“It looks familiar and strange at the same time.” All through the cruise people ask me if Norway is like Alaska, how are they different? How are the same? In a way sailing through Norwegian Fjords is a disorienting experience. The scenery looks familiar but I don’t recognize any specific landmarks. And there are far too many people, too much infrastructure.
We were both caught off guard spying a “mountain farm” perched high up. But if there was an area of fertile land or good pasture there was a farm. And almost inevitably there are power lines running to that farm. In fact, there are powerlines, roads and cell phone towers in places we are just nut used to seeing them. The Norwegian fjords have a lot more people who have made a lot more impact on the landscape than in Southeast Alaska.
The boat traffic is different as well. We have small fishing boats and cruise ships. They have lots of ferries and cruise ships. We’ve seen very few small fishing boats in the fjords but have seen a number of large ones. And, of course, there are the salmon pens, which we do not have and do not want in Alaska. It seems to me there are fewer birds, aside from gulls, in Norway than in Southeast Alaska, and I haven’t seen one whale, perhaps the Norwegians ate them. (Although they don’t eat humpbacks, mostly minkes.)
Travel to another place makes you see your home more clearly. I see what could be the future of Southeast Alaska. Perhaps Norway is what former Governor Frank Murkowski saw, roads, roads and roads. Norway proves we could build a road to Juneau, but at what cost? To connect Eidsfjord to the road system took Norway’s longest suspension bridge on one side and a road corkscrewing up a mountain tunnel on the other. With those roads can come electric interties providing clean energy for export. This can help the planet, but so can wilderness, old growth acting as a gigantic carbon sink. Fish farming can feed many people but there needs to be a place to produce fresh, wild, antibiotic free seafood. But increasing climate change migration could turn the panhandle into a future Norway.
Yet there is a low we can learn from Norway. Norway’s active promotion of electric vehicles. along with charging stations, the experimentation with electric and hybrid ferries plays well in a hydro rich environment. Every community seems to be bike and walk friendly and there is frequent mass transportation (ferries, and because they have roads, buses) even between small communities.
We’ve left the fjords but my head is full of ideas and contradictions. I like Norway’s fjords — Alaska is home.
And, of course, a tip of the hat to Slartibartfast — 42.