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I didn’t plan on visiting Petersburg at all on my trip, so when my ferry docked in port an hour early on its way to Wrangell I had no expectations. I just knew I was hungry and I might as well find something to eat on solid ground. Speaking of eating, it was interesting to me that the Alaska ferry’s waiters were all state employees and by law, you can’t tip a state employee. It made me feel weird and European to not tip. But, back to Petersburg!
My first glimpse of the town was the harbor. While the ferry docked out of the harbor containing the private and fishing boats, I had to walk past it to get to anything in town. All of the metal poles at the harbor had rusted metal figures atop them. They were all pretty reminiscent of Viking symbols. That was pretty cool, but not all that unique.
Then I happened upon Sons of Norway hall (the first photo in this post). Holy Norway, Batman! This is not your normal Alaskan town.
Petersburg was named after Peter Buschmann, a Norwegian immigrant. He built a cannery, sawmill, docks and early structures. Petersburg flourished as a fishing port. (thanks in part to the plentiful number of icebergs from the nearby LeConte Glacier which would provide a source for cooling fish). His colony grew into Petersburg which, by 1910 was incorporated and populated largely by people of Scandinavian origin thus giving Petersburg the nickname “Little Norway”. — Wikipedia
While fishing continues to be important to the survival of Petersburg, tourism is a big part of their economy as well. They are close to LeConte Glacier (which I highly recommend seeing), and because of their location, they can receive smaller cruise ships – something Wrangell cannot do. Alaska’s Inside Passage is gorgeous to boat through, but it can get very narrow. Petersburg is also serviced by Alaska Airlines.
I’d really like to get back to Petersburg and explore it a little better – especially during one of the holidays. I have a feeling there is a lot of Norwegian heritage in this town.