May 15, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion

In an unusual moment of madness, the sun decided to shine on us as we sailed into Petersburg, a small fishing village located near the terminus of the LeConte Glacier. Actually, the town owes its existence to the Glacier. The early settlers needed a good source of Ice for packing fish and the Glacier provided all the ice they needed.

Petersburg is a close community, it is like that in the most isolated northern towns, and people have no one else to depend on in times of hardship so necessity dictates a certain level of “one for all and all for one” attitude. Not that the people of Petersburg would not be good to each other if they did not live here, they are hardworking, down to earth, and most come from a strong Norwegian heritage. It’s the kind of place where it’s understood that a trip to the local barber means that your hair will probably look its best about a week after the trimming, and even the fanciest restaurant in town will offer fries as one of the standard sides to most meals. It surprises many visitors that at one time, Petersburg had more millionaires per capita than any other city in America. That was due to the abundant natural resources found in the inside waters of Alaska’s coastline. Crab, salmon, and black cod were and still are the main source of income in Petersburg. The title of most millionaires per capita no longer applies; Petersburg still has its share of millionaires. You would not know it from looking around you, here pick-ups and not Mercedes are the vehicle of choice, and the wealth of Petersburg is stored not in the local bank, but in the many fishing boats that fill the harbor. People here are friendly, and welcoming, and that is why we are here, to experience a different northern culture than the native villages we have been seeing in Haida Gwaii.

We have many choices of activities to choose from on our visit to Petersburg, a short boat ride across the narrows there is an exceptional example of a coastal bog that we explored. There were dock walks to examine the many species of marine life that cling to the pilings and floats. Flight seeing was a popular choice for our guests, especially given the good weather.  I offered a photo walk to document the town and its inhabitants, and then there were those of us who simply ventured out on our own, on bicycle or on foot. One especially enlightens program was a “Walk with a Local”, Becky Knight who gave us a more local view of the town.  However, we experienced this quaint little Alaskan town, none was disappointed.

The experience of visiting Petersburg however, could not be fully appreciated, without the sampling of one of the towns most prized contributions to the rest of the world, crab. Back on board the National Geographic Sea Lion, we celebrated the day by ending it with an all you can eat feast of Dungeness crab. Shells splintered, butter was drawn, and stomachs were satiated. Now we truly understand just how special the little town of Petersburg really is.

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About the Author

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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