Your Ship: Seabourn Sojourn
Your Seabourn Alaska journey begins here. The humble beginnings of the City of Vancouver, in the settlement of Gastown on Burrard Inlet, rose out of the old growth forests and the sawdust of the old Hastings Mill. Its location between the Pacific Ocean and the snow-capped coastal mountains creates one of the most idyllic settings of any city in the world. As a world-class city it has the best of both worlds, intermingling urban sophistication with a sense of wilderness and outdoor adventure. Whether you are exploring Vancouver’s diverse downtown core, strolling through the giant trees of Stanley Park or taking in the 20 miles (30 km) of uninterrupted waterfront trails along the seawall, you are bound to fall in love with Canada’s third largest metropolitan center, which is consistently ranked as one of most livable cities on earth.
In 1886, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Vancouver, completing Canada’s ‘National Dream’ of a connection between east and west, and opening up new trade routes between Asia and Europe. The city was named for British captain and explorer George Vancouver.
The Queen Charlotte Sound lies between the Queen Charlotte Strait, which winds between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland in the south, and Hecate Strait, which is northward, adjacent to the Haida Gwaii Islands off the Pacific coast of British Columbia. It is a broad reach in the long shipping route called the Inside Passage threading the myriad islands stretching from Washington’s Puget Sound to Alaska.
Ketchikan is a picturesque coastal town with a colorful frontier history, standing at the southern entrance to Alaska’s famed Inside Passage. It began as a salmon cannery in 1885, built by company employee Mike Martin at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek. Once dubbed the ‘Canned Salmon Capital of the World,’ today government, commercial fishing, and tourism are its main industries. The renowned Creek Street, perched on stilts along the mouth of the creek, would bring lasting infamy to the area for the red-light district that burgeoned there during the Gold Rush.
The town’s site first served as a camp for Tlingit people, and for thousands of years this has been their home. Their rich culture is being preserved to this day. A visit to Ketchikan is not complete without visiting one or all of Native American sites such as Totem Bight State Park, Potlatch Park, Saxman Native Village and the Totem Heritage Center. Together, these locations comprise the world’s largest collection of standing Native American totem poles.
Snow Pass: In the passage between Sumner Strait and Clarence Strait in Southeast Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago, midway between Price of Wales Island on the west and Zarembo Island on the east, is a small cluster of islands with a picturesque passageway between them called Snow Pass. It makes a scenic up-close route for your Seabourn ship during the transit.
Decision Passage: Decision Passage is the western end of the Sumner Strait, which runs through the Alexander Archipelago into the Pacific Ocean in Southeastern Alaska, bounded on the north by Kuiu Island and Cape Decision, the location of a 1932 lighthouse. This is the route your ship takes when coming from or going to the colorful historic community of Sitka on the west coast of Baranof Island, which was originally the Russian fortress town of New Archangel.
A stroll through the streets and National Historic Park of Sitka is a glimpse into its unique and colorful past. A blend of Tlingit and Russian cultures defines this first capital of Alaska. Although fish canning and gold mining were the initial catalysts for growth in Sitka, the construction of an air base during World War II truly paved the way for Sitka to come into its own. One of Sitka’s most intriguing structures is the Cathedral of Saint Michael, built in 1848 to honor a Russian Orthodox bishop.
Sitka’s history begins thousands of years ago with the Tlingit people and their use of the land for sustenance and spirituality. Old Sitka, located just north of the present-day settlement, was founded by Russian-American Company trader Alexander Baranov in 1799. Originally named Novo-Arkhangelsk (New Archangel) under Russian rule, its name was changed to Sitka after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867. Sitka is a Tlingit word meaning ‘by the sea.’
Yakutat Bay is 18 miles wide at its entry, and cuts from the Gulf of Alaska into Disenchantment Bay, the entryway to the huge Hubbard Glacier, North America’s largest tidewater glacier. As the bay narrows and the shorelines draw closer, the 400-foot face of the glacier exerts a luminous, ghostly presence, often from as much as 30 miles away. More and more floating ice dimples the surface of the water, and seals bob up and disappear again. The chilled air from the glacier flows in a downdraft of cold that gives rise to mists and gray clouds, through which the vivid blue of the ice wall shimmers. It is an impressive sight of nature’s immense raw workplace, shaping the earth itself as part of an endless cycle of water from the sea evaporating to the sky, falling as snow on the heights and inching over centuries back again to the sea.
The Hubbard Glacier is the largest, and one of the most spectacular tidewater glaciers in North America. Its ice cliffs, some 400’ (121 m) tall, calve icebergs into the fjord, which may frequently be larger than a five-story building. The glacier’s surface is creased and contorted, resembling the wrinkled skin of a giant elephant. Records show it has been growing in thickness and advancing since 1895. This stands in stark contrast to other glaciers around the world, most of which have been receding during the past century. In 2002, the glacier blocked Russell Fjord for two and a half months, raising water levels 61’ (18 m) and threatening local communities with flooding.
Nutrient-rich waters along the glacier face attract many species. Gulls and kittiwake colonies adorn smaller islands and harbor seals patrol the icy waters.
In 1890, Israel Russell explored the area of Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier, naming it after Gardiner G. Hubbard, a financier of his expedition and a founder and the first president of the National Geographic Society.
As the gatekeepers to the northern entrance of the fabled Inside Passage, the remote Inian Islands stand between Cross Sound and Icy Strait, exposed to the high energy seas of the Pacific Ocean. Tidal currents surging through the narrow channels separating the islands can be severe. Nicknames like ‘The Laundry Chute’ justify their notorious reputations.
For millennia, Tlingit people came here to hunt and fish in the rich bounty that these waters provided. Today, the Inian Islands Institute, located within the islands, provides access to the abundant and protected waters for scientific research. Sitka black-tailed deer and brown bears frequent their rugged and rocky shores, while sea lions fill their stomachs with salmon before hauling out to rest on the many rocky outcrops making up this island group. Sea otters, bald eagles, and humpback whales frequent the area in great numbers during the summer months.
The Inian Islands were named by William Healey Dall, one of Alaska’s earliest scientific explorers, in 1879.
Icy Strait Point is a unique community on Chichagof Island near the entry to Glacier Bay National Park. It was created and is owned by a corporation of over 1300 Native Americans of various local Tlingit tribes, for the purpose of offering visitors an enjoyable, educational experience of Alaska’s native cultures, as well as the human and natural history of the region. Your tender will dock at the historic 1912 salmon canning facility, which today is a museum. The surrounding grounds offer cultural performances, Native American-owned shops and galleries, restaurants and a variety of tours and excursions for every interest from sport fishing to whale watching, guided nature walks and excursions to view bears and other wildlife, ATV tours and even a zipline adventure that is said to be the longest (over a mile) and highest (over 1330 feet of drop) in North America. The small village of Hoonah is just over a mile away, and can be reached either by walking or on a shuttle. It also has shops and eateries, as well as a totem-carving enterprise run by the corporation. The Huna Totem Corporation maintains complete control of the content and access to the community, which has won a number of prestigious awards for its sustainable approach to exploiting the natural and historical heritage of Alaska and its native peoples for their benefit.
Tucked in along the shores of the longest fjord in North America and surrounded by breathtaking scenery, Haines is an authentic Alaskan experience. It is an eclectic community and a truly hidden gem. Its rich culture shines brightly during the annual state fair that draws people from all over Alaska.
Haines is home to the largest concentration of bald eagles on earth, and grizzly bears gorge themselves on spawning salmon in its rivers. It was originally named Dteshuh, which means ‘end of the trail’ in the language of the Chilkat natives, who used to portage across the peninsula to Chilkat Inlet as a shortcut to their trade route to the interior.
The first Europeans arrived in 1879 to build a school and a Presbyterian mission. In time, the mission was renamed Haines in honor of Francina E. Haines, the chairwoman of the committee that raised funds for its construction. Haines grew dramatically during the 1899 Klondike gold rush in the Yukon, supplying prospectors with food and equipment.
Lynn Canal is a 90-mile long inlet into Alaska’s coast running from the Chilkat River in the north to the Chatham Strait and Stephens Passage in the south. Because it connects the towns of Skagway and Haines to Juneau and the rest of the Inside Passage, it is an important shipping lane for ferries, cargo and cruise ships, and was a crucial passageway to the Klondike gold fields during the Gold Rush. It was discovered by Joseph Whidbey in 1794 and named by George Vancouver after his birthplace, King’s Lynn in Norfolk, England. More than 2,000 feet in depth, it is one of the deepest and longest fjords in the world, and the deepest in North America outside Greenland.
Juneau, Alaska’s capital, is accessible only by air and sea, due to the rugged mountain terrain that surrounds the city. It has been a world-class travel destination since the early 1900’s. The city has plenty to offer the outdoor adventurer. You may choose to explore on foot along the Perseverance Trail or around Mendenhall Glacier, or board one of the many local whale-watching boats, or view the mountains and extensive glaciers of the Juneau Icefield from a helicopter.
Although founded by Alaskan pioneers, this area was in use for thousands of years by the Tlingit people and was originally settled by the Auke tribe, taking advantage of the abundant food and natural resources provided by the land and sea. Their descendants continue to gather clams, gumboot chitons, grass and sea urchins to this day.
