Alaska Stories

Even Glaciers Get Boring

It is dusk in Stephen’s Passage, and I am on wheelwatch as the boat travels north from Petersburg, back to the fishing grounds near Juneau.  We are into fall weather now… the sky is a leaden grey and the sea is choppy, breaking into white topped curls, the wind blowing the spray off the waves into droplets so fine it looks like smoke.  As we pass slowly by Holkham Bay at 8 knots, I check the GPS to make sure we are on course, the radar for any other vessels getting close to us, and scan the sea ahead for logs and icebergs.  A break in the clouds to starboard shows me for a moment the mountains of Tracy Arm-Ford’s Terror Wilderness, where a glacier rests in the crack between two peaks, a frozen river of bright blue ice flowing almost into the sea.  It is a majestic sight.  I think to myself, “Meh.  You again.”  and go back to playing Solitaire on my phone.

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We’ve traveled past this glacier 2-4 times a week for the past month.  As the season draws to a close and fishing slows, the company fleet of tender vessels has slowly been whittled down to just a few of us.  Contracts have ended and boats have left Southeast to go on to their next job, be it tendering in Puget Sound for fall fishing or heading out to the Bering Sea or Kodiak for crab season.  With less boats in the rotation, the Carole B has ended up with the northern section every week.  After leaving Petersburg sometime Friday, we anchor up outside Juneau to give out ice on Saturday and Sunday mornings, and then make daily rounds of the fishing areas off Stephen’s Passage; Taku Inlet, Port Snettisham.  We anchor at night in a harbor, mostly Slocum Inlet, and end up there or near Juneau again for the closure of fishing at the end of the week.  Then 12 hours south back to Petersburg, where we offload fish, get more ice, groceries, fuel and fresh water.  After a few hours off in town (if we’re lucky) off we go again.

So this glacier, and the waters of the Inside Passage between Petersburg and Juneau, the whales and seagulls and porpoises swimming in our wake, the ever shifting clouds, the wild sunsets, the leaping salmon… they’ve all become just a little less exciting to me.  But the thing is, ‘exciting’ is a consequence of something having value for it’s novelty.  And sure, all of this was very novel, exotic to me at one time.  But I don’t want to value things purely for some kind of story that I can later tell about it or picture I can show (although, obviously, I enjoy both stories and pictures).  My ability to be somewhat bored by this glacier or the porpoises or the sunsets is rooted very much in the intimacy of knowing something so well that it becomes a part of you.  I don’t get a rush from seeing a beautiful glacier because something at my very core has changed.

I haven’t lost my wonder.  I’ve become wonder.

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