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The Hubbard Glacier is the largest, and one of the most spectacular tidewater glaciers in North America. Its ice cliffs, some 400’ (121 m) tall, calve icebergs into the fjord, which may frequently be larger than a five-story building. The glacier’s surface is creased and contorted, resembling the wrinkled skin of a giant elephant. Records show it has been growing in thickness and advancing since 1895. This stands in stark contrast to other glaciers around the world, most of which have been receding during the past century. In 2002, the glacier blocked Russell Fjord for two and a half months, raising water levels 61’ (18 m) and threatening local communities with flooding.
Nutrient-rich waters along the glacier face attract many species. Gulls and kittiwake colonies adorn smaller islands and harbor seals patrol the icy waters.
In 1890, Israel Russell explored the area of Yakutat Bay and Hubbard Glacier, naming it after Gardiner G. Hubbard, a financier of his expedition and a founder and the first president of the National Geographic Society.
A stroll through the streets and National Historic Park of Sitka is a glimpse into its unique and colorful past. A blend of Tlingit and Russian cultures defines this first capital of Alaska. Although fish canning and gold mining were the initial catalysts for growth in Sitka, the construction of an air base during World War II truly paved the way for Sitka to come into its own. One of Sitka’s most intriguing structures is the Cathedral of Saint Michael, built in 1848 to honor a Russian Orthodox bishop.
Sitka’s history begins thousands of years ago with the Tlingit people and their use of the land for sustenance and spirituality. Old Sitka, located just north of the present-day settlement, was founded by Russian-American Company trader Alexander Baranov in 1799. Originally named Novo-Arkhangelsk (New Archangel) under Russian rule, its name was changed to Sitka after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867. Sitka is a Tlingit word meaning ‘by the sea.’
One of the thousands of islands of the Alexander Archipelago, Wrangell Island sits at the heart of the Tongass National Rain Forest and receives approximately 80” (203 cm) of rain per year. The city of Wrangell, a true Alaskan frontier town, sits at the northern end of the island, a short distance from the mouth of the mighty Stikine River. The history of Wrangell is deeply rooted in the Tlingit people, the fur trade and the gold rush. The Stikine River trade route brought the Tlingit people here thousands of years ago, evidenced by some forty petroglyphs at Petroglyph Beach State Historic Site and Totem Park.
The Stikine River, Shakes Glacier and Anan Creek Bear Observatory are highlights in the region. Anan Creek boasts the largest pink salmon run of the Inside Passage, attracting brown and black bears in great numbers. Wrangell was named for Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, a Russian explorer and administrator of the Russian-America Company during the mid-1800’s.
Prince Rupert, set amongst the coastal mountains, is the jumping-off point for travelers joining the coastal ferries to Haida Gwaii, Vancouver or north to Alaska. Highlights include the quaint Cow Bay with its shops and restaurants, the Museum of Northern British Columbia, the totem carving house or the stunning sunken gardens.
Prince Rupert certainly has abundant wildlife. Whether you join a local boat for whale-watching, hike along the Butze Rapids or take a scenic flight, you are sure to be pleased. The region is home to the highest concentration of grizzly bears in North America. The Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary, established in 1994, was the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzlies and their habitat.
Founded in 1910, the town was named for Prince Rupert, who was a governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670. Prince Rupert is the northern terminus of the Canadian National Railway and an important port for goods moving towards Alaska.
Johnstone Strait is a well-protected shipping route passing 68 miles/110 km along the northeast shore of Vancouver Island between the island and the mainland of British Columbia. The strait is between 1 ½ miles and 3 miles wide, and leads from the broad Georgia Strait through a narrow channel called Discovery Passage. The strait was named by Vancouver in 1792 for James Johnstone, the master of one of his tenders during the survey expedition that revealed Vancouver Island to be an island. There are no cities or towns on the strait. The Johnstone Strait is the summer range of a large pod of seasonally resident orcas which are frequently seen in the area.
