Sitka was the only port on this trip that required us taking a tender to get ashore. Volendam anchored some way out, and the crew did a good job getting over 1000 passengers ashore and back in a day.
The City of Sitka is on the west side of Baranof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean. With an population of about 9,000 Sitka is the fourth-largest city by population in Alaska. The name Sitka means "People on the Outside of Shee," being the Tlingit name for Baranof Island. The town is sometimes referred to as "Sitka-by-the-Sea."
Sitka was originally settled by the native Tlingit people. Old Sitka was founded in 1799 by Alexander Baranov, the governor of Russian America. In 1802 a group of Tlingit destroyed the original establishment and killed most of the Russian inhabitants. Baranov was forced to levy 10,000 rubles in ransom for the safe return of the surviving settlers.
Baranov returned to Sitka in 1804 with the Russian warship Neva. The Russians then launched an attack on the fort and were repelled by Tlingit. However, the Tlingit exhausted their gunpowder and were forced to leave the fort. Following their victory at the Battle of Sitka the Russians established a permanent settlement. The Tlingit reestablished a fort on the Chatham Strait side of Peril Strait to enforce a trade embargo with the Russian establishment. In 1808 Sitka became the capital of Russian America.
Sitka was the site of the ceremony in which the Russian flag was lowered and the United States flag raised after Alaska was purchased by the United States in 1867. Sitka served as the capital of the Alaska Territory until 1906, when the seat of government was relocated north to Juneau.
The Russian Bishop's House (originally known as the "Russian Mission Orphanage") was constructed out of native spruce in 1842 by Finnish carpenters. It is one of only four surviving examples of Russian Colonial Style architecture in the Western Hemisphere. Bishop Innokentii of the Russian Orthodox Church, a clergyman, teacher, scientist, and linguist, occupied the residence until 1859. The Church operated the building as a school, residence, and place of worship until the dilapidated condition forced its abandonment in 1972.
Although the building is authentic, its architecture is not particularly striking.
In 1973, the Park Service embarked on a 16–year restoration project to return the property to its former glory. Modern plumbing, heating, and electrical systems were installed, while at the same time keeping the structure as authentic as possible. The second floor was restored to its 1853 appearance, based on archaeological evidence and early diaries and drawings. Today, numerous exhibits and lavish icons in the "Chapel of the Annunciation" convey the legacy of Russian America.
Sitka National Historical Park (also known as Indian River Park and Totem Park) established on October 18, 1972 "...to commemorate the Tlingit and Russian experiences in Alaska." Most of the totem poles on display are copies as the original ones rotted and are now preserved indoors.
We walked through the National Park, to the site of the original Russian Fort, but nothing remains of that and the remains are scarcely visible today.Apar from this little squirrel, there was little wildlife in the park.
The centre of the town is "touristy" and most of the shops are aimed at the volume of cruise boat passengers who stop here every day in summer. Sitka is on the "main route" of the Inside Passage cruise boats, and hence has more tourist tat shops than, say, Homer or Kodiak which see fewer cruise ships.
And as in other towns in Alaska, there is a Russian Orthodox Church, a reminder of the Russian past to Alaska. St. Michael's Cathedral, also known as Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel, is at Lincoln and Matsoutoff Streets. It has been a National Historic Landmark since 1962. Its significance is as primary evidence of Russian influence in North America
It was built in Sitka in 1848. The original church burnt to the ground in 1966, but was restored to its original appearance, with the deliberate exception of its clock face, which is black in photographs taken prior to 1966, but white in subsequent photos. Certainly one way of dating photos.
Then back to the port to take the tender back to Volendam and a short sail to Ketchikan
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