Alaska is experiencing an unusually dry, warm summer, with wildfires raging in the interior. In the South-East, onboard the sublime Crystal Symphony, our lives have been unaffected. In fact, the weather has been incredibly kind practically every day. Karen has made an attempt or two to send me overboard with a wheelchair, thankfully the high railings have spared me.
Very interesting to note how many Alaskans have two or even three jobs through the summer, often associated with tourism, then spend the autumn and winter back in the lower 48 (USA). Many University students working up here during the summer. One speaker specializes in Immigration matters, and the pressures on folk in Bangladesh or India, for example, trying to secure work in the United Arab Emirates makes qualifying for OxBridge look relatively straightforward. Sobering thoughts around world population, and how we are all having to “work harder, for longer, for less”?
Today I spoke about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and the interest levels/questions were wonderful. Many people know something of the race, but nothing about its incredible background, dating back to a Diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska in 1925. We will be in Nome for the very first time after the North-West Passage in September. This is the first talk I have delivered standing since my bike accident on 5 May. It was a thrill to speak standing, despite needing the lectern for support. Although I use the phrase “it would be fair to say” too often in my talk, it would be fair to say that my leg is improving/healing well. Twelve weeks since that fateful day.
Despite my immobility, I am now going on suitable tours. The White Pass Railway out of Skagway a fantastic reminder of just what human beings are capable of, on top of gold seekers carrying 1000 pounds of equipment bodily to the Klondike goldfields previously. Royal Canadian Mounted Police wisely insisted that each man have enough food and supplies to survive the first year. Ferrying these supplies in 50 or 60 pound loads over the Chilkoot (Golden Stairs) Pass, or White Pass on one’s back gives some indication of the mindset of these desperate men and women. Only then to still have to build a boat at Bennett Lake, and float 550 miles down the Yukon to the goldfields, if your boat survived the rapids!
Whilst my travel plans coalesced at University, three top priorities were travelling across Africa, hiking in the Himalayas and driving the Alaska-Canada Highway. To be back in Alaska onboard this exquisite vessel 23 years on seems utterly unbelievable. We shall continue seizing the opportunities Life presents us so long as we are able.