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The Seymour Narrows is a 3-mile/5 km stretch of the Discovery Channel north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia that is notorious for the strength of the tidal currents flowing through it. The average width of the narrows is just 750 meters. During extreme tides, the current through the narrows is subject to severe Venturi effect, resulting in an increased velocity that can reach 15 knots. For much of its modern history, there was an additional hazard in the narrows called Ripple Rock, a shallow obstruction that claimed no fewer than 119 ships and 114 lives. In 1958, after months of tunneling and preparation, Ripple Rock was blown up in the largest commercial, non-nuclear explosion ever recorded in North America. Still, the navigation of Seymour Narrows is dependent on tidal and other conditions, and requires skill and technical accomplishment.
The humble beginnings of the City of Vancouver, in the settlement of Gastown on Burrard Inlet, rose out of the old growth forests and the sawdust of the old Hastings Mill. Its location between the Pacific Ocean and the snow-capped coastal mountains creates one of the most idyllic settings of any city in the world. As a world-class city it has the best of both worlds, intermingling urban sophistication with a sense of wilderness and outdoor adventure. Whether you are exploring Vancouver’s diverse downtown core, strolling through the giant trees of Stanley Park or taking in the 20 miles (30 km) of uninterrupted waterfront trails along the seawall, you are bound to fall in love with Canada’s third largest metropolitan center, which is consistently ranked as one of most livable cities on earth.
In 1886, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached Vancouver, completing Canada’s ‘National Dream’ of a connection between east and west, and opening up new trade routes between Asia and Europe. The city was named for British captain and explorer George Vancouver.
Seattle, a city on Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, is surrounded by water, mountains and evergreen forests, and contains thousands of acres of parkland. Washington State’s largest city, it’s home to a large tech industry, with Microsoft and Amazon headquartered in its metropolitan area. The futuristic Space Needle, a 1962 World’s Fair legacy, is its most iconic landmark
Your ship will anchor off this picturesque town nicknamed The American Riviera, set on slopes rising from a handsome sandy beach to the steep backdrop of the Santa Ynez Range. Much of the local architecture cleaves to the Spanish Colonial style dictated by the Mission that marked is founding, with adobe-styled facades and red barrel-tiled roofs. The Mission is a functioning church, and the older sections comprise an interesting museum of California’s earliest days as a Spanish colony. The County Courthouse, just off the central State Street shopping area, is a more recent exemplar of the style, ornately finished with colored tiles and handsome murals. Its tall clock tower, with a fascinating visible clockworks, is an excellent place to take in views of the whole city and the dark Channel Islands basking in the shining sea offshore. The harbor, where your tender lands, is a working fishing port, as well as a tourist attraction with restaurants, yacht services and a maritime museum. At the other end of the yacht marina and past a short beach, Stearns Wharf extends to an assortment of restaurants and souvenir shops. Just beyond the mountains, one of California’s most famous wine-producing regions awaits, as well as the picturesque Danish community of Solvang.
Cabo San Lucas is ideally located where the Mexican desert collides with the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, producing postcard perfect views. Once a hideout for pirates and a tranquil fishing village, Cabo is located at the southernmost tip of the magnificent Baja peninsula, and is blessed with what many describe as the perfect climate. Long a favorite for anglers out to land the “big one,” Cabo San Lucas has great beaches, unlimited shopping options, restaurants and cantinas, and a variety of hotels and resorts. Cabo is also known for El Arco, a magnificent natural rock formation at Land’s End and Playa Medano, Cabo San Lucas’ long white sand beach.
The nine glistening bays of Huatulco were virtually unknown outside the state of Oaxaca until the first coastal highway was completed in 1982. Now part of Mexico’s ‘Master Plan’ to develop certain coastal areas into premium resorts, Huatulco may one day rival Acapulco and Cancun in the competition to attract tourists from around the world. The pleasing subtropical climate, fine golden sand beaches and warm waters certainly won’t disappoint.
The principal town of Costa Rica’s Gulf of Nicoya, Puntarenas gives access to several of the nation’s ecological reserves, including the Monteverde Reserve, as well as highlights of the highlands such as the famous woodcarving center of Sarchi and the distinctive highland town of Grecia with its metal Gothic church. At the nearby Carara National Park, visitors can see the “Pura Vida” waterfall, some 650 feet high and keep an eye out for brilliant Scarlet Macaws.