Saturday, July 28, 2012

 

Alaska and beyond -- Salem & Portland, OR

The blogger (left) and his husband in the Wilderness Discoverer's skiff waiting to be taken on the final
exploration of the cruise.  

I recently filled out an evaluation and comments form that consisted pretty much exclusively of superlatives about the Alaskan cruise experience.  These small boat trips are not inexpensive but the directness of contact with the land, water, glaciers, wildlife and the chance to learn personally from the naturalists among the crew in areas that the huge cruise ships could not begin to navigate, is worth every penny.

On our tour of the engine room, by the way, we had also learned of all the regulations on garbage and used water disposal that our boat observed in order to keep the land and water of Alaska as clean and undisturbed by human presence as possible. 

It had been pouring rain in Juneau when we sailed, then the weather quickly cleared and we had perfect weather all week.  As we put in at Ketchikan the morning our cruise ended, it was foggy and raining--Ketchikan has an average of 280 days of rain a year.  I can't quite imagine living there and not going a bit crazy, but our waitress at dinner had come for a visit eight years ago and had never left.  The big cruise ships (at one time five were docked immediately adjacent to the downtown business district) fuel the town's economy during during the late spring, summer and very early fall before they sail south to ply the Caribbean for the winter.

Ketchikan has developed out into the waters of the straight on whose narrow shore it was founded as its fishing and tourist industries prospered and expanded.  All the buildings that you see and a good deal more behind have been built out over the waters of the straight.  We didn't tie up near the big ships that towered over the three story town but at a separate town dock a bit away from the center.  A courtesy shuttle took us to to a hospitality room from which we all departed to the airport or, in the case of the six of us, to our hotel as we were spending the day to explore the town.

Michael Rockwell (left corner), who collects and has good chops at interpreting the art of the Northwest, led us to the big totem park and cultural exhibit south of town.  This pole is a tribute to Abraham Lincoln.  If you look closely, you'll see that Lincoln, very tall in real life, is portrayed as having thighs but no calves or feet.  The photograph from which the native artist worked was framed only down to Lincoln's knees, so that is what the artist carved.  I wonder if the Tlingit people thought Lincoln was a little person.
   
 This pole on the other hand, is a pole of shame and humiliation.  The subject is William Seward, the Secretary of State who arranged the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.  Seward came to Alaska and was greeted by the native people with a huge Potlatch, a multi-day gathering of clans that was meant to honor all who came, and frequently meant the hosts expending all their wealth in the process.  However it was not a one way street -- reciprocation was part of the deal, the honored leader of the other clans was expected to match and indeed top the Potlatch at which he had been entertained, throwing one for those who had honored him.

Seward failed completely to make the expected response.  He simply packed up all the art, artifacts and other gifts he had been given, and sailed away.  He sits in shame forever on his pole, seated on a box representing all the crates in which he packed his swag when he gave the Tlingit leaders the cold shoulder.   


There were a great many totems, more than I could show in a regular post, but this one is interesting as it memorializes the death of a child.  The Alaskan inner passage has very high tides, around seventeen feet plus or minus.  The story is that villagers were harvesting clams one day and a child ran up to a giant clam and stuck his arm into it, causing the clam to snap shut and hold him prisoner.  The tide was coming in quickly and all efforts to smash the clam or cut it open had failed.   An animal skin was filled with air and put over the child's head in hope that it would be enough to sustain him until the tide retreated but, alas, when the tide went out the boy was dead.

After an enjoyable day in Ketchikan exploring Creek Street, the town's notorious red light district back in the 19th and early 20th centuries when it was a national scandal for open prostitution vigorously protected and indulged in by Ketchikan's mayor, we went out of town to an excellent dinner overlooking the straight and airport.  The next morning we flew out on Alaska Airlines to Seattle where we said good bye to Michael, Someone, Doug and Leon.  We then continued on to Portland Oregon and by rental car to Salem, about 45 minutes south.

My older daughter had asked if I would be willing to build a playhouse for my granddaughter like the one I had built for her and her sister when they were growing up.  That one was built out of exterior plywood faced to look like board and bat siding.   It was 4'x4' with a simple roof, three windows with shutters, and some pieces of children's furniture inside to entertain friends.

Since the idea of trying to put whole plywood sheets on the roof of a rental car wasn't all that appetizing and as I wouldn't have all my tools with me out there, I searched the web for play house kits, rejecting the cheap-looking plastic ones in favor of one made entirely of cedar that would look great in their back yard.  A lot of assembly was required but the diagrams and drawings that were the instructions (very similar to Ikea products, with which we are familiar) looked fine and I ordered it in time to be delivered before our arrival.

The instructions estimated assembly as taking three to four hours by two people.  I think we came in just under five, but that included working with my son-in-law to level a patch of the yard and install 16" square paving blocks as a base, covered by 5/8" lock-together rubber exercise floor tiles that I wanted so the children wouldn't be playing on rough concrete.  It also included regular delays to recharge his cordless drill because one of its two batteries was no longer functioning.   In any event, here it is.  Once we got the walls placed on the base we couldn't keep Sasha out of it, so delighted she was with it.  The roof was installed with her in it.

And here's the young lady herself, soon to be officially three years old at the beginning of next month.

From Salem, we drove back to Portland for lunch with a former student of Fritz's and then we drove high above the Willamette Valley to the beautiful home and stunning gardens (floral and vegetable) of Mark and Rodger, friends encountered first through blogging, then delightfully a couple of times since in person.  Once we settled there, it was off to Stephen and Rolfe's place back down in Portland in the wonderfully assembled interior of their house and the garden hideaway known as the Boys Fort. 

Rolfe, a theatrical designer like myself, redoes the house and the Fort at regular intervals, mostly out of objets trouvés that he selects, combines and deploys with great imagination and skill.  Above is this year's reconfiguration -- previous versions have included a small crystal chandelier hanging into this delightful outdoor room from an overhead branch.  I was hoping very much to see Rolfe's business, also called Boys Fort, that is now established in the Kenton district of North Portland after a tremendously successful birth as a pop-up boutique in Portland last fall and early winter.  Everybody loved the idea and off we went. 

Do visit http://boysfort.com for a look at the "eclectic male vernacular" garments, objects of all kinds, art of all kinds, and indescribably inventive things of all kinds purveyed by Rolfe and Jake France that  includes work by a variety of very hip Portland area artists.

From the Fort we went to a first rate Mexican restaurant with Rodger and Mark (L to R above) where I finally lost my Margarita virginity (and enjoyed doing so very much) after which it was back to their place for the night.

The next morning we flew back home across the continent and the vacation was over.

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This text appeared on Facebook and seemed WAY too good not to pass on.  Culturally, it is another indication of post-WWII attitudes about the dutiful wife making certain that all household chores are done and that she always looks just perfect, especially when her husband who has been working hard all day (as opposed to her, who has merely been cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing, sewing and taking care of the children all day) comes home expecting everything to be just as he likes it.  This is the blueprint for June Cleaver and all those other late 40s and 1950s wives in the print ads, TV shows and commercials who hang out the wash and scrub the toilets in their pearls, bouffant skirts and freshly permanented hair so they will always look perfect for their men. 

I wonder if the Singer instructions for 1949 also included any advice for men, like me and a lot of other guys I know, who sew regularly . . .  oh, wait . . .  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

 

Akaska Trip 4, after a slight detour

Fritz and I spent part of the weekend in New York City with a former student of his with whom we are very close. Theater, opera and good food were on the agenda; food and theater for the three of us, opera for me. We began with lunch at the West Bank Cafe on the corner of 42nd Street and 9th Avenue: excellent Cobb Salads for Elizabeth and me, Fritz opting for his beloved Quesadillas, and lots of verbal sparring with our charming gay waiter.

We then went to the Duke Theater for the matinee of Cock, the Olivier Award-winning 90 minute one act play by Mike Bartlett from the Royal Court Theater in London. Cock, although gay-themed, refers to far more than you might think: the play deals with a male couple struggling with their relationship after one of them, John, has been attracted to the point of having sex with a young woman and is seriously thinking about marriage and family. John is an eventually disabled bundle of denial and indecision as he spars with his lover, M; his sometime girlfriend, W; and M's father, F, who wants to reconcile the boys once and for all.  But John ends the play immobile, face-down in a fetal position, unable to answer a simple yes/no question -- speechless in an extremely verbal play.  Ironically, it is only John who has a name in this play, it usually being nameless characters who lack self knowledge.  

