A little history of Sue and Alaska…
When I was 18 I went to Alaska for the first time. I worked at a salmon cannery in a small fishing village called Naknek. I fell in love. It was hard work, after working 18 hours shifts I was physically and mentally exhausted. I worked in the processing plant sorting fish guts from fish eggs. I was far away from home, meeting new people and having new experiences. There’s something about Alaska that is hard to explain, there is a rawness that is refreshing and real.
Since that first trip, I have returned to Naknek three times to work at the same salmon cannery, Alaska General Seafoods.
I have also worked at a salmon hatchery in Prince William Sound outside of Cordova three different times. Although a very different working experience and environment, the feeling of being in Alaska is the same to me.
The hatchery is called Prince William Sound Aquaculture Corporation (PWSAC). They have five remote sites throughout Prince William Sound. PWSAC is a non-profit organization that releases about 600 million salmon fry and smolt into Pacific waters each year. The life cycle and the whole process is pretty cool, here’s a little diagram to explain the basics:
Having talked up this amazing place to Paul, while we were still dating we worked at a PWSAC site called Main Bay Hatchery. Main Bay Hatchery has a staff of six during the winter months and is on Main Bay, 40 miles outside of the town of Whittier. The remoteness and the wildlife is breathtaking. We flew to the island on a small float plane, landing on the ocean. As we flew over the ocean, we could feel the wind moving the entire plane back and forth. We were flying so low to the ground that we could see bears walking on the islands below. 20 feet of snow was on the ground when we arrived. Every morning we would shovel off the windows and doors so we could still use them. A bulldozer would clear a path between the bunkhouse and the hatchery building. We mostly worked with the salmon fry, feeding them and cleaning their tanks. But with such a small staff everyone pitches in where they are needed. This means operating the bulldozer, shoveling snow, cooking, cleaning and of course carrying fish food! We loved working there and can’t stay away for long.
In 2014, shortly after we got married, we returned to PWSAC with our friends Corinne and Hannah.
We are planning another 5 month long trip Prince William Sound in February. We don’t know which site they will send us to, but will soon find out. We are going with a friend we met at Youth With a Mission Salem.