All About Alaska Travel Pamphlet produced by the Pacific Steamship Company, c.1889
|Travel Pamphlet Cover, 1889|
"What there is in Alaska to admire:...you will see, admire, and pass through channels, straight as an arrow and of unfathomable depths, banked on either side by perpendicular and gigantic mountains, whose untrod summits are clothes in clouds and ice. But what will interest you most will be the Glaciers--glittering in the distance until you have an opporunity to climb on one.
"You will be amused at their totem poles--which are made by cutting down a good, straight tree, dressing it down to the desired size, then carving it in a very rude way, with figures of birds, Indian warriors, and other fantastic shapes...they are raised and planted on end before the owner's hut."
"Having arrived home: You will find your eyes clear and sparkling, your appetite keen, your step more elastic, your general health immensely improved. You will have lots of stories to tell of your experiences, which will make you the lion of your social gathering and the envy of those who stayed home."
|The Muir Glacier, in Glacier Bay, woodcut drawing from Picturesque Alaska|
The steamship enters Glacier Bay, and the entire world comes ablaze in light. The late afternoon sun, still high in the sky in early summer, throws its beams on every surface, and they throw them right back. The glittering deep blue of the sea, the mottled sky and clouds, and the pure, icy, crystal clear blue of dozens of glaciers, surrounding the bay on three sides, reaching the water and meeting the sky. The entire world was awash in the sparkling blue light, and the entire passenger population came up on deck to bask in the beauty of it. We docked at the port of Juneau, a small city on southeast Alaska. Home to native people, Russian settlers, as well as Americans in the fishing and mining industry, the town is growing, and quite easily accommodates our passenger ship with seafood restaurants near the harbor, excursions into the forested mountains directly encasing the town, and glacier climbing trips.
|Totem poles, woodcut drawing|
from Picturesque Alaska
|photo courtesy of ricksteveseurope.com|
The guides encourage us to purchase posters, etchings, jars of authentic "glacial silt," which is really just glorified dirt" in the visitor's shack. I politely decline, preferring instead my own mental image of that glittery world, the cool smoothness of the trek, the up-close details of the glacier's surface carved and etched into the ice. I do wish to purchase the ice spike I wear on my feet, but deny their practicality and move on, instead drawing a picture here of my best attempt. We returned to town chilled and hungry, but with a new appreciation for those enormous frozen rivers that cover this landscape.