The set is an unpainted plywood replica of an ages-old design for a cock-fighting arena, going back to the Elizabethan period and beyond, in which spectators betting on the outcome watched fighting roosters tear each other to pieces.  There was no furniture beyond one small cabinet and almost no props.  An actor could leave the set by one of the two exits (above, left) or by simply walking up the steps (right) and sitting in the aisle until his or her next entrance.  Throughout, the proximity of actor and audience (enhanced by the all-enclosing seating unit) was very in-your-face; and there was virtually no "theatrical" lighting, either -- a bank of florescents mounted in a circular enclosure above the stage lit actors and audience almost equally.  We couldn't run and we couldn't hide.

The cast, pictured and named above, were outstanding under the play's original London director.

We had dinner at one of my favorite spots, Old John's, a lovely, small and blessedly quiet restaurant up near Lincoln Center, featuring excellent food and reasonable prices.  Fritz and Elizabeth went off on their own, while I went to the John Jay Theater for another long one act work, Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's Emilie, an 80 minute monodrama for soprano and orchestra about a most extraordinary woman.   

 Gabrielle Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet

Born in 1706, Emilie du Chatelet impressed her father with her mind so early that he arranged astronomy tutoring by the President of the Academy of Sciences at age ten and by twelve she was fluent in Greek, Latin, Italian and German, allowing her to translate many scientific and literary works.

She was highly musical, playing harpsichord and singing opera; and athletic, fencing and riding.  Her skills had, by adulthood, encompassed higher mathematics and physics as well as philosophy, on all of which topics she wrote highly respected works.  She was a passionate advocate for female education.

Married as a teenager by parental arrangement to an older man who fully supported her accomplishments, she invited her lover, the philosopher Voltaire, to live with her at her husband's chateau with his permission.  The great work of her life was a translation of Sir Issac Newton's Principia Mathematica with her own notations and further development, the standard French version of Newton to this day.  Her equation E ∝ mv²  she developed when she realized that v for velocity had to be squared thus becoming a very major milestone on the way to Einstein's E = mc² as well as a perfectly valid breakthrough on its own

Her level of education and importance of her work were unheard of for a woman of her time, and she was never admitted to any of the great Academies of France.  Voltaire called her "a great man whose only fault was being a woman" in a letter to Frederick the Great.  She died in childbirth shortly after finishing her Newton translation at age 43.

Mme. du Chatelet is the subject of a dozen or more biographies, three plays, and the opera Emilie by Finnish composer Kaija Saariato that I heard Saturday night.  The setting is Emilie's library/laboratory a week before her death, where she races to finish the Newton book while overcome with forebodings of imminent death due to her pregnancy (historically accurate).

The gorgeous production framed American soprano Elizabeth Futral with transparent screens that took all kinds of projections, and behind which she could go to "write" on with her finger, trailing animated projected lines behind to form diagrams of her findings.  The vocal line was at times beautiful, at times dramatic and craggy, accompanied by an orchestra which often paired harpsichord and marimba to accompany her thoughts.  Of the work's 80 minutes, I estimate Ms Futral was singing for no less than 50, maybe 55, in a big, shining soprano, and possessing the stage with passion and intelligence -- exactly like the woman she portrayed.

*********

Back to Alaska:  We took two tours of the workings of the boat.   The first was the engine room, a cramped, suffocatingly hot, punishingly noisy but immaculately clean and well-organized place.  Two massive diesel engines were roaring away and we learned a lot about the extensive electrical systems required to run a floating hotel.

The other tour was through the Galley just about all of which is visible in this picture where a highly coordinated staff turned out just over 100 meals three times a day.  From the Galley we went to see the freezers and refrigerators required to keep various foods fresh for an entire week as no restocking was possible between port of embarcation and port of disembarcation. 

A black bear cub on the bank of a fjord turned to look at us just before bounding into the forest.

 The main reason for proposing the trip was to celebrate Michael Rockwell's 50th birthday.  Galley provided a beautifully presented birthday fruit cobbler.

 We were taken out by skiff to explore frequently.  Among the main attractions were the breathtaking cascades, most of which originate in the snow caps up around 800 to 1000 or more feet in the mountains that loom above the fjords.  Our guide on this occasion said that this was his favorite cascade of all for the beautiful patterns in the rock.

A Polar Plunge was announced for one afternoon and three in our group decided to take it.  Depending on one's intestinal fortitude the plunge could be taken from the lower or upper deck -- Michael, Leon and David elected the upper deck in their brand new Sarah Palin Ts.

