Friday, July 16, 2010

Whittier Alaska

As I mentioned in the last posting, Whittier is a harbor town on Prince William Sound. Prior to the construction of the Whittier spur road, this town was accessible overland only train. A major project during construction of the Whittier access road was the modification of the 2.5 mile-long Anton Anderson Tunnel to handle both railroad and vehicle traffic. Vehicles must wait in a staging area on either end of the tunnel when the train is using the tunnel. Tunnel tolls are charged according to vehicle class and are round-trip.  It was interesting to drive through a train tunnel. It mainly amounted to riding the tracks, which can be a bit slippery at times because of moisture in the tunnel. We were given instructions to keep at least 100 feet distance from the car in front of us.
Whittier is very much an isolated community. It was created by the U.S. army during WW11 as a port and petroleum delivery center. At this time it had a population of 1200. It now has a population of 170. Its economy rests largely on the tourism and on the fishing industry. We did find enough to do what with wandering through the gift shops and touring the Prince William Sound Museum. The museum featured information about Whittier's connection to the millitary and WW11. It also had historical information on other areas of Alaska. I had never before given much thought about the importance of its geographical location during the cold war years. The town is nestled at the base of many  snow -covered mountains which are quite scenic with their numerous waterfalls. The one below is quite large and splashes down quite dramatically on the snow below it.
One other beautiful  scenic view we had on the Seward Highway coming out of Whittier was the Billing's Glacier, also pictured below.

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