Tuesday 24 March 2020

Following Captain Cook again - Port Etchells and Nuchek

Sea Lions

We had been told by many sailors and fishermen that we needed to be across the Gulf of Alaska before the end of August.  We struggled to tear ourselves away from Prince William Sound by late August but eventually pre-positioned ourselves in Port Etchells to shorten the passage across the Gulf.  As has happened numerous times in our seven year adventure, we found ourselves anchored near where Captain Cook had anchored.  This time we were near where he had anchored in 1778 a few months before his death in Hawaii.  His crew acquired a few sea otter pelts from the natives which they then sold in China for multiples of their annual salary thus starting the English interest in the maritime fur trade in Alaska (the Russians had already started a few years early).  The fur trade almost pushed the sea otters to extinction but ironically one of the places they first came back in big numbers is Constantine Harbour just north of where we were anchored.

Anchoring in Port Etchells was intended to be just a stop to prepare for the Gulf of Alaska crossing but we were tempted by the scant information we had about a Chugach camp at the old abandoned village on Nuchek Island.  The Russians established Fort Saint Constantine at the village of Nuuciq in 1793 to safe guard their trading networks and there is still a Eastern Orthodox Church in the same location.

It was about a nine nm round trip in the dingy so we set off early hoping the trip would be worthwhile.  It certainly was.  On the trip into the village we saw the greatest densities of sea otters we had ever seen.  When we arrived at the Nuuciq Spirit Camp it was deserted.  We had a quick look around but felt that we were trespassing.  We headed back in the dingy but just as we started to go we saw the caretaker, Leonard, waving from ashore.

Leonard lives a the camp most of the year and keeps up with the maintenance. His pride in the camp and its work was palpable.  We were there for several hours and then on our departure he very generously gave us some tasty canned salmon from the camp.  Our departure was a bit delayed as it was now low tide and our dingy needed to be dragged through deep mud.  Thank goodness for our newly acquired hip waiders.  On our way back to Fluenta the sea lions put on a bit of a sunset show for us.

Lots of sea otters !

Leonard showing us the traditional baidarka kayaks that were built at the camp.

Traditional baidarka kayaks

The Eastern Orthodox Church on the site of the original Fort Constantine church.

Heading back after a long day out

Watching the purse seiners at work.

1 - Garden Bay Anchorage, 2 - Nuchek Island

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