Ten Photos From Ten Hours in Petersburg, Alaska

Petersburg's friendly one-room airport
I left Ketchikan with my girlfriend last Saturday to go up to Juneau and start summer classes there for my next big project—earning a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast. My classes are going great now, but it took me about twenty-four hours to get to Juneau from Ketchikan, rather than the five originally expected. My girlfriend and I flew Alaska Airlines standby on a route that hopped from Ketchikan to Wrangell to Petersburg to Juneau. On the tarmac in Petersburg, I was asked to step off the plane, and eventually was taken into Petersburg's small airport. Before my girlfriend knew I wouldn't be getting back on, they closed the doors and took off for Juneau.

What follows is an explanation for my delay accompanied by nine photos, (one above makes ten), taken during the ten hours I spent in the pretty and peaceful town of Petersburg.

collage of photos of the largest grocery store
—note the Norwegian theme
Flying standby, it makes sense you might get "bumped" off a flight by a regular passenger if there wasn't enough room. In this case, though, there were tons of empty seats. The real problem was all of the cargo in the hold of the plane: It was so overloaded with fish boxes and other luggage they had to take me off for safety reasons. Only in Alaska would seafood bump a person off their flight!

Only one other flight would be passing through Petersburg that day, and it wouldn't come until a few hours later, so I took the opportunity to walk into the town, get some food from the grocery store, and take in the sights.

I returned to discover that there was no point in boarding the flight: It was heading back to Ketchikan, and I could have taken a direct flight in the evening from Ketchikan to Juneau, but the leg from Wrangell to Ketchikan was overloaded with seafood as well, and I wouldn't make it back to my home airport.

state ferry passing some of the Petersburg fishing fleet 
Fortunately, I learned that the Alaska Marine Highway (the state ferry) had a ship—the MV Matanuska—leaving Petersburg for Juneau that evening, so I ditched my incomplete Alaska Airlines ticket and walked back through Petersburg to the ferry terminal.

As it turns out, my long delay was more adventure than misadventure, and although my girlfriend and I were unexpectedly separated for a day, we reunited the next morning when the ferry came into Juneau.


With just about three thousand inhabitants, Petersburg seems like quite the small town to someone like me from Ketchikan. It only has a few tourist-oriented shops downtown, decorated with Scandinavian flair. Still, Petersburg is the fourth-largest town in Southeast Alaska, after Juneau, Ketchikan, and Sitka, and I was quite impressed by the size of Petersburg's fishing fleet: Fishing is what the town was founded for, and what it still thrives on.

Interestingly, I think Petersburg may also be the most "white" town in Southeast Alaska, in terms of having the lowest percentage of Alaska Natives as inhabitants. Nevertheless, there were two very nice kootéeyaa (totem poles) in the center of town, honoring the area clans, and I did see several signs of Tlingit heritage peeking out of Petersburg's unique and proudly displayed Norwegian-ness.

I was happy to see a new library being constructed in the center of town: As I mentioned before, I love Ketchikan's new library, and this one is sure to bring its community together as well.

Sons of Norway hall viewed across Hammer Slough

As I've alluded to, Petersburg is steeped in Norwegian heritage. It was founded by Norwegian immigrant and fishing mogul Peter T. Buschmann around 1910, and it's stayed proudly Norwegian ever since.

There are some lovely houses in Petersburg too, as well as quite a few bed and breakfasts. To the right is a photo of what was probably my favorite out of the houses I saw.

Finally, here's a view of Petersburg from the water, taken as I left. I hope you liked my photos, and please leave a comment!