighting was so rare that we were now in the top 2% club. Only 2% of those who come out whale watching see what we have seen today. We also saw several beach seals and more bald eagles on Skull Island. It was fun to watch all of these wonderful creatures.

After the whale watch we headed to Mendenhall Glacier. I remember going to see the Mendenhall Glacier when I came through Juneau as a missionary. The glacier supposedly is shrinking back at a rate of 250 feet/year. It is still spectacular and a wonderful sight to see. While we were there is started to rain. It was the first rain we had on the trip and for an area that gets 90 inches a rain a year, that is saying something. Juneau has rain 300 days a year, so we have been blessed with magnificent weather. Then we went on to the salmon bake. The food was fantastic and there was a lady there (Becky) playing her guitar and singing. I bout one of the CD’s so I could use it as a back drop to my Alaska video. After the salmon bake we headed back to the bus.

Our bus drivers on all of the trips so far have been very good. They mix a lot of history about the area as well as a lot of humor. The lady that took us to the Mendenhall Glacier has lived in Alaska since 1961, so she had a lot of stories to tell. The fellow that drove us back to the cruise ship was a native Alaskan and was full of American Indian history and fun.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 4, Monday May 25

This morning we were in Haines and walked around a few sites visiting the Samuel Harrison Fort. We went out there to see if we could find the missionary couple the Ketchikan Elders told us was here. As we were walking towards the Chapel, a young couple drove by and stopped and asked if we needed help. We told them we were looking for the LDS Chapel and they asked if we were LDS and we said yes. They took us to see the chapel and then took us to see a member that had lived here all his life and was probably here when I was here on my mission. We also found out that the missionary couple was transferred a couple of months ago. They took us to a brother Bailey, he said Elder Malcolm Wall baptized him in July of 1973. Elder Wall was my first companion when I got to Haines in September of 1973. We talked for a few minutes, then had to go to meet our afternoon tour to Skagway (originally it was spelled Skaguy) and White Pass.

We took a ferry boat from Haines to Skagway, and then boarded a bus that took us around Skagway, to the local cemetery from the 1890’s. This was the graveyard for a lot of the prospectors that died during the gold rush days. Some tombstones simply said unknown because they would die on the trail and no one would know who they were, so it was marked unknown. Our tour guide told us that Nordstrom, Levi and the Mac truck founders were all here in the area during the gold rush days and started their companies and later took them to the lower states.

One fellow, Jefferson Smith, moved in and became the crime boss of Skagway and caused such problems that the town people got a meeting together to talk about running him out of town. He showed up at the meeting and a gun fight between him and Frank Reid, the mayor, ensued. He was shot in the head by the mayor at the same time the mayor was shot in the groin. Smith died right away and lay in the street for over 24 hours before someone came and moved the body. The mayor lived for twelve days in agony before he died. They buried Smith 3 feet outside the cemetery because they did not want him in the town cemetery. The mayor has the largest monument in the cemetery and it says that he gave his life for the honor of the town.

We then boarded the bus for a drive up the White Pass trail that the gold rush prospectors used to get to White Pass and Dawson City to prospect for gold. This is the same trail that is depicted in pictures and movies of a ladder type of trail that goes straight up the mountain to the top. The Canadian government made it a requirement that every person would have to have one ton of supplies if they were going to live in White Pass. They did this to insure that everyone would be able to make it through the winter months. Before the railroad was completed in July of 1900, the people would have to carry the supplies on their backs (about 70 lbs of supplies) up to the top and then go down again and get another 70 lbs of supplies, go to the top and got back for another load. This would take many trips before they got the 1 ton of supplies there. Many never made it, some died trying and a few were successful at getting the full required amount of supplies to their camp. Of the 5,000 people that came for gold only about 500 people got rich from the gold and only 25 was able to leave with their wealth; the rest lost it before they left.

