Cruise ships dock at the end of Homer Spit, the most distinguishing feature in the area, and which is a 4.5 mile long gravel bar jutting out into Kachemak Bay. Over the years the spit has suffered from the after effects of earthquakes in the area, and is somewhat fragile today. Much of the coastline as well as the Homer Spit sank dramatically during the Good Friday Earthquake in March 1964. After the earthquake, very little vegetation was able to survive on the Homer Spit.
Homer's population is small at around 5,500. One of Homer's nicknames is "the cosmic hamlet by the sea"; another is "the end of the road". A popular local bumper sticker characterizes the town as "Homer - A quaint little drinking village with a fishing problem."
Homer was named after Homer Pennock, a gold mining company promoter, who arrived in 1896 on the Homer Spit and built living quarters for his crew of 50 men. However, gold mining was never profitable in the area.
Homer is known as the "halibut fishing capital of the world" (somewhat quaintly most US towns like to be known as the "something" capital of the world, and in Homer's case it is "Halibut") and halibut and salmon sport fishing, along with other tourism, commercial fishing, and logging are the industries in the Homer area today.
The town certainly has the air of frontier, and does not exude wealth in any way. Local politics appeared to be to the right, which is perhaps what one would expect in a "frontier" town. Sarah Palin, at the time the Alaska State Governor, was the Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee for the 2008 United States presidential election, on the ticket with Senator John McCain. Palin was the first Alaskan candidate of either major party on a national ticket, so went down well with the locals. Since the McCain-Palin defeat in the 2008 election, there has been speculation that she will run for president in the 2012 presidential election.
Apart from fishing, the Exxon Valdez still casts a show over Homer today. The Exxon Valdez oil spill occurred in the Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 24, 1989. It is considered one of the most devastating human-caused environmental disasters ever to occur at sea. Prince William Sound's remote location (accessible only by helicopter and boat) made government and industry response efforts difficult and severely taxed existing plans for response. The vessel spilled 10 million gallons of Prudhoe Bay crude oil into the sea, and the oil eventually covered 11,000 square miles of ocean. The region's sea life is only just recovering 20 years later. The local museum had a very informative display on the spill.
The buildings in the town were "quaint". Wood was the predominant material - mainly because timber was readily available locally and avoided import costs. Perhaps my photos give an incorrect impression of "quaintness" as the buildings are all separated by the parking lots common in many American cities - Americans tend not to walk anywhere if they can avoid it, and hence as land is cheap, most stores provide large parking lots. The effect architecturally is that one does not see the quaintness on the ground, it is only when the camera puts them side by side that you see what is really going on visually.The yurt was a form of housing that they are experimenting with!
Among the shops was an interesting second hand bookshop whose stock would not have been out of place in London - they must do a lot of reading in Homer during the long winter nights.
Out on the spit, from where the fishing charters leave, we saw a boat come in laden with large fish, and took the opportunity to have my photo taken in an ecologically friendly version of the classic successful fisherman's pose.
The next port was a return to the mass tourist market, Sitka, Alaska
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