After a few days in the wilderness, we awoke today to the sights of quaint Petersburg, a small fishing town with a lot of character. It was created a century ago by Norwegian Peter Buschman, largely because the location had a reliable source of ice for fish storage. A few miles to the north of what is now Petersburg, the LeConte Glacier was shedding significant enough amounts of ice that it reached the small town and provided crucial support for the budding fishing industry. Today, of course, there is modern cold storage, and local fishermen no longer need to seek ice from the nearby glacier. Still, the town remains cloaked in small town Alaskan charm, and it is steeped in Norwegian national pride as well.
While the weather gods didn’t cooperate with light rain dominating the day, National Geographic Venture guests braved the weather and enjoyed exploring the town and the surrounding area. Some hiked up to Raven’s Ridge, and others walked a forest trail with a Native Alaskan guide. They learned about the fascinating culture of the local Tlingit coastal people. Some guests went on a five-mile bike ride around town and by the ocean to admire the beautiful local homes overlooking the sea and the neat, multicolored flower gardens.
Other guests went on Zodiac tours around Petersburg’s harbor to learn about the types of fishing boats associated with different commercial fishing species, including halibut, black cod, Dungeness crab, and the salmon that thrive here. Some guests hopped over to nearby Kupreanof Island to spend half the day hiking across the rainforest and a very special ecosystem called a muskeg, which is very similar to a peat bog. The muskeg never ceases to fascinate us; it contains such unique plants. The most interesting is the tiny and carnivorous sundew. At about two inches long, this plant has a circular shape with little, soft “fingers” and what looks like dew but is actually a gluey substance that traps tiny insects. In this boggy environment, the soils are so nutrient-poor that plants have evolved other ways to capture food! It is incredible.
And, of course, many guests enjoyed the unforgettable little town of Petersburg and its unique bookshop, gift shop, and clothing store with the local specialty items that many of us treasure, such as the fish-focused paintings of Ray Troll. The art is full of puns and made into t-shirts. The highlight of the day for most of us was the Dungeness crab feast for dinner; it was a special meal indeed!