Dutch Harbor, Alaska
I don’t know if it was the excitement over seeing land again after 7 days or hoping to see snowflakes, but I was up & down all night. It was reminiscent of Christmas morning & looking for Santa Claus. When I woke up for the umpteenth time about 7:30, we were already tied up to the dock. Sunrise wasn’t until 8:18; so it was still quite dark. There was an ambulance parked right at the bottom of the gangway. Not a good sign.
The day started out overcast; but the sky did clear briefly for a beautiful sunrise. We were all to report to the Galaxy Lounge for immigration clearance. Forget the schedule that they had set up, we were in line for an hour. We learned later that the 2 immigration officers that came, flew in from Anchorage that very morning. Visibility was poor & flights were iffy. Add to that the fact that we arrived 5 hours earlier than originally scheduled, I suppose we were lucky that anybody showed up at all. Or else, we might have spent the day looking at ‘Dutch’ from onboard the ship.
I stopped at the Bistro at 10:15 for a capp to go; no sign of anybody. There’s Easter decorations all over the place. Baskets of dyed eggs; mylar balloons with funny sayings on it. I called Celeste’s cabin; but got no answer. Guess they already went ashore.
I went out on the aft deck while the sun was still out to take photos. There was an abundance of eagles soaring above & sitting atop boat masts & light poles. I never dreamed of seeing so many at one time; but it’s probably an everyday occurance here.
I wasn’t yet sure how I was going to structure the day; but I did know I was going to wait til after noontime to see if it warmed up a bit. Internet was too slow to upload photos; so I composed until Celeste called when they returned from ‘town’. She said ‘there’s nothing there’; & asked if I wanted to join them in the dining room for lunch.
Outside the entrance to the dining room was a large table, covered with plastic ‘grass’ & loaded with all shapes & sizes of chocolate candies. Celeste said that it had been picked over because the grass was completely covered when they came out after breakfast.
Lunch was outstanding. I started with an appetizer of steak quesadilla with sour cream, cilantro & salsa, followed by spicy garbanzo bean soup with eggplant croutons.
My entree was a half order of pasta farfalle with Italian sausage, ricotta with tomato basil sauce. This is one of my absolute favorites. And if that wasn’t enough....they had lychee sorbet on the dessert menu. AND IF THAT’S NOT ENOUGH, it started snowing while we were eating! Wow, this was just too good to be true!
I just had to go ashore; so I stopped by Celeste’s cabin to borrow her fuzzy boots & Bill’s ear warmers. When I walked down the gangway about 2, there was more light rain than there was snow. But it was COLD! I waited about 10 mins. for a ride. Here’s how things worked in ‘Dutch’. There is no tourist infrastructure, per se. We were at the mercy of the locals who were volunteering their time & vehicles to take us to the few places that might interest a first time visitor. There was a standard loop that they made, with drop offs at the Museum of the Aleutians, the Grand Aleutian Hotel (which had a gift shop & wifi), the Alaska Ship’s Supply across the street, the World War II Visitor’s Center, & finally the local school (where there was an Easter Pageant taking place at 2:45).
The flooded hotel parking lot
I had no intention of going into the museum or the hotel; I just wanted to ride around & see the scenery. That would not be easy from the back row of the van with windows covered with muddy slush. After several ‘loops’, when the van was empty except for me, I asked if I could move to the front to get better shots. That created the opportunity for me to learn about life in such an isolated town. The population is over 4,000; don't know where all these people might be hiding because it's very small. With the huge fishing industry here, there is only 2% unemployment. Because it is so remote, the cost of living here is 200% higher than in Anchorage (150% higher than the national average).
Everyone looks after each other; & everyone participates in the town’s business. Very few ships call here; & we were the first visitors they’d had since last summer. They were just coming out of a horrendously bad winter. I told Chris I was a big fan of the the TV show Deadliest Catch (the crab fishing fleet brings their load into Dutch all the time). I asked if any of the boats might still be here; & he said that the Northwestern was here. I asked where; & he pointed ‘over there’. I said, “I sure wish we could drive by there.” He said, he would if it was okay with the people he was about to pick up.
It was about time for the Easter Pageant to be over; so Chris started his pick ups back at the School. Another thing that the townspeople had done, they hid 100 Easter eggs along the 1½ mile roadway between the pier & ‘town’. Given the weather, I wonder how many Pax actually walked that path & searched for eggs. I think most of us just hopped on the van for a short stop at one of the few places open; & went right back to the ship.
