Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Adventures in Chenega Bay

By the time we reach Chenega Bay, we are READY! The departure board tells us we only have a half an hour, but a half an hour is enough to hike to the top of the hill, see the church, take some photos and return. Actually, it took us more than half an hour. It didn’t matter. The ship needed to offload and onload, and the Chenega Bay residents needed their fix of hamburgers and ice cream.

As it turns out – and we should have known this by now – we really had a lot longer. It took a while to load the snow plow and all of its accessories 🙂

Chenega Bay was totally wiped out in a tsunami following an earthquake. Here is what their official site tells us:

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Chenega IRA Council

PO Box 8079 * Chenega Bay, AK 99574 * 907-573-5132

The Chenega IRA Council is a federally recognized Indian Tribe that serves the Alutiiq people of Chenega Bay, Alaska. The Chenega IRA Council operates a variety of social, cultural and economic development programs designed to enhance the quality of life within Chenega Bay.

Chenega Bay – Description & Location

The village of Chenega Bay is located on Evans Island in Crab Bay, (42) miles Southwest of Whittier in the Prince William Sound. It is one hundred and four (104) air miles southeast of Anchorage. Until the March 27,1964 earthquake, Chenega was an Alutiiq Native tranquil fishing village located on the southern end of Chenega Island in western Prince William Sound. Founded before the Russian arrival in the late 1700s, Chenega was the longest occupied village in Prince William Sound at the time of the earthquake. Moments after the earthquake, a tsunami destroyed all of the buildings in Chenega village with the sole exception of a single home and the village school. Over a third of the village residents were killed and the survivors were taken initially to Cordova and then were later resettled in the village of Tatitlek by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

With the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, the former residents of Chenega formed the Chenega Corporation that acquired the right to select 76,093 acres around the old Chenega Village Township. The Alutiiq Natives enrolled in the Chenega Corporation selected their new village site at Crab Bay on Evans Island in the Prince William Sound in March of 1977. This site was carefully chosen following extensive research as the site best able to meet the needs of the residents’ subsistence lifestyle. The Chenega Corporation and the Chenega IRA Council worked together to obtain funding for roads, a water and sewer system, electric generators, a boat and floatplane dock and a school. The new village named Chenega Bay was finally occupied in 1984 following the construction of 21 Housing and Urban Development homes.

Chenega Bay is an isolated community accessible only by air or water. Charter airlines provide the majority of the transportation and the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System provides weekly ferry service year round.

Commercial fishing and subsistence activities are an important part of the lifestyle of the people of Chenega Bay. Commercial employment is primarily with the local school, the Tribal council, health clinic, and commercial fishing.

The primary business area of the village includes village council offices, a community center, the Russian Orthodox church, small boat harbor, the Alaska marine highway ferry terminal, and a future local display facility.

It felt so good to be able to get off and do some hiking. It was also a little overwhelming trying to imagine living in a village this small. Almost all the houses I saw looked exactly alike; maybe the tribe built them all. It is very very small and very isolated, the boat comes in once every week. There are no scheduled airlines, only charters.

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The Russian Orthodox Church, The Nativity of Theodokos, is very new, and very beautiful. We wondered where people sit? Or maybe there are chairs hidded away that are brought out for services, or brought from across the street at the Indian Affairs office? I always check, I love it that so many of the ikons look native. 🙂

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This last photo from the church is St. Herman of Alaska. Here is what Wikipedia says:

Saint Herman of Alaska (Russian: Преподобный Герман Аляскинский, c. 1750s – November 15, 1836) was a Russian Orthodox monk and missionary to Alaska, which was then part of Russian America. His gentle approach and ascetic life earned him the love and respect of both the native Alaskans and the Russian colonists. He is considered by many Orthodox Christians as the patron saint of North America.[1]

The patron saint of North America?! Who knew?!

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The Johnny Totemoff Museum is sometimes open – not today – and also sells homemade jams made from salmonberry and high mountain cranberries. I would have loved to have some of that! Johnny Totemoff was a local fisherman who always knew where the fish were, and was always coming to the rescue of other in troubled times. I love it that they named the museum after him. (Don’t you wonder how I knew that? On board the ship, they have a notebook at the Purser’s office they put out before you reach each stop. I read about the Totmnoff Museum in the Purser’s book.:-) Now you know.)

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We loved watching the kids play – two of them were waiting for their father to come off the ship with their ice cream. They reminded me of my mom telling me of all the times she wanted to kill me because I did unsafe things, but oh, what fun!

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Local transportation:

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This is not the Homer otter, this is the Chenega Bay otter, and totally by chance and not by talent, I caught him catching a fish!

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Too soon, it is time to depart.

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September 11, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, ExPat Life, Faith, Family Issues, Photos, Road Trips, Social Issues, Travel, Wildlife, Work Related Issues | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Departing Homer for Kodiak and Chenega Bay

Did I mention departures can be ephemeral?

