A frozen sanctuary

Alaska the right way: 40 passengers, native crew, avoiding the path of the big ships. Also the cruise where I met my last boyfriend…

First published in the Sun Herald. To read the full article, click below:
A drift in a frozen paradise

Our native Alaskan expedition leader, Kevin Skeek, points out the place where the kilometre-wide mass is most likely to calve. We believe him – his Tlingit name is Kaadushtoo, which means “the breaking of the glacier”. Passed down from former leaders of his clan, it is also the name of one of the hanging glaciers in nearby Johns Hopkins Inlet.

Aged 30, Kevin is next in line as the head of the Chookaneidei clan of Hoonah. His ancestors lived here, in Glacier Bay, about 12,000 years ago until they were pushed out by the Little Ice Age of the 18th century. According to stories passed down to him by elders, an aggressive glacier moved “at the speed of a running dog”, crushing villages in its path as residents fled in canoes.

“The blood that has defended, cared for and witnessed the last 12,000 years of Glacier Bay pumps like the rhythm of a sealskin drum through my veins,” Kevin says. He shares his experiences and cultural knowledge throughout our cruise so we can appreciate that his homeland is much more than beautiful scenery with exciting moments of glacial action.

Nevertheless, when the calving happens, which is several times in an hour, we are thrilled by the thunderous commotion. The blue ice groans and crackles as a huge piece snaps off and plunges into the bay, shooting water hundreds of metres into the air.

Watching nature at work, creating an iceberg, is a privilege. Calving is so regular that an American couple on board say they can see a difference in the landscape since visiting only four years ago.

Howard, or Koo Hook, from the Wooshkeetaan clan, is the ship’s other native expedition leader. He tells me he prefers the Tracy Arm region because the coastline is more dramatic. “At a spiritual and ancestral level, Glacier Bay is the place that speaks to me, but in terms of sheer awe, Tracy Arm stirs up a heavier reaction,” he says. “It makes me look at the extremes that the Tlingit people had to endure, whether it was hiking these cliffs to get goats or navigating this waterway to find seals.”

First published in the Sun Herald. To read the full article, click below:
A drift in a frozen paradise

Trip notes

Cruising there: A nine-day Inside Passage cruise aboard the 42-passenger Alaskan Dream is priced from $US3339 ($3185) a person (twin share, outside cabin), including all activities, airport transfers, meals and a complimentary wine or beer with dinner. Free shore excursions range from bear-viewing hikes to visits to the Sheldon Jackson Museum and Russian Bishop’s House. A three-hour jet-boat ride down the sublime Stikine River is also included.

This year’s season runs from May until August.

More information: smallshipadventure.com, email info@alaskandreamcruises.com.

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