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Featured

ADVENTURES

ALASKA: 2015 LEG 6 PRINCE RUPERT TO NEWCOMBE HARBOR

We left Prince Rupert by way to the wide southern channel this morning, steaming first past the bustling container piers, and then beyond past the towering grain elevators and mountains of black coal, all bound for China and other flung ports of the world. The radio squawks out the voices of sailors speaking the mishmash language of the merchant marine, a colorful blend of English, Thai, and Tagalog with an Indian inflection.

The channel broadens and we enter the log strewn waters of Chatham Sound. The eastern shore is a maze of mudflats and sandbars born from the sediment laden waters of the Skeena River, our course takers us well to the west, past rocky Greentop Island and Holland Island, where in 1946 the lighthouse burned to the ground, and today the new automatic light sits atop the charred and cracked remains of the original foundation. Soon after, the whimsically named Lawyer, Client, and Bribery Islands slid by to port. We’re not sure why these got the names they have, but it’s interesting to speculate on their perhaps bitter origins.

The narrow Chismore Passage between Porcher and McMicking Islands was home today to small flocks of Rhinoceros Auklets and pairs of Pacific Loons, who took long takeoff runs as we passed by, their ungainly bodies skipping over the wave crests.  All around us, the steep slopes rise straight from the water, their upper reaches lost in the drifting mists. The forests grow inexorably here, and trees sprout from bare rock at the limit of the high tide.  The thin soil and huge winter storms here collaborate to regularly topple larger trees and the holes they leave in the canopy are rapidly filled by saplings, oftentimes sprouting from the fallen trunks of the trees which preceded them.  These cycles of storm and growth can mean in many cases that the trees which make up these old growth forests rarely live past 300 years before they are toppled by conspiracies of the elements. Combined with the heavy logging in this region, all of this translates into large amounts of driftwood, which wash across these narrow channels with every shift in the tide, necessitating a constant lookout.

Newcombe Harbor is a long inlet tucked into the hills off of Petrel Passage. Mergansers and Canada Geese forage under overhanging alders at the water’s edge and kingfishers scream as they flash from perch to perch. At its head, three low valleys direct three clear streams into the bay. The creeks gurgle under fallen trees and across black stone under the canopy of a dense forest of Western Redcedar, the trunks and roots buried under thick layers of moss.

The crew of Eldean joined us aboard Deception for dinner as yet another calm evening enveloped us at anchor. Fog drifts past the mouth of the harbor, contrasting with the colors of the sunset above.

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