Saturday, June 4, 2011

Whittier alaska, is it pretty or Shitty? Well the answer is?

Don't laugh at the title of this post, as this is a common saying here, Is Whittier prettier or is it Shittier? for the lack of better words to descirbe it, indeed it has it's high points and it's low points to stake a claim for this quote. The high point being the gateway to one of Alaska's Crown jewels, "Prince William Sound" and the low point being somewhat of a railroad junk yard and shipping port. It seems port towns usual

ly seem to lack character, except of course in it's colorful residents. Since the permanent year round population is roughly around 120 people, and the summer population possibly grows to around 500, it is a small town with I am sure many huge hearts.

The saying goes be careful what you wish for, or what you ask the case of my choices for work this summer.. After spending several months last year working in Seward for the summer, I opted to try Whittier this summer ,a quarky little Alaskan town where you have to drive through a 2.5 mile tunnel that opens and closes in each direction for 1/2 hour, so you better time it right if you want to make a cruise or some connection here.... honestly it might not of been my best decision in life, yet I will do my best to make the most of this sleepy, funky, quarky and not so much of a "Town". Calling it a city is not exactly an accurate term, better yet, a junky fishing port with very little ambience. The main draw to this area is that it is the gateway to Prince William Sound. A majestic mountain ,and glacier clad area with the highest abundance of tidewater glaciers not only in North America yet the world. So can you guess why this area has so many glaciers concentrated in one area. Well if you guessed snow then you are pretty right on along with consistently mild temperatures where the warm Japanese air currents flow into to meet the cool Alaska air bringing in much needed precipitation in the form of that fluffy white stuff called snow. It takes an entire year for those tiny crystal like snowflakes to condense with all that movement and pressure to become "Firn" that stage of snow that is compacted over time to accumulate and form this marvelous jewel called Prince William Sound. Whittier is a fishing port and many fishing boats call this home. The town is host to roughly around 120 year round residents, who congregate and live in the rather humdrum and gloomy concrete building in town called Begich Towers. All these units are either privately owned condo's or apartments and also host the summer employees who come here to work on fishing boats, glacier and wildlife cruises and the big cruise ships that pull in here. The highlight is taking a 1/2 day or full day cruise out Passage Canal through Blackstone Bay to the Blackstone Glacier ,or on our longer trips to Surprise Glacier. Traveling through the numerous Fjords and passages you might spot some Wildlilfe along the way although not as abundant here as that of the Kenai Fjords National Park, where I worked and played last summer. Here in Prince william sound it is likely that you will encounter playful Sea Otter Rafts where a multiple of 5 plus Otters are lazily hanging out on icebergs or feasting on some tasy meal of Octupus or some other lovely sea creature of their choice. Not as many whales here, although on a few of our trips we have encountered a Juvenile Humpback whale, who in fact greeted me this morning as I was meditating on the waterfront. With my eyes close and breathing in and out I suddenly heard this big whooosh......... and was astonished and delighted to open my eyes to this whale, what an amazing way to start the day and on friday the 13th at that. We also have resident Orca pods who last friday spent several hours fishing and feeding also on the waterfront which delighted all those who were hanging out on a very rare sunny almost wind free evening. More commonly we have a few different types of Pelagic seabirds who come in for the summer to nest and breed with the Black legged Kittiwakes being the most abundant of these birds. Right outside of town their is a Rookery and our trips spend time there everyday observing their various behaviors such as peeling, fighting, preaning and more. Peeling is an amazing behavior as when an approaching predator is nearby such as Peregrine falcons or Bald Eagles, they suddenly in huge numbers peel away from the cliffs which is exciting to watch and looks great on video. So even though Whittier is a pretty shitty little town, I will make the most of my summer being busy with work, going out on the boats, some hiking and bird watching to fill my time.

Well I have managed not to go entirely stir crazy here, since I have worked almost every day with only two days off in the last 2 1/2 weeks. Due to staff shortage I am the only other person who knows the office functions besides our brand new manager who is also still learning the ropes. Since the weather is not always cooperating for hiking excursions, my only day off I ran to Anchorage for grocery shopping this week. Last week on part of a day off I went out on the boat. Fortunately that day the weather cooperated and we had warm sunshine and sapphire skies. Sea Otter Rafts graced us with their endearing personalities, a few in multiples of 20 so that delights the passengers. Prince William sound is not known for the same abundant wildlife Kenai Fjords has so we have to look a bit harder. Hopefully with the summer salmon runs Resident orcas will come through as they did a few weeks ago, and hopefully a humpback or two.

In any case the scenery is majestic and if it wasn't for that Whittier is nothing put a pile of crap and old buildings, they say be careful what you wish for. So for now i bid adieu til next time, hopefully something exciting to report.

Bonus Photos below:

Otters in the sound

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

prettier AND shittier.