Adventuring on the Yakutat Forelands - Bowing before St. Elias
by Robert Glenn Ketchum
The Yakutat Forelands are where the Tongass rainforest and the Chugach forest to the north meet. It is also home to many large glaciers, a stunning coastline, the huge Alsek-Tatshenshini river, and Icy Bay, which sits at the foot of Mount St. Elias, the greatest vertical rise from sea level in the world. There is a lot of powerful energy out here.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Adventuring on the Yakutat Forelands - Bowing before St. Elias, #29:
The Yakutat Forelands, #29: As the minutes pass by, the sky grows increasingly clear. The Yakutat Forelands spread out before us all the way to the shores of the Pacific (far to the right). Aglow in this Alaskan twilight, the meadows roll off like fields of gold, punctuated by kettle ponds and various clusters of trees. Those are the same trees we were wandering around in at the beginning of this trip, when we stopped at our first cabin near the Alsek-Tatshenshini River. That IS the Alsek that you can see coming in from the left in this image, and winding its way to the coast. It is a VERY different view of things we have from up here. Beyond the Alsek, out of this frame to the left, are the numerous snow-capped summits of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, which are still engulfed in the clouds of passing weather. That weather is coming from the west, off of the Pacific and blowing eastward, inland. There is always the chance that the clearing sky above us and the ocean, might clear from those summits as well, but after a day like today, perhaps that is asking too much. OR NOT!
In 1993, I began traveling to the Arctic. I have been across The Northwest Passage by yacht; to the North Pole twice; to little-visited Russian islands; and aboard research vessels in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Baffin Island, taking the opportunity to visit Iqualuit, the capital of Nunavut, the recently created Inuit nation and territories.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
ARCTIC: At the Cutting Edge of Climate Change, #50:
ARCTIC, #50: Things are about to change, so viewing a map is once again useful. We have traveled to Cambridge Bay through the waterway that leads off the map to the left. Cambridge Bay is part of gigantic Victoria Island. For some time now our navigation has been relatively ice-free because we have been “protected” from the polar ice pack by the presence of that island to our north. As you can see here, when we leave Cambridge Bay, we are eventually exposed to waters that open to the north, and directly into the polar ice. It will be our first look at where we hope to find a route of passage. We will then continue east, slipping behind King William Island for a bit more protection. There is a two-fold purpose in this: one is that we hope to find more open water along the shoreline of the peninsula you see here that hosts the village of Taloyoak; the other is that John Bockstoce has “family” in Gjoa Haven, and we will stop there for an extended visit (several hours). In crossing from Cambridge Bay to Gjoa Haven, we will also bring on a helicopter and pilot that have flown out of Yellowknife to meet us. Things are about to get A LOT more interesting.
THE TONGASS: Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees
by Robert Glenn Ketchum
In 1985, I began a 2-year commission to explore the Tongass rainforest, the largest forest in the United States Forest Service (USFS) system AND the largest temperate rainforest in the world. It was a unique, old-growth environment under siege from industrial logging. The resulting investigative book I published helped to pass the Tongass Timber Reform Bill, protect 1,000,000 acres of old-growth, and create 11 new wilderness areas. This is the story of how that was achieved.
Tuesday, July 25, 2017
THE TONGASS: Stop the Cut, There are Salmon in the Trees, #48:
THE TONGASS, #48: We anchor toward the far end of the bay for the night, and there is a good bit of boating around in various ways before dark, as everyone wants to inspect the cove, look for game, or go fishing. As with many places that are new, it takes me awhile to absorb everything that is going on: the exploring; the numerous waterfalls; some shorline-scavanging bears we come across; eagles are everywhere (and their shrill cries echo around the fjord walls); and, the forest is dense and studded with very large trees. Back aboard “Observer” having had our evening adventure and dinner, I am sitting outside in a deck chair watching the sunset, and it suddenly dawns on me how big these walls really are. They are so lush with vegetation and so streaked by streaming falls, they are not like Yosemite, so much, as they remind me of the massive Garden Wall across which runs the Going-to-the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. Gut Bay could be a park by any standard, but here in Alaska it is just another deep cove on the map.
Thank you to the EPA for recognizing the value of the Bristol Bay fishery. NOW, what can we do to protect this habitat further? Mission: To protect the national parks and national refuges of southwest Alaska, and the Bristol Bay fishery from the development of the Pebble mine, and other commercial risks.