Readers' World

Amazing Alaska

Sunday Times reader Barbara Walls takes a floatplane trip into the incredible Misty Fjords National Monument

18 June 2017 - 00:00 By Barbara Walls

I ran up the two flights of stairs from deck 7, where our cabin was, to deck 9, where the lido deck was at the stern of the ship. Through the sliding doors and out onto the deck where I stood dead  still as I gazed over the pool and the ocean.
The sky was blue, the sea was flat calm and the sun was shining. One may wonder why I was so surprised at this seemingly normal occurrence on board a cruise ship. The fact was we were on an Alaskan cruise approaching the town of Ketchikan, Alaska, where the weather is unpredictable and rain is a regular occurrence in mid May.  
 We had booked a two-hour floatplane trip into the Misty Fjords National Monument, a wilderness area and one of the most majestic creations on Earth, surrounded by towering cliffs and waterfalls cascading into emerald waters. The last ice age created this dramatic landscape. As the ancient glaciers receded, they left sheer granite walls that join the ocean in what is called the Misty Fjords. If the weather was unfavourable, we had been warned, they would not fly.
I walked over to the rails and gazed down onto the wake glistening in the early morning sun. How could we be so lucky?Our day in Juneau, Alaska's capital, where we'd taken a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier and walked to the beautiful Nugget Falls, had been sunny and warm.
The next day we'd cruised into Disenchantment Bay to view the huge Hubbard Glacier - although it was not a cloudless day, there was enough blue sky to make the viewing spectacular.
The largest tidewater glacier in North America, at a whopping 122km long and 365m deep, Hubbard has been nicknamed the "galloping glacier" because of how quickly it's advancing towards the Gulf of Alaska.
The previous day, when we'd visited Sitka, it had been overcast. But a visit to a sanctuary called the Fortress of the Bear and learning about totem poles and migrating salmon do not require sunny skies, so we did not mind.
This, however, was different and I could not wait to go downstairs to relay the good news to my partner, Colin.
We dressed quickly, grabbed some breakfast, then sat on the deck watching the beautiful scenery as we docked in Ketchikan. Snow-capped mountains, a blue sky and the deep blue of the fjord.
Our flight was booked for 8am so we hurried ashore to meet our Mountain Air Service representative at the designated spot on the quay. Our pilot, Randy, had come highly recommended so I was not at all nervous about climbing into a 1953 De Havilland Beaver with only four other passengers.
Seatbelts were tightened and - after Randy had smilingly pointed out the "sick" bags and life jackets - we put on our headphones and taxied away from the dock.
I had seen floatplanes take off and land in so many movies but had no preconception of what it would be like. It was so gentle we hardly realised we were in the air until Frank Sinatra started singing Come Fly with Me into my headphones and the cruise ships were suddenly below us.

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