Friday, May 29, 2009

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.

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