Originally named Harrisburg in 1880, after the gold prospector Richard Harris, the name was later changed to honor his partner Joe Juneau.
A short distance south from Alaska’s capital of Juneau, where Holkham Bay cuts into the coastline under a dramatic back-drop of high snow-capped peaks and the verdant Tongass National Forest, lies the entrance to Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness.
From Holkam Bay, the waterway is bisected into Tracy Arm to the north and Endicott Arm to the south. Each arm terminates at a stunning blue river of ice: North and South Sawyer glaciers in Tracy Arm and Dawes glacier in Endicott Arm. It is hard to imagine that thousands of years ago these now-distant glaciers joined in Holkham Bay, more than thirty miles from their present locations. Extremely active, the glaciers calve frequently, filling their fjords with icebergs, some three stories in height.
Brown and black bears, wolves, deer, mountain goats, seals and many seabirds frequent this vast wilderness region. Designated as a wilderness area in 1980, Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness covers an area of 653,179 acres (264,000 hectares) — and one fifth of its area is covered by ice.
One of the straightest stretches of the Inside Passage is the Stephens Passage just south of Juneau, a 105-mile channel between 5,000-foot peaks that cuts through the Alexander Archipelago between Admiralty Island on the west and the mainland and Douglas Island on the east. It is a good place to be on deck, because Admiralty boasts more bears than people, and the spruce and hemlock forests come right down to the water. The Passage is generally considered some of the best whale-watching water in Alaska, and also holds plentiful populations of huge Steller sea lions, as well as flocks of gulls and guillemots that clatter aloft as the ship passes. The passage was named by George Vancouver in 1794 after being charted by Joseph Whidbey.
Decision Passage is the western end of the Sumner Strait, which runs through the Alexander Archipelago into the Pacific Ocean in Southeastern Alaska, bounded on the north by Kuiu Island and Cape Decision, the location of a 1932 lighthouse. This is the route your ship takes when coming from or going to the colorful historic community of Sitka on the west coast of Baranof Island, which was originally the Russian fortress town of New Archangel.
One of the thousands of islands of the Alexander Archipelago, Wrangell Island sits at the heart of the Tongass National Rain Forest and receives approximately 80” (203 cm) of rain per year. The city of Wrangell, a true Alaskan frontier town, sits at the northern end of the island, a short distance from the mouth of the mighty Stikine River. The history of Wrangell is deeply rooted in the Tlingit people, the fur trade and the gold rush. The Stikine River trade route brought the Tlingit people here thousands of years ago, evidenced by some forty petroglyphs at Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site and Totem Park.
The Stikine River, Shakes Glacier and Anan Creek Bear Observatory are highlights in the region. Anan Creek boasts the largest pink salmon run of the Inside Passage, attracting brown and black bears in great numbers. Wrangell was named for Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, a Russian explorer and administrator of the Russian-America Company during the mid-1800’s.
The 108-mile Behm Canal runs from the Clarence Strait through the Alexander Archipelago of Southeast Alaska, and into the channel separating Revillagigedo Island from the mainland. It forms part Inside Passage on the route between Ketchikan and the Misty Fjords National Monument. The canal was named by George Vancouver during his surveying expedition in 1793, in honor of Magnus von Behm, who had been governor of Kamchatka in the Russian Far East when Vancouver called at Petropavlovsk with Captain Cook’s expedition following the Cook’s murder in Hawaii.
Scottish-American naturalist John Muir compared the 2,294,343-acre (930,000 hectare) Misty Fjords National Monument to his favorite place in America, Yosemite National Park. Often shrouded in mist, Misty Fjords is a true wilderness.
Its vertical granite cliffs, which reach 3,000’ (900 m) above sea level, descend another 1,000’ (300 m) below the water’s surface. Carved by glaciers and covered in a green carpet of mosses and lichens, Misty Fjords receives more than 150” (381 cm) of rain per year. Western hemlock, Sitka spruce, and western red cedar dominate the prolific vegetation along its shore. Mountain goats, brown and black bears, coastal wolves, sea lions, bald eagles, ravens, Dall’s porpoises, orca and humpback whales can be spotted along its shorelines and throughout its waters.
Long before the arrival of John Muir, the Tlingit people lived and moved throughout this region, surviving on what the land provided. Evidence of their historic and ongoing presence is recorded in the many pictographs found along the shores of Misty Fjords.
Misty Fjords National Monument is a section of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska’s extreme southeastern Panhandle region. The monument consists of over two million acres of deeply cut fjords cradled in U-shaped valleys between mountain ranges rising 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea level. The fjords themselves extend as much as 1,000 feet below the surface. These granite ranges are covered with virgin forest, and most of the monument is also a dedicated wilderness area. Misty Fjords inspired the explorer John Muir to proclaim them among the most beautiful places he had ever seen. Your ship will cruise among these spectacular forests, waterfalls and mountains. The onboard Ventures by Seabourn team will offer optional excursions including kayaking the fjords and a short sightseeing floatplane flight.
