A Way of Life in Remote Alaska – The Alaska Dock

Thorne Bay, Alaska's The Port dock in the fogThe Port Dock in Thorne Bay, Alaska 11-25-2014

The Port Dock in Thorne Bay, Alaska

Thorne Bay, Alaska (November 25, 2014, at 1:15 p.m.) – The rope waits for the next pilot to jump from his floatplane, swoop it up, and secure the aircraft from drifting while luggage and passengers are unloaded and loaded. So many things happen on this tiny Alaska dock—one of two in the area. Imagine these events:

  • A passenger waits for a flight to town for a medical appointment, to catch the jet south in Ketchikan, or for a quick shopping trip.
  • Flying into the bay on a floatplane, a passenger spots the dock with a loved one standing there to greet them and help carry their bags up the steep ramp to the waiting truck.
  • Sportsmen loaded with frozen fish in waxed boxes share their “Big Fish” stories with their buddies; only these stories are true.
  • A couple hugs goodbye as one leaves on a trip that will take them far away from this tiny logging town. They won’t arrive at their destination until late tonight or tomorrow and may not return to Thorne Bay for at least a week or two. It is expensive to travel from this spot in the world.
  • A visiting speech pathologist or psychologist stands with their hands in their pockets as they look around to admire where they find themselves. They can’t believe their luck. Their itinerant job has taken them here to stay a few nights to provide services to a handful of students.

It’s hard to believe this remote Alaska dock sees as much traffic as it does, but if five people come or go a day, five days per week, that means more than thirteen hundred people cross this dock annually, which is guessing relatively low. Imagine that! 

The Port and dock from an incoming floatplane

A View of The Port & Dock from an Incoming Floatplane 11-25-2014

Now, for the rest of the story.

There are two docks where floatplanes arrive and depart. This image is of the smaller dock near The Port—a tiny store and satellite post office. The main town dock is much larger and typically has three daily flights. Freight arrives on the main dock. The freight person regularly drives the four-wheeler down the ramp, sits at the end to listen for the hum of the aircraft’s engine, and then watches the floatplane touch down in the bay—a rooster tail of water splashing behind it.

When you stand here, you feel somewhat alone, but this is a busy remote town when you add up the foot traffic.

City of Thorne Bay, Alaska Dock

City of Thorne Bay, Alaska Dock 11-25-2014, 2:20 p.m.


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