A fish-eye view of Sitka Sound By Jorge Sidron / November 29, 2000 Share 1 -- SITKA, Alaska -- You don't have to be a neoprene wetsuit-clad scuba diver to enjoy a fish-eye view of the waters of Sitka Sound. In August, a company called Sea Life Discovery Tours here began offering glass-bottom boat tours of this Southeast Alaska waterway to tourists, school children and locals.The tours are operated aboard the 55-foot, 49-passenger Sea Life Discovery, the first semisubmersible, glass-hulled boat in Alaska.The motorboat was built by Midship Marine in Louisiana for Sitkans Kenneth Rear and Deborah Younger-Rear, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed captains with a combined 25 years of experience operating sea vessels in the Sitka area. The Rears previously operated sport-fishing and sightseeing charters and also are certified divers."It may be the only such vessel operating anywhere along the Pacific Northwest coast. We don't know of any others," said Younger-Rear.Kenneth Rear said the company is exploring additional routes for the tours and is in discussions with cruise lines to put together schedules for next season.Sea Life Discovery offers 60- and 90-minute tours that will operate daily in the summer and occasionally in winter.Tickets cost $50 for the one-hour tour and $75 for 90 minutes. On all trips, a trained naturalist provides commentary on the sealife and answers passengers' questions.Passengers descend a staircase to a viewing area about 10 feet below the water's surface, where on a clear day visibility can be 100 feet.For night trips or when visibility is less than ideal, the vessel can shine 16 high-power lights to enhance viewing.Powered by twin John Deere turbo diesel engines, the vessel can reach a top speed of eight knots, although the tours operate at a much slower speed.The vessel's windows are made of a one-inch safety glass laminated on both sides to prevent them from shattering. The lower hold is surrounded by buoyant pockets in the hull to prevent it from sinking.The vessel features a covered deck that allows for above-water viewing of the area's plentiful sea birds and Sitka Sound's picturesque harbors and islands.For information or reservations, call (907) 966-2301.