Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Whitehorse, Day Two

We did three touristy things today -- visited the Yukon Transportation Museum, the Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center, and the Whitehorse Fish Ladder. The first two were our choice for our morning treks because it was raining and, being museums, they were mostly inside and dry.

The Yukon Transportation Museum
This museum covers all sorts of Yukon historical transportation methods, such as trains, planes, automobiles, and dogsleds.

Outside the museum is a weather vane -- the world's largest. The plane rotates with the wind just like that rotating chicken on your neighbor's barn:

They have an old "Little Engine That Could" outside and I got to play Conductor:
This sled provided a passenger/mail service between Whitehorse and Dawson City beginning in 1902. Passengers were charged $125 for the 5-day trip, plus an additional "roadhouse fee" of $1.50 per meal and $1 per night lodgings. The roadhouses were pre-stocked with supplies, and situated every 20-25 miles. The sled could take up to 14 passengers and 1000 pounds of freight. To mitigate the extreme cold (minus 40 in winter was common), passengers were issued buffalo robes and coal-powered foot warmers.
There were a lot of photos and information about the Yukon Quest, a very difficult dog race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks that happens each February. This photo is a historical photo of a dog team in Whitehorse. The man behind the team, the musher, is actually wearing a tie!
And, finally, the "Boys Best Weekly" Diamond Dick cover from 1910:
The text in the corner says, "'It's a woman! It's an Injun woman!' he cried. 'I believe it's White Bird.' And in the next few seconds all hands realized that the lad was right."

The Yukon Beringia Interpretive Center
Beringia is the area that is often referred to as the "land bridge" that formed between Siberia and Alaska during the last ice age, 20,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago.

The interpretive center not only explains the geological events of the time, but also the animals and First People who lived on the dry plains that existed between the ice sheets.

The land bridge formed because so much water was tied up in glaciers that the oceans' water level dropped, exposing land that is underwater during non-glacial times such as today's. Beringia allowed humans to cross the Bering Strait from Asia and to eventually populate the Americas. At the time, mammoths, giant sloths, and giant beavers were common and provided food sources for the people.

The stories of the First Nations people are also told at the center:

"First Nations creation stories echo events at the end of the Ice Age. Legends, such as How Crow Created the World, reflect on the changing environment and the great floods. Distant memories of the animals of the Ice Age come down to us in stories of the Gwitch’in culture hero, Traveler (Ch’itah├╣ukaii) and the Tutchone hero, Beaver Man (Soh Jhee or Asuya ). Traveller and Beaver Man roamed the land and changed the animals of long ago from giants and man-eaters to the familiar species we see in the Yukon today."
There is a large mural depicting the large beavers being forever turned into small ones by Traveller:
Outside the museum, is a replica of the "Big Beaver." You can come up with your own caption for this one!

The Fish Ladder
Salmon need to return to the stream in which they were born to breed (called spawning). When humans put up a dam, it obviously causes them a lot of problems, so humans try to find a solution -- not only is it the right thing to do, but it would be just too sad if all those tasty salmon died out!

In this case, the solution is a fish ladder. The fish, swimming upstream, are guided into this "ladder" by a series of underwater baffles:

They swim, against the current as they would in the river, until they are next to the monitoring station. They are held in a tank until they are checked, weighed, and tagged. They are then released to continue their swim up this ladder:
When they have bypassed the dam (upper right in photo), they are returned to the river to continue their swim back to their breeding grounds. These salmon are on a death march -- they have been living in the ocean for years, but once they start to spawn they must enter a fresh water river or stream to return "home." These particular salmon will need to travel for 2000 miles up the Yukon River, and it will take them 3 months (other salmon returning to a different stream or tributary may have a swim as short as a mile). While in fresh water, they will not eat, instead existing from stored fat deposits -- this is why the best salmon are caught when they first enter the fresh water river and still have all their fat. Once reaching their "special" place, they breed and then die.


Anonymous said...

Gez John that is like your "PET STUFFED BEAVER" but in a larger scale....
give um a good Pat for me! Birdladyd

Anonymous said...

Hi Guys! I think I'm learning more from your blogs than I ever could from a tour guide. Thanks for all the great tidbits you share with us!