July 6th, 2016
We sailed from Beartrap Bay to Valdez today and touched at least four different cultures in our 57-mile trip. Prince William Sound has a longer and more varied human history than you would think given its remoteness and small population.
We sailed past the native village of Tatitlek, home of perhaps 40 Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) people. The ancestors of these people arrived thousands of years ago and still make this area their home. A resurgence of interest in native language and culture is preserving the oldest ways. The first European to set foot in Alaska was Georg Steller, the naturalist on Vitus Bering’s second expedition. He landed on Kayak Island, just outside Prince William Sound in July, 1741. He was the first, but not the last. The Russians built a fur trading empire in Alaska; they came to stay. In some ways they are still here. Tatitlek sports a three-domed Russian Orthodox church.
The British came to Prince William Sound later, and in fact they named it. Captain James Cook sailed into the sound in 1778 and named it after King George III’s third son. Yes, that King George, the one we fought the Revolutionary War against. And the Spanish came too, in the person of Don Salvador Fidalgo, who claimed the area for Spain in 1790. His claim didn’t stick but his cartography did. He named Cordova, and Valdez among other points along our route.
And now we are Americans, and we were busy today. The seine fleet was out in their dozens in Valdez Arm. Boats and nets and a flock of seine skiffs covered the water and they were hauling in the salmon. When we all crowded into Valdez harbor at the end of the day we were rafted 5-deep on the docks. The seiner rafted to Patos had pulled in 41,000 pounds of fish in nine net sets.
It was a good day for everybody!