Skip To Content
- Blog -

20 July 2017; Juneau, Alaska.

Either the weather gods were in a good mood or the forecast guru’s had excelled themselves but the weather was in accordance with the forecast. Even the wind did exactly as was announced. Gentle in the morning, breezing up between 1 and 3 pm. and then dying down again. Everybody happy and no worries for the shore excursion department. Even the whale tours were in bonus, as they offer this thing of money back if no whale is seen.  Mother Nature helped today as a whale swam conveniently into Gastineau Channel and then into Juneau Harbor. The exercising Lifeboats of the Princess ship docked ahead of us had quite a hard time staying clear of the whale, as it was quite interested in the boats. I do not know if whales can see color but if so, then I would have been curious as well as you do not see everyday orange things pottering around in your private bathtub.  I was in the water as well with my sailor class and I kept my orange thing far away from our inquisitive whale as it always results in paper work if you do otherwise. The sailors were mostly interested in the fact if you could eat whale. When I explained that it is supposed to taste like cod oil they lost their interest and continued to focus on how to dock with one engine if the other one was broken.

Although Juneau is the Capital of Alaska and thus home to a lot of civil servants and politicians it was always more or less the same size until the cruise ship boom started. And although a lot of people say that the cruise ships do not add much to the local economy I beg to disagree because since 1982 I have seen the city expanding with lots of large nice houses going up. That money has to come from somewhere and politics has not expanded, fishing has gone down and the Gold mine closed again after a brief reopening. Thus tourism must help and today we continued to do so with another full house with 4 ships sending over 10000 guests ashore, who were no doubt spending money all over the place. The cruise industry side estimates that each guest spends at least 125 dollars while ashore and that times 10000 is an amount that should make some people very happy.

And I think that some of those people have built new houses along Gastineau Channel, the entrance fjord which leads up to Juneau harbor. It is the only way in and out as just past the cruise ship docks they have built a bridge to connect the town of Douglas with Juneau and not far past it, the fjord becomes by shallow.

The port of Juneau with the connecting bridge to Douglas on the other side. (sourced from unknown location on the internet)

Getting and out is not that difficult as it is a straight channel, with only one bend and that bend is before we enter the port itself. It is not a natural bend; it is caused by all the rubble from the gold mine they dumped into the channel. In principle a good idea as it provides a natural breakwater for the port and on it they built docks and related. Everything that does not come to Juneau by airplane comes by barge and this is where the containers are loaded and off loaded. Just that the ships are much larger than when they built the rock dump as it is called.

The “outhouse” of Juneau Castle. Ventilation shaft remaining from the Goldmine days in Juneau. (sourced from unknown location on the internet)

That Gold mine gave rise to a nice story. Although the entrance is high above Juneau itself and now almost overgrown, the labyrinth of mine corridors goes all the way under the Gastineau Channel to the other side. When you come in you suddenly see a strange concrete little house sticking out. It looks a bit like an out house with the real house missing. In the 80’s we used to tell everybody that it was the last remainder of Lord Juneau’s Castle which was swept away during a heavy winter storm and indeed his outhouse was the last part left standing. 99% took it for gospel and were happy after taking a photo. The real purpose was that it was and is the top of a ventilation shaft from the mine all the way below. I only came once across one person who said: I did not know that they built castles from re-enforced concrete in the middle ages? That person was partly right and also completely wrong as Juneau only sprang to life in 1880 when gold was found.  Joe Juneau was only the first prospector here and was not much of a real Lord, being a French Canadian laborer who had come west to get rich.

Tomorrow we are in Ketchikan for a late morning arrival. The weather is supposed to change to what the town is famous for: rain and showers. But also the temperature is supposed to hit 16o C. or 61oF. and that is positively balmy for the locals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *