Alaska (The Ferry 2)

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A special hello goes out to all my new friends I met on the ferry, MV Columbia;
Andrew Deutscher, Alissa Turtletaub, Catherine Ness, Joe Mediati, Amy Tippery, Joan Copeland, Christine Olsen, J. Reece Edwards, Suzie Dale

A special thanks to Captain George M. Brereton, Lavena Sargent, Julane Martin, and the whole crew of the MV Columbia 
You people are so wonderful!

Starting on September 03, 2002, 9:26:28 PM

What a very special moment we had on this night. The northern lights came out as they had so many times before on my trip. Just never had we seen them quite a brilliant as they were this evening. Now I have enhanced these images just a bit but this is close to what we all saw. Only the images here just don't do them justice as they did, in fact, dance across the sky and display an amazing light show. The crowd on the deck of the boat made all the normal "OOH's" and "AHHH's" as the lights changed and then, at their peak, they just suddenly shimmered up into the night and filled the whole sky with light. The crowd let off a big cheer at the wonders that we all had just experienced. People were grabbing their cameras right and left. Many people were disappointed in the fact that they wouldn't be able to capture this awesome sight. Many people kept asking me, as I took picture after picture, if I was able to capture anything. I was able to set the camera for the longer exposure setting and get some of these pretty neat shots. Some of the larger versions of these images might make for some neat shots that I will have to check out when I get home. It did make me wish that I had a better camera that I could have set up with an even longer exposure but I was still pretty happy with what I saw. With the movement of the boat it might have been a little difficult to get much clearer shots than these.

I was trying to make sure I had some sense of relativity with the horizon in the background.

Then this was a shot looking directly up as the light seemed to converge into some sense of a center point.

Later on I got some shots as the light had faded more and eventually my camera couldn't catch too much more but the light seemed to remain throughout the remainder of the evening. 

Then, just as I had thought everything was over I saw the glow on the side of the ship. I looked and thought that they had turned on some sort of flood lights along the water. A bright blue light was shining from the front sides of the ship and also to the rear. Some people said that it was the violuminescence or bioluminescence of the water. I was a little confused because I had never heard of this. At first I thought that people were trying to fool me but then, upon further investigation I felt so stupid. The light I was seeing was actually from the water itself. With phosphorus in the water it actually glowed from the agitation of the boat. These shots were taken over the side near the bow as the ship broke through the water.


Then to the rear as the motors and propellers churned the water about it looked just like some huge blue flood light was shining to the rear of the ship.


I tried to follow the water as it drifted behind the boat but could only catch certain blurs and couldn't completely capture this amazing spectacle.

We had stopped and docked at several ports along the way and was able to leave the ship for short periods of time. We had a stay at Sitka, AK where we all took a trip into town by bus. That's where we realized that we had just been had. The town was about 6 or 7 miles from the dock so we had no choice but to take the $7 bus ride. We got there in time to go to a restaurant and sit down and order our food. We had to leave before we could eat it so we got it wrapped up to go and ended up eating it on the boat. Later down the waterway we ended up stopping at Petersburg below. There was some problems with the boat so we had a longer stay than expected while they made repairs.


Below is a representation of the many airplanes in the area. Most of these places are only accessible by boat or by air so there's usually lots of planes with pontoons on them. Kind of funny, the yellow plane below, looks like a toy in this picture.

Below you can see the port of Petersburg.

Then, since we had taken so long in Petersburg we didn't get a chance to go ashore in Wrangell so they played a funny video of Wrangell in the video room. You know, one of those videos describing "WRANGELL, THE JEWEL OF THE SOUTHEAST!!"


So we got to wave goodbye to Wrangell, the town we didn't really get to see.

The sun was beginning to set as we pulled into Ketchikan where many of us took a walk into town. Several people made their way to the local grocery store while others made a bee-line to the liquor store.

I got these shots of the port just prior to our departure.

I had made my way into the lounge area where I found a piano there. I asked the bartender, Julane if I could play and she said yes. I played for a while. The piano was an old baby grand but it felt good under my fingers. It felt good to play a real piano again. It was quite a bit out of tune but I had the urge to play, nevertheless. Afterwards she thanked me as did the crowd as they clapped to show their appreciation. Or their happiness that I had finally stopped. Either way, I got my comfort and relaxation from playing. The next day I had decided to have dinner at the restaurant on the boat. The staff bought my dinner for playing the piano and I guaranteed that I would play more after dinner.

The kitchen staff came in to the lounge area to listen to me after they got finished with their tasks. 

On past Ketchikan we had no more stops along the way since we were passing Canadian waters. They did have several more car deck calls while people went down to tend to their pets that were all locked away in the vehicles below. I surely felt some sympathy for some of those poor animals when the people took them ashore they sure did display a sense of relief.

The shoreline along Canada was quite nice and it made me wonder as we passed by how some of these people must live. What they must be doing right now. What a day in their life might be like. 

This ship here passed by and I thought of why it was shaped like that. Somebody said that it was a tree hauling ship. They would most likely lower the boat further into the water by taking on water in tanks and then pump it back out to raise the ship back out again.

Little islands dotted the path along the way and the scenery would change here and there from nice smooth mountains to more radical peaks. 

Another day was passing as the sun was setting on our last day on the ferry.

We had heard a call that there were some Orcas just ahead so we all climbed out to see if we could catch a glimpse of them. We couldn't see anything but the approaching sunset became even more impressive as we went along. Then, just beyond the horizon above a mountain I saw an interesting sight. There just at the top was this tip of a rainbow. Almost avoiding to be recognized as a rainbow there was only one spot of brilliant color giving an almost magical appearance as if we were looking upon some land from a fairy tale.

I got this shot of our solarium neighbors, Joan and Christina.

Then I caught my friends Joe and Catherine enjoying the view.

Enjoying the sunset myself I snapped off several more pictures as it drifted us into the darkness. 


I had decided to go back to the lounge area to play the piano some more that evening. As I was playing the captain came down and talked to me for a while. He thanked me for playing and told me to come up to the bridge the next morning to look around and visit. I played on for a while when Julane came over to me and told me that the captain said I could go into the dining room again and have dinner. I did and enjoyed my visit with the staff in the kitchen again. The server, Lavena Sargent was so very much fun to be around and had such a wonderful personality. There was a group of elderly people celebrating a birthday for one of the men and they also offered me a slice of their cake since I had been playing the piano earlier. I had a great time and thank everybody for their kindness and generosity.

Early in the morning Andrew and I went up to the bridge to visit with the captain. That was a nice special treat to se all the equipment. I loved the radar equipment as you could adjust the sensitivity enough to pick up birds and floating debris in the water. Pretty fancy stuff. As we were approaching Bellingham we went back down to our solarium home and packed up our things to get ready for departure. 

Finally pulling into Bellingham, WA, a few hours later we all unloaded off the boat and many went their separate ways. Many of use exchanged information and some of use went to a local restaurant to have breakfast together.

I highly recommend taking the Alaskan ferry for a ride of a lifetime and surely if you want to avoid that long drive. Like so many other adventures along my trip I would surely love to visit here again.

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