Day: February 1, 2014


Alasky-wasky. Tracy Arm fjord Sawyer Glacier by Peter Mulligan Creative commons

Tracy Arm fjord Sawyer Glacier by Peter Mulligan
Creative commons

The glorious and soaring majesty that is Alaska

The next time you’re perusing a National Geographic magazine (one of only three ever produced not to feature a tiger on the front cover) you will, naturally, have picked it up because of the extraordinary blue-white glacier on the cover.

Of course the reason you’ve picked up a Nat Geo is that you’re at the doctor’s surgery, in the waiting room, pretending to have your bullet wound examined- in fact it’s that sore on your knob that’s worrying you, and when you whispered this to the receptionist, she helpfully broadcast it to the five grannies, two single mothers and two teenage girls in the room. So now you’re hiding behind Nat Geo, wishing it was The Times, or preferably a tent, or perhaps a nuclear fallout shelter. And you’re too ashamed to spark up a meerschaum or even quaff some Glenfiddich, lest the gargoyle at reception shout out, “Oy, you with the knob-nasty, stop that at once.”

But back to that glacier. Take a peek at the bottom of the picture. That thing you assumed was a tramp’s lost shoe is actually a cruise ship. That’s right, glaciers really are that big.

So now you’re aboard a ship- cleverly named Glacier Princess, or something similar. And you’ve learnt that your fellow passengers are all aged 65 and are called Graham and Susan, and they’re slightly less interesting than a rusty can that’s been spewed on by a drunk before being inserted up the backside of a dog.

So naturally you’ve disguised yourself as an axe murderer, having dropped many hints about the ‘escaped psychopath the police are hunting, known to be on an Alaskan cruise ship’ in order that they don’t enliven your meals with their tales of the derring-do existence they’ve led as photocopier sales reps and real estate receptionists. You now have a table to yourself. Except for Cyril the fifty-five year old virgin with the toothbrush moustache and no social skills, who has been too dense to take the hint, but he’s dull enough to keep the other bores away.

So what’s that glacier look like up close?

Well it’s rather astonishing to watch a great looming glacial wall of blue-grey ice suddenly develop a great jagged crack, and the blast of frozen air that hits you is accompanied by an enormous crink, as though the Earth itself were riven asunder. But as the iceberg is calved and hits the slatey waters below with an atomic detonation, and a vast trunami is birthed, a chap feels not the least smeck of cold, possibly due to the warm brandy sloshing within, or the whirling spa, or the two Taiwanese ladies a chap has on either knee, who are frisking their fingers naughtily beneath the edge of a chap’s shorts, the dirty bints… Ah, the lot of a chap is a tiring one, but one must be strong!

You are, of course, on your way up the Inside Passage (waterway, you filthy-minded brute!) where humpbacks (whales, not your fellow passengers) frolic and leap into the slate sky, before landing with an artillery crash into the waves… Remote fjords echo with the crack of calving glaciers…The northern lights leap and surge in great incandescent curtains of purple and green…

And in the summer months, when the land thaws, you can see majestic moose holding their regal heads aloft as they survey you disdainfully, black bears snuffling and rolling over to play on their backs, accompanied by a cub or two (a joyous sight indeed!) wolves, alone and in packs, stroll effortlessly through the snowdrifts, occasionally bounding after a rabbit, the rare cautious lynx, and glorious bald eagles drifting across the many-hued silver-grey sky…

It’s not a place to miss, is Alaska!

Do you go to Petroglyph Beach, Wrangel, to marvel at the ancient stone carvings at the tideline? To St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Churchy-wurch, to gaze enthralled upon its dazzling icons and to pinch the donations tin while Nick’s not looking? To Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge- if you were too busy shagging grannies on the ship to spot the beasties all around you, here’s your chance…

You might consider The Fairbanks World Ice Art Championships, held every March, with its 25 ft sculptures glaring down at you…Or how about Nikolaevsk Russian village on Kenai Peninsula? You can suck down a bowl of piroshki or borscht, but having softened you up, you’ll be invited to dress in traditional garb, so you may appreciate that no matter how funny Russians appear today, they were even more hilarious in the past…

How about competing in the annual Yukon Quest- the annual 1000 mile dog sled race from Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada) to Fairbanks, Alaska? Designed to encourage self sufficiency, you’ll need your bush skills to survive the Arctic conditions…that’s right, pack your whiskey kegs- and each competitor must carry eight booties per dog. Do take in your surroundings, old chap, for where you and your bootied dogs are standing happens to be right where the great Klondike Gold Rush occurred- soak in the history, and marvel at the tales of villainy and knavery that seem to ring from the very mountains. Then drop down to Skagway to see the white clouds rolling down off the mountains and over the silver water on their way to the Pacific Ocean…

Skagway in the 1880s and 90s was run by a swindler named Soapy Smith- a gracious scallywag, and one of my esteemed ancestors. Fights, prostitutes and liquor were everywhere in the town, and Soapy, great social reformer that he was, stopped lynchings and helped the poor, whilst operating a ring of thieves and swindlers, (a gentleman after my own heart!) a spy network, and thieves and con men of all persuasions- when a chap’s this hot he’s liable to get shot, so he was. Ah, the petty jealousies of lesser men who unfairly blame the loveable rogues that bring such colour to the world…

Now climb into your 1927 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, because you won’t want to miss -even if you’ve just passed away- the glorious Golden Circle, a drive from Skagway to British Columbia passing through mountain passages and scenery so perfect your eyeballs will fall out. It truly is one of the most spectacular motoring experiences in the world. Remember the last time you thought you’d mangled a cyclist, and found that you’d actually got two? It’s even better than that. So get to it, old chap. Toodle pip!

Your somewhat humble narrator, Lord Flynn