Behm Canal in the Misty Fjords in the Tongass National Forest
Traveling upstream in the Behm Canal headed toward Rudyerd Bay and points north, all of which are part of the Tongass National Forest, the nation’s largest national forest, which covers most of Southeast Alaska, surrounding the famous Inside Passage. It offers unique chances to view eagles, bears, spawning salmon, and the breath-taking vistas of “wild” Alaska. Wildlife eluded us, but not for long. Surrounded and awestruck by beauty everywhere every day. (Since the trip ended, though, post-editing can drive me batty once in awhile, hence some graphics alternatives.)
This distinctive 280-foot pillar of basalt came from fractures in the floor of Behm Canal, indicating it was part of a volcanic vent over the last 5 million years. It stands at the entrance to Rudyerd Bay, one of the most scenic waterways in the Misty Fjords area. As a prominent landmark, the rock is cited in many historical references, including that of Captain Vancouver, who named the rock after England’s Eddystone Lighthouse.
Approaching the Misty Fjords National Monument, the 108-mile Behm Canal is a natural channel that separates Revillagigedo Island from mainland Alaska. We’re about to behold yet another scenic wonderland… and heck! we were on the lookout for owls, whales, sea lions, bears and other wildlife! However, unbeknownst to us at the time …
… I have since learned that the Behm Canal is also the home to a U.S. Navy Submarine sound testing range that’s used to ensure U.S. Submarines are as quiet as they can be. Apparently, it works!! We never had a clue! We could have been looking for subs as well! Check out this 1990 news article, “Alaska Town Split Over Plan to Test Submarines” and more re: SEAFAC (Southeast Alaska Measurement Facility). There’s also (I kid you not) this 1988 article from page 55 of the “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists” re: the $50M training range on Back Island, located on one side of the canal.
Luckily, we ditched this and headed left into the fjord. Still, it would have been cool to aim straight for just awhile longer…
It’s about to become a busy day for this purse seiner as the crew slows down into what will hopefully be a sweet, productive location.
Before entering the Behm Canal and Misty Fjords, we passed several fishing boats along the way. This purse seining crew are typically fishing for salmon or herring, and they do so by encircling them with a long net and drawing (or, pursing) the bottom closed to capture the fish. The net is first stacked on the stern of the boat and then played into the water while the boat travels in a circle around the school of fish. The far end of the net is attached to a smaller skiff, which holds the net while the seiner completes the circle. With the floats holding the net at the top, and lead weights pulling it down, the net hangs like a curtain.
Seiners are cabin-forward vessels that are limited by Alaska law to 58 feet in order to manage more precisely their fishing effort. Seine-caught salmon are delivered whole (aka “in the round”) to canneries and buying stations where they end up as canned or frozen products.
While several of us were lined up to board a smaller boat for an adventure into the Misty Fjords National Monument, the morning sun and reflection of this this dock wall caught my eye. We knew, waking up to clear blue skies on this sunny day, this was going to be a fascinating and memorable excursion!