On the way up to the summit, we saw many waterfalls, glaciers and other natural wonders. One of them was the break shown in the picture to the left. that break was from the 1964 earthquake that hit Alaska. There were reports of people spotting mountain goats, black bear, and even eagles. Most of those that saw them were on the train, we did not see anything. We found out that the turquoise color of the water comes from all the silt that the glaciers scrape off as the ice moves. It grinds the debris and it ends up as a powdery substance that gets in the water and makes the turquoise color.

One cool thing was a bridge that we went over that was constructed so if there was an earthquake (the area is part of the San Andreas Fault), only one side of the bridge would separate from the road. It would stay connected on the other end and swing free until it is secured to the other side again.

When we got back to Skagway, we had about 2 hours that we could spend shopping and touring Skagway. We then boarded the ferry for the ½ ride back to Haines. There was a problem with the motor on the ferry and we eventually transferred to another ferry and got back to the ship about an hour later than planned.

We went up to a late dinner and then hit the pillow in anticipation of our day in Juneau the next day. Then pictures below are from the Skagway Sculpture and Garden museum we went to.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Alaska Cruise - Day 3, Sunday May 24

After breakfast we went on a Cultural Discovery Tour of Ketchikan. Our tour guide has been in Ketchikan for four years and was an excellent story teller. Ketchikan has no beach area and the rock cliffs are steep. The town is on the water's edge and is actually built on a pier that is over the water all built up on stilts. Everything is over the water on these piers, the buildings; the roads, etc are all over the water. We first went to a State Park that was built in the 1930’s by the Conservation Corp to preserve the many totem poles that were in the area. Most of the pictures of the poles are not the original ones, but newer replicas of the originals.

The poles all tell a story of an event or of a person. The natives are a matriarchal society, meaning the children take the name of their mother. Each native has two names that tell of their heritage, one of their father and one of their mother. Their name maybe Running Bear Beaver, which would mean their mother is the running bear family and their father is the beaver. The story of the totem pole goes from the top to the bottom telling of an event. There are several purposes of for the poles. One is a burial pole. The important or wealthy person would be cremated and their ashes placed inside the totem and the totem would then stand until it would rote and fall over eventually having everything go back into the earth from which it came. They also had poles that told of parties that someone would give for others. Those invited would spend days at the party. The sponsor of the party would spend everything that had thus bankrupting them. Those invited would then have to respond with a similar party inviting the person that invited them. The poles with the party hat and rings on the top would show how many pot ash parties that person had sponsored.

A new pole would always be built adding another ring representing the new party. Other poles would represent who lived in that home – basically their address. This was supposed to announce who lived there so that if they were at war with someone they would know if they were friend or enemy without having to approach. The opening in the home was very small to prevent large animals such as bears, from entering their home and causing problems. It was also to prevent enemies from attacking, since they could only enter one at a time and they would go in head first on their hands and knees. If they were an enemy, they would be knocked out as they enter.

This totem represents a person that loved his wife and children very much, but one day as he was out fishing, he was taken by the sea creatures to the bottom of the sea. He was a shape shifter and was able to change shapes the form that he wanted. He was able to change so that he was able to live under water. He lived at the bottom of the river for many years, until one day he decided he wanted to leave. He changed into a bear and was able to swim ashore and headed back to the village. On the way to the village he met a bear and he decided that he loved this bear more than the humans so he kept the shape of a bear and went and to live with her. They raised a family of cubs, but one day he decided he wanted to go back to the village to see his other family. The mother bear made him promise to not change back to his human form because she did not want to lose him to his human family. He promised but as he was going back to town he saw his human wife and how beautiful she was. He could not help himself, so he changed to his human form and stayed with her. One day as the cubs were out playing, they saw a human coming. They did not want to alarm their mother because they were not supposed to be where they were. They also did not want to have her come see this human because they did not want her to be sad because their father had left them. So they decided to kill the human on their own which they did. They then dragged his body back to their mother to show her what they had done. And she then told them that it was their father that they had killed.

