Driving from Palmer, Alaska
to Whittier, Alaska
June 16, 2009
Plus the city of Whittier, the Whittier Tunnel, a tram ride, and Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise
Situated at the head of the Passage Canal on the western edge of Prince William Sound, the community of Whittier is approximately 60 miles southeast of Anchorage. Leaving Palmer, the two RV Gypsies had to drive through Anchorage again, then on into Whittier.
Below: Karen Duquette took a quick photo of H2Oasis Indoor Waterpark at 1520 O'Malley Road, Anchorage as they drove by it in their RV. They did not stop because it just is not always possible to find a big enough space to stop when traveling in the RV.
|Below: Beluga Point scenic viewpoint and photo spot with a commanding view of Turnagain Arm. It is often a good place to see beluga whales - the only all-white whale. No whales were seen by the two RV Gypsies while they were there, but there were mountain goats on the mountain across the street; however a telescope or binoculars were needed to see them.
|Below: Turnagain Arm is known for having one of the world's remarkably high tides, with a diurnal range of more than 33 feet.
There were actually mountain goats on the mountain in the photo below -
but only a few white specks could be seen without a telescope or binoculars.
| Whittier - originally a part
of the portage route for the Chugach Indians of Prince William Sound traveling
to fish Turnagain Arm. Later the Russians and Americans exploring the
region also used this passage. It was used by prospecting miners during
the gold rush as it was the quickest passage from the Sound to the Cook
Inlet and Interior regions. The city itself is a historical area, established
by the U.S. Army during World War II. The Federal railroad to Portage was
completed in 1943 and became the primary debarkation point for cargo, troops,
and dependents of the Alaska Command.
In 1948 the military began construction of the first of two buildings for their military personnel as the Port of Whittier was then recognized as an ice-free, deepwater port strategically located to Anchorage and Interior Alaska. This remained active until 1960 at which time the total population was 1,200.
The City of Whittier was incorporated in 1969. Today, less than 300 people reside in the town supporting the Alaska State Ferry, the Alaska Railroad, freight barge, commercial fishing, the Small Boat Harbor, recreation and tourism with an annual visiting population of over 700,000.
|Whittier Tunnel - This tunnel is the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America - 2.5 miles. It is the first U.S. tunnel with jet turbine and portal fan ventilation, the first computerized regulation of both rail and highway traffic and the first tunnel designed for -40° F. and 150 mph winds. After a rock slide closed the Whittier tunnel to road traffic on April 13, 2009, highway crews cleared the rock from the road and also followed through with some additional blasting to eliminate some additional areas of concern from the roadway. During the closure, traffic in and out of Whittier was limited to trains operated by the Alaska Railroad. Once a year it is closed for "the Walk to Whittier." This year, 2009, it was Sunday, June 14 - just before the two RV Gypsies arrived.
Vehicles were lined up in 10 rows, sorted by cars, RV's, trucks and busses. Each row had a traffic light, plus there was another traffic light that spaced the cars before they entered the tunnel. Vehicles were let in on the half hour, and let out of Whittier on the hour. If you snooze you lose! Trains always gets priority.
Below: A train ready to cross the bridge, then it will enter the same tunnel the cars just came through.
Below - A "Happy" vehicle - whatever that is
An interesting fact: Portal buildings are designed to withstand avalanches.
|Below: Whittier is a boater’s paradise as there are unlimited opportunities to explore the many glaciers, islands, bays and fjords of western Prince William Sound, so close to it's unique seaside location. Marine wildlife viewing is popular as sea otters, sea lions, humpback, sperm, gray and orca whales can be seen in the area. Eagles, brown bear, black bear and blacktail deer can be spotted long the shores of the islands. Daily glacier and wildlife cruises depart from Whittier daily.
Below: Boats parked in the middle of the main road.
See Bald Eagles, sea otters clapping, professional fishing, and the largest glacier on Prince William Sound - Surprise Glacier with a surprise!