Sailing on Thin Ice

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Ice flows from the John Hokins Glacier

Ice from John Hopkins Glacier blocking Tarr Inlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little did we think we’d see anything like this. From Hoonah, where we’d overwintered, it’s a mere twenty eight sea miles across Alaska’s Icy Straights to the entrance of Glacier Bay.

For those of you who don’t know Alaska well, Glacier Bay is a hefty fifty mile inlet with deep jagged fjords, where remote high mountains meet a shoreline carved out by numerous tidal glaciers. Tidal glaciers are ones that come right down to the sea to calve off huge slabs of towering ice and, incredibly, no less than eleven enormous glaciers grind their way southwards within Glacier Bay. They are spectacular and exciting to see… but the floating bergs and ice fields can be hazardous to a sailboat such as Sänna

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Fisherman’s Friend

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imageHoonah, Alaska

 

 

 

 

 

Moored right next to Sänna here in Hoonah is Icy Queen, a wily forty five year old Seine fishing trawler. At first call I could see the roughneck crew weren’t much interested in the likes of us… sort of retired, snobby English who’d sailed their fancy sailing boat all the way. But we and them would sometimes nod our good mornings whenever our eyes met… these no nonsense, hard working, proud men who grind their lives from the sea.

We ourselves have always admired hardsalt fishermen everywhere and anywhere we’ve been, for their toughness and extreme demeanour. And Icy Queen is a typical battered and bruised working boat built not for luxury but for making a living when the sea does not want to give it up. She is wonderful to behold in my eyes…

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The Cold Debate

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In 1845, Captain Sir John Franklin attempted to discover a route through the Arctic’s infamous Northwest Passage with his two Royal Navy sailing ships Erebus and Terror. Both vessels were lost with all hands and the mystery of their disappearance in the ice vexed the civilised world until strange rumours began to emerge several years later.

The Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, who beat Scott to the Antarctic in 1911, finally forced his way through the ice bound Passage in 1906 although there are those who suggest he wasn’t the first. In both instances, neither of these intrepid adventurers had any inclination that global warming would one day (in 2007 in fact) open the route through the Arctic to connect the two great oceans of the Atlantic and Pacific.

I daresay the issue of the Arctic getting warmer never entered the minds of Franklin’s crew as they resorted to cannibalism and froze to death. Nowadays, vessels of various types transit the Northwest Passage and it’s still a controversial argument.

Consider this…

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The Simple Art of Catching a Fish

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Did you know a female Pink Salmon lays between 1,200 and 1,900 eggs? They incubate over winter for five to eight months and hatch early spring. The little baby pink salmon migrate to the deep ocean as soon as they emerge, feed for eighteen months, then return to the exact same creek to spawn and die at two years of age.

If we think about this a little more then we get to a thought provoking calculation. Perhaps you’re not much interested in what I’m about to tell you but please try and stay with me for just a short while. I’m going to explain the simple art of catching a fish…

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Who Owns the Wilderness?

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“Who gave you the right to plant your flag and call this land yours? You people give us nothing but misery. You call yourselves our Kings and Governors but you are only the Lords of our suffering.”

Nuuntuuq, The Yukon

Here is the extraordinary story of the Norwegian sailing yacht Berserk and the death of her brave crew in the wild Southern Ocean. A perilous voyage through two frozen lands. A shipwreck… but not for all of them a watery grave.

Judge for yourself the rights and wrongs of their infamous voyage south. Their story is one of bravery, of reckless tragedy and aftermath not often seen in our modern world of comfortable luxury travel, when explorers and discoverers are no more than glossy magazine travel writers following well worn trails. Whatever your opinion, what cannot be denied is the incredible adventure of Berserk and her crew…

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MICKEY MOUSE WOZ ‘ERE

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Sänna in Alaska

I’m not sure where I’m going with this particular blog. I could easily come across as a moaning, deep, reflective old goat whilst trying to confess a point that’s been bothering me more and more over the last few weeks. The subject of my increasingly frenzied frustration is Mickey Mouse.

Like everyone I loved Mickey when I was a kid. I watched Mickey and Minnie and I watched the others too. Many years later, the previous Mrs Ungless and I took our daughters to Mickey Mouse’s heartland in Florida and, totally overwhelmed, I booked the same trip the following year too. We had a marvellous and memorable time. I was a Disney convert and eagerly sang along with the Mickey Mouse chorus loving every minute, riding ‘It’s A Small World’ over and over again with my own adoring kids. Somewhere since then everything changed…

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