Visit Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Sitka, Seward, Kodiak, Alaska, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Petropavlovsk, Kushiro, Japan, Hakodate and Tokyo.
Vancouver is the third largest city in Canada. This young city became part of the Canadian Confederation in 1871. Its history remains visible to the naked eye; along the waterfront visitors can see everything from cobblestone late-Victorian Gastown to shiny postmodern glass cathedrals. In 1792, Captain George Vancouver explored Burrard Inlet during a coastal survey of what is now known as the Inside Passage. But it was not until gold was discovered on the Fraser River in the 1860s that Vancouver actually became a town. At that time, the city was known as Gastown, named for saloonkeeper “Gassy Jack” Deighton, who opened Vancouver's first bar in 1867. A fire destroyed the settlement two months after it was incorporated. Most of the buildings in Vancouver date to the rebuilding of the small city in 1886. The Canadian Pacific Railway was completed in 1889, with Vancouver as its terminus, and the city established itself as Canada's main port for trade with the Orient. Today, the Port of Vancouver is still Canada's largest port, serving as a gateway to China and Japan. In the early 1900s, Vancouver boomed with the development of the fishing and timber industries. World War II catapulted the city's economy into the modern era, and successful redevelopment in the past twenty years has made Vancouver a very livable modern city. Several new structures were built for Expo, the 1986 World's Fair. Canada Place Pier, currently the home of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, was built in 1985 to house the Canadian Pavilion for Expo. It was modeled after the old sailing ships and from the back looks similar to a Spanish galleon. A polyhedron-shaped building, which looks like a giant silver golf ball, was also built for Expo and is now the home of the Vancouver Science Centre.
The Tlingit Indians originally settled this area as a summer fishing camp, where five different species of salmon spawned every year. The natives called it “Kitchsk-hin,” which means Kitchsk's stream. This word sounds like another Tlingit phrase, which translates into “Thundering Wings of an Eagle,” and is sometimes given as the origin of the word Ketchikan. However, most locals agree that Kitchsk's stream is the more accurate translation. During World War II, Ketchikan was the site of a major United States Coast Guard base and housed over 750 enlisted men and officers. The early 1900s were a boom time for Ketchikan, along with the rest of Alaska. Gold was discovered in the nearby hills and on Prince of Wales Island, and copper was discovered a short time later. Ketchikan became the supply center for all the mines in the surrounding area. By the mid-1930s, Ketchikan had aptly named itself “The Salmon Capital of the World.” In 1936 alone, the city packed more than 1.5 million cases of salmon. Once a quintessential Alaskan logging and fishing town, Ketchikan was a workday place where visitors could wander the docks. But drastic declines in both the logging and fishing industries forced the city to change course. Today, Ketchikan is a typical Alaskan tourist town, catering to cruise ship guests.
Juneau is one of only two state capitals in the country that is not accessible by road. Considered by many to be the most beautiful capital in the nation, Juneau is the second largest city, in area, in the United States. The city's terrain is hilly and its winding, narrow streets are full of character. However, Juneau's small-town charm is mixed with cosmopolitan flair; here you will find interesting museums, sophisticated shops and fine restaurants. In 1880, prospectors Joe Juneau and Richard Harris, led by Tlingit chief Kowee, beached their canoes along Gastineau Channel at the mouth of Gold Creek, where they staked out a 160-acre town site and a boomtown was born. After the loose gold in streambeds ran out, Juneau became a center for hard rock mining. By the turn of the century, three of the largest mining operations in the world were located in Juneau (Alaska-Juneau mine, the Alaska Gastineau mine and the Treadwell Complex, comprised of four separate mines). These mines yielded over $158 million in gold between 1880 and 1944. The last of four large mines that operated in the area closed down during World War II. By this time, Juneau had become the capital of Alaska and the business of government had replaced the business of mining. Juneau is the destination with the most diversity of Alaska sightseeing, active adventure and romance. This quaint, yet sophisticated town is rich in native culture and gold mining history. It nestled in the rain forest where the mountains meet the sea amid 17 million acres of Tongass National Forest and a 1,000-square-mile ice field. Today, Juneau is famous for its spectacular scenery of mountains, glaciers, fjords, lakes and wildlife that is unrivaled.
"North to Alaska" was the song sang by those rushing to the goldmines of the Klondike. Usually they meant Skagway. The White Pass and Chilkoot Trails were the gateways to the Yukon Territory. The gold rush was a boon and by 1898 Skagway was Alaska's largest town with a population of approximately 20,000. Hotels, saloons, dance halls and gambling prospered, attracting Skagway residents as well as the 10,000 people living in the nearby tent city of Dyea. But, as the gold dwindled in 1900, so did the population as miners quickly moved to Nome. Today with a population of less than 1,000, the town retains the flavor of the gold-rush era in its downtown, a historic district.
