SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Nightmare in Nowhere



August 24, 2013
Saturday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska -
 It seems it really does take a village, even a tiny one.
jpg Dave Kiffer

We learned that, in Our Fair Salmon City recently, as we hosted a couple of thousand passengers stranded when the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship had some trouble and had to return to K-town shortly after leaving.

It turned out that the mechanical was more than a slight delay. The rest of the ship’s visit to Alaska was scuttled and the company was left scrambling to get the passengers out of town and back into the real world.

Extra jets were called in and in a couple of days the passengers were zoomed back to the safety of civilization. Disaster was averted with the opening of a very large checkbook.

While “marooned” here, the passengers were treated to what the First City has to offer.

Tours were added, stores were opened for longer hours, some locals even opened their homes to friends of friends of friends who happened to be on the ship.

It wasn’t like being marooned in Vegas, but it was certainly better than the “three hour tour” of Gilligan’s Island.

That is where most stories used to end. Cruise passengers inconvenienced in a small Alaskan town. So it goes.

Of course, there was a little more. It was a chance for Ketchikan to show a positive side to the rest of the nation, a side that didn’t involve either bear cubs rampaging through grocery stores (oh look at how quaint Alaska is) or Bridges to Nowhere (look at that pork barrel spending). I think we did a good job of that.

But it didn’t end there. Not in today’s media savvy world.  

This if the age of instant information, especially when news happens.

People blog about events while they are happening. We see photographs of plane crashes instantaneously. Cell phones allow people to reach out and touch the rest of the world immediately when something occurs.

I remember a comedian doing a routine many years ago about someone high jacking a bus of foreign tourists. The man escaped but police weren’t worried because they had 3,000 photos of him.

That’s not so funny anymore because we are so busy using our Blinky Toys to document every second of our lives that too often we forget to just live them. But as usual, I digress.

Anyway, these days someone caught up in a hulabaloo contacts the media as soon as possible as if being reported upon somehow validates the person’s “newsworthiness.”

And we all want to be “newsworthy.” Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes” has turned into 15 seconds on every social (and anti-social) media possible.

So it should come as no surprise that several of the marooned passengers showed up in various traditional and social media to give their first hand reports of this “misadventure.”

One woman told a Pennsylvania radio station that the passengers were “shocked and worried” when the ship returned to port.

A man from Ohio told his local newspaper that things “got pretty tense on board. How would you like to be stuck in the middle of nowhere?”

We will disregard the irony that many of the passengers boarded the ship in the first place to see the “Alaskan wilderness.” You don’t get that kind of “nowhere” in Cleveland.

In a fit of hyperbole, one passenger told a national news program that the situation was a “nightmare.” To be sure, he was talking more about having his cruise cancelled and not getting to Anchorage like he originally planned. He was not referring to his extra time in Ketchikan. Still a headline writer in the South managed to shorthand that into “Alaskan cruise sails into a nightmare.”


Being stuck on a ship floating in the middle ocean with dwindling food and toilet paper – as happened to another cruise ship recently – is more of a nightmare than being stuck at the dock in Ketchikan for a couple of days.

But then again, clearly not everyone understands exactly what we have to offer here in Our Fair Salmon City. Or even how urban we are, at least by Alaskan standards.

Shortly after the cruise ship’s woes made the national headlines, I received an email from a friend back East. He wanted me to know that Ketchikan was mentioned on a national evening new cast.

He has actually visited Ketchikan – on a cruise ship of course – and was curious what I would think of the way our town was being characterized.

How dire were things for the stranded passengers?

Well, I suppose it made things worse for them that they were stuck in “Ketchikan, a tiny fishing village in isolated Southern Alaska, hundreds and hundreds of miles from Seattle.”


When you look at it that way, I guess I’m just fine being “marooned” here.

How about you?

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Historical Feature Stories by Dave Kiffer


Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
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