Where in the World are Magellan and Spice?

Charm, history, seclusion, tradition, natural beauty...where can you find all that?
Charm, history, seclusion, tradition, natural beauty...where can you find all that?

Your First Clue: “Secluded charm” describes where we are, a small town with a rich history.

2. There is no road access to this coastal gem; only by boat (as we did, with Gabe, a guy who grew up here and moved away but is building a cabin in the wild nearby), ferry or private plane.

3. Long before we arrived, the Sugpiaq inhabited it for 3,000 years before Captain Archimandritov claimed it for Russia in 1742.

4. A herring trading station thrived here between 1869 and 1882. The economy was based on fox fur farms, logging, mining, herring salteries and fish canneries.

5. National Historic Site Clue: The Saint Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church was built in 1891.

6. In the early 1900s, about 2,000 people called this city home; exponentially smaller today, fewer than 250 have this hamlet as their address.

7. “Main Street” is elsewhere now, but in 1908, it was built along the waterfront. Access to homes and businesses was by way of the beach, but only at low tide. In the late 1920s and early 30s, the community built a wooden boardwalk so you could get from one end of town to the other without considering the tides.

8. In 1926 after construction of a dock, this place was a year-round shipping hub, and had we been around, we could have come by an ocean-going steamer.

9. Glad we weren’t here in the 1930s when heaps of rotting fish were discarded by salteries. The mess killed the vegetation necessary for spawning herring, the herring fishery was closed, and the catch was on for salmon, halibut and crab.

10. Art Clue: Before covid, you could “watch the chips fly” at the town’s annual Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition. About forty chainsaw sculptures decorate the streets.

11. “Maverick, stop that!” shouted a girl to a young boy who was likely her brother as he was chasing her with a stick in his hand in front of the restaurant where we were having lunch. When the town decided it needed a school for kids with names like Maverick, they levied a tax on every raw fish delivered to the cannery (crabs and shrimp, too) that went toward the Susan B. English School, which opened in 1971.

12. Severe tides hit this place—the waters used to rise and fall as much as 26 feet every six hours during peak tides.

13. Continent Clue: Bad news, ironically on Good Friday, 1964—a massive earthquake (9.2 on the Richter scale; the strongest ever recorded in North America) rocked the town for five minutes. The tides rose 32 feet, the land dropped four feet, and the town had to be rebuilt.

14. What to do after this catastrophe? After heated debates, the residents held a referendum and voted to accept the government’s urban renewal program. The town was rebuilt, but it took ten years for it to get back on its feet.

15. State Clue: The town suffered another blow when the Sterling Highway was built connecting Homer to Anchorage, and Homer (16 miles away) became the new hub of commercial fishing in the Cook Inlet.

16. Last Clue: Oh those Russians. Captain Archimandritov named the place Herring Bay, which in Russian is “Zaliv Seldevov”. Many Russians left for their mother country in 1867 when the United States purchased Alaska from Russia.

Did you guess where we are?

It’s Seldovia, Alaska.

How many clues did it take you?

Navigation

Backcountry Journeys is the company we travelled with. Seldovia is part of their seven-day Alaskan trip.

Seldovia Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition

Project Jukebox, a digital branch of the University of Fairbanks Oral History Program, has a number of interviews with Seldovia residents and is where we found out about the fish tax for the school.

Photo Credits: The historical image sources have been redacted for fun for this quiz. They were the Anchorage Museum of History & Art – Library & Archives, the Alaska Library – Historical Collections and the Seldovia Historical Facebook page.

4 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Inspirations
Spice

Roger Jarvis

Watching the Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races last week reminded me of Roger Jarvis, past president of “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” I was thirty-one

Read More »
El Celler de can Roca
Destinations
Magellan

El Celler de can Roca

“I always decide,” I said. “Where would you like to go?” “Back to Spain,” said Magellan. A few weeks later he announced, “I’ve been emailing

Read More »
Destinations
Spice

Mallard Cottage

A foodie’s worst nightmare descended upon me. Covid, or one of its bad-ass alphanumeric sub-variant cousins, stole my appetite. However, these viruses lacked the virility

Read More »
Wharariki Beach
Destinations
Spice

Wharariki Beach

Wharariki doesn’t appear on Condé Nast’s or National Geographic’s 10 Best Beaches in the World. Nor is it on Trip Advisor’s or Travel & Leisure’s

Read More »