Airship Goes to Alaska
Ford’s Terror is a very steep and narrow fjord 60 miles southeast of Juneau in Alaska’s Inside Passage. You can only enter or exit the fjord at high slack tide when the rapids (and the 2-3 foot waterfall!) have turned calm and there is enough water covering the shallow area to let you pass.
The Ford’s Terror name comes from a naval crew member (Ford) who, in 1889, rowed a dinghy into the narrow entrance of the fjord at slack tide. The tide began to rise, forcing its way through the narrow entrance, and Ford was trapped by the turbulent current for the next six hours. It is mostly uncharted, but with local knowledge and some careful timing, getting in and out of this fjord is a calm and peaceful experience.
The Ford’s Terror “waiting room”:
We arrived early (for the evening high slack) and parked ourselves over by the tall waterfall and binoc’ed the entrance. Yep, white waters over there. We decided to fish for a bit to kill some time. (Caught nothin’.)
When it was time (about 20 minutes after high slack tide in Juneau), we pointed our stern at the waterfall and headed carefully across, between the two shoals toward the entrance. We watched our depths as we made it around the shallow bend in totally calm water. I took no photos because I was concentrating at the helm, but it was really a non-event. Once inside, it was like going back in time.
Photos alone cannot possibly capture the beauty and the feel of this place. One person said it was a bit like having Yosemite all to yourself. We decided that might be slighting Ford’s Terror a little bit.
We had the place to ourselves and decided to stay two nights in Ford’s Terror. We arrived on Tuesday night around 8pm and didn’t leave until high slack tide on Thursday morning. It was not enough time.
I made crab cakes on Wednesday morning and we did a little Crab Cake Benedict for breakfast:
Then, we saw black bears on the shore:
Kevin had flown the drone earlier while gathering footage for his Ford’s Terror video, so it was all ready to go and he was able to get some footage of the bear (drone in upper left of photo):
Then, three or four Dall’s porpoises came over and swam all around our boat for a while:
Kevin and Tiffani went out in the kayak to see if they’d come close, and they did. They came closer than in these photos and were swimming all around the kayak.
Here’s an additional photo, for scale. White sliver = kayak:
We went for a dinghy ride and saw two eagles…one in a nest and the other keeping watch:
Ford’s Terror was worth every bit of the anxiety about getting in and out of there that I’ve had for the last month. It’s funny when you hear about a place like this. Phrases like “favorite anchorage in SE Alaska” and “favorite anchorage in the world” were by far the two most common, but in so much of the literature about this place, the entrance and exit sound so ominous. It’s poorly charted, and extremely remote, and so the “what ifs” your brain can create about things that could go wrong are plentiful. Luckily, with some careful planning and just general good thinking and common sense, it’s not much of a thing to get in and out.
And as I said, as nice as these photos might be, they cannot possibly capture the scale of this place. Alaska is ALL about scale.
Here is Kevin’s spectacular video of Ford’s Terror, taken with his new DJI Inspire 1, which is proving to be worth every dime spent to get it, and get it to Ketchikan. Wow. Wow. Wow.