Ketchikan

I see from my first post on this trip that I planned to write it up sooner.  Well, I won’t go into details here but 2018 has been more chaotic than I expected.

Before I talk about Ketchikan I’d like to add some more comments on cruises, from my notes in transit.  As I mentioned in the first post, we had 4 hours a day of seminar lectures and rehearsals.  They were very interesting and I always like to sing, but the ship’s management on this round apparently wasn’t nearly as cooperative as the ones on the first cruise, and our assigned rehearsal space was an empty bar, and the only seating was backless padded hassocks.  The area also had very poor lighting and very loud air conditioning.  Lynne put up with that for about 2 days, then moved us to the other end of the bar, a quieter location with better seats, on the principle that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.  We stayed in the new spot for the rest of the trip. 

I also have a note about formal nights, when everyone was supposed to dress up for dinner.  In most cases this was just nice dresses and sports jacket, but I swear one formal night I saw a man in white tie, tails, top hat, and a cane!  He didn’t sit at our table.

On to Ketchikan, where I opted for the walking tour of the town.  All the Ketchikan photos here, and a number of others, are in my photo gallery Ketchikan, which you can see by clicking on the link.

Ketchikan’s harbor is very small, and looks even smaller when it’s full of cruise ships. 

The Grand Princess in Ketchikan harbor

Our tour guide met us at the harbor, a very nice young man called Kelly.  I regret that I’ve forgotten his last name.  He looked pretty Anglo to me, but he introduced himself as a member of the Tlingit tribe, and I assume he knows.  He was certainly very fluent in the customs of his tribe, as well as the history of Ketchikan.  Here’s Kelly:

Kelly, our walking tour guide

You can’t take notes when you’re walking around a town, but I seem to remember that the land around the Ketchikan harbor was originally much smaller.  It seems that when the white settlers wanted to build a building, they drove pilings into the ground below the water, and put the building on top of the pilings.  This is one of the 2 oldest buildings in Ketchikan, originally built on pilings and originally used for a hospital.  The interesting point is that it’s several blocks back from what is now the harbor front.  Somehow Ketchikan has extended out into the water.

Oldest building in Ketchikan, built on pilings

The other oldest building is the Episcopal church, which was also built on pilings.  Click on the link to see it.  Getting back to the harbor, there are some interesting things along the harbor front.  One of the first things you see is the Thundering Wings statue, a wood carving.  The name “Ketchikan” is believed to come from the Tlingit word “Kitschk-Hin” which means “thundering wings of an Eagle”.

Thundering Wings carving

The gallery also has a photo of it from the rear, which you can see in the gallery if you like.  There’s also the Ketchikan memorial statue, known as The Rock.  It’s quite a complex carving and I had to take 2 photos, both of which are in the gallery.  Click on the link and you’ll see a whole site explaining all the figures on both sides, but here is the front of The Rock.

Front of The Rock, Ketchikan

From this photo you can see that Ketchikan is built on a very hilly shore, which is possibly why they put everything on pilings and extended it out into the water. 

Ketchikan harbor from the Grand Princess

The hills are very rocky, to the point that this wooden staircase is an official city street, called the Front Street Stairway:

The Front Street Stairway is a city street

People have addresses on the Front Street Stairway.  It isn’t the only one like this but it’s the most easily photographed!  Here’s the part of Front Street that isn’t so rocky it needs a wooden stair (probably built out on pilings):

Front Street, Ketchikan

A lot of the walking around we did was to look at various totem poles around Ketchikan.  According to ExperienceKetchikan, there are over 80, but since our tour didn’t go to the Totem Heritage Center, we only saw two, which I photographed as well as I could.  You can get the full height or the details, but not both.  Here’s the one closest to the docks, the Chief Kyan totem pole at Whale Park.

Chief Kyan totem pole, Whale Park

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Thunder Eagle carving (see above) is also considered a totem.  The 2 other photos, of the Chief Johnson totem, are in the gallery.

While we were looking at totems, Kelly told us a story about Tlingit customs that I reproduce here, from my notes.  I found it fascinating.  If a Tlingit person reads this and it’s wrong, I apologize in advance; I wrote my notes on his story from memory, later that evening.

Kelly is a totem carver himself.  But by custom, if he wants a totem for his own house, he can’t carve it himself.  And he can’t hire a carver from his own clan, which is Eagle.  He has to hire a carver from the Raven clan, and he has to offer the carver (I assume, a man) a 4 year contract, during which Kelly will house and feed the carver!  While the carving is in progress, Kelly and his family will be accumulating the gifts they will need for the potlatch they’ll have to throw when the pole is ready.  When it is ready, the carver’s family comes over and raises the post to a 45° angle, at which point they begin to negotiate the amount of gifts needed to raise it all the way up!

Further, if the negotiations fail in any way, the payer’s family must gather enough gifts to pay for and raise a “shame pole.”  Then they must gather enough gifts to justify removing the “shame pole.”  Behavior that causes the raising of a “shame pole” is never mentioned again after the pole is removed.

After we looked at the totem poles, we went on to tour Creek Street, along (of course) Ketchikan Creek.  Creek Street was the old red light district, and it still has what used to be a muddy path through the woods (now a nice wooden boardwalk and stair) called the Married Man’s Trail, which needs no explanation.   I got several photos of Creek Street and the creek itself, which you can see in the gallery.  The 2 most interesting are probably a general view of the street itself, and a photo of Dolly’s House, a former brothel, now converted to gift shop.  Here they are:

Dolly’s House, Creek Street, Ketchikan

Creek Street, Ketchikan

Ketchikan Creek is also a salmon run, so the sign on Dolly’s House reads:  “Historic red light tour where both men and salmon came upstream to spawn.”

After the walking tour finished, I went to another part of town to attend a show I’d signed up for, but that’s another post.

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