Our guide told another story of a man that was the chief of a village and he was not married. For many days, he had gone out fishing to find food for the village, but was not able to catch any fish. One day he was out fishing when a fog came up and surrounded him. He did not know his way back, so he started yelling for help and for someone to help him. All of the sudden a women appeared out of the misty fog and asked him why he was yelling. He told them he was lost and did not know how to find his way back and he was yelling for someone to help him. She told him that she would take him to his village. When they got to the village he asked the woman to stay with him, which she did. They finally married and had children. They were again having problems getting enough fish to provide for the tribe and many days had gone by until everyone was very hungry. The woman finally decided to go and do something. She went to the water and put her hand in the water and swirled the water. Out of the water came five different fish. The king salmon, the sockeye salmon, the silver salmon, chum (or dog) salmon and the pink salmon. This is where the five kinds of salmon came from. She brought them back to the village and everyone was so excited that she continued to provide fish for the village. The people of the village started to look to her as the chief provider and so the chief did not like that she was getting all the credit for everything. He told her that he wanted her to show him how she did it. She said she did not know how she did it and would not be able to explain it to him. He told her she had to leave, and she did. But because she loved her children so much she wanted to provide for them, so she had the salmon come back once every year so that the children would have enough to eat. This is why the salmon come back up stream each year.

An interesting thing we found about the trees in this area is that there is very little top soil and the tree roots don't go very deep. The trees also can grow on top of fallen trees or stumps that have rotted. When a new tree starts growing out of rotting stump the new tree is part of the stump, but as the stump continues to rot the new tree continues to grow until the stump is gone and the new tree stands up off the ground like it has legs.

On the way back into town she showed us the red light district area from the gold rush days. She asked us what they call the children of a brothel – brothel sprouts! She also told us that there was a priest and a bus driver that died the same day and both went to heaven. The first to meet St. Peter was the bus driver. He was given a beautiful mansion on a hill and he was excited. The priest seeing the reward for the bus driver was really excited. He thought to himself, “I have served the Lord all my life, if the bus driver got that beautiful mansion just imagine what I am going to get.” St. Peter ushered him to this little shanty and said “this is your reward”. The priest said “why did the bus driver get all that and I get this little shanty. I have served the Lord all my life?” St. Peter said: “well, I looked down on your church and all the people were sleeping. Every time I looked down the on the bus the people were always praying.”

We then visited a place called the Totem Heritage Center. It was a place that had some original totem poles and a salmon hatchery. They also has two bald eagles that had broken their wings and were not able to fly anymore, so they were held there and cared for.

Alaska Cruise - Day 2 Saturday May 23

I started the day with a short jog on a tread mill and walk on deck. Stayed on deck and took some pictures of the scenery. We passed another cruise ship that was coming from the opposite direction. Took some pictures of a cute light house and one of the towns on one of the islands we passed. After lunch relaxed and got familiar with the different things on the ship.

Sue and Mom went to hear Moses Wassile the ship's native Alaskan speak about the traditions of his people and other Alaskan tribes as well as the wildlife of the area. They then went to the Culinary Arts Center where they learned about Alaskan cuisine. While Sue went back to our room to rest, Mom and I went the the book signing party. The captain signed all our Alask Tour Books.

Food is available almost anytime of the day. There is the open seating dinning where it is buffet style dinning. Then there is the Rotterdam dinning room, where it is a formal style restaurant. You are seated with other people which give everyone the opportunity to meet someone new. Then there is the Pinnacle Grill, which is a small formal restaurant. You must have reservations and it is very personal and elegant dinning. Tonight we ate in the Rotterdam Restaurant. We ate with three ladies from Kentucky and a couple from Ohio. After Dinner, we went to see the movie Valkyrie and then Sue and I went to the Crow's Nest where they had a live band and dancing.