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“As soon as possible” can take a long long time when you are boarding cars, motorcycles, even a grown-up tricycle, container vans, campers, R/vs of all shapes and sizes, trucks, and today we learn how it is done. This is truly a marvel of engineering. It must also take some amazing system to keep straight where every vehicle needs to go because they are getting off at different stops, so all the ones getting off at the same stop need to be stored together. Watching all this happen is amazing.

They have this turntable. Cars drive on, we think a maximum of six. The turntable also handles a maximum of one large container truck.

Cars drive on the elevated turntable:

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Turntable begins to lower:
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Cars reach main deck:
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Turntable begins to turn:
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A friendly otter kept us entertained while we waited for all the vehicles to board.

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We were told this is one of the Homer small ferries to Kachemak National Park or to Seldovia:

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It is another gorgeous day in Homer, and even early in the morning, fishermen and women are on the beach:

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It’s a beautiful departure, and somewhere between Homer and Kodiak, we run into a heavy mist near sunset:

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We departed late and will be getting into Kodiak late, so late we sleep right through it. Before we know it, we are departed from Kodiak and en route to Chenega Bay and Whittier.

September 10, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Entertainment, ExPat Life, Road Trips, Technical Issue, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Whittier and Chenega Bay on the M/V Kennicott

Today we awoke in Whittier, a major shipping hub into the interior of Alaska,
and a connector to Anchorage. Although the town has only a population around
500, it is a very busy little port, acres of shipping containers, miles and
miles of train tracks, and trains coming in and out every few minutes.

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There is an old government building, it looks like something the Soviets built.
It is huge, and was damaged by a bad earthquake several years ago so it has been condemned as unusable, but would be so expensive to destroy that they haven’t torn it down yet. It has become a sort of cult place, a favorite for raves and spontaneous parties, young people camp there. It is rumored to be haunted, which only makes it more alluring. No matter how secure they try to make the building, someone finds a way in.

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There is some confusion in my mind about arrivals and departures – they are not
the same as the list I so carefully printed off from the website. If I had known we would be in Whittier until 10:30 we would have debarked, which we are allowed to do if we have tickets and ID to get back on. My little calendar showed a 0800 departure, so we waited, and waited – but the ferries make their own rules, according to weather and tides and what they are porting from one seaside village to another. We watched containers full of goods come on for the more remote locations.

I used to surprise my Kuwait friends, telling them it was a lot like Alaska, and the longer I am back here, the more parallels I see. One is that almost
everything you eat or wear or build with has to come from somewhere else. That
requires shipping, or flying something in. I remember my Mother used to order
our snow suits in August, so they would arrive before the ships stopped coming
in. Like Kuwait, groceries are expensive, especially specialty items that are
imported. Like Kuwait, people are dressed modestly, all the important parts
covered – it’s cold! Most women are covered from their toes to their wrists! If
the weather is bad enough, even their hair is covered, and occasionally their
faces! Men, too! Very modest people, these Alaskans 🙂

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AdventureMan wanted to take a shower, but the ferry system asks that we not
shower while in port; they like not to dump waste water in port, so as soon as
we departed, he jumped in the nice warm shower. Once again, almost all we can
see is open water, en route to Chenega Bay, and fog.

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During the trip to Chenega Bay, the big excitement is the once-a-week fire drill, and this time, the fire was near our cabin (pretend fire.) I am guessing some people would rather ignore the fire drills, but think about it – aren’t you glad the crew goes through these exercises in case there is some emergency? Aren’t you glad they know what to do? One of the guys laughed and said “We get a lot of respect and people step aside when they see us carrying these fire extinguishers!” The purser told me that sometimes people STEAL the signs they put on doors – imagine!

Lifeboat being lowered:

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Do Not Enter tag on our door:
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Chenega Bay – We arrive, foggy but no rain, to find an eagle perched in nearby tree, welcoming us.

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Very short turn around time shown, so once again, we do not leave the ship, but wish we had when departure time is postponed. The dock is not near anything, but a short walk over the hill takes you to the small village of Chinega Bay and a beautiful Russian Orthodox Church and an Alaska Native arts museum named after fisherman Johnny Totenoff.

What love what happens here – this village of only maybe 50 people are welcomed on board whenever the ferry docks. They are isolated, remote. The men, women and children ride their ATV’s down the hill to the ferry, come aboard, and chow down on hamburgers, fries, and soft ice cream cones. Some of the young girls are dressed in long dresses, sort of odd, maybe a religious group. Others are wearing short short skirts and tank tops in the cool, foggy weather. Before the ferry departs, the Chenega Bay residents all have to debark.

Departing Chenega Bay:

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Beginning to see snow peaked mountains en route to Kodiak Island
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September 5, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Alaska, Beauty, Birds, Community, Cultural, Customer Service, Environment, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Photos, Road Trips, Safety, Travel, Wildlife | , | 2 Comments