Petersburg

Jun 25, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


We woke to an absolutely bluebird sky this morning as we sailed through Frederick Sound. The water was calm, and the journey was tranquil. We spotted one humpback whale in the distance, a few marbled murrelets, and two red-throated loons floating in the water. As we were sitting down to breakfast, we passed a channel marker with sea lions hauled out on it, warming in the morning sun as we entered the harbor of Petersburg.

Petersburg was established in 1897 by Peter Bushman, a Norwegian pioneer. When he saw the pure clean ice from LeConte Glacier could be used to pack fish, he built the Icy Strait Packing Company, with a dock and a sawmill. What began as his personal homestead slowly grew into a town, populated largely by other Scandinavians, and by 1920, 600 people lived in Petersburg. Today, the town boasts a year-round population of about 3,000 residents. Yet the history of this place began long before his arrival, with the Tlingit Indians living in the area 2,000 years ago. Today, about 10% of the population is Native Alaskan, combined with many families of Norwegian descent. It continues to be a stronghold for commercial fishing in Southeast Alaska.

After docking and breakfast, we began our full day of exciting activities. There were dock walks to learn about the marine life living under the docks and on the pilings, and a photo walk to capture the essence of a small fishing town with Norwegian history. Another adventurous walk provided was an aerobic hike. Others explored the muskeg bog to learn about the special plants that grow there. Flightseeing was a popular choice on this sunny day, as was free time to explore the town more, or spend some time relaxing on the ship. People returned from their hikes, walks, and flightseeing with smiles on their faces—a great time was had by all. We closed out a great day with a wonderful fresh crab feast of Dungeness crab as we sailed out of Petersburg back into the blue waters of Frederick Sound!

  • Send

About the Author

Brenda Tharp

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

For over 20 years, Brenda has used her photographs of the world to celebrate its beauty, and inspire others to protect what we have. Brenda grew up exploring the woods, lakes, and coastlines of New Jersey and New England and her family traveled regularly throughout the eastern U.S., camping, hiking, backpacking, and canoeing. She spent most of her childhood engaging with nature in some form or another and learning about animal behavior. When her father taught her some photography at 13, Brenda soon combined her love for nature with her newfound passion, and several years later her adventure began as a freelance photographer, teacher, and writer.

About the Videographer

Matthew Ritenour

Video Chronicler

Matthew grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, where a love of geography, culture and history were instilled at a young age. He studied anthropology at California State University, Chico, and soon began working at the Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA), a documentary production studio that focuses on sharing the results of anthropological research with the public. As a cinematographer and editor at ALVA, he documented research on everything from the effects of drought in California, to looted petroglyphs in the Sierra Nevada high desert, and the global trade in emeralds.

Get our newsletter

Join us for updates, insider reports & special offers.

Privacy Policy