The Saying Really Is True

30 07 2009

There’s a line about Whittier, AK that goes something like this: It’s always sh—ier in Whittier.  (I’ll let you fill in the blanks.)

But guess what?  It’s true!  Michele got the opportunity to visit crazy Whittier (located about 75 miles southeast of Anchorage) during the winter a couple years ago.  All she could talk about was how creepy it was and how it would make a great set for a horror movie.  Of course, I have wanted to check this place out ever since.

As you may know, the only way in or out of Juneau is by plane or boat.  But we’ve got nothing on Whittier.  The only way in or out of Whitter is through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel.  That’s right, a tunnel.

During World War II, soldiers coming to Alaska would enter at the port at Whittier.  The tunnel was built through Maynard Mountain so a train could take the troops wherever they were stationed.  Hence, there is also a huge abandoned military building in the town, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

In 1998, a project began to convert the tunnel into a combination rail and car tunnel.  At 2.5 miles, it’s the longest rail/car tunnel in North America and second longest highway tunnel in North America.  The tunnel is only wide enough for one row of cars, so it opens going eastbound for about 20 minutes, then westbound for 20 minutes.  However, in the winter the tunnel is open far less often.  Michele learned (not the hard way) that if you miss the opening for the tunnel in the winter, you are stuck overnight in Whittier until it opens again the next day.

Here’s what the tunnel looks like from the outside…

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I must admit – driving through that tunnel is pretty creepy.  We did not actually take the photo below of inside the tunnel (no way I was slowing down enough for this good of a shot), but I found it online and it will give you a good idea of how it looks…

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If you notice, there are rock walls on the side, and there’s always the sound of water dripping.  Michele did manage to take a few shots while we were in the tunnel.  And thankfully, the strobe light was not flashing…

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Once you emerge from the tunnel, the fun is just beginning.  The town of Whittier only has 182 year-round residents.  The two highlights are Begich Towers and the Buckner Building.  Begich Towers are featured below…

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In this apartment complex is where all of Whittier happens.  Almost all of the residents live in this building.  Called “the city under one roof,” this is also where you will find the post office, city hall, the mayor’s office, etc.  And the local school is about 20 feet behind the building.

But the best building for photography in Whittier is the Buckner Building.  This building was built for military purposes about 60 years ago, and has been abandoned for quite some time.  I read that it is actually not cost-effective to demolish the place due to the hassles of getting all the pieces of the premises.  Hence, it’s now apparently a hangout for kids up to no good and bears.  And of course, if our horror movie ever did occur, most of the action would take place in this building.

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Imagine living in a town where there are two huge buildings in all of the town… and this is one of them.  Yikes.  But don’t worry, I took some close-ups.

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I thought this one below turned out really well.  The place was covered in graffiti, as you might expect.  But this seemed the most appropriate…

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And this photo turned out really well.  If you look through the open window frames of the Buckner Building, you can see the Begich Towers in the background.

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In taking the photo below, I nearly wet myself.  I wanted to get this shot of the Pepsi sign with the run down building in the background – namely for Matt and Ronnie Dukes’ enjoyment.  But while I was standing near the building trying to take the photo, some guy pops the door open and asks if I need some help.  I don’t know that I replied in clear English.  Needless to say, I snapped this quick and sprinted back to the car.

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Now, if anyone sees any ghosts or scary creatures in any of these photos, please let us know.  We have not found any, but that would be pretty awesome.

But we’ll end this post on a less creepy note, as there is a slightly cool glacier just outside of Whittier – the Portage Glacier.  Here are a couple photos of that…

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