Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blips on the Radar; More about Currents; Wrangell

Blips on the Radar Might Not Be Boats

Last week, we left an anchorage in fog with 1/4-mile visibility. We turned on the radar. There were the islands nicely 1/2 mile away on the port (left) side. However, every once in a while, a blip appeared in front of Raven Song. I looked and looked but could not see a boat. Just kept looking. Then Urs took over and I folded laundry. Suddenly, Urs yelled, "You've got to see this!" The fog had cleared and there was a humpback lunge feeding! That was the cause of the blip on the radar screen. When he came up with a mouth full, he appeared on the screen; when he went down for another bite, he disappeared. I watched for another couple of minutes. He came up completely out of the water for a beautiful breach!

The Current in Frederick Sound really is Unpredictable Sometimes

We found that the ebb current went from Dry Strait around Frederick Sound towards Chatham Strait but the flood current often did the same, at least in the eastern part of Frederick Sound. A couple showed us their book on the currents of Southeast Alaska. There is was officially in black and white, "Flood current in Frederick Sound is unpredictable"!! One arm of the Stikine River flows through Dry Strait. So when there is a lot of water flowing in the Stikine, the flow of the river may be stronger than the flood current. So there it is.

This couple also told us that the Stikine affects the currents into Wrangell, which was our next port of call. Again river flow increases the ebb. The only sensible time to go into Wrangell is on a flood.

When Opposing Currents Meet

We headed south from Petersburg through Wrangell Narrows on the way to Wrangell. Fishing boats and Alaska ferries traverse the narrows but not the cruise ships. The narrows are well marked but can be quite narrow and dredging keeps the depth at 25 to 30 feet. The length of the narrows is 22 miles long. About half way through, the current meets water from the opposite end and from there on flows in the opposite direction. So with careful timing, it is possible to go in with a favorable southward flood from the northern end and, when the current changes, pick up the southward ebb on the southern end. It is nice to have the current with us all the way.


Downtown Wrangell
We had two gloriously sunny days in Wrangell. Wrangell has the feeling of a sizeable shipping and fishing port as well as a town out of the wild west. The Tlingits are an important part of Wrangell heritage. The local Tlingits were the most powerful natives in Alaska because they controlled the Stikine River, which was a lucrative trading corridor with the interior. We walked to Petroglyph Beach, where a friendly dog "helped" us find the petroglyphs. Then we visited the museum and learned more about the local natives. We walked around town, stopping at all the totem poles. And we got permits to go into the bear-viewing area Anan on Friday. We got glacier ice from the Le Conte glacier from a local nature guide. That will make a nice gin and tonic for happy hour.

Totem Pole in Wrangell
Petroglph of Orca
House Pole from Chief Shakes House
Old Totem Pole
House Wall Based on a Chilkat Blanket

Old House Pole from Chief Shakes House
Totem Poles at Chief Shakes House (under construction)
Chief Shakes House Under Construction

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