Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Celebrating 50 years with Alaska

On January 3rd, 1959, when the great northern territory of Alaska became our 49th state I was eight years old and living in Texas. Alaska seemed and was a very long distance away. I had no idea at that time the winding path of my life would one day, 34 years later, take me so far north. But thanks to my literally long lost cousin John Pearson and his wife Barb, both employees of the Alaska Marine Highway, a ferry system linking the lower 48 from Bellingham WA to Alaska via the Inside Passage, I did indeed make that trip. Now it may seem strange for a non-resident of Alaska to be writing about a celebration of it's statehood, as I've not lived there - yet. But Alaska's like that. It gets into your system. Lets take a short look at a little northern history here: It was on January 3, 1959, that President Eisenhower signed the declaration officially making Alaska the 49th state. With the addition of Alaska into the nation the new American flag featured seven rows of seven stars each.
Reaching back further; It was on March 30, 1867, that Secretary of State William H. Seward signed an agreement with the Russian Minister to the United States. That agreement was widely referred to as "Seward's Folly" and it ceded possession of the territory of Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million. 586,000 square miles of land which many Americans questioned the benefit of for their country. However, Secretary Seward did not doubt "that the political society to be constituted here, first as a Territory, and ultimately as a state or many States, will prove a worthy constituency of the Republic." Indeed Secretary Seward's words have proved themselves true time & time again.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is a small visual speech I have to offer regarding some of the beauty of Southeast Alaska.

Photograph #1 from the aft deck of the Columbia; leaving the lower 48 behind heading north up the Inside Passage.

Photograph #2 On the bridge-deck of the Alaska Marine Highway ferry Columbia. Yours truly (with the binoculars) enjoying a moment with Officer-of-the-watch, pilot & crew. Barb was Chief Purser on this passage providing me privileges, which included dining with the captain &, or crew, tour the non-public areas of the ship and my favorite take early morning coffee on the bridge-deck during the three day passage.

Photograph #3 The notorious Creek Street in Ketchikan. Part of a delightful area of a walker & cycle friendly town. For more info see link below.

Photograph #4 is a longhouse located north of Ketchikan. I lucked out and visited when no one else was around except for a care-taking couple who gave me a private tour and unlimited access.

Photograph #5 Roughing it out in that tough Alaskan weather.

Photograph #7 Sunset across Dixon Passage boundary between Alaska and British Columbia Canada.

Nothing like closing with a sunset. Please join me and the many Alaskans who are celebrating 50 years of statehood for this great northern state.

PS Within the next few years Catherine & I plan on sailing the Inside Passage to Alaska on our vessel AQUILA. See you on the water... Foster

For more info check out these links below:

Alaska Marine Highway

The Inside Passage

Alaska Statehood Celebration Commission

Creek Street