Alaska Cruise - Day 1, Friday May 22

Boarded flight in SLC to Seattle arrived in Seattle 9:30 am. Boarded tour bus for trip to Vancouver BC. Tour bus driver was a Native American and for the four hour trip he told stories of the Seattle and Vancouver area. He told a story about the local Native American tribe (don’t remember the name of the tribe). This tribe is the only group in the U.S. that has a permit to hunt whales. They agreed to stop hunting grey whales when they were almost extinct around 1920. Then in 2004, after the grey whale population was again normal they wanted to go on a traditional whale hunt to show the younger generation what It was like. They were able to obtain permits from the U.S Fish & game commission as well as the International commission. They had a canoe that 6 people paddled and one person steered the canoe and another one was on the harpoon. When they tried to go out on the whale hunt, they were met with so many protesters that they had to call off the hunt. They tried the next day with the same results. They complained to the coast guard and asked for protection. The Coast Guard promised to help and the warned the protesters to stay 1000 feet away from the hunting party. The protesters complied, but still stopped the party from getting their canoe to the area where the whales were, so they canceled the hunt again.
That night one of the elders had a dream and was told by the Great Spirit that if they went out on the hunt the next day, a grey whale would sacrifice himself for the hunting party. The next day was not a scheduled hunting day, but they decided to go any way. There were no protesters on the water that day and there was a fog that covered the water. The elders were afraid and wanted to call off the hunt. They did not call it off, but went off toward to the hunt. They paddled the canoe out to the designated spot and all the sudden the weather cleared and they heard the sound of the whale. The harpoon guy loaded the harpoon and struck. Then he loaded again and it stuck. Another person was there and he took the gun and shot the whale so it would not suffer.
Others dove into the water and tied floats on the whale and they towed it to shore. They had signaled that the hunt was successful and by the time they got to shore, many natives had gathered on the shore for a celebration.

We arrived at the dock about 3:30 pm and went through customs and the check in process and finally boarded the SS Ryndam about 4:45 pm. The first thing we did was to go to the welcome aboard feast. After that we were able to settle into our room and unpack. Everyone was required to go the lifeboat drill to learn about the evacuation procedures. We then went to a late dinner and the kick off show. It was a Las Vegas style show where they introduce many of the main staff.

That evening we enjoyed our first sunset at sea. It was a beautiful sunset at 9:45 pm. The sun is setting between 9:30 pm and 10 pm and then rises again about 4:30 am.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Alaska Cruise

I am going to be posting pictures and thoughts about our trip to Alaska. We will be sailing aboard the Ryndam Cruise ship from Vancouver, B.C. on Friday May 22nd. We will be sailing to Ketchikan, Haines, Juneau, Sitka and Seward. From there we will board a motor coach and go to Anchorage where we will stay for three days. We will board the train and go to Denali National Park and stay the night. The next day we will go on to Fairbanks where we will spend the next day. The trip will end on June 4th when we fly back to Salt Lake City, UT.

Alaska Statistics:

Alaska has 365 million acres, 39 mountain ranges, 3 million lakes, 3 thousand rivers, 80% of the most active volcanoes in the U.S., 3 of the world's 10 largest earquakes since 1904, 17 of the 20 highest mountain peaks in the U.S., 100 thousand glaciers which cover 29 thousand square miles, a coastline that boarders 2 oceans and three seas, it is the eastern most state, it is the western most state, and it is the northern most state.

So check back after May 29th when we will be able to post some pictures and thoughts on our cruise.

Welcome to the Orgianl Harry Potter's Blog

Welcome to my blog. This blog will be dedicated to all things Harry Potter as well as things in the life of my family. My name is Harold Potter, but all my family and friends growing up know me as Harry Potter. I grew up in Indiana in the 60's and was first introduced to the Harry Potter books after book three was published. I love the Harry Potter books. I even go to Harry Potter parties and have lots of fun with the character. So come often and post your comments. I am looking forward to the new movie, The Half Blood Prince. I am reading the book for the fourth time to get ready for the movie.