14th Unlock the Past Cruise: Days 4-5 Paw Chocolates, Icebergs, a Whale and an Aurora

Continuing on my report of the Unlock the Past Alaska cruise … and we’re up to day 4, and there was more exciting happenings!

Monday – 10 September 2018 (Skagway, Alaska, USA)
It was another super stunning weather day with blue skies all round. I heard a fellow cruiser say that they never expected to get sunburnt in Alaska … but they did! We docked at Skagway early and those on tours made their way off. Many went on long train rides which certainly was one way to see the place.

the LOOONNG train at Skagway

I didn’t have any tour booked, so wandered ashore, then took a shuttle bus to the town for a walk around with my mum.

selfie with my mum

To say that this town looks like it’s out of a western movie is an understatement. It really, truly does! You can totally imagine gun fights happening in the streets. Well I can anyway!

the main street … looks just like a Western right?

One thing that fascinated me was the painted rocks near where we docked. They were painted with a ship name, and usually the captain and often a date. So there’s me thinking what a fabulous (but rather unusual), genealogical source they would be. Proof that your seaman captain was here at that date! Now if I could just find one that related to my seaman ancestor dating back to the early 1900s! Hmmmm.

the ship banners are painted right up high

a close of up a few of the painted ship banners

Anyway the town of Skagway was full of little shops, most selling jewellery (despite what the vintage sign outside said – obviously they were just for looks). I did find a little store selling chocolates, and each variant was a different “paw” type. I bought a few but then remembered I wasn’t meant to bring food back on board, so had to eat them quickly!

paw chocolates

a pretty view of our ship

she’s big!

As it was a tourist day, there weren’t any talks on until the evening, when Dick Eastman had a talk on ‘Genealogy searches on Google’.

During the evening there was talk about a possible aurora. While I wasn’t prepared to stay up till 2am, I did stay up and fortunately it appeared around 11pm, and kept ‘dancing’ and moving for maybe 12-20 minutes. That was exciting. I’ve never seen one before, and aren’t likely to any time soon (unless I get down to Tasmania).

a pic of an aurora

While my photos really don’t do it any kind of justice, you can see a smear of bright green in the sky, with the silhouette of mountain in front of it. Still I saw it, and I have some kind of photographic evidence of it too. So YAY!!

Tuesday – 11 September 2018 (Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska, USA)
I was still kinda on a high from seeing the aurora last night, and maybe that’s why I didn’t sleep so well … whatever the reason it was good, as it meant I was up before 6am on my balcony watching us sail through icebergs in the the Tracy Arm Fjord. Ooh another first for me … ICEBERGS!

I managed to take about 180 or so iceberg pictures. Do you know how hard it was to cull those down to show you these few! So you’re getting the teeny-mini version here.

Anyway my roommate Helen and I stayed out on our balcony for several hours watching the sun rise, and the icebergs glide past, and even seeing some seals and birds on them.

the stillness was incredible

sunrise from my balcony


another iceberg

dirty iceberg with seals on it

pretty iceberg

iceberg with seals

and still more icebergs

We sailed the fjord for most of the morning, though apparently didn’t get the the end as the icebergs were getting too big, and the captain didn’t want to re-enact the Titantic scenario.

During my lunch in the Windjammer (buffet area)  I (along with a heap of others) was fortunate enough to see a whale. So yet more excitement. YAY! And I even managed to get a fin of it on camera. So ta-da …

fin of an orca whale

Ok so it’s not the super-pod that the whale-watchers saw on their tour, but it’s still cool. But trust me, if you ever get the chance to go whale-watching DO IT! The only thing I regret about my trip is that I didn’t do the whale-watching tour.

Talks were scheduled all afternoon, and the two I went to were
– Is it true?: The Facts, Fun and Fiction of Family History (Michelle Patient)
– Cornwall’s People and Emigrant: Where did they go? (Susan Brook)

The DNA Panel with the topic of “DNA Ethics and More” with Helen Smith, Maurice Gleeson, Cyndi Ingle, and Michelle Patient was held in the evening and it was so engrossing it went way overtime, no-one wanted to leave. But it was a really good discussion on numerous aspects of DNA and ethics. 

the DNA panel. From left: Helen Smith, Michelle Patient, Cyndi Ingle and Maurice Gleeson … Helen asks a question and the others are deep in thought about it

The cruise continues, with still more to see and places to go … so stay tuned.

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