Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Play Misty Fjords Me

We arrived today in Ketchikan, "Alaska's First City." Now it's the fifth largest, but still the "Salmon Capital of the World."

And the salmon are running, inexorably fighting their collective way upstream to spawn and die. You can see them jumping up out of the rivers and streams here all day long. Every part of the salmon is used, even the heads. (They are crushed and pressed down into Omega-3 oils, what the natives call "liquid gold.")

There are five different kinds of salmon and they each go by two different names. We were taught an easy way to remember them (see photo).

  • Thumb - rhymes with chum. (Chum Salmon) And your chum is your friend. And a man's best friend is his dog (Dog salmon).
  • Index finger - you can use your index finger to "sock your eye out" (Sockeye salmon). Doing that would leave your eye red (Red salmon).
  • Middle finger - your middle finger is the longest. It's the "king" of fingers (King salmon). It could also be called the "chief" of your fingers. The word for chief in the native tongue is Chinook (Chinook salmon).
  • Ring finger - you wear a ring on this finger, and it's often made of silver (Silver salmon). The Lone Ranger's horse was named Silver. So think, "Coho Silver, Awaaaaaay!" (Coho salmon)
  • Little finger - also called your pinky (Pink salmon). This type of salmon is also called Humpy salmon. There's just no mnemonic for that one, sorry.

So today we went out into the Misty Fjords National Wilderness Monument. That's Dad and I on the boat up top. Check out my blog's Facebook link (at far right) for more pictures. We left early in the morning and were afraid for quite awhile that they would be the "Foggy Fjords." (See other photo)

President Theodore Roosevelt declared this part of Alaska a national wilderness in 1940. By doing so, no humans are allowed to live there. Man is only a visitor here. Explorer George Vancouver first charted these waters, looking for a passage to the Northwest in the mid-1800s. His maps were so accurate we were told they were used until GPS services made them obsolete a century later.

It was unnaturally bright, sunny and warm day in Ketchikan. The city gets between 200-300 days of rain every year. The two previous trips I've made here were always overcast, misty/rainy and quite gloomy. Today we were told the natives prefer their gray, "watercolor sky" to this sunny stuff. Two weeks of no rain here officially qualifies as a drought and the streams dry right up and it's very, very bad for the salmon. And what's bad for the salmon is bad for Ketchikan.

Back onboard, Pop got his first acupuncture treatment, which has become a bit of a cruise treat for him (and quite efficacious, as well). While I was waiting for him, I sat in the card/game room and read and thought a bit and just observed. A cruise ship is a whole lot like a mini-United Nations without the politics. I watched a Chinese couple play Chinese Checkers, an Indian family play Monopoly, and a Korean pair play cards. The crew is equally diverse. I make it a point to read everyone's badge, which lists their home country. I've seen South Africa, India, Thailand, Philippines, Canada, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, and just about every place in between.

Forget America ... if you want to experience a *true* melting pot, take a cruise.


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/markmusings. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761. There will be a pop quiz on those salmon names at the end of the week.

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