An earthquake, you say?

That was today’s unexpected announcement: that there had been a 6.7 earthquake “about an hour ago” in the Vancouver Island area, and there was a “possible tsunami warning”. Actually, by the time the announcement was made, the warning had been rescinded (or, as our Dutch captain pronounced it, “reskinded”) for our area. So: They though they might have to warn us about the possibility of a tsunami, but they decided that that was unnecessary. And that’s all the news they gave us, too. I assume that Victoria hasn’t fallen into the ocean, since we’re still sailing there, but other than that I have no idea how serious the earthquake was (or wasn’t).

But before all that happened: Ketchikan came bright and early this morning. The breakfast buffet in the Lido restaurant opened early, so that people could eat before going ashore: we were docked by 7:30, I think, and final boarding was at 12:30. It’s around 4:00 as I write this from the Atrium on deck 3, and we’re about to cross the international border to the mysterious land of Canada.

Seriously, there are very few Canadians on board,. We got invited to a “Canadians get-together” last night, and there were only about 25 people there…7 from our group. It’s mostly Americans on this ship, with some Aussies, some Chinese, some Brits, probably a few other countries that I haven’t noticed. But not a lot of Canadians.

So, Ketchikan. I debarked at around 8:30, I think. Within about 45 minutes, I was bored. The town was scenic but not really picturesque: it was gray (as is usual in these parts), so the sky was ugly, and you couldn’t get a clear view of a mountain without a warehouse or a store or whatever in the way. The shopping itself…well, this is the third town we’ve been in, and as much as I like soapstone carvings and ulu knives and things made from moose antlers, I’ve had my fill. I was just totally over-saturated with that sort of thing. Enough jewelry stores to last a lifetime, too.

(Funny thing is, in the very last shop I was in, they had some ulu knives that I liked, and I’m now really regretting not buying one. Oh well.)

So, I went for a walk. I had a couple geocaches programmed into my GPS and I used those to guide me. And as a result I wandered through some interesting parts of town that I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. I found two places where the wooden staircases serve as public sidewalks up the steep hillside. (My GPS shows these as streets, so I’m glad I wasn’t driving, or I would have been really annoyed.) Along the base of one of these cliffs, I saw evidence of just how wet this area normally is: the ground was soaked, water was running down the side, and the ferns and whatnot that were growing there just smelled wet. Alaska – at least this part – is much, much greener than I ever expected. Tongass (?) Forest is very green and very lush. I didn’t find the geocaches, but that wasn’t the point: I got a nice walk out of it.

And while I was walking, the sun broke through the clouds. Early in the day I had already heard some locals chatting to each other about how nice the weather was (i.e. it wasn’t raining and there was a little sun), but as the day went on, it developed into what our cruise director described as “the nicest weather in Ketchikan in history”). My mood improved in concert with the weather. I shot way more photos than I had remotely expected to in the morning, wandered through a little boardwalk district, and when we pulled away from port, I was sitting in a lounge chair on the observation terrace, watching the coastline drift by, and forgetting that I had ever felt even a little bit miserable.

(This was helped, of course, by the fact that a little earlier, I had gone to the dessert section of the Lido buffet, and when I asked the nice lady for a bowl containing a brownie, a chocolate chip cookie, a macadamia cookie, and vanilla ice cream, with chocolate sauce over everything, she responded with, “Certainly, sir; would you like anything else on that?” To whatever extent meals are ever clearly defined around here, that was lunch.)

And now, we’re done the Alaskan part of our Alaskan cruise. I’m done all my shopping: souvenirs for my three sisters (oooh!) and a nice jade seal for myself. I already mentioned I’m kind of regretting the lack of an ulu (and I don’t feel like describing what that is, so look it up if you’re interested). I was also kind of thinking of getting something carved from bone or antler or walrus ivory, but I didn’t see anything that really jumped out at me, and it was all a little more expensive than I expected, so, one less knickknack. Not a big deal. I was also really hoping to buy myself an ookpik, since I hadn’t managed to get one when I was in Churchill, but I haven’t seen even one. Probably the wrong sort of native culture for that. It’s all totem poles and billikins here.

(You can look that one up too. I have no idea if I spelled it correctly. My iPad doesn’t recognize it, but it wants to spell-correct “ookpik” to “lol ok”, so I’m not going to trust its opinion of Tlingkit words. And now I’m kind of regretting not getting a billikin, since they’re a lot more iconic of the area than a jade seal is, but they were always presented in a really cutesy touristy fashion so I’m suspicious of how authentically Tlingkit they really are.)

Man, I’ve written a lot already. I feel sorry for you people that have to read all this. Can you tell I have a lot of time on my hands?

We won the trivia challenge again…I think that’s the third or fourth time, though it’s only the second win that I participated in. We kept the champagne this time, and I got a deck of cards. The cruise director, who runs the trivia, claims he’s going to break up our team to keep things fair. Honestly, the one lady we play with knows most of the answers — there have only been a couple that she didn’t know but someone else did — so whichever team she’s on is a good bet to win.

This next story, you’ll just have to trust me because I don’t have pictures: during dinner tonight, we saw dolphins! The restaurant is right at the back of the ship, on decks 2 & 3. We eat on deck 2 at a table near the back so we have a good view of the sea. Right at the salad course, it became clear that something had been spotted behind us. Turns out, there were dozens of dolphins following the boat, on each side, leaping out of the water and chasing us. They really just seemed to be curious about us, and playing around. But there must have been about two hundred of them in the pod (do dolphins come in pods?). It was quite impressive; we’ve seen wildlife before now (yesterday, I saw a duck!) but this was by far the best sighting.

And finally, the boat’s Norwalk virus emergency seems to have lessened slightly. Nothing official – there’s still no cutlery on the tables, for instance – but in subtle ways, the crew seems to have relaxed. They’re not as aggressive with the Purell today. They’re not getting upset if you take your own sugar packet from the bowl instead of waiting for them to pass it to you. And, most importantly, they’ve rescheduled the Dessert Extravaganza for tonight at 10:30!

I’m still pushing elevator buttons with my elbows, though. Partly because I don’t want to get sick, but mostly, it’s fun and this is the first time I’ve had a plausible excuse to do it.

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Posted on September 9, 2011, in travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I laughed out loud at your last line. That’s a very Darryl-like comment.

    I had wondered if you had found some of the excursions, such as they were, boring, so it’s nice to see an honest post, though also great that the boredom was only temporary.

    I’m struck by the pictures of the towns. They remind me a lot of St. John’s, Newfoundland and surrounding towns. I wonder if that has to do with the fact that they are harbour towns.

  2. I don’t mind a long read, I’m nursing here, and am not in so much of a hurry. Also, I echo the ‘oooh’, and had a dorky chuckle to myself about the word ‘debark’. Isn’t that what grows on the outside on de tree? (rofl at my own hilarity…)

    Also, big grin at :yesterday, I saw a duck!

    What is with the mailboxes pic?

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