Chief Naturalist Larry West – out and about during the winter in Juneau.
While the calendar may tell us it’s the dead of winter, Southeast Alaska is anything but dead, even in February! The wildlife most active in winter is mainly of the human species: Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, skating, ice climbing, glacier caving, and even alpine skiing in Juneau. Many people run, hike, and even cycle all winter long. Oddly enough, the farther north you go the more likely you are to find people fishing—through the ice. But that’s uncommon in the Tongass.
In the last few years, we’ve begun to see earlier activity among the wild critters, too. Guests from the last two seasons will remember crew talking about low-snow winters that led to very early spring and summer seasons. This year, winter has seemed more normal, with plenty of snow above sea level. Still, eagles and ravens have already begun pairing up, and we’re enjoying their aerial ballet in the skies over Juneau as they prepare for the nesting season.
Like all other cruise companies, The Boat Company is also very active this time of year, welcoming back crew members from prior seasons and hiring new ones to take the places of the few who have moved on. We’re busy obtaining the permits we need from the government agencies that manage the wilderness areas our summer 2017 guests will begin to explore in mid-May.
Perhaps the most welcome activity this time of year is that of the sun! Now more than six weeks past winter solstice (when the sun was above the horizon less than six and a half hours!), it is arcing higher and higher in the sky, gaining us more than five minutes more sun every day. We’ll hit equinox—same length of day and night—on March 20th, and by summer solstice in June the sun will be above the horizon for well over 18 hours.
A January dawn over Juneau
All this renewed activity has us all excited as we approach the 2017 cruise season in the nation’s largest National Forest, the Tongass. We can’t wait to welcome returning guests, and to introduce those of you who are new to us to an extraordinary experience of on board service and wilderness exploration in one of the world’s most dynamic and spectacular places. See you this summer!