"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Yakutat Journals, Chapter Fourteen Minus One

(NOTE: No, I didn't skip a chapter and you didn't miss a chapter. I finally figured out how to write the final chapter of this Yakutat saga and not have it numbered thirteen.)

Chapter Fourteen Minus One: In which we leave Yakutat on a high note--except for my sleeping bag

JJ is the kind of person who loves to explore unnamed back roads. As a result, we found this place a little ways out of Yakutat. Besides the beautiful water, the first thing that caught our attention were all the bald eagles soaring around in the sky or perched in the trees and on the rocks.

An immature bald eagle. The head and tail turn white at three or four years.

A little investigation led us to a dock with this view:

That curving black line is a school of herring.

In this picture, the fish are swirling around.

And guess who's trying to catch dinner?

Hit and run...er...hit and fly.

Shucks. Next time I'll catch one.

We watched the eagles for a long time, then headed off to Chris's lodge to check into our room.

JJ chose to sleep downstairs to give her surgically repaired knee a break. I went upstairs. This place could have slept a dozen people. It also appears my Big Agnes sleeping bag has taken up permanent residence there because it wasn't with my gear when I boarded the ferry for the trip home. E-mail her, you suggest? Yakutat has neither cell phones nor internet service. I did call, though, to no avail so far.

Next morning we were at the ferry dock at 7 a.m, but had watched the ferry come right by our room earlier.

On board, the deck crew tied down all the vehicles.

We checked into our rooms and this time had to carry our sheets and blankies to our rooms by ourselves. All the smart stewards were out of sight.

Our room was the farthest to the left, just before the shed roof woodshed.

Part way across the Gulf of Alaska, we approached Kayak Island and this is where history jumped up in my face again. Today Kayak Island has an unmanned, automated lighthouse. The island is twenty miles long and averages two miles wide.

In 1741, Peter the Great of Russia selected Vitus Bering to chart the Siberian Coast and search for a land bridge to America. Bering's voyage led to the coast near Yakutat, where he spotted and named Mt. Saint Elias. Traveling north, they saw Kayak Island, and sent a landing party.

On the landing party was a zoologist named Georg Stellar. He collected plants and birds not seen in Asia or Russia. Named after Stellar were a variety of sea lion, the Stellar Jay, as well as eiders and eagles. He also made the first sighting of what became known as the Stellar sea cow, a relative of the manatee, which became extinct several decades later due to over-hunting.

(Those little white spots in the large area of forest, right center, is the lighthouse location. Click to enlarge the photo.)

Bering's name is applied to the Bering Sea, where the Discover Channel's series about crab fishing there is filmed. And, the Bering Strait, which separates Asia from North America also is named after the captain.

British explorer Capt. James Cook recorded seeing Kayak Island in 1778.

Eventually, though, it was bedtime for us latter-day explorers and this time I didn't have nightmares about seizures throwing me to the floor. We arrived in Whittier about 6 a.m., and it was raining.

But, I think I mentioned that in the first chapter, didn't I? Because it always rains in Whittier.

The End of the Yakutat Journals.


  1. loved the journal but absolutely intrigued by Kayak Island. It's so different and beautiful. Thanx for another great journey.

  2. Kayak Island is quite extraordinary. Its ragged upper edge reminds me of the back of a type of lizard.

    I hope you're able to retrieve your sleeping bag. No doubt, you'll need it for future adventures.

  3. It has been a wonderful adventure! I've enjoyed seeing all the pictures and reading the stories so much that I hated to see it end. Thanks for sharing.