Right now, somebody is sitting in shorts, sweating, wishing for a cold drink on a sweltering day… but it certainly isn’t any of us. It may be August, but hot chocolate is the drink of the day here in Southeast Alaska. With fishing boats materializing from dense fog as we pulled into Petersburg on this Friday the 13th, and cold rain falling steadily around us, it didn’t seem like the most auspicious start, but our intrepid bunch was ready to brave the cold and wet to explore the varied and exciting facets of Petersburg and Kupreanof Island. After all, rain and cool temperatures are suggested in the name of the temperate rainforest, and it is worth the price of admission to explore this rare, beautiful biome.
We didn’t explore in half measures either. If we were going to get wet anyway, we might as well do it all. So, we biked through the historic town noticing aspects of Norwegian and Tlingit cultures, scrambled up a muddy mountain, meandered amongst the sundews and other strange plants of the muskeg, and cruised the docks in Zodiacs, chatting with the local fishermen and hearing their stories. Larry, a kind angler on a gill-netter not only shared his story, but also gave us a pink salmon, caught yesterday, that he was intending to use as bait, so that we could dissect it with our Global Explorers.
As we headed back to the ship, we harkened to the sounds of pigeon guillemots calling to each other as they fluttered beneath the docks and floated around the hulls of large purse seiners hoping for snacks. Sea lions caught salmon in the middle of Wrangell Narrows, flinging them back and forth to tear their meal into bite-size chunks as opportunistic gulls swooped in looking to steal a morsel.