Sitka began as a major Tlingit Indian village and was called “Shee Atika,” which translates roughly as “settlement on the outside of Shee.” “Shee” is the Tlingit name of Baranof Island. In 1799, Alexander Baranof, the general manager of the Russian American Company, decided to move his base of operations from Kodiak and set up camp at what is now called Old Sitka, 7.5 miles north of the present-day town. He called the settlement St. Archangel Michael. The Tlingit Indians of the area resisted the occupation and, in 1802, with Baranof away, burned the fort and massacred the Russian settlers. Two years later, Baranof returned and besieged the Indian fort. The Tlingits withdrew and the area was once again in Russian hands. This time, the Russians built the new city on a different site and called it New Archangel. For over six decades, New Archangel was the capital of the Russian empire in Alaska. By 1867, the Alaska colony had become too much of a financial burden to Russia. William Seward, U.S. Secretary of State, negotiated with the Russian Czar to purchase the Territory of Alaska for $7.2 million. The American press scoffed at Seward and the U.S. government for purchasing what they called “Seward's Folly,” “Seward's Icebox,” and “Walrussia.” On October 18, 1867, the Russian flag was lowered at New Archangel and the Stars and Stripes were raised over newly renamed Sitka. The name comes from the Tlingit word “Sheetkah,” which means “in this place.” All Russian citizens living in the former colony were given the opportunity to become American citizens. Many went home, although a few stayed or migrated to California. Sitka remained the capital of the Territory of Alaska from 1867 to 1906, when it was moved to Juneau. The move was a direct result of the gold rush. In plain terms, Sitka did not have any and Juneau did. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sitka became a full-scale naval base. At one time during the war, Sitka had a total population of 37,000. With the end of World War II, however, the city settled into a quieter existence. The biggest boom in modern days for Sitka came in 1959 when the Alaska Lumber and Pulp Company built a pulp mill at Silver Bay, near the city. Today, picturesque Sitka is known for its fishing and of course its many historic attractions.
Seward, founded in 1903, is named after the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, William H. Seward, who endeavoured to purchase the land we know today as Alaska. It is a small, fishing village that has become a fairly busy port, due to its access to the state's highway, something many Alaskan towns lack. It is the southernmost terminus for the Alaska Railroad and is the closet port to Anchorage for those embarking cruise ships. Anchorage is located in south central Alaska, where to the east, the Chugach Mountains serve as the backdrop for the city's magnificent skyline. To the west are the expansive, steel-coloured waters of Cook Inlet, named after the explorer Captain James Cook who sailed into the area in 1778. Anchorage was incorporated as a city in 1920. Though steadily growing, it remained a relatively small frontier town until the beginning of World War II. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Anchorage found itself on the front lines of the conflict. Airfields, roads, and other buildings were constructed during the war. After World War II, the infrastructure was left behind, creating the framework for Anchorage's development. On January 3, 1959, Congress voted Alaska into statehood.
The Alutiiq, Kodiak's first settlers, were no doubt drawn to the region by its plentiful fish, sea mammals and shellfish, riches still very much in evidence today. Lured by valuable sea otter pelts, Russian merchants established a settlement on Kodiak Island in 1784 and made Kodiak the first capital of Russian America as well as a major fur-trading center. Modern times brought the town a devastating volcanic eruption in 1912, blanketing the town in nearly two feet of ash, and a series of tsunamis from the infamous earthquake of 1964, virtually destroying the waterfront. Kodiak today is home to some 700 fishing vessels, as well as the country's largest Coast Guard station. No other animal so evokes the North American wilderness, as do the grizzly and brown bears in Alaska. It is estimated there are about 30,000 brown bears and grizzlies in Alaska. Kodiak Island is estimated to have several thousand brown bears and in past years the bears outnumbered the people.
The Aleutians are a chain of more than 300 small volcanic islands extending in an arc from the Kamchatka Peninsula towards Alaska. The islands became the stepping stones of history that attracted Russian explorers to Alaska in the 18th century. Along the treeless, windswept islands, one can see onion-domed churches mixed in with rusted Quonset huts, weed-covered bunkers and shell casings; reminders of the bitter campaigns fought here between American and Japanese forces during World War II.
Located in the southern part of Hokkaido Island, Hakodate was founded during the feudal era and one of the first Japanese ports opened to international trade. In 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy arrived and a treaty was signed, opening Hakodate, Yokohama and Nagasaki to trade with the West. Soon, a customs office was established, treaty countries opened consulates in the city, and foreign culture and technology were introduced. The subsequent influx of foreign settlers left a lasting influence, which is apparent in the Euro-American style architecture that still exists today.