The school auditorium
I wasn’t able to see everyone who was piling in at each stop; but it began to fill up pretty quickly. I turned around to address the elderly ladies that were sitting in the 2nd & 3rd rows, asking if they minded if we made a quick stop to look at a crab boat. They had no problem with that. It was then I realized that Elise & Kinsey were sitting way in the back. They are also Deadliest Catch fans. The wind had whipped up the snow again; & nobody really wanted to leave the warm van except for the 3 of us & Chris. Everybody was handing their cameras to him, wanting him to walk down this long metal gangway to take a photo of the boat.
There were about 8-10 boats at this dock. I had butterflies as we walked right up next to the Northwestern. The deck looked smaller than what we see on TV. Meaning, they probably use a fisheye lense that make things look wider. She looked like she’d taken a beating this winter; lots of dents, lots of rust. It was surreal standing inches away from the rack, the block.....all these things that have become so familiar. Only thing missing was Sig (dimples & all) smiling down from the wheelhouse. What a rush!
Elise & I marvel at the Northwestern
The Holy Ascension of our Lord Cathedral is the oldest (1825) Russian built church still standing in Alaska. A caretaker was clearing the sidewalk with a snowblower. Chris asked if the church was open; but it was not. We were told that it contains over 600 pieces of Russian art. The left side of the ‘front yard’ had a small cemetery with simple white Orthodox crosses (the kind with 3 cross boards) for grave markers. If you’ve seen the Orthodox cross & ever wondered why the bottom board is askew...there are 2 reasons. The lower cross was the footboard, which loosened as Jesus writhed in agony during crucifiction. The person that was crucified to Jesus’ right, was a believer, & therefore went to heaven. That is why the lower footboard is always pointed ‘up’ on the right side. Very poignant lesson learned on this Easter Sunday.
I began to feel sad about leaving this adorable little town as we made the last trip back to the ship at 4. Chris was the perfect host; & I hope he was able to tell how impressed we were with his adopted hometown. I couldn’t wait to share this experience with Celeste. I’m just sorry that she’s not going to come away with the same favorable impression that I have. I think if she had been in this van, with this group; she would have gotten a different insight into Dutch Harbor.
I went to the cabin to pick up the computer; & on to the Bistro for some hot chocolate to help warm me up. I was hoping that my friends would eventually turn up there so I could share the story with them. Celeste came in first, followed closely by Kris who had quite an adventure of his own to share. He had been out on the dock taking photos of 5 eagles that were hanging around this fishing boat tied up at our stern (the one I had been shooting this morning). Some of the crew saw him taking photos; & invited him onboard. They gave him the grand tour. Kris was as giddy with excitement as I was. And he got some outstanding eagle shots.
Then Betty & Pat came in, sat down; & we all admired his photos enlarged on my computer screen. They are National Geographic quality, in part thanks to this fantastic camera that the 3 of us now have. We continued to share our day’s activities until we set sail at 6pm. I rushed home to bundle up & go out on the aft deck & take photos as we left. It was still snowing, very windy; & the eagles were still hanging around when we pulled away from the dock. Capt. Glenn announced that it would get rocky again tonight.
Lizzie brought dinner at 8; & I showed her some of today’s photos. She told me that the ambulance this morning was for a man who had been experiencing heart problems the last several days. It’s a good thing he wasn’t critical enough to warrant evacuation at sea since it’s been pretty rough the last several days. That would have been a dicey operation.
I’m beginning to get my taste buds back; & dinner was outstanding. I started with an appetizer of pan seared scallops on spring pea puree & warm salad of clamshell mushrooms.
Next came a cup of cream of cauliflower soup with saffron & sun dried tomatoes. It was the ‘O’ word!
My entree was the braised baby lamb shank with creamy herb polenta & glazed turnips. Simply divine!!
I started editing the hundreds of photos I shot today. The ship is rolling very nicely here in the back. After an excellent meal & such an exciting day, I was beginning to fade. Turned in around 12:30.
Thanks to Kris for allowing me
to share some of his fabulous eagle shots!
And thanks to the crew of the Enterprise &
the wonderful people of Dutch Harbor.