Day 51 - Whittier and the 26 Glacier Tour with Phillips
Driving to Whittier is only 20 minutes away if you get to the tunnel at the right time. Traffic can go towards Whittier and through the tunnel on the half hour and must come back through on the hour.
The Alaska Railroads Whittier Tunnel in the longest tunnel in North American at 2.5 miles long. It is a single lane tunnel that shares that one lane with trains and cars. It was the first tunnel with jet turbine and portal fan ventilation. First tunnel designed for -40 F and 150 mph winds. The passage was constructed by the military during World War II to act as Alaska’s main supply route for goods arriving in the protected deep-water port in Whittier. When the military abandoned Whittier in the 1960’s, the tunnel was made a part of the Alaska highway system and given a massive overhaul.
The triangular building is the tunnel. It is 2.5 miles long, the longest in North American
The cars drive over the tracks though the tunnel.
The trains go right after all the cars have gone through.
To ensure we arrived in time for the boat tour, we left at 9:45 and waited in line for the 10:30 time slot. Everyone goes to Whittier on the half hour and returns on the hour. Once we got to Whittier we had about an hour and a half that we spent walking around the very small town. There were a few gift shops and places to eat and lots of boats. We were surprised at the size of the industrial tonnage that goes through the port in addition to cruise ships that start and end here.
Passengers where beginning their cruise vacation after being brought in by train.
First building we noticed when we came into town is this huge building that has been abandon by the government. It was constructed by the military in 1953 as a combined mess hall, sleeping quarters, recreational, medical and administrative facility. It used to be one of the largest buildings in Alaska, often being referred to as "the city under one roof”. The building continued to operate until 1966, at which point it was shuttered when the Port of Whittier was transferred to the General Services Administration for disposal.
This building called Begich Towers was built by the military to house families. It houses a police station, grocery store, clinic, church, convenience store and school. Begich Towers also has a bed and breakfast where guests are invited to stay. Approximately 80% of the town lives here now.
26 Glaciers Tour by Phillips Cruises & Tours
We booked an afternoon glacier boat tour with Phillips Cruises to see 26 glaciers in the Prince William Sound. Our boat captain was Cody Hanna from St. Amant, LA. He has been up here as a boat captain for seven years. In the winter he works in Covington. He went to high school with Erin!
They served us a choice of vegetarian chili, salmon chowder or hot dogs.
We saw rafts of sea otters floating along beside us at times.
An island with eagles in the trees (but this is as good as my zoom lens would go)
An island of seals that were basking in the sun.
We were supposed to see a rookery of black-legged kittiwake, but their nest were empty and they were floating in the water.