Prince Rupert, set amongst the coastal mountains, is the jumping-off point for travelers joining the coastal ferries to Haida Gwaii, Vancouver or north to Alaska. Highlights include the quaint Cow Bay with its shops and restaurants, the Museum of Northern British Columbia, the totem carving house or the stunning sunken gardens.
Prince Rupert certainly has abundant wildlife. Whether you join a local boat for whale-watching, hike along the Butze Rapids or take a scenic flight, you are sure to be pleased. The region is home to the highest concentration of grizzly bears in North America. The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, established in 1994, was the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzlies and their habitat.
Founded in 1910, the town was named for Prince Rupert, who was a governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670. Prince Rupert is the northern terminus of the Canadian National Railway and an important port for goods moving towards Alaska.
Grenville Channel is a long, well-protected channel along the northern British Columbia coast between the large Pitt Island and the mainland. It is an important shipping lane, and you are likely to see ships of many different types and sizes as you pass through. The shores are mountainous on both sides, with two notable peaks about halfway through, Mt. Batchellor on the east side and Mt. Saunders on Pitt Island to the west. There are a number of Indian Reserves and Marine Parks in the mountains and narrow waterways off the channel.
Whale Channel is a picturesque waterway separating Gil Island from Princess Royal Island in British Columbia’s Inside Passage. Surrounded by snow-capped mountain ranges and teeming with marine life, It is a diversion from the main shipping lane, located roughly halfway between Prince Rupert and the First Nations village of Klemtu.
The Princess Royal Channel separates the largest island along British Columbia’s coast from the mainland. It is located roughly halfway between Bella Bella in the south and Prince Rupert in the north, in one of the province’s most remote areas. Princess Royal island was named in 1788 by Captain Charles Duncan, in honor of his ship, the Princess Royal. The island is uninhabited, although there are two small villages in the channel, the First Nations community of Klemtu on Swindle Island and Hartley Bay on the mainland. Wildlife, by contrast, is plentiful, including Kermode, black and grizzly bears, deer, wolves and foxes. Golden and bald eagles nest in the region, as well as the endangered marbled murrelet. In the waters, there are abundant salmon, elephant seals, whales, orcas and dolphins.
Located on the now-dormant Alert Bay volcanic belt, Cormorant Island is host to Vancouver Island’s oldest northern community, the small town of Alert Bay. It is located in the traditional territory of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation and today is a blend of both aboriginal and pioneer culture.
A walk along the shores of this tiny 0.69-square mile (1.8 sq. km) island will amaze you with its history, spectacular views and abundant wildlife. Remnants of its former fish-salting plant from the 1800’s remain along the harbor. The U’mista Cultural Centre is Canada’s longest-running First Nations museum and home to the famed Potlach Collection. This collection of ceremonial regalia was confiscated for preservation by Canadian authorities in 1922, and finally returned to the community during the 1980’s. Seabirds, humpback, orca, and gray whales, sea lions and white-sided dolphins are all present in the surrounding waters. Alert Bay was named in 1860 for the Royal Navy ship HMS Alert which conducted survey operations in and around the region.
Johnstone Strait is a well-protected shipping route passing 68 miles/110 km along the northeast shore of Vancouver Island between the island and the mainland of British Columbia. The strait is between 1 ½ miles and 3 miles wide, and leads from the broad Georgia Strait through a narrow channel called Discovery Passage. The strait was named by Vancouver in 1792 for James Johnstone, the master of one of his tenders during the survey expedition that revealed Vancouver Island to be an island. There are no cities or towns on the strait. The Johnstone Strait is the summer range of a large pod of seasonally resident orcas which are frequently seen in the area.
The Seymour Narrows is a 3-mile/5 km stretch of the Discovery Channel north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia that is notorious for the strength of the tidal currents flowing through it. The average width of the narrows is just 750 meters. During extreme tides, the current through the narrows is subject to severe Venturi effect, resulting in an increased velocity that can reach 15 knots. For much of its modern history, there was an additional hazard in the narrows called Ripple Rock, a shallow obstruction that claimed no fewer than 119 ships and 114 lives. In 1958, after months of tunneling and preparation, Ripple Rock was blown up in the largest commercial, non-nuclear explosion ever recorded in North America. Still, the navigation of Seymour Narrows is dependent on tidal and other conditions, and requires skill and technical accomplishment.
Your Seabourn Alaska cruise reaches its end back in Vancouver.