David, about half way down.  The plunge was taken very far aft so that the swim to the stern's boat docking platform was short and easy.  The crew and Captain, who had plunged first, were waiting to assist plungers up to the deck and into one of the boat's hot tubs if necessary.
 Michael, just surfacing.  There may not have been ice in the water in this location but the water was very cold indeed.  The entire cruise was filled with fun and the unexpected.

Friday, July 20, 2012

 

Alaska Trip 3

The main purpose of the cruise was to put us in contact with nature as often as possible with well-informed guides.  In our case, we also had a top professional entomologist (Doug) and a very knowledgeable student of geology (Leon) along with us.   

Columbines along the trail on our first nature walk, a hike inland from our landing place in the boat's skiff, to a fast running river coming off a glacier.  The hike took us through a wide variety of foliage, as well as a bog, and gave us a look at a porcupine, a small group of quail, and a ptarmigan (Alaska's state bird).

There's a story about the ptarmigan that was told us by a friend in regard to an Alaskan town that's become a prime tourist destination.  The original settlers wanted to call it Ptarmigan after the bird but nobody knew how to spell it.  After lengthy debate leading to argument, they gave up and decided that since the bird looked like a chicken they'd call the town Chicken.  It was a mining town and now has a very small population, particularly in winter.  In summer, however, Chicken, Alaska a big draw for tourists. 

Our guide and Leon working to identify a plant species.

A little red squirrel interrupted while eating by our group passing through his territory.

On our way to the town of Wrangell, a mountain top wreathed by a cartouche of clouds.  As soon as we docked at Wrangell, we hiked out to Petroglyph Beach.  At the head of the handsome ramp & stairs tower that allows easy access to the beach below, we were greeted by a big, friendly dog with a short piece of branch in his mouth who managed to captivate just about all of us into his favorite throw, chase and retrieve game.  He was tireless and incredibly friendly.

The main attraction on the beach is a rock outcropping famous for the carvings left by early people in the area.  Because the rocks are under water at high tide (tides ran around seventeen feet in the areas through which we sailed) no evidence survives among the rocks or on the beach to date the carvings or provide information about the people who carved them.  The most common motif was a group of concentric circles but the fan-shaped design above and the suggestion of a face, either human or animal (or perhaps something else entirely), below, were the most interesting I found.

When we were finished on the beach, we walked back into town and began to explore Wrangell in full celebration of the Fourth of July.  The town was essentially closed down and out in the streets where tents and booths had been set up, mostly selling food and patriotic items.  We had three goals, the restored house of a famed Tlinglit clan leader and the big museum of native arts adjoining his property; the Totem Park; and any shops selling T-shirts as the boat's crew had announced an ugly T-shirt contest for dinner time that evening.

The big disappointment was that the house and museum were closed for the Fourth.  We thought it strange at a time when people were coming into town for the Fourth to have so many shops, restaurants and historic sites closed on the holiday, but that's how Wrangell does things, so we headed to the Totem Park.

The park features four poles, modern reproductions of of historic poles commissioned by the clans that owned them.  Although the poles are made of cedar, they do deteriorate over time because of the frequent rains and winter freezing.  Reproductions are considered perfectly legitimate ways of bringing the art to future generations as long as they work is done by great artists who, in this case, were commissioned  to make the new poles with traditional hand carving tools instead of modern chain saws and power drills.

As I think I mentioned before, Michael Rockwell (Dr. Spo) knows how to interpret a great many of the symbols of the poles and their meaning depending on where on the pole they're placed.  The poles tell of clan history and legends.  When the Russians owned Alaska they, and especially the famous late 19th Century Archbishop of Sitka, appreciated native culture and understood that the poles were history expressed in art.  They fostered native arts and culture unlike the American Protestant missionaries who immediately assumed the poles were idols and did all they could to suppress them and the culture whose story they told, doing great damage to the native peoples in the process.

Poles with a large "box" on top, frequently an animal like this whale, are mortuary poles, the box containing the ashes of a distinguished person.

After exploring a bit of Wrangell and at least peeking in the windows of the museum, we went off in search of T-shirts.  We found two shops open on the street leading back to the dock area.  The first one featured some real winners, unquestionably ugly shirts but at $22.50 apiece, our enthusiasm for buying one for a single use faded fast.  Right outside the door of the other shop, however, was a rack of mark-downs, $18.99 shirts selling for $10.99 with one design, available in several sizes, that was an absolute standout:

We had a couple seconds of concern about offending or enraging any Sarah Palin fans but those concerns faded when the store owner greeted us at the counter enthusiastically, told us how happy he was to be rid of the shirts which nobody wanted, mentioned that Ms. Palin had visited the town and told us he "couldn't stand that bitch."  Jollity ensued, money changed hands and we were back to the boat to change for dinner.

