Book Review(s): "Chichakoes" and "This Raw Land" by Wayne Short.

The bottom of Admiralty Island, with Murder Cove and Surprise Cove...
Warm Springs Bay indents Baranof Island to the North West 
Two years ago I was in Baranof Hot Springs, my favorite place on the entire Alaskan journey.  The hot springs are perfect, and there are even baths in a bathhouse just up from the dock.  I visited the place three times, with a different crew member each time.  Leaving southward after the third visit, Sam and I transited Chatham Strait and spent the remainder of the day in Frederick Sound before anchoring in Goose Cove, an indentation of Kuiu Island. At no time that day were we out of sight of whale spouts or tails, and late in the day we observed what I can only imagine was mating in the sheltered waters just northwest of Keku Strait.  The whale's vocalization at the end was like an alpenhorn close up.

Recently a friend lent me two paperback books, their deteriorating bindings and yellow paper signaling decades of use and slow oxidation characteristic of acid paper.  They are memoirs of Wayne Short, who moved to the area just after World War II, and later finds his wife in San Francisco and brings her north to raise a family.

Short writes in an easy, matter-of-fact style that conveys a strong sense of what it must have been like to live in a beautiful, isolated, wild place where your status of apex predator is questioned.
His father brought his mother and three brothers, and they learned to make a living from the canneries, the fish, and other game.

The second book is about the growth of his own family, and the continuing story of parents and siblings when they purchased Baranof.  Fishing with their own boats, piloting cannery boats, hunting, and trapping paid their bills and fed them. The family took on the gravity of reliable people to be counted on.

There are adventures, close calls, old rotten boats, and storms aplenty, and the wild beauty of unforgiving waters and formidable weather.  My own tentative forays there are child's play at the optimal time of year.  Short's prose brought it all vividly to mind, though -- a great pleasure and inspiration for future trips.  Southeast is a world unto itself.


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