Monday, August 11, 2008

Alaska '08 Day 58, Sitka

Fri Aug 8, 2008

When we were up at the Sitka National Historical Park visitors' center on Wednesday they told us the carver there, Tommy Joseph, was raising a totem pole Friday at noon in the state park. So we went down to the park about an hour early to watch. A big crowd showed up. The totem is a memorial to nature photographer Michio Hoshino who was killed by a bear in Russia some years ago. It was commissioned by his family and they asked the state if it could be placed in the park (it is in Halibut Point State Rec area, on the beach). The ceremony had some Japanese songs and prayers and Tlingit songs and prayers, a real mix of cultures. A Tlingit tribe that befriended Michio spoke as well as the tribe whose land this traditionally was. The ceremony kicked off a little late and went until about 2:00. At the end of the ceremony anyone who wanted could help pull the ropes. They had a log saw horse to pull it up to and ropes behind and on either side so it could be adjusted in any direction. It went up real quick and then they did a little adjusting side to side and it was done. The totem had symbols of the things Michio photographed; a bear, humpback and caribou.

The kids kept themselves busy on the beach during the raising by chasing shore crabs.

We walked through the National Parks' Russian Bishops house. You had to go on a 30 minute tour to see the upper furnished floors. It had been a long day for the kids today so we skipped the tour and wandered through the first floor which is a small museum. The building was built in 1843. It is a log hewn structure and was used by the church until the 1960s when it became too much for them to maintain. In 1972 the Park Service took possession and started restoring it. The construction is really interesting. The logs are hewn square with tongue and groove corners. It was built by Finnish shipwrites and logs are joined with shipwrite joints that allow the wood to flex, shrink and expand which probably explains how the building lasted so long. The floors and ceilings had two layers of wood with sand and gravel insulation between. Really interesting.

We walked around downtown. Its obvious they get a lot of cruise ships. For such a small town they had as many souvenir items as Juneau, just not as many stores.

We toured the Russian Orthodox Church. This one was far bigger than the one in Kenai or Juneau. This one also has many more icons.

Left the campground around 8:30PM so as not to deal with the entrance road in the dark. The ferry came in to Sitka (from Juneau early) so they loaded us around 1AM, left around 3AM. The boat backtracked most of the way to Juneau, maybe so they don't ever go onto open ocean. We stopped at Kake at 11AM,
Petersburg at 4PM, Wrangell at 9PM and Ketchikan at 3AM.

- Jon


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