Being a bunch of smart asses, and two of us with careers in performing arts, we knew how to stage an entrance, moving to our usual table in formation and with aplomb.  Word spread throughout the dining room and people came up to take pictures and joke with us.  Delightfully, the crew gave a prize to the best ugly T-shirt on a child (the cruise had a fair number of children, all superbly behaved during the entire week).  Appropriately, they gave the adult prize to a single person who had gone for one of the really UGLY shirts at the higher price.

But for us they announced the Group Dynamic Award and for the final days of the cruise we were known, humorously,  as "Team Sarah Palin."

L to R, Top to bottom: Fritz, Leon, Someone, Myself, Michael, Doug. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

 

Alaska Trip 2

A major feature of this rip was the chance to get together with two other couples, men with whom we originally became acquainted through my blogging, then all together at Key West one February several years ago.  The trip was originally conceived as a celebration of the 50th birthday of Michael Rockwell, who blogs as UrSpo, by his husband, known in the blogosphere as Someone.  But there were also a couple of anniversaries among us: Fritz's and my 15th, and Doug Taron (Gossamer Tapestry) and Leon Halloran's 30th (!), as well as a smattering of other birthdays including mine and a very significant one for Fritz.

Doug and Leon have been relatively frequent visitors to us in New Hampshire (Doug will go anywhere he can be guaranteed a major supply of bugs to chase and photograph) and we have an agreement that Michael and Someone will visit us before too much longer.  Traveling with them was a huge part of the success of the trip and fortunately, the comfortable dining room of the Wilderness Discoverer conveniently featured booths and tables for six. 

The boat had all kinds of gear for exploring and enjoying the magnificent, truly untouched landscape, bays and fjords we were visiting.  We all kayaked, and Someone tried out a paddle board which can be propelled standing like a gondolier, kneeling, or sitting -- he alternated the first two with aplomb.

On this particular day, the big adventure was the Baird Glacier in Thomas Bay.  In the skiff that's just about to cast off from the fantail of the big boat are, left to right, Doug, Leon, Fritz and Michael.  Safety was a major component of our travel and featured three different styles of life jacket: the big ones in the event of an abandon ship order which we kept in our cabins, similar but lighter models for travel by skiff, seen above, and a compact vest-like model for kayaking.   Our guides were all very knowledge about flora, fauna and the way in which Alaska had been (and still is being) sculpted by hundreds of millions of tons of ice and seismic activity over the eons.  Leon, who  has a great interest in and knowledge of geology, was a frequent resource as well.  

We arrived at this little river and began our trek to the glacier over these rocks, all glacially deposited.  As we left the skiff and waded ashore in our high boots, we heard a noise like thunder behind us and turned to see part of the 700 foot or so cliff behind us sliding down, part of Alaska's cycle of constant weathering and carving of rock.

Bare ground was succeeded by a beautifully carpeted area of mosses, lichens, mushrooms and wildflowers, about three inches deep and reputed by the crew to be very comfortable to sleep on.  A few baby Sitka Pines were just beginning to sprout.  It was lovely landscape and easy to walk.  It would soon end.

The Baird glacier sprawls out of the Stikine Ice Field and is one of the 95% of Alaskan glaciers that are currently receding.  It is still a formidable force, pushing ahead of it and out of its sides tall moraines, ridges of rock, sand and silt.  Once the mossy carpet ended, we were in a kind of Moonscape.

One of the moraines, a good twelve feet high, seen from the glacier's side.

We soon found ourselves on top of the leading edge of the glacier itself.  Most of us had taken hiking sticks from the boat and they were an immense help negotiating this section of the hike.  What you see is ice, mostly covered with rock but with concealed crevices and holes in it that required caution.  Then there is the beginning of what we had been warned was "boot-sucking mud" by the crew.  It is very fine glacial silt, rock ground not into sand but to a powder, mixed with rain and the glacier's own slowly melting ice to make a sticky muck that works exactly like quicksand.

If a boot got caught, it could not be pulled out by lifting the leg but had to be grasped by its top rim with both hands, preferably while someone else was holding you from falling over.  Several of the group got stuck and soon learned to step from rock to rock and keep together for safety.  Some of the mud was a reltively thin layer over solid ice and could be walked safely -- but you never knew.

The mudfield photographed from the top of one of the moraines, with the vastness of the glacier behind it.

It could be the high desert seen from above or the surface of a planet photographed by a space probe, but it is the Baird's deep mud swept into textures and patterns by wind and water.

Fritz and I in the skiff back at the Discoverer.  Each day's exploration was capped by really good food and wine, a wide variety of cocktails put together skillfully by bartender Shaun, and fine desserts.

End of day; moonrise over the fjord.

Friday, July 13, 2012

 

Alaska Trip 1

Wednesday we came home from a two week trip to Alaska and the American Northwest. We had done an Alaska Inner Passage cruise last fall and had a very good time. But this year there were a couple of important anniversaries and birthdays among us and two other close blogger friend couples; they proposed Alaska and I found a cruise company and ship that didn't duplicate any part of last year's itinerary. More to the point, it promised to be filled with kayaking, nature walks and a hike to -- as well as on -- a glacier. This was very different from last year, so we "signed on the dotted line." I'll spread the pictures out over several posts.

The Columbia River with one of its famed dams, shot as we began descending toward Seattle/Tacoma Airport.  Three years ago, we cruised the Snake and Columbia Rivers, passing through this dam's locks and heading to the Pacific Ocean.

We spent a delightful afternoon in Seattle with a friend for lunch, a visit to an outdoor market with a series of sculptures he loves -- like the one above, they all depict street signs with the black glyph springing out three dimensionally -- followed by a visit to the hill of the Asian Art Museum, it's great round tower and the incredibly beautiful conservatory.  Then, dinner with a couple of his friends, after which we spent some catch-up time with him before we turned in for the night.

Seattle's Russian Orthodox cathedral.  In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Russian diocese of Alaska actually stretched from Kamchatka in Siberia to Northern California.  The archbishop responsible for administering this immense diocese was headquartered in Sitka, Alaska -- but that was LAST year's Alaskan cruise!

We then flew to Juneau where it was foggy with rain, VERY Alaska in other words.  The next day we got together with our cruising companions Doug Taron and Leon Halloran from Chicago; and Michael Rockwell (the noted blogger UrSpo of Spo Reflections) and David Wright from the appallingly hot Phoenix, Arizona (118 degrees we were told on the TV weather).

We walked about a while and then took the tram 1800 feet above Juneau.  We hiked the trail around the mountain top, seeing this amazing bit of tree growth, which reminds me of nothing so much as Arabic script.

Ravens are part of the daily life of Juneau, lots of ravens with several different cries.  They enjoy sitting on ledges and cornices but always facing the building, not the street.  Alaskan ravens are good-sized birds who are also found on the ground with little fear of walking right up to you.

The Alaska State Museum has an excellent collection of native art, artifacts, clothing, tools and boats.  The masks were my absolute favorites.

The Museum also had a fascinating exhibit in documents, artifacts, art and photographs of the virtually unknown occupation of parts of Alaska by the Japanese in World War II.   

Came mid-afternoon and we boarded our boat at the Juneau City Dock (the massive cruise ships tie up at a promenade along the foot of the mountain).  The Wilderness Discoverer accommodates 72 passengers, has three pontoon skiffs and a fleet of kayaks.  If I recall correctly, she's 169 feet long and very nicely refitted just a couple of years ago.  The lounge/bar/dining area was roomy and bartender Shaun was both skilled and knowledgeable; he gave an excellent beer tasting one afternoon with detailed description of ingredients and brewing methods, none of the beers being from major American breweries whose products he (and most of those on board it seemed) didn't think worth considering.

One of our first adventures was to South Sawyer Glacier.  This picture was taken from one of the skiffs.  The brown silhouettes on the ice floes are harbor seals, comfortably rolling around in the sun.  Ships and boats of all sizes maintain a 1/4 mile distance from any glacier whose face is in water.  The Sawyer fjord is 800 feet deep, meaning that the glacier's ice extends 800 feet below the water line.  During our time by the Sawyer glacier, it calved chunks of ice three times from its face. However, had it calved from anywhere below the surface, the icebergs would have shot upwards (in fact, they're called shooters) and would have been capable of destroying most boats or seriously damaging them at the very least.  Thus the 1/4 mile stand back.

A bull harbor seal checking us out as the Discoverer left the glacier at slow speed so as not to disturb